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1978: The Genesis of Change
1978: The Genesis of Change

Bill Turnbull

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Today, as our nation continues to process the murder of George Floyd and what has arisen in its wake, Latter-day Saints will mark a race milestone.

It has been 42 years since Spencer W. Kimball ended the priesthood and temple ban on our Black brothers and sisters. This was the giant but insufficient first step in healing our church’s unfortunate history around race. More steps have followed, including a formal refutation by the church of all theories that have been advance to legitimize our history of discrimination.

Today, Black members comprise around 6% of total church membership, and that percentage is increasing as the church continues to expand rapidly in Africa. A number of Black members now serve as church general authorities. Things have changed. But before we proclaim all is well in Zion, we might want to consult with our Black brothers and sisters. The recent national events should serve as an urgent challenge to understand how our Black brothers and sisters experience life in our communities and particularly in our congregations.

So we are turning the Faith Matters stage over to them in the coming days. We will be asking them “What is your experience as a Black member of our community and our church? And what could we do better to make you feel completely at home living among us and worshipping with us?” We’ll also bring on voices to help us understand more deeply our own history as it relates to race.

This month, we will publish the next installment in our Big Questions Project. The Big Question is: How can I make sense of our history of denying priesthood and temple blessings to our Black brothers and sisters?

For today, we are focusing on that seismic event in 1978, by reliving it in a conversation with one of the Black members who was at the center of it all, Darius Gray. We hope you’ll enjoy his conversation with Terryl Givens, recorded just before the 40th anniversary of the ending of the priesthood-temple ban.

 

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