If you attend church near Claremont, California, you may have the tremendous luck of being in a Gospel Doctrine class taught by Dr. Patrick Mason, Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies and Dean of School of Arts & Humanities at Claremont Graduate University, and author of Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt. Brother Mason pledged to put his shoulder to the wheel last Sunday when he taught Gospel Doctrine lesson 42 on continuing revelation using the resource guide historian Paul Reeve created for Shoulder to the Wheel. He shares his experience here:
I opened by asking people to list examples of revelation to the church in their lifetime. I was pleased that the 1978 revelation came up first, but then we filled in the blackboard with a couple dozen other examples. I wanted to underscore, as the lesson does, that God continues to lead the church through revelation, but I also wanted to emphasize that it does not come only to the president of the church. So I had the class members turn to D&C 102, which are the minutes of the first high council meeting of the church. Meeting minutes canonized alongside Joseph Smith’s “thus saith the Lord” revelations? We had a productive conversation about revelation happening at every level of the church, and the value of councils in seeking and receiving the Lord’s will. This gave me an opportunity to discuss the importance of the church’s current emphasis on councils that include both women and men as the best vehicle for receiving the revelation necessary to direct a ward.
I spent the rest of the lesson focusing just on the 1978 revelation. I did not dedicate much time to the history of the ban, since that is something we had discussed previously in the year (I can’t remember in what context; probably another lesson about prophets). Instead, I relied heavily on Ed Kimball’s BYU Studies article to provide the class more information about the long struggle that President Kimball had in seeking and receiving the Lord’s will. I lingered on the great quote from him (which I also use in Planted) about having to struggle against his own natural inclinations and even prejudices, but being open to whatever the Lord wanted. I had the class members read quotes from several of the apostles who were present when the revelation came. It was actually a rather sacred experience for us to read those testimonies together, and I felt the Spirit ratify to our little band of would-be Saints that indeed revelation had been received that day in June 1978.
I asked the class members to share their own thoughts and insights. It’s an older ward, so many shared their own experiences of hearing the news come over the radio. There was a hint of triumphalism in some of the responses — aren’t we great that we received revelation and solved the race problem! — and so I reflected on how the church is in the midst of an “ongoing restoration,” as President Uchtdorf has said, and there are still many things that we need to address within our communities if we want to achieve Zion. We closed by reading the quotes from Elders Ballard and Cook in the most recent General Conference, and I testified that the Lord is still striving with us to overcome the sins of racism, sexism, nationalism, and other forms of inequality so that we can truly become his people.
There was a great spirit in the room, and several people were visibly touched. One of the ward stalwarts came up afterward, with tears in his eyes, and said, “Thank you. I had never really thought about it in this way.” I don’t know for sure exactly what he meant, other than to say that the lesson gave people food for thought, and a better appreciation of what happened in 1978 — and hopefully the work we must still do in 2017.