Tears, disbelief, shock, joy — How Mormons reacted when they heard the priesthood ban was lifted

(Tribune file photo) Spencer W. Kimball, right, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, presides over a session of General Conference in fall 1978, with his second counselor, Marion G. Romney. During this conference, Mormons voted to accept the "revelation" extending the priesthood to all "worthy" males.

‘When I spotted him, our eyes met‘

We had just finished doing baptisms for the dead at the Oakland Temple when a woman from our stake came inside the LDS bookstore, where a friend and I were browsing books, and told us. I immediately sought out my priest quorum adviser, who was a chaperone on the trip, because he had been railing on black people and defending the ban the entire trip. When I spotted him and our eyes met, he quickly looked down like he suddenly felt ashamed.

Devery S. Anderson, Salt Lake City

‘He picked me up and swung me around‘

I was 19, and at work at the fire department. Heard it over the office radio on the five-minute news break at the top of the hour. There was no particular reason to trust the local news for something as momentous as that, but it felt so right that I believed it. An hour or two later, the only LDS fire inspector came back to the office. Neither of us said a word, but he looked at me like, “Did you hear?” and I nodded, and he picked me up and swung me around. Not exactly professional, but it expressed what we both felt.

Ardis E. Parshall, Salt Lake City

‘We ran down the street to a phone booth’

I was on an LDS mission in England. News came from my parents via Western Union. … “Blacks can hold the priesthood. Love, Mom and Dad.” My companion and I were ecstatic (we had baptized a 19-year-old man of African descent just weeks before). We ran down the street to a phone booth and called our mission president. He expressed considerable skepticism and said that any reliable news would have to come from church leadership in Salt Lake City and nobody had contacted him yet. I suggested that he give Salt Lake City a call.

Brent Metcalfe, Jonesboro, Ark.

‘We applied to adopt black children’

My husband and I were driving and heard the announcement on KSL Radio. We pulled to the side of the road and cried. We were overjoyed. The “policy” had been a stumbling block for us for many years. We returned home and began calling friends and family who live out of state. Shortly thereafter, we applied to adopt black children in the system because we knew they would be more welcome than before in our church congregation. We encountered a lot of craziness when our first black child was placed with us in 1979.

Suzanne Gardner Stott, Salt Lake City

‘I am not falling for that one’

June 8, 1978, was my very first day in the mission field. I got off the bus in St. Petersburg, Fla., and the missionaries had been playing tricks on the “greenies” all day, so when the zone leaders came up and said, “Did you hear the news that blacks can now hold the priesthood?” I said, “Yeah, sure. … I may be green, but I am not falling for that one.” Boy, was I glad it was true. It was such a blessing and changed the entire course of my mission.

Joseph Tenney, Gilbert, Ariz.

‘Said he’d never return to the ward’

Living in Dallas, my friend and I stopped at her house to change clothes and her dad, a cantankerous soul, was shining his shoes in the living room. I believe Walter Cronkite read the news and her father threw his shoe at the TV, hit it, cracked it, let out a string of expletives and said he’d never return to the ward. I moved back to Utah a few months later but never forgot the scene.

Hilary Groutage, Huntington, W. Va.

‘Shouted with joy’

I was working in my office at the University of Redlands as dean of students for Johnston College. Heard it on the radio and shouted with joy as this was something for which I had been actively praying. Just then, someone knocked on my door — it was one of my hall monitors, a lovely African-American woman, whom I joyfully embraced, tears running down my cheeks, but I was speechless. She turned to one of the students who was passing by and said something to the effect of “Looks like he has completely lost his mind this time.” It took me a moment or two to regain my composure and offer an explanation. It is a moment in history I shall never forget.

Roger Ekins, Paradise, Calif.

‘Such happiness and excitement’

I was washing up lunch dishes in our little student apartment at BYU when I heard it on the radio. Such happiness and excitement for our fellow Saints. A few months later, Tom and I would be among the vanguard on the South Side of Chicago, where we helped create the first racially integrated ward (Hyde Park). I may be white, but this changed my life, and those of my children, forever.

Susan Rugh, Salt Lake City

‘That will get rid of all the right-wing crazies’

We were in Bend, Ore., visiting family. The evening of June 7 we were discussing current issues and I said, “The Lord will give the prophet a revelation giving the priesthood to the blacks. … That will get rid of all the right-wing crazies. … Then he will call Ezra Taft Benson to become the prophet. … That will drive out the left-wing crazies.” We were all shocked the next day.

Timothy L. Taggart, Taylorsville

‘Tearfully called my husband’

I was at home in San Diego and tearfully called my husband to tell him the marvelous news. He and his companion [taught] [Genesis Group co-founder] Darius Gray in December 1964, so we were especially touched and grateful.

Sidney Price, North Salt Lake