During the 1970s, as a white member of the RLDS Church in the mid-west U.S., I perceived the church’s mission as closely linked with social activism. I was not yet in the priesthood, but along with other young adults, I helped found an outreach ministry in the neighborhood surrounding our RLDS church building in Barberton, Ohio. Responding to perceived neighborhood needs, we organized a day-long Community Festival featuring entertainment, games, and booths staffed by representatives of local community service agencies. In the second year, June 1973, we attempted to expand the event to two days. We invited a local black neighborhood church choir to sing during the Sunday’s planned worship activity. The invitation was accepted and publicity for the event was distributed. The day before the choir was to sing, I received a call from the director asking if we were LDS. I could not convince him of the difference between RLDS and LDS policies regarding Black males and that indeed Black males were ordained to the priesthood in the RLDS Church. In the end, the choir declined to participate.
Because policies of the LDS Church continued to impact members of the RLDS Church, one may appreciate that I was both greatly pleased and personally relieved when I heard that the LDS Church had lifted the restriction on the ordination of individuals of African American origin in June 1978. My appreciation of this expanded opportunity for ministerial service within the movement was further augmented by my own ordination to the RLDS priesthood around this same time.