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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Adetola Hassan, December 16, 2001. Interview R-0160. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Thoughts on the ban of African American priests in the Mormon Church prior to 1978

Hassan discusses her thoughts on the ban on African American priesthood in the Mormon Church prior to 1978. Although her parents, British citizens of Nigerian descent, did not become Mormon until after 1978, Hassan describes how her father had conducted extensive research on the role of African Americans in the Mormon Church. Additionally, Hassan describes how her family had benefited from the lifting of the ban, as her father had been able to become first an Aaronic and then a Melchizedek priest in the Mormon Church. According to Hassan, these priesthoods placed emphasis on the centrality of family within the Mormon Church.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Adetola Hassan, December 16, 2001. Interview R-0160. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

So actually for all of your life they've been Mormons. That's wonderful. Wanted to know, let's see there was another question that I had on my mind, and it just escaped me. Okay. Yeah. Wanted to know yeah, do you know anything about the priesthood ban on African American males prior to the year 1978?
ADETOLA HASSAN:
Yes, I've heard about it. It's interesting because, have you heard of Naboo?
BARBARA COPELAND:
Yeah. That's the headquarters for the—
ADETOLA HASSAN:
It was where they moved after they left Missouri. We were there in a pageant, and my dad got really into African Americans in Mormon history. What was weird was there was an African American man who was I think pretty close to Joseph Smith, and it came up that he had had the priesthood, and that was way back when. I know that there had been a ban and I don't know exactly all the details, and I have no idea why that was. I think it was unfortunate because I think that turned a lot of especially African American people away from the church because I mean obviously if you believe everything. [Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
BARBARA COPELAND:
So yeah you were telling me what you thought about the—
ADETOLA HASSAN:
Right.
BARBARA COPELAND:
Priesthood ban prior to 1978.
ADETOLA HASSAN:
Right and I think for a lot of I think African American males especially if you believe everything not being able to get the priesthood that would be a really hard thing. My dad obviously was converted after that. So he didn't have to deal with that. I don't know anybody who had to do that. Yeah. I think—
BARBARA COPELAND:
Did your dad ever talk to you about or did you ever hear him talk about his feelings about what he thought on this priesthood ban prior to '78?
ADETOLA HASSAN:
No. Because I guess he didn't really encounter that. So I don't know how much it affected him or how much he knew about it. So he never did.
BARBARA COPELAND:
I've talked to quite a few people who've really never encountered that who didn't go through that transition. But I just question them and just wanted to know what were their feelings about the incident in general. Just like if I was to ask you what do you feel or how do you feel about the assassination of Martin Luther King. Of course you weren't there, but you have some kind of general feelings about the whole incident and everything that was, the circumstances around it. So basically that's just I just wanted to know how if your dad had ever talked about it and if he had ever mentioned his feelings about that incident. I think one of the things I think that is important is that revelation did come down for them to change it and open the priesthood up to include African American males. What do you see the priesthood position, the significance of the priesthood position being just in general? It doesn't matter whether it's race. It doesn't matter. Just having the significance of being able to have the priesthood.
ADETOLA HASSAN:
Just in general, the priesthood. I think personally it's been a big blessing in my life just having a dad a father that has the priesthood because I don't know why, but I mean it's just like a blanket. It just feels like there is so much power behind it. My dad and it's really encouraged, it encourages respecting your wife and your children and just working together. It's not like I have the priesthood. I am the head. It's like, it's sort of I feel like it brings our family together because especially with the male rule in the world. Like you go out into the [unclear] , I think it stresses the importance of family and being there and not just focuses, I think it helps just focus on you have duties in your family and not just, you've been given this gift. It's not all about what's out there. It's what's spiritually in your family.
BARBARA COPELAND:
Now when did your dad get the priesthood? Did he have it all of your life like before you were born?
ADETOLA HASSAN:
Yeah, he's had it all of my life.
BARBARA COPELAND:
Which priesthood because I understand there are two of them.
ADETOLA HASSAN:
There's Aaronic and there's Melchizedek, and I believe I think when you first get in, you're given the Aaronic if you're the age of twelve or older. I believe he's had the Melchizedek all my life too.
BARBARA COPELAND:
That's wonderful. Now there's certain, they call it having keys to the priesthood. If he has the Melchizedek priesthood that means that he has the keys or the authority and the power to act on behalf of Christ, Jesus Christ to have this, perform in this level of priesthood. Tell me some of the ways that he's been able to demonstrate and use his power, the Melchizedek power and authority within the family.
ADETOLA HASSAN:
Right. I think the most important one for me is blessing which is like just because you go through so many things in your life, and it's always I guess a comfort for me to be able to say Dad can you give me a blessing. I have, I'm dealing with this or I have exams or this is weighing me down and he can do that. For me you can just feel the comfort I guess like the Holy Ghost and I guess just some of the stuff, and I mean it's not just my dad because I know my senior year I lived with another family who was LDS. But it was just like and we were a close family friends, and so I know I was applying for colleges and all this stuff and I asked him for a blessing. I mean the stuff that they say, because he told me he was like, there was going to be I remember a specific thing there's going to be a lot of surprises in store for you this year like that you would never expect. It was something along those lines. I had applied to, I was convinced I was not going to college. My, I was a good student. My GPA wasn't as high as I would like it to be. I was applying to these really prestigious schools, and I remember like just all a lot of stuff happened that year but just acceptance letter after acceptance letter to schools that, I just would think back to that and you're like wow. For me that builds my testimony.
BARBARA COPELAND:
That's powerful. That is so powerful. Just to hear you say that someone was able to come to you and say I know that this, this and this is going to happen for you. Then when it does happen it just—
ADETOLA HASSAN:
It definitely builds your testimony.