My father said these days they'd have been in jail to let their kids jump on some random bus and disappear for hours at a time.
He and my mother recognized that us kids were singing bible songs and songs about that Jesus loves us, yes we know, cuz the bible tells us so....
My father said eventually he followed the little Sunday bus and found out we were HOLY ROLLIN' with the Pentecostals!!! I don't think he had that much of a problem with it until they required the congregations to burn their TVs, Radios, Certain books, reading materials and such. He felt is was time for to pull us out and to really research how he wanted his family to grow and learn about the Lord.
My parents were into a well known MLM these days and spent a lot of time in meetings where they drew a lot of circles on a chalk board. One circle would have arms like a spider that would attach to others circles with arms of a spider connecting a whole spider community. (well in my little 4-5 yr old mind they were drawing spiders on a chalk board)
I can still picture the circles being drawn on the chalkboard to this day. Some of my parent's business partners invited them to hear a message about their church and my parents agreed. My dad speaks of the weird preacher boys with the same first name of Elder. My p parents took the discussions provided by the church. And were baptized February 1973 by Elder Baniah and Elder Clausen. My parents were the first black LDS members in a huge radius. The church was packed, even the Mission President attended. It was a huge deal. The mission at the time covered a 3 state Radius and we would be members of the Battle Creek Ward in the Lansing, Michigan Stake. I remember having dinner at the Mission home with the Stake President, President Hansen and his family. That was 40 years ago this year.
Being Black members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a rare thing. Being Black Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints before 1978 is a Pearl of Great Price! We have been dubbed pioneers which I didn't recognize or appreciate until years later. But that's another story for another blog.
I'm often regarded as the poor little black girl that grew up Mormon and doesn't know anything else. I shall beg to differ: My mother grew up in the A.M.E church. Very much of what her father taught her as a child was familiar and comfortable for her while joining the LDS church. Much of what was taught to her by the missionaries she said felt "familiar" to her, although she'd never heard it before. For those not familiar A.M.E stands for African Methodist Episcopal Church. And were mostly All black congregation. The history of the A.M.E Church goes back well into slavery and was formed out of how badly treated and restrictions placed on black members or members of African descent. Feel free to study more on the History of the A.M.E Church.
My father was a Jr Pastor in High School. Back in the day they actually had school clubs like that involving church. They did quite a bit of service in the community and lived a certain standard as Jr pastors. His Grandfather, Henry Flowers was a Reverend for St Mark's Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in Battle Creek, Michigan. This is the site and what's left of the church.
After my Grandfather married my Grandmother, the preacher's daughter, My grandfather then became a deacon in my Great-Grandfather's Church. Later, after my Great-grandfather passed on and my grandparent's moved from Michigan go Arizona, my Grandparent then became Baptist. As it is I'm very familiar with other religions and have been to several churches other than my own. Much of the changes our family experienced were enhancements. The parent's stopped smoking and drinking. From my point of view that's what changed the most, not seeing my father with a pipe. We spent more time together at a family including family night once a week and daily family prayers. At night before bedtime the family prayers would take some time because we would break out in giggle fits. I don't know what it was about family prayer that would throw us kids into laughing fits, but i know there were times we were on our knees till they hurt trying to get out a family prayer. They were fun times of laughter and family togetherness.
Family nights were usually a lesson from the scriptures, a family activity and then family treats. It was fun. I can remember my father telling stories from the scriptures and embellishing them. He's quite the master story teller and I, for one, was always captivated. I recall stories about Moses ditching the people and they "throwing all their golden jewelry in the fire and suddenly a calf came up" cuz they needed to see some sort of God to believe in God so they made a gold cow. And then there was the story of 3 dudes in a fire named Shadrak, Meeshak and To-bed-we-go." My father was and still in BIG into community service so it was easy to be our brother's keeper and to help those around us. LDS Church believes in God and Jesus First and Family next. Family is always the priority after The Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ
Being so young when the family joined the church I didn't really understand what it meant when my father didn't have the priesthood. The only thing I recognized was that he and my older brother didn't bless or pass the Sacrament and that was actually an after thought. Our ward never treated us any different than any of the other members. Our family gave talks and sung with the choir. My father and mom had ward callings and did home and visiting teaching. They got their Patriarchal Blessings and worked and served like the rest of the ward members. When it became time for us kids to be baptized we were told we could pick anyone we wanted in the ward to do it. I picked the father of my best friend in the ward. Brother Donald R. Leslie We were never told our father couldn't do it so i didn't occur to me that he wasn't able to. We, as a family were never lacking for what we needed spiritually. We believed as long as we lived the Gospel the Lord would not leave us hanging in any way shape or form. We believe that Jesus Christ compensated for all that mortal man lacked in our behalf and no blessing would be with held. This is the building where we were baptized and went to church growing up. This is the building where my father and brother received the priesthood.
I remember mid morning of June 8,1978 We had an intercom system in the house and you could play the radio on it as well. I remember the radio being on and I heard something about "President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints President Spencer W. Kimball announced all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color"
Within minutes our phone started ringing off the hook: Sister Morse Called inviting us to dinner that Sunday. Sister Barnes called sobbing, asking to speak to my mom. Brother Johnson called wanting so speak to my father.... the phone was going BIZURK! I remember when my parents got home I told them what I heard on the radio and gave them the phone messages and left to go out an play . When I returned home my father wasn't there. He heard the news and left the house. None of us knew where he went.. Later we found out he went to the church parking lot and just sat there for hours, marinating in it all.
I'm often asked most what changed in our family after my father was ordained to the priesthood. For the most part, he and my brothers were able to pass and bless the sacrament. And he was able to give us blessings and we were working towards going to the temple to be sealed. Unfortunately we never made it to the temple. My parent would divorce a few years later. I am proud of them for being fully active in the church because I've since learned that for many LDS divorced couples fall away and become inactive. Strange to me. I'm grateful they clung to the things that gave them the strength and faith to be strong and carry on. When i think of the foundation they laid for us to have the option of growing strong in the gospel I'm grateful for their efforts. Unlike many our ward was PHENOMINAL, loving and inclusive. In the times my parents divorced no one felt they needed or had to choose sides, both parents were loved and supported equally, not one against the other. When our ward split in half my father was in the 1st ward, my mother and us were in the 2nd ward. My parents ended up being the Singles rep in each of their wards and working together on the singles level. *God has a sense of humor, y'all know it!*
I appreciate the time my parents took to share and study church history with us. Within a couple of years of our family joining the church we traveled with the ward to the Washington D.C open house:
The Sacred Grove:
And the Hill Cumorah Pageant:
That same trip we visited the Nation's capital and the many historical treasures there.
Although I was young at the time and didn't understand too much, These images stayed with me. What I remembered of the Pageant was a bunch of colorful costumes beating the crap out of each other and then it going totally dark. Suddenly a bright white image was dropping from the sky with a booming voice all around us. It was in my Rick's College Book of Mormon class as my professor was reading the passages of the 3 days of darkness after the Crucifixion that the image mentioned above came to mind and joined a bond in my mind to seal a testimony on me of the Book Of Mormon. He was narrating from the Scripture that scene I watched in my mind for years.
I'm grateful for what my mother sacrificed to allow us to go on youth conferences to Carthage Jail:
These are the things that give us strength in our testimony and endurance in our resolve as members of the Church.
We were laid with a foundation of the History of the Church and with the knowledge that no blessing would be withheld from us as long as we lived righteously in the Gospel. My family was fortunate enough to be seen and treated with respect and love from not just our Ward but our Stake as well. We were appreciated, valued and love as Children of God and siblings of equality. I do recall. discussing it as a family to which my mother said.. "it's not that the blacks were unworthy to hold the Priesthood. Perhaps is the majority of the white members weren't worthy enough to accept us as equals." The folks are a product of their time, environment and social mediums. Men of God have gotten it wrong before: Moses, Daniel. Even the Brother of Jared was called up and chastised for being the Prophet and not communicating with the Lord for a number of years. He has righted them before and will continue to do so as needed.
I don't feel the need for an apology from the church regarding the Priesthood Policy toward the blacks. I know it was an unjust policy and more of a Tradition. One of my favorite Bible stories is the story of Abigail. If you've never read "The Peacegivers" find it and read it.
It gave me such a stronger testimony of the ATONEMENT and less of a desire of feeling offended and needing people to be accountable to me for trespasses against me. I need no apology from the church because just as Jesus Christ died on the cross for me, my short coming and failings he also did the same for those who upheld the policy and tradition. They are accountable for how they did or did not work to resolve the situation. And just as I feel no need to stand up in General Conference and apologize for my short comings and misconceptions I feel I don't need that from them because THE LORD HAS IT TAKEN CARE OF! I need to be more about my father's business than chasing a ghost of an apology that may hinder my desire and responsibility to built up the kingdom. I have taken it upon myself to own my Testimony and how it is strengthened or weakened. I and I alone am responsible for maintaining my relationship with God and what I allow to effect it.
I don't think it was a Coincidence that President Kimball was called to be the Prophet the same year my Parents Joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We was like the Abraham Lincoln of the LDS Church. He had a desire to seek out the truth bring it forth and defend it. It took him 2 years of fasting and prayer, much to the determent of his own health. A majority of it was fasting and praying for the brethren he worked with to open their hearts and minds and petition the Lord for the light and knowledge he had come to know.
Just like other churches The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has growing pains, failings and short comings. Some churches resolved their issues sooner than others. Just like the people of the Earth. As black members of the church it is time for us stand up and prepare to pave the way. And move forward with a greater understanding and resolve to be a powerhouse in the Gospel
"Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge, to make America [and the church] what it ought to be.
*Below are a couple of various writings on the Blacks and the Priesthood ban.