Thursday, June 26, 2008

'The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.

I believe that quote with all my heart. If I didn't believe it I'm sure I'd be in an state hospital some place.
The last 7 days have been some of the toughest I've experienced ever and I've had some pretty tough experiences.
Without going into too much detail I'll get to it.

About eleven years ago I experienced a situation that had a profound effect on me. For the most part i dealt with it in generally a quick manner and put it behind me. Last Friday a sort of recurrence of that situation happened. I spent last Saturday in an emergency crisis center. I don't remember too much of Saturday or even Sunday for that matter. But I remember a bunch of big words and Initials being thrown around that I couldn't grasp.

I have since learned the words Post traumatic Stress Disorder aka PTSD is what they were saying and I was suffering from it and shock. For those of you who don't know, Post traumatic stress disorder is comparable to what war vets experience as "shell shock" or "flash backs." It's as if although they're living in today but their memory treats it as if they are still in the moments of the trauma, and they are experiencing it as if time stood and they are in the midst of it.
No one, I don't care who you are or how strong you think you are, likes to hear they have some sort of disorder or dysfunction. My moment of truth was in the midst of my hysterics I was so physically weak and out of it, I can remember laying down in some one's lap or in some one's arms and simply not having the physical strength to sit up and not remembering who was around me or how I got there. I KNEW I NEEDED HELP, there was no doubts and no denying it.

I never thought PTSD would or could be associated with me. For eleven years I stuffed down the fear, anger shock and all else that came with situation thinking I was putting it behind me.
Much of the weekend is a blur. Within the weekend there were moments of darkness, loneliness, fear, pain, and confusion. I'm still having trouble "connecting all the dots" so to speak. I even suffered a little set back yesterday reminding me to slow down and take it easy so I can properly heal from the trauma. And that's what I'm doing.
What I'm drawn to most over the weekend and this week as well is the overwhelming support of family, friends and loved ones.
I have felt the love, the strength and the support. Although I may never get last weekend back into my memory, I have felt deep inside of me being carried by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
About 13 years ago I was under a dark cloud. I received a beautiful blessing from my home teacher at the time and I will never forget the words: 'Those who are close to you are being protected and guarded by your angels for your benefit." At the time I wasn't sure what that meant. But before the end of the day one of my close friends who was actually out of town on business called me twice that evening. The first time she called she said she was out of town and just felt like she wanted to call and say "hi." The second time she called on the break from her business meeting and said she didn't know why she needed to call and didn't' care why, but she felt so strongly she needed to check up on my and just let me know she loved me and I was in her prayers. I realized what the line in that blessing meant.

I experienced much of that this last week. I heard from several friends who had no knowledge of what I was experiencing. Just "out of the blue" (if you believe in out of the blue ;) many of them simply said
"You're in my prayers, I'm thinking of you, just wanted you to know that"

I had a conversation a while ago with one of my friends who told just in passing,
"hey I was thinking of you the other day..."
and I said..
"why didn't you let me know at the time, I probably needed to hear it then at the time."

And then i said..
"why do we do that? When people are on our minds we either ignore it or tell them after the fact instead when it happens which is probably when they needed to know the most."

He was one of those I heard from this week, he said since that conversation he's decided to let people know when he's thinking of them. I so appreciate him and his following those promptings.

So to all of you who followed those promptings, there is not enough thanks in my heart to express how much it meant hearing from you during this time.

There are times in our lives when we experience trauma and heartache. Most of us don't get the counseling we need in situations such as this because we feel strong and brave and don't want to think there's something wrong with us, or our thinking. That stuff may go away, for a while but it never disappears. It will surface if not properly dealt with. What's frightening is that we cannot choose the time or circumstances under when it will surface again. Don't be afraid or too proud to get counseling or help if you need it. Even if you don't think you need it, it doesn't hurt to talk to someone, get your thoughts and feelings out. Your bishop, pastor, priest, minister or whomever is a good resource to start with. LDS Social Services will also accept anyone, you don't have to be a church member to use this resource.

I'm not sure how long this road is I've got to walk. I am walking it willingly. I'm walking it thoroughly. And I'm not walking it alone, which is so comforting. I can feel many of you walking it with me, holding me up when I'm to weak to hold myself up. In the midst of my confusion on Saturday I was given a blessing. I don't remember much of it, but I do remember afterwards there were arms around me holding me together so I would not fall apart. And then away I was whisked to the trauma crisis center.
Sometimes I laugh most of the day and sometimes I cry most of the day. I've been sleeping ALOT, it feels like more than I've ever slept before. Which isn't a bad thing. lol

My therapist is awesome. I get to reinforce comfort, security and happiness with all my favorite foods, movies, music, and things to do like shopping, drawing, writing and Raggedy Ann and Andy. (Raggedy Ann and Andy were my favorite FAVORITE thing in childhood. I'm surrounded by 5 of them now :). There is no such thing as TOO MANY RAGGEDY ANNs or ANDYs!

Anyway, the shock is wearing off. I'm slowing connecting the dots from the weekend and there are days I'm all me and days I'm a zombie.

But I keep saying a couple things over and over in my head when I feel that anxiety coming on:

'The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you."
"If God brings you to it, he will lead you through it."

Friday, June 20, 2008

The LDS Genesis Group & THE 30 Year Commemorations

FIRST: Some back ground history of the LDS Genesis group can be found here:

History of Genesis
On June 8, 1971, exactly seven years before President Spencer W. Kimball received a revelation extending the priesthood to "all worthy males," modern Church history was made as Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder Thomas S. Monson, and Elder Boyd K. Packer (then junior apostles) met with three Black Latter-day Saints—Ruffin Bridgeforth, Darius Gray, and Eugene Orr—to discuss how the Church might better support its members of African descent. These six men worked together weekly until The Genesis Group was established as an auxiliary unit of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. To continue to know more about Genesis just follow the link

So for those of you out there who "assume" it's some African American/black renegade rebellious group of the church... WRONG!

I started going to Genesis 10 years ago. My first meeting was actually the 20Th commemoration.

The reason I started going was because one day, my daughter asked me... "mommy, why don't we have pictures of black people in the house except for us and family?"
I thought it was a good question. What we DID have was various LDS portraits: A white child at the knee of Jesus Christ. A white man in the arms of Christ, A group of white girls surrounding Christ..... White people mourning his death, White people praising his Resurrection...

Notice a pattern? Yeah, apparently she did also. She was the age of 8. She was simply looking for a way that she, a black child can identify with not just Jesus Christ, but also the church.

Hmmmmmm, what's a black mama to do?

I know you're curious to know what THIS black mama did, huh?

I did a month long "likening" program with her. We turned to the scriptures, and I read the description of the resurrected:

Revelations 1:14 His hairs were white like wool....his eyes were as a flame of fire.

From that she made he determination that the long haired blue eyed pictures were probably not a true image, but just what the artist was interpreting. She also said that since we were to liken ourselves unto him, that people painted him a little differently.

She really liked the part about the wool. She determined that probably meant a little nappy just like hers. So she was ok with that as well.

Next I made some art with ethnic people. I had alot of it around it was just in disguise. I already had greeting cards and such that I put in 5x7 frames and hung on the walls. I found a painted picture of an elderly woman reading a bible that reminded me of my mom and grand mom so I cut it size 8x10 and hung that up. Then I started creating some of my own thank you cards and little sketches and drawing just for our benefit. I did the Young women values with drawings of girls in french braided corn rows and afro puffs in their hair. My purpose was not in trying to make the church a black church.... because a church is just a building. MY purpose was to show her that the GOSPEL pertains to all people, no matter the size of their body, the color of their skin or the country they were born in.

We did some activities for Family Home Evening such at tie dyed t-shirts and talked about how the different colors on the shirt made a beautiful pattern on the shirt, just like all the colors of God's children on the earth make the earth beautiful. We also tried foods from different countries we'd never tried before and that was really fun. We spent the whole month doing those kinds of things and it was fun. Better than that, she had an understand that although some people might portrait Jesus Christ as some blue eye's long hair white dude who loved all, its not so much what he looked like, it's what he lived by and taught. I asked her if she with the pictures we had. She say "yeah mom, because it doesnt matter to me what he looks like. He loves me no matter what he looks like."

Outta the mouths of babe's yeah?

That was 10 years ago. Since then I've become an active part of the Genesis group. I was the first Young Women's president. From their I went to Activity Chair and now I am currently the Program Director.

This calling would entail me with the help of so many others finding speaking to present the firesides on the first Sunday of each month. I'll tell you I started stressing and planning this thing a year ago. The original plan was to hold the meeting not the first Sunday but the actual date of the 1978 Proclamation, how cool would THAT be? And I would have some of our Black LDS artist solo and bear testimony. I would have 1 of the original members of the Genesis Presidency speak and show the footage of themselves along with Elders Packer, Oaks, and Hinckley who set them apart and organized the Genesis Branch. I wanted a black woman to speak from the Pulpit of the Tabernacle on her views of how the Revelation, preferably a pre 1978 member who back in the day before and is still active today.

I wanted to fill the sounds of the air with some good ol' gospel music. It was going to be the celebration of CELEBRATIONS.

That was the plan. Well as we came into this year things in my life started to twist and turn and get complicated and busy and stressed. The more I planned my meeting the more things fell apart.

AND THEN, I got the call from the branch Presidency that said... "well the Church Public Relations would like to do a World Wide Celebration Broadcast..." PANIC! PANIC! PANIC!

Let me tell ya why:

I got engaged roughly around March that ALONE is stress and shock. This program was planned for June 8th. My daughter would be graduating high school May 28th and all the family would be in town. And then the Annual Genesis summer family picnic a week later so my mind was SWIRLING!

We then went into negotiations about the broadcast. They game a proposal, we gave suggestions and amendments, they gave alternate suggestions and amendments and the final agreement is what you were able to see as the broadcast.

I was very insist ant on having a black female speak. If I had to push my mama on the stand or do it myself.... (which actually was part of the original program....*whew*)

I was please with how the broadcast went in some ways and a little indifferent in others.

My biggest concern was them wanting to do a world wide broadcast with conservative homogenized faces and performances which, in my mind, would defeat the purpose to those who have misconceptions about our church.

I like the multicultural choir. It would have been nice to hear other solo est. I love the solo est chosen, he's a person friend of mine and he did a FABULOUS job. The choirs were from R.O.C director Mike Campbell, Divine Heritage directed by, And LDS Genesis Choir Director Lyn Dudley, (yes she is my sister!) Lyn work with the Motab director in assembling the choirs. It would have been nice to hear an ethnic song of praise from the choirs as well as our beautiful hymns. I was THRILLED to have the speakers we had! President Parker... HE IS THE MAN! I spoke with him after the service and he instructed me to find his son at BYU, get him to Genesis each month and give him a calling! Done deal President Parker. We'll be hearing from him in our regular Genesis meeting in the next year. Those of you who heard him speak, can you believe was the first talk he's ever written? I enjoyed all the speaker. Still would have liked to have heard from t hose who were members before the proclamation and how it changed their lives and their testimonies now.

I enjoy it. I was thrilled the church came in and did this meeting, they could certainly do it on a larger and better capacity than I ever could have. For the most part, it went better than I thought. (that's speaking from the planning and stressful side of things )
I'm grateful it was even Acknowledged by the church. A little sad it wasn't acknowledged in the different wards. I dare say in most wards the date came and went without even a mention.
The broadcast was conservative in true LDS fashion but I think it went over well for the most part.
We've come a long way but there's still a long way to go.

"we ain't where we were but we sho ain't where we could be..."

We've come along way from looking for black LDS art to having black stake presidents speak in the tabernacle.
Hurray for progress!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

How Can ANY Black Person Be LDS or Live in Utah?

Once again that was the question. "How can you be a black Mormon?" And it's usually followed by something like.... "they have really brain washed you, I'ma pray for you."


My thinking is.... "here we go again."

It's quite interesting when black people visiting Utah run into me or my sister. I'm not sure what happened on THIS particular day, but I was already in a bad mood. I should have worn a t-shirt that said... "Don't start no stuff, won't be no stuff."
Anyway, I'm walking out of the grocery store and 2 women approach me.... "hey, do you live here?" They asked

"Yup, I sure do!" I answered, bracing myself.

"WHY? And where are all the Black People?" they said.

"They're in Ogden" I snickered out loud.

"You a Mormon?" was the next question

"YES! Yes I am....!" I said loud and emphatically.

Already knowing what the next question was going to be, I waited for it...

"I never heard of black Mormon's before you must be the only one. How can ANY black person be a latter day saint?" was the question

"Well what do you mean?" I asked, playing dumb.

"Y'all can't even get into their temples. And you can't even marry someone of a different color and be part of that church. They teach that black people don't go to heaven and can't be preachers or ministers in that church. Girl they got you brain washed, I'ma pray for you."

Now when these moments come up, I have a few choices.
I can get pissed off and battle with them and their ignorance.
I can smile and thank them for informing me.
I can take the opportunity to educate and dispel any myths
Or I can simply turn away, ignore them and go on about my business.

*sigh* If you know me, ya know what I did don't you?

I've been in Utah almost 18 years. EIGHTEEN LONG YEARS!

When I was pregnant with my daughter I went to California to live with my brother and sister-in-law. After living with them a year I knew I couldn't stay there forever and it was time for me to step up and find a life for me and my daughter.
I called my mom in Battle Creek Michigan and told her I was coming home.
"NO, you're not!" was her answer. I was baffled, what did she mean I wasn't coming home?
They say you can ALWAYS go home.
"baby, you are not supposed to be here. If you were supposed to be here I'd let you come home, but this is not where the Lord wants you to be."
"Where am I supposed to go?" I cried.

"you need to get on your knees and talk to your Heavenly Father and find out." She said.

She was right. Sometimes when things get tough the first thing we do is run home for shelter and safety and comfort and we get stuck there because of the familiarity of it all.

To say the least, I was really shaken up by that conversation. I was welcomed to stay with my brother and sister-in-law. But staying their didn't feel right either.

So for about a week I contemplated places to go. I know where I didn't want to go. My sister was in Utah and I had already lived their for a summer and in Idaho for 2 years. I also lived in New Jersey for a bit and I loved it out East.

So I put myself in motion to possibly move out East. As I was planning to go out East a Gnawing feeling kept creeping into my mind... "yewtaw" I would quickly brush it away and continue to make my plans.
You know where this is headed, dontcha? The more I planned for out East the louder the "UTAH" voice was in my head.

Man I didn't want to go to Utah. I was JUST there. I had fun and all, but I was ready for another experience.
*sigh* Finally I did just as my mother directed: got down on my knees and prayed. I knew before I prayed I was going to Utah. But the answer I rec'd through prayer gave me the faith and courage to follow the direction I received. It was so CRYSTAL CLEAR:

"Go and raise your daughter. You will be well cared for. You will be successful. You will teach the youth the beauty of cultural diversity and brotherhood. You will be a pioneer for those who don't understand. You will help pave the way to knowledge and enlightenment."

When I left California, I had enough rent for 1 month and enough food and diapers for my baby daughter for 2 weeks. I packed my clothes, her clothes and stroller and went to Utah. My sister had found me an apartment with a roommate who wouldn't mind a struggling single mother living with her.
I flew in late on a Friday night. I started putting in Job applications on Monday, was hired as a hostess in a restaurant on Wednesday and started working a week after I arrived. I believe Heavenly Father had this in the works before I even arrived. By obedience I was blessed every step of the way. He put situations in my life letting me know that the choices I made were right choices.

Back to the grocery store parking lot:

" How can ANY black person be a latter day saint?"

I tried to divert the question by asking them where they were from.


"Atlanta????? " I asked in horror.

"How can any black person live in the south? I mean with all the bigotry still going on and didn't they have slaves down south? I don't get how anyone can know black history and still choose to live in the south?"

They looked at each other like I spoke in Japanese or something, then at me like a horn popped outta my forehead.

I "axed" them again... " HOW can any black person knowing the history of slavery live in the south?? WHY would they want to??"

I broke into a smile, because I knew I had them thinking. I explained to them the misinformation they had about blacks not being able to go into the temples or minster or marry a different culture. I had been endowed since 1993 meaning I had been through and in the temple MANY times. Many of my friends are members who serve as High Priest, bless, administer, deliver sermons across the pulpit, preach, lay hands on and pray over and do everything there is in the church to do. INCLUDING my father and brothers. I also showed a picture of my father and step-mother (who is white) and informed them they were indeed married in the SLC temple.

They were taken by surprise. "Well, what about black men and the priesthood? They couldn't even have it until 1978."

That's true I told them. I told them the history of other churches who had discriminatory traditions. I called them traditions because I don't believe them to be doctrine.
I told them, you don't hear about how the other churches stopped practicing their discriminatory traditions because they didn't proclaim it to the world. LDS Church made a WORLD WIDE announcement proclaiming EVERY worthy male regardless of color or race was invited to come and receive the priesthood which we believe is the power on earth to act in behalf of God. Knowing this would most likely single them out as a racist religion, they went forth and let the world know. Which was the right thing to do, to proclaim to the world, and not on the down low as if to hide some dirty little secret.
I also invited them to think about the history of the United state even know there is still much discrimination. It's not as bad as it was HOWEVER, perhaps we needed to wait for the people of the world to accept blacks as equals so the work of the Lord could go forth. For EVERYTHING there is a season....and the Lord knows that season when we do not.
My point in bringin' up bein' black and living in the south was... Slavery was a long time ago. Conditions are not as they were. The world is a different place. We as a black people have come along way is ALL aspects of life, even religion. You don't base where you live on the passed history, but on the progression of moving forward and how you are able to successfully live your life.
I don't base my religion on it's passed traditions that no longer exist. I base them on the blessings I receive and the success, happiness and peace it brings my family. I base it on the knowledge I have of truth and righteousness it brings to me and my family. I base it in KNOWING the doctrine studying the Scriptures and a feeling of confirmation that I've received time and time again when asked in knowing what is true and what isn't true. A confirmation that only comes by studying and prayer, ASKING GOD THE FATHER IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST for a testimony of truth.

After about a 2 hour conversation in a Utah grocery store parking lot with 2 of my Sistahs from Georgia I remember that portion of the answer I rec'd to my prayer almost 20 years ago:

"You will teach the youth the beauty of cultural diversity and brotherhood. You will be a pioneer for those who don't understand. You will help pave the way to knowledge and enlightenment."

This is why I'm here, in Utah. It is why my sister and I chose to stay in Utah. If black folks keep moving out of Utah because there's a lack of diversity and an intolerable ignorance about it, then Utah will never diversify and will always be in a state of ignorance toward other races and cultures.

It is one of the things I've been called to do. And there is great peace and joy in knowing what you've been called to do and having the ability to do it.

If you don't feel you are where you should be, I challenge you to speak to your father in Heaven and find out. And when you know I promise you that if you are obedient and faithful, you will be blessed. Whether you are struggling with finances, family, or whatever is holding you back from moving forward, God has it all worked out. He will take care of and make sure your needs and the needs of your loved one's are met. It is his promise.

Big Brother, Little Sister Moments

Big Brother, Little Sister Moments
Hand in Hand


I earned some temporary wings!