For most Latter-day Saints, June 9, 1978, is one of those landmark dates of unforgettable impact.
Just like most of us who were 8 years old or more in 1963 can remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard that President Kennedy had been shot, most long-time church members can vividly recall their whereabouts and their reaction to the news that LDS priesthood privileges had been extended to "all worthy males."Case in point: I was a college student working part-time at a Salt Lake-area office. One of my co-workers came bursting in from her lunch break with the news that "Prophet Kimball says blacks can be baptized in the Mormon Church!"
"Ruth," I explained, "blacks have always been able to be baptized. They just can't hold the priesthood."
"Well," she said, lighting up another cigarette, "all I know is what I heard on the radio. And they were making a big deal out of the fact that blacks can now be baptized."
I was curious. Why would radio news people be talking about President Kimball, blacks and the LDS Church? Unless . . .
I dashed out to my car and turned on the radio. There in my little orange Volkswagen I heard a KSL reporter read from the text of the First Presidency announcement of a revelation that meant that "all worthy male members of the church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color."
And I cried.
Ten years have passed since that day, enough time that the impact of the policy change can be evaluated on more than an emotional level. Which is precisely the intent of All Worthy Males, KBYU's half-hour documentary that airs tonight at 8 on Ch. 11.
The special features interviews by KBYU News Director Bill Silcock with a number of church historians, scholars and authorities, including comments from President Gordon B. Hinckley and Elders Neal A. Maxwell, Dallin Oaks and John K. Carmack. J. Duffy Palmer, a church mission president in Liberia, talks about LDS growth in Africa since the revelation, and Alan Cherry discusses the policy change from his unique perspective as a black church member.
Most of the special is being done live, so I haven't had a chance to preview it. But for those interested in the long-term effects of one of the most significant events in modern church history, "All Worthy Males" should be high on the list of TV priorities tonight.