In our next episode with Dr. Matt Harris, we will talk about how President Kimball persuaded the apostles to lift the priesthood and temple ban on black church members. It turns out the Brazil Temple was a key part of that, as well as Bruce R. McConkie’s change of heart.
Kimball knows the consequences of doing something unilaterally without quorum buy-in. He sees that in church history, and he experiences it himself during the McKay administration. So, President Kimball recognizes this is such a delicate task, and that if he is going to make this, arguably, probably the most momentous—not arguably. In the 20th century, it is the most momentous decision in the church, second maybe only to plural marriage, giving black people the priesthood.
So, he knows he has to have buy-in. How do you get buy-in from people who have very, very deep-seated racial views?
President Kimball announces the Brazil Temple. This is a bulwark to help the brethren to come along with this. He recognizes that you can’t have temple in this heavily bi-racial nation, where the people who sacrificed and do so much to build the temple are shut off from it. I mean he understands this.
We will also get into more detail on Monroe Fleming’s “almost” ordination in 1969!
Matt: The “loyal negro” at the Hotel Utah is Monroe Fleming. He had been working there for years. Church leaders all knew him. Of course, it is a church-owned property. He was a very faithful member. I think he joins in the early ‘50s, so clearly he is a pioneer in the church. He comes of age in the church before the priesthood revelation, so he understands the restriction. But it is not clear if there is going to be an announcement; it’s just that “We are going to ordain this loyal negro man.” That’s all it is. I think Hugh B. Brown mentions Monroe Fleming in a different document, but the McKay document that I have, it’s just “a loyal negro member at the Hotel Utah.”