ATLANTA, Ga. Many members of the Atlanta Ward, Atlanta Georgia Stake, had always been led by a black bishop or branch president. But in 2000, when Tony Parker was released as bishop, a young man in his late 20s, who is white, was called to replace him.
"It had no effect on that unit whatsoever," said President Parker, now a counselor the Atlanta Georgia Stake presidency. "They raised their hands and sustained him.
"We don't look at members toward their ethnic group here," he added. "We look at members toward their love for the Savior, for their dedication, for their love, for their willingness to preach the gospel in their part of the world."
President Parker was raised a Protestant, before joining the military and moving to Hawaii in the early 1980s. There he visited the Polynesian Cultural Center and the Laie Hawaii Temple and visitors center.
"I wasn't looking for a church," he recalled. "I wasn't looking for this great revelation. I went for the dance and song and festivities."
However, he also noticed the beauty and tranquility of the temple and the grounds. He also learned about a Church that believed in forever families. He was baptized Feb. 26, 1983. He and his wife, Lina, were sealed in the Oakland California Temple in 1987. They have three children.
"It is really not important that blacks could not hold the priesthood before 1978," said President Parker, quoting Ecclesiastes 3:1 "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."
"What is important," he continued, "is that we have more priesthood holders on the face of the earth than we have ever had. They are blessing the lives of members of the Church, as well as their own families. That is what is important."
Sarah Jane Weaver