Today is the 34 th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Every Worthy Male in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints having the Priesthood Restored to them.
When Joseph Smith was prophet a Man named Elijah Abel became a member of the church. He was of African American Descent and did indeed hold the Priesthood and ordained an elder on March 3, 1836 in Kirtland, Ohio by Joseph Smith.
In 1839, Abel was made a member of the Nauvoo Seventies Quorum. This would make him a General Authority.
In 1843, Abel served a mission in New York and then Abel remained a seventy, and in 1884 he served a final mission in Canada passing away shortly after he returned home.
The priesthood was not always held from the black men of the church. In Elder Abels Patriarchal Blessing he was told ..” Thou shalt be made equal to thy brethren…”
His posterity also was not withheld the priesthood:
At least two of Abel's descendants —his son Enoch and Enoch's son Elijah —were ordained to the priesthood: Enoch was ordained an elder on November 27, 1900; and Elijah was ordained an elder on September 29, 1935
In 2002 I was blessed to be at the Monument Dedication to him in the SLC Cemetery and also during that time blessed to be part of the cast of “I AM JANE” which is an autobiographical theatre production about the life of the first Black LDS Pioneer Jane Manning James. I feel as if I have come to know him by the history finally shared with us about the lives of Elijah Abel and Jane Manning James.
Before Joining the LDS Genesis Group I had no idea of the rich history of the Black Mormon Pioneers. My Parents Joined the Church back in 1973. The priesthood was not restored until this date, June 8, 1978, 5 year later. The LDS Genesis group was Established in October 1971. The First Presidency of the LDS Genesis Branch consisted of
President Ruffin Bridgeforth 1 st Counselor Darius Gray 2 nd Counselor Eugene Orr.
These 3 men saw the need for additional fellowship and care of the black members of the church and went to speak to the Brethren regarding ways to strengthen and support the testimonies of the black members in the church. Though Brother Bridgeforth passes away before I began going to the LDS Genesis Group, we honor them, their sacrifice, their efforts their strength, their love for current and future generations of LDS members of all races. I am also honored they call me Sister, Daughter and Friend.
Last week at Genesis we had the honor of Meeting the great great great grandson of Elijah Abel. He's LDS and only recent discovered his rich pioneer heritage and has begin to research it himself. He also shared with us the Graves of some of his family members are unmarked graves. Since my daughter is attending USU in Logan He talked with her about the old cemetery landslide in Logan where not everyone was recovered and moved to the current cemetery. We talked about a service project to restore the sites and remedy the markings. It was exciting to have him join us and exciting to watch the elation on his face as some of the Genesis members were better able to educate him on his ancestry. I’m excited for future projects with this young man and what the Genesis Group can do to restore our rich LDS Black Pioneer Heritage.
It feels as if we’ve almost come full circle in the History of this day from 34 years ago.
I’m excited to be the Chairperson of next year's Genesis celebration of the 35th Anniversary of Every worthy Male of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter day saints next year. I’ve most of my committee in place and am anxious to get started with the planning.
It has been a most amazing experience so far this year in being surrounded with those who have come into my life to fan the glowing embers of my weakened testimony, returning them to flames of hope and strength. I am eternally grateful to my Father in Heaven for being so severely aware of me and my needs and placing these people in the right place at the right time.