SALT LAKE CITY, UT- After a solemn assembly at the temple in Salt Lake City, LDS church authorities announced that it would repeal the 172-year old ban barring anyone named Ernie to receive the Priesthood.
In what was the first revelation of its kind since the church lifted its ban of Blacks to the Priesthood in 1978, President Thomas S. Monson called the event a "momentous event in the history of the church."
"No longer will our brothers named Ernie be denied the blessings the Priesthood has to offer," Monson said in a statement released Tuesday morning. "It is incredible to look at how the gospel has rolled forth across the world, becoming fully available to all of God’s children."
The ban, enacted in 1838 after a revelation given to Joseph Smith, was recorded in what would become Section 139 of the Doctrine & Covenants, despite the fact that section was lost when the book went to print. It remained church doctrine, however, with little fanfare.
Documents were recovered in 1991 by a church leader in Provo that were later proven to be the lost Section 139. This discovery began a controversy among self -described "Priesthood for Ernie" advocates that has now ended with the lifting of the ban 17 years later.
"This ban has absolutely nothing to do with those protests," Monson insisted. "The time was right for the Priesthood to be extended to Ernies worldwide, and the Lord let us know."
The ban, explicitly stated in D&C 139: 3-4, was a declaration from the Lord in which it was written that "Behold, the brethren of this church named Ernie shall not be given the powers and
authority associated with my Priesthood."Little reason was given for the ban, though verse 7 states that "all men shall suffer through trials, even those named Ernie."
The abolishment of the ban has already had its effects. Ernie Thadwick, 21, of Tulsa, OK, was born into the church but was unable to receive the priesthood he so desperately desired.
"When my parents told me about the ban when I was 12, I was devastated," he said. "But I stayed strong and never lost faith. I knew one day God would extend his promise to give all He has to all His children, Ernies included."
The lift of the ban will affect some 37 LDS church members in the United States alone. Experts predict that number would be larger had there not been so many Ernies who decided to leave the church when hearing of the ban. They also predict to see as much as a 5% increase in membership of Ernies in the next ten years.
"A lot of people who didn’t know how this church worked told me I should leave it. They thought this was blatant discrimination against people named Ernie," Thadwick said. "But I didn’t leave. And now I get the Priesthood. I get to go on a mission."
Thadwick added he would make a special request to be referred to as "Elder Ernie" as a "reminder to everyone what years of prayer can do."