This post can be ascribed to woman's search to find sense and meaning amidst suffering. In this case, the suffering surrounds the banning of those of black African descent from ordination to the priesthood until the year 1978. Be forewarned that the author does not indulge in the belief that those presiding in the Church from its founding, including Brigham Young, ever thwarted the intents of our Maker or that they were somehow insensitive to their brethren of all nationalities and walks of life. The idea that racism or a desire to dodge the world's loathing by taking part in the mistreatment of any certain people as an explanation of the priesthood ban simply is not consistent with everything else I know about the early leaders of the Church. This seemed, instead, to be something directly between the Lord and His children.
There was something special about the year 1978, the year the priesthood ban was lifted and all worthy males became equally eligible for the full blessings of the restored gospel. To understand what was so special about the timing of that Official Declaration, we need to go back in time to the year 1880. President John Taylor, pronounced the year 1880 to be a Jubilee Year - the 50th anniversary of the organization of the Church (April 6, 1830). This was momentous, because the honoring of jubilee years was a practice dating back to the Israelites under Moses. Israel calculated their times and seasons thus: 7 days in a week with the 7th being the Sabbath, every 7th year was a Sabbatical/Shmitah, and every 7 Shmitahs (49 years) was followed by the 50th year...the year of Jubilee. Jubilee was the long-awaited time when not only were all debts forgiven and slaves liberated and sent away with gifts and provisions, but lands of inheritance that had been sold in order to procure the necessaries of life were returned to their original owners (or their children, if the original owners were no longer living). It was the great equalizer.
A 50th year was the mathematical culmination of 7 times 7 years, the Sabbath of Sabbaths. Double of anything in the Hebrew understanding was the supreme emphasis. Think of the double use of the words "wo" and "verily" in scripture: "Wo, wo unto..." or "verily, verily I say..." This Sabbath of Sabbaths was the ultimate new beginning, because the 50th year was also the 1st year of the next 49-year cycle. Think of our New Year's Day multiplied by at least a thousand. The jubilee year was when the slate was wiped clean for everyone.
The House of Israel had dwindled in its observance of the jubilee since ancient times. However, the Lord could reinstate the observance of the jubilee by revelation through the proper authority, and that is what appears to have occured. John Taylor declared 1880 to be a jubilee year. But this did not make 1830 a jubilee year; 1830 was the 49th year...the last year of the cycle...the "New Year's Eve," which was also a significant year by Hebrew reckoning. The year of jubilee would have begun in the fall of 1830***[correction: it would have begun the spring of 1831 -- more information to follow in a future post about why that is significant], and what more perfect timing could we hope to find considering the missionary program for the Church began in full force right after the October general conference of 1830? That jubilee year saw the floodgates opened for the proclaiming of liberty to the captives and the gathering in of the dispersed to the lands of their inheritance. It certainly fits the description of what a Jubilee is all about.***[note to reader: although the fall of 1830 was still the 49th year and not the 50th Jubilee Year, these events still fit very well for the purposes of the shmitah year. What happened in 1831 is even more exciting. Sorry about the error...we are ever learning].
The jubilee year following 1880 was 1929. It was the year of the stock market crash that heralded in the Great Depression; quite a significant correlation considering the jubilee has everything to do with debtors and creditors and real estate. 1929 as a year of jubilee is an idea yet to be explored. But what next? The next jubilee year would have been....1978.
President Kimball obtained the revelation that the "long-promised day [had] come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church [might] receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple" (Official Declaration 2). This revelation was received towards the beginning of the Jubilee, and it was unanimously sustained before the membership of the Church on September 30, 1978, at the very climax of the year, according to the Hebrew calendar.
Parley P. Pratt said of the year of jubilee that "It was a year of general release from bondage." A debt had been forgiven. Everyone was now equal in their opportunity. Was it just a coincidence? The more I learn about God's dealings with His people, the more I am amazed by how everything is a layer upon layer of meaning, purpose and perfect calculation. What the debt was, I know nor care not. Who can find someone who is NOT in debt to the Lord? It is enough to be still and know that He is God.
P.S. This would make the next Year of Jubilee 2027. [implications for which are discussed in the post 1831, 1880, 1929, 1978, 2027: The Common Denominator]
What say ye?