I thought the girl was going to jump out of her skin!
I rec'd an email on May 3rd from Sister Glo in Texas who is longing to be with and fellowship with other black Mormons. To feel their strength and partake of their spirit and know there are others out there who live and believe and can share their testimony with her. She was expressing her desire to come to the Annual Picnic on June 2nd. Here is a part of the email she sent:
" It is a 20 hour drive from the Dallas, TX area to Salt Lake City. I've got the first week of June off for vacation and I am so tempted to make the drive just to see the sea of African American LDS faces.But I'd be making that long drive alone. How could I afford it? Where would I stay? What would I do after the picnic is over? And then, the long drive back.Alas, perhaps some other time. Please know that I am with you all in spirit."
When I read her email, I knew that she was supposed to be here. Within minutes I responded to her:
"Sister, I have a feeling that if you want to be here, you should be here. Allow me to work on some things and see what strings I can pull. I think we can find a way to make this happen. Exactly what dates would you be looking to come. The picnic is June 2nd and the Genesis Meeting would be on the 3rd. Know that we are you with you in spirit as well."
To make a long story short she with a friend, Sister Nyk made the 22 hour journey all night from Texas to Utah and came to the picnic. They stayed until yesterday morning. Gloe said soon after that conversation things just fell into place for her and Nyk to come. They were able to stay with a friend from Texas who actually came back to BYU to come to school and doesn't have any roommates. She and I exchanged cell numbers so we could keep in touch while they were traveling through the night. I would be up doing preparations for the bbq anyway and wanted them to know we were here on the other end just waiting for their safe arrival!
It was such a great experience meeting Glo and Nyk. Because of my duties as the Genesis Activity Chairperson I was spread a little thin of spending too much time with them at the picnic and the Genesis meeting, but they found their way into the hearts of several others. I did spy them laughing and fellowshipping and having a great time with the other Genesis Members. I was able to spend time with them Monday evening with another friend Sister Teon. We had dinner and ended up at the Provo Temple because we wanted to hang out some more and take pictures. It was dark, about 10 pm as we all walked around the Provo Temple laughing and sharing our different experiences of trying to date black nonmember who think we've been brainwashed, and even trying to convert and share the gospel with others of our race who simply are closed minded and felt we had absolutely lost our own minds. We are not opposed to dating the white brothers in the church, their just seems to be a lack of interest on their part to date us. We are saddened by what seems to be a shortage of Worthy Males of any race for sisters in our age group. Most of the one's we know have taken to dating nonmembers and/or are inactive and have left their Priesthood and temple covenants dormant and vacant. They may not be unworthy of them, they are just not in full strength or desire to be in practice with them for the time being. We do pray for their strong and speedy return.
Earlier at dinner other restaurant patrons were getting a kick out of 4 black Mormon chicks all giddy, happy, laughing and thick into discussing Mormonism. Some looked at us like we took a wrong turn in Compton and ended up in Happy Valley Provo Utah, in and Indian Restaurant eating chicken curry and rice by some HUGE mistake!
It was good to vent and share these thing. And it always came back to the same focal point: WE ARE NOT STUPID! We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and we proclaim that we have the fullness of the Restored Gospel. We know with all certainty what WE believe is true regardless of what myths others try and claim we believe. Proud to strong Mormon women who happen to have skin that are different shades of lovely divalicious brown! We talked about the blacks and the priesthood ban and how we understood the world to be at that time and why it's not a factor in our testimony one way or another. We did speak about how nice it was to know that more blacks are starting to believe the story about "a white boy, an angel and some gold plates!" And even how Sister Gladys Knight has brought some much needed "FLAVAH" to our beloved Hymns. We Mormon got us a Gospel Choir! A Grammy Award Winning Gospel Choir, how Cool is that? We talked about the lineage we were each given in our Patriarchal blessings. I'm from the house of Manasseh, I announced! Sister Glo and Sister Nyk announced the same, but one of them also added... "aren't we all going to be?" My JAW dropped! They are the first people I've encountered that I know of from the tribe of Manasseh! My family My sister, daughter and brother are all from the house of Ephraim. My parent weren't given a lineage because they rec'd their Patriarchal blessings pre 1978 and haven't gotten them amended yet. Sister Teon is also of the house of Ephraim. They learned something new! I met two new "Tribe Sisters!" And Sister Glo is also left handed like myself so that was an extra bonus to me! This discussion also led to who may have lamanite or native American blood in their lines as well which then led to the Blessing and obligations the different tribes of Israel have. It was wonderful to be able to speak of such things as if they were every day life subjects. How sad that they aren't subjected into our conversations with friends and family more. If the Gospel is part of our daily lives, such things should become more so.
We spoke about faith and fear and how they cannot coincide with the other and I began to share an experience about faith.. when Sister Nyk interrupted me and said.....
"Wait a minute! I'm sitting here out side the Provo Temple, in Utah listening to another black woman bear testimony! I'm sitting her with black sisters who believe the same as I do, share the same morals and standards and everything, I just can't believe it!"
We all knew what she meant!
I felt that experience about 10 years earlier when I attended my first Genesis Meeting which was for the 20th Celebration of every worthy male receiving the priesthood. I was 29 at the time. We assembled together in the Tabernacle on Temple square. I looked around me and I was surrounded by the Saint. There were Many of us there. But it was the first time in my LDS life when the congregation was predominantly black. I looked over the congregation with it's shades of brown, caramels and chocolate with specs of Vanilla hear and there, I caught my breath and got teary eyed as the congregation sang... "Come, Come Ye Saints!"
"Yes!" I said...
" Come on ye saints of black, brown, caramel, white and whatever shade there is... Just come!"
My family joined the church in February of 1973. We've ALWAYS been the only ones with an exception of a single brother or sister her or there within the stake. I saw my first Black Missionary when I had come home to Battle Creek, Michigan for the summer after my first year at Ricks college in 1987. I'll never forget him, Elder La Touche. It was stake conference and I was introduced to him about 3 times.
When I was called as Genesis Youth adviser in 11 years later I was able to have stewardship over 3 of his daughters when they attended the Genesis Group.
It's amazing to me the History of Black in the LDS church. I'll be speaking alot of this because on June 8th 2007 it will be 30 years that MY father has been able to personally bless his own family with the priesthood. He was not able to baptize or bless his own children. And we're making sure he's making up for lost time with the Grandkids.
So what's the BIG deal about being a black Mormon you ask? Shouldn't we not be so into races and colors and things, you ask. Perhaps we shouldn't. Because some will play the race card any chance they get.
Me, I just get excited about knowing that black families are assembling together in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and making the journey to repair passed damage to their generations.
Consider this scenario in YOUR family history:
Great great grand parents as slaves. The life of a slave, you wake up in the morning with your spouse, 3 daughters and 2 sons. You go to bed your spouse having been sold to the Jackson plantation, 1 son having been sold to the Kennedy Plantation, a daughter given to the master's neice 3 states over as a birthday present, the other given to the Master as a breeder to create more slave babies... or revenue to increase the Value of his own plantation. You may never speak to them OR even see them again in this lifetime. You are helpless to do anything but watch your family be torn apart. IF you have a decent enough master to allow you those good byes. You go to bed with only 1 daughter and 1 son with you as your family. You wake up the next morning and wonder, "will I still be here by the end of the day?"
So yeah, it IS a big deal.
We have been given the Gospel of Jesus Christ! We are blessed with the priesthood which provides our men the power to act in the Name of God. To Bind and seal in heaven those things that are bound and sealed on earth. This Gospel has given us hope and the actual power to bring our families back together... for ETERNITY! We have been given the way to reconcile our families members from the past and open the way for our family members for the future.
When the church opened up in Africa was there any wonder there were whole wards waiting to be baptized?
The Johannesburg South Africa Temple is the first LDS temple in Africa (dedicated 1985). In the dedicatory prayer, President Gordon B. Hinckley prayed for blessings on this nation and that its leaders be inspired "to find a basis for reconciliation" among its people.
I believe it's also a basis for reconciliation as well through the binding ordinances of the work we do in our temples. I love that!
That's the big deal. And it does give me tender feelings to know that even though I have A LOT of family history to get done, I have those things necessary to make it happen. To be the welding links between my passed and future generations. I do get misty eyed when when I see a congregation of black members gathered together in his name.
For the record, I get misty eyed when I see the priesthood gathered together in his name, and the relief society sisters, and the young women and young men, and the primary. Ok, so Maybe... JUST maybe I'm turning into a big cry baby when it comes to spiritual matters lately.
So be it, I'm cool with that!