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Joseph Freeman was the first black African man to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood after the announcement of the 1978 Revelation on Priesthood, which allowed "all worthy male members of the Church" to "be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color.
It is known that the prophet Joseph Smith had ordained men of African decent to the priesthood before, including men like Elijah Abel and Q. Walker Lewis. However after his martyrdom, Brigham Young banned men of African decent from receiving the Priesthood.
In 1972, Joseph Freemen, at the age of 19 while enlisted in the Army was living in Hawaii when he first encountered members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Over the coming months and reading the Book of Mormon and meeting with the missionaries, Freemen eventually joined the Church and was baptized.
After being a member for around 6 years, the First Presidency of the Church announced that "every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood...without regard for race or color." Two days later, Freeman's name was presented and was given a unanimous approval to be ordained to the office of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Because of his years of faithfulness, the elders of the church felt that it would be appropriate to ordain him to to this office without prior ordination to the Aaronic Priesthood.
Because of this, Freemen is recognized as the first to be ordained an elder as a result of the revelation.
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