“A Black Man in Zion: Reflections on Race in the Restored Gospel” is a good read from the first black man to serve a mission after the 1978 revelation that opened up opportunities in the priesthood. Among other things, he calls for Latter-day Saints to make sure that racism truly is removed from our attitudes and thinking. Some old false doctrines may still taint the thinking of some, in spite of the official teachings of the Church. Here’s an excerpt:
In my mind the priesthood ban was never part of the everlasting gospel, and I have found peace in the idea that the Lord allowed the ban to remain in his Church in order to fulfill his inscrutable purposes whatever they are. That belief leads me to conclude that the ban never jeopardized my eternal salvation. There were a few significant privileges of membership in the Church that I could not enjoy before June of 1978; a few very significant things, but not very many. I was able to receive the ordinance of baptism, I received the Holy Ghost, I could pay my tithing, I could read the scriptures, I could pray, I could partake of the sacrament, I could hold many callings as my parents and I did all those years between 1972-78, and also keep the commandments of the Lord and be blessed for doing so. None of these privileges of membership was denied me. I simply could not officiate in priesthood ordinances like my peers, nor enter a temple and receive my own endowment, nor be sealed to my parents, but other than that all other privileges of membership were available to me.
Actually, I would argue that the ban afforded me and other Black Latter-day Saints an still ongoing opportunity to display the depth of our commitment to the Lord and his kingdom in a specific way that our fellow Latter-day Saints of other races will never be able to experience.
Let me illustrate what I mean by the expression “ongoing opportunity.” During the three years it took me to complete my Ph.D. at Brigham Young University, I was a part-time lecturer for both the Sociology and the Church History & Doctrine Departments. I remember that every semester at least one African American student would come to my office with a major question because of he or she would have heard somebody saying that since they were from the “cursed lineage” they would not enter the celestial kingdom. Often I would respond half-jokingly that this was a very well known false doctrine because it could not be found in the scriptures and had never been accepted officially by the Church. And then I would ask those students: Why were you baptized? What do we call baptism? Invariably they would respond that baptism is the gate to the celestial kingdom, to which I would reply, if baptism is the gate to the celestial kingdom how come after living faithfully your whole life you would not be allowed to go there? And those students would see that that idea–that Blacks would not enter the celestial kingdom–was inconsistent with the true doctrines of the restored gospel.
Although they had been baptized long after the priesthood ban had disappeared, these young people still had to exercise the same faith as the early (i.e. pre-1978) Black converts in order to remain active in the Church. That’s what I meant by an ongoing opportunity to display the depth of one’s commitment to the restored gospel.
In my mind, the priesthood ban and its associated rationales were never part of the restored gospel. I would argue that they constituted educated responses to the social environment in which the Church existed in the late 19th and most of the 20th century.
I tend to agree with his view.