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How Kimball Persuaded Apostles to Agree on Lifting the Ban

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.”

Pres. Kimball Announced a new temple in Brazil to get buy-in to help apostles understand why ban needed to be lifted.
Pres. Kimball Announced a new temple in Brazil to get buy-in to help apostles understand why ban needed to be lifted.

Check out our conversation!  Don’t forget to listen to Matt describe how McKay almost ordained Monroe Fleming in 1969.

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LDS Church in Africa #BlackHistoryMonth

It’s Black History Month at Gospel Tangents.  This is our final conversation with Russell Stevenson and we’ll talk the LDS Church in Africa.  Did you know that Nigerians in the 1960s and even in the 1950s I learned have asked for LDS missionaries to come teach the gospel to them.  It’s pretty surprising that they did this without any LDS presence in Nigeria.  Russell Stevenson will talk more about this in our next conversation.

Russell:  Throughout the 1950s, a number of church leaders are getting letters from various Nigerians across the river in Igboland, elsewhere begging for missionaries, asking for some kind of missionary presence.  The initial response by David O. McKay and others was some level of skepticism.  Maybe they are just looking for an opportunity to make money.  They are just looking for white people to give them business, maybe looking for a new source of patronage now that the British influence was beginning to recede.  By 1960 it was officially turned over to Nigerians.

In 1960 David O. McKay and the First Presidency, they send Glen Fisher, who has once been a mission president in South Africa to see what’s happening on the ground.  Are these potential converts legitimate?  Do they in fact want to join the LDS Church, or are they just looking for some kind of business opportunity?  Glen Fisher returned with a report that was gushing by saying these people are the real deal.  They crave Mormonism.  They crave the LDS Church.

So they go there and they come away with the same conclusion that Glen Fisher had come away with, that these people are the real deal.  They are legitimate.  They in fact crave Mormonism.  In fact Lamar Williams went further.  He said, “Ultimately we cannot keep the priesthood from these people.”  Essentially it’s only a matter of time.

GT:  What year is this?

Russell:  This is in 1961.

GT chuckles:  ’61.  That’s pretty prophetic!

Russell:  Yes.  I should note too, this isn’t the very first time you have Nigerians communicating this kind of thing to missionaries.  We have evidence all the way back to 1950 of a Nigerian reverend approaching missionaries in New York City asking for a missionary presence.  This is all throughout the post-war period.  I’m only talking about the period in which the activity is most sustained.

Find out more about what happened with the LDS Church in Africa!  I hope enjoyed our previous conversations with Russell on Elijah Ables, his mission, the temple/priesthood ban, and his attempts to get his endowment.  Check out all of these episodes for #BlackHistoryMonth!…..

 

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Rival Mission Presidents in Germany

The Mormon Church is very well known for having a very well-organized institution. It wasn’t always the case though. It turns out that J. Reuben Clark and David O. McKay called a mission president to Berlin, while President Grant who was in Europe at the time called a different man to be mission president. Both mission presidents arrived in Berlin. What happens next? Dr. David Nelson tells a very interesting story about rival mission presidents in the Berlin, Germany mission.

David:  Heber J. Grant was in Germany.  What he was doing is he was celebrating 100 years of Mormonism in Europe, so he is on a 3 month tour of Germany, the prophet, seer, and revelator, Heber J. Grant.  He comes to Bern, Switzerland where the mission home is for what was known as then, the Swiss-German mission, later on became the West German mission.  He stays with Swiss-German mission, Philemon Kelly, who was a kindly man, a doctor from Idaho, a physician, medical doctor.  Sometime during stay, Pres Grant goes to Pres. Kelly and says, “How you like to be the mission president in Berlin?”

That’s a plum assignment.  Philemon Kelly [said], “I’ll take it.”  He packed up and he’s gone.

At same time while President Grant is gone from Salt Lake City, David O. McKay and J. Reuben Clark are calling Albert C. Rees to be the mission president in Berlin, the same city.  The newspapers in Salt Lake City give goodbye editorials to Alfred C. Rees because he’s one of them.  He’s part of the newspaper industry there.  There’s no doubt he is going to Berlin, but when he gets to Berlin he finds Philemon Kelly and his wife already installed in the mission home in the Tiergarten and Kelly won’t give it up.

In my book I write for a month or a month and a half, these two guys are competing.  No way Rees could turn around and take the consolation prize in Frankfurt, so he goes and rents a home, which the mission has to pay for, down the street and we have rival mission presidents in Berlin for this period of time.

Who won?  You’ll have to listen to find out!  Dr. Nelson also discusses some LDS interactions with Adolph Hitler.

David:  You had a situation that happened there where some 900 German adolescent girls, not Mormons, but 900 adolescent girls came home from rally pregnant, unmarried girls ages 14-17.  There was an investigation.  In 400 cases they could not determine who father was because girl had multiple sexual partners.  This caused a stir and quite a bit of controversy in a police state.  You don’t raise a lot of heck in Nazi Germany.  You don’t go around screaming to people to supervise these kids better because you don’t scream at anybody in that type of a situation.

Elizabeth Welker writes letter to Gertrud Schultz-Klink and expresses some worries about that.  A couple of Klink’s assistants get in touch with her and agree to let her tour some youth camps, so she can see for herself the level of discipline enforced, and level of supervision at youth camps.  One of these trips, Shultz-Klink is in the limousine with Adolph Hitler because Adolph Hitler is going out to see the camps himself.  Shultz-Klink gets picked up, and she is in the same car with Hitler.  They go out there and they inspect this camp.  There were a couple of other times under Schultz-Klink’s underlings came out at took her to other took to other youth meetings.  In the end Elizabeth Welker is just absolutely bamboozled, and believes German adolescent girls are the best teenage girls in world, and they are being led better than anybody else, certainly a lot better than our permissive situation in the United States.

Welker writes an article on the moral status of German girls in the Improvement Era!  Check out our conversation…..