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!


themeese2 said...

It wasn't mentioned in my ward. I think that is a SHAME! I think a lot of people would have been intersted in watching.

Rodney said...

love love love this post. is there any way to watch the commemoration online?

ShaBANG said...

We're trying to obtain the rights so we can play it on the genesis website. I'll keep ya posted. Search the church website also the kbyu and byutv listings. It replayed a few times last week.

dieMutti said...

I found your blog while googling something else and I love it! I am impressed by your conviction, faith, and love for others! Thanks!

Jay said...

How do you deal with the racist statements of Brigham Young and other leaders? I'm a white member that was born in the Church but am bothered by apparent racism. I seems that the priesthood ban was inspired by racism and not from God but then why did God allow that to go on for so long?

Just last year in sunday school several members in a gospel doctrine class insisted that blacks were less valiant in the pre-existence and that they were the seed of Ham/Cain. This was very troubling to me (because I know it's not true). I was even more upset when my Bishop and then Stake President refused to correct the false doctrine in the next class because they were afraid of the controversy.

ShaBANG said...

You know, Brother Jay, for everything there is a season. When I think of the bigotous comments from church leaders I think of racism as a whole during their times. They, just like us, are a product of their times and atmosphere. They were no different than the rest of the world. A prophet is only a prophet when he speaks the words of God. And we know when he speaks the words of God, those things come true. When they aren't speaking the words, they are mortal men subject to the prejudices, mistakes and ignorances of mortal man.

Think about this.... What white guy back in the day would have ran out to his field slave for a blessing or to help with one? Same for Civil right era...what white guy would go to a black bishop for council? ZERO!

When I thnk of this issue I think of Moses and the children of israel wandering in the wilderness for 40 days to kill off the unrighteous so to speak. Well there were righteous amongsth them who were long suffering befor they could enter the promised land because of the wicked.

Perhaps God had to wait for a time for the white saints to become worthy enough to accept the black saints as equals? In the history or racsism could you see that happening before hand? I can't and my parents were baptized in 1973.

Abraham 3:22-33 tells us there were no neutrals in Heaven. You were either with the Lord or Against him. (Even though there were diffrent levels of devotion, no one was neutral. The different levels of devotion has nothing to do with skin color. It will have everything to do with who ends up in which of the 3 degrees of Glory. and I DOUBT all the black folks will be in the lower kingdoms.) It also says there were chosen leaders before we were born(that would be pre existance.) And there are PLENTY of church leaders who are black and PLENTY of white members who will never be Bishops and so forth.

Basically I'm just tolerant of the ignorance and thank the Lord I've Studied enough to know better, teach better and do better.

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