I'm so very grateful that the Church has acknowledged to the world that they have looked up and taught for centuries that black people were considered less than valiant, less than valuable in the eyes of the Lord and in their eyes as well. Because if we are to be Christlike and become as the Lord is, then that would surely mean if the Lord values black people less, then they, too should strive to be like him.
Much like a married should be happy to know the truth about a cheating spouse. Overjoyed!
OH, wait, I bet that doesn't sound right, does it? A little bitter to the taste?
The information that came forth regarding the black members and the Church is not new revelation. It's not presented as a proclamation. For me, it was a history lesson, one we've been hearing through the years. It may be said a little differently but for me, it's a rerun. A review with a footnote included this time: Oh, by the way we don't teach that stuff anymore so all is well. Now back to your regularly scheduled program.
Throughout the years we've read in the scriptures about 'white and delight some people and dark and loathsome people knowing these words will be ingrained into every member of the church. Subconsciously how will this play into finding an eternal companion for myself and my children. Would the church rather I marry someone outside of it to my own race, or does race matter. I will indeed matter to those who believe whats been ingrained through our gospel teaching.
Today I find myself in between my black brother and sisters. There is an Old school set of black Mormons with old school patiences, tolerance and wisdom. With a calmness and an atmosphere that we are to be grateful for acknowledgments and blessings we've been given compared to those of say, Sister Jane James and Elder Elijah Able. They have adjusted and adapted and accepted old protocol. Protocol that may need to be replaced by a different strategy.
The New School set of Black Mormon are younger, louder, more energetic, willing and able to move full speed ahead but are losing soldiers along the way due to spiritual supplies being withheld or lacking to hasten the work.
I feel at the cusp of both teams. And am struggling myself with recognizing the balance between the two. Both sides are much needed in this spiritual battlefield.
When people ask me why black members aren't accepting and satisfied with all the church has said and done about acknowledging the Priesthood ban and the devaluing of black members through out the history of the church, I take them on a quick trip.
Imagine you are part of a struggling group, not of your own doing, but born into what is perceived to be an undesirable circumstance. You and your group leave all you know in search of a Paradise you've heard of where you well be nourished 100 percent body and soul, loved, accepted and flourish amongst all who are there, regardless of your "undesirably circumstances." So you all set out on this journey in search of Paradise. The trek is hard. It's grueling. Some have died an never reach paradise. It's a heartbreaking. And it's going to take years to get to the final destination. You soldering on for a few year and you scavenge and forage for whatever supplies you need. You have shelter and clothing and the essentials to be alive but you'll have to find a way to gain all you need to make it safely to the final destination. When you come to as Place where you are able to Rest, Eat, Drink, Mend and Restore and you praise the Lord and find joy in it and believe you've found your destination so you prepare to make your home. After a while you recognize this is not your final destination. You've been brought to this place and most of what you need to dwell here an make this your home But some of it is tainted and needing repair. The people are tolerant, some even loving. Others are aware of your "unfavorable" circumstances by birth and they hold it against you. They accept you being here, but not because they want to or believe you have a right to be since they're still being taught that you're still of less value which somehow taints this location. You and your group knows it's time to continue on.
You've traveled many years in the elements and putting up with whatever comes your way and in the far distance you see a land with plush greens and blue waters so you hasten your travels and your body and soul are replenished with praise and energy knowing that soon the journey will be over. As you finally reach this paradise, you realise it's just a facade that you've been promised. You're tired. You're hungry, you're dehydrated in need of major rest and uplifting. You are welcomed to the facade and given a small piece of bread and a sacrament cup of water and sent on your way. Are you confused? Are you Grateful? Are you deflated? Are you nourished? Can you sustain your life on the respite and refreshment you've just received? And if so, for how long? You continue on your journey another few years and again see in the far distance a land that appears to be what has been described as the place of promise. Again your heart and spirits soar! This MUST be it you're finally arriving! Only got get closer and find another facade. Crust of bread, shot glass of water, and you're back on the journey. "
The group is a group of Mormons.
The Undesirable Circumstance is the Black skin (according to previous teaching)
The trek is waiting for the priesthood.
The first place mistaken to be Paradise is the Priesthood ban being lifted.
The intolerance and tainted supplies are teaching materials of how black people are perceived in our scriptures and church history.
Those who hold the intolerable circumstances against you are the generations of people tainted by those teachings. Because no one has educated them other wise. In Paradise the people will have a strong and unwavering knowledge that those teachings were incorrect and not to be indoctrinated again.
The Facades along the journey are statements from the people in charge of paradise. They share little new information, some headway to announcing a strong unwavering knowledge but never strong and unwavering. This is your crust of bread and sacrament cup of water through out your journey.
The land of Paradise will be when the People in charge of Paradise decide to just say. We devalued this people because of their undesirable circumstances. We should have never done that. We've taught that because of it they were less valuable in the eyes of God and in our Eyes. That was wrong as well. We no longer believe this. We no longer teach this and we need to do whatever we can to correct it and make sure everyone knows it.
It really is that simple So we're waiting for people to die of from being in charge of the capital and new people to be called in charge of the capital so we can reach paradise with the other Mormons.
We're not only battling forces outside of the church we're battling forces inside the church along with some others. But our battle is different, I feel.
There was a time these teachings, talks and discussions were buried in the bowel of the churches historical archives where they could be silenced and put to rest. Perhaps if the church can stop talking about it and just focus on the here and now we, as a people can pretend it didn't happen and move forward. Direct questions to Official Declaration 2 in our continuing revelation set of scripture, The Doctrine and Covenant and keep it rolling. But you can't Silence Sister Internet Explorer and Brother "I'm Feeling Lucky" Google. Because they have access to and a willingly share all of their knowledge for those who seek to partake of it.
As a Gospel Doctrine Teacher in my Ricks College Ward, now known as BYU-Idaho I remember when it came time to teach the "Blacks in the Priesthood" lesson. I threw out the book. Walked into the class room and announced..."Today's lesson is, ask me all your questions about me and my family being black members of the church. We're going to have a discussion, no books, no manuals telling me what I'm supposed to say and how you're supposed to answer." I'm not one to be uncomfortable in silence because that's where real conversations with the Lord happen and I couldn't find anything I should be uncomfortable about. But they looked like hell, scared to open their mouths. Hesitant in what they should say and how they should say it. Finally some one raised their hand, and I nodded to them.
He said cheerfully and so happy for me and my family..."How did it feel when the church revealed that black people in the church were worthy enough to have the priesthood."
Oh he was so happy for me and mine that we could finally enjoy the blessings of eternity.
I laughed out loud and said... "IS THAT WHAT YOU'VE BEEN TAUGHT?? Because I heard it differently." I told them I've never heard of someone not being worthy of the priesthood to even be invited to be baptised. Why baptise someone unworthy of its priesthood, isn't that are requirement of baptism? My father wasn't being held accountable for Adam's Eve's or even Cain's transgression according to Article of Faith #two.
"We believe man should be punished for his own sins and not Adam's transgressions."
So the only thing I could really say...
"See, I heard my father couldn't have the priesthood because your mother and father weren't worthy enough to let him have it. So we had to wait on church leaders and y'all. And what Y'all were waiting for... I don't know."
Keep in mind this was mid 1980's in Idaho. I was the first real black person many of them had seen outside of a TV set.
In our church the literature and doctrine has been so peppered with this teaching that simple lifting the ban is not going to flip the switch in the minds of those who are indoctrinated.
Years and years, books and books, talks and talks over generations and generations have been impregnated into the minds of the members. And the members need books and books, talks and talks over generations and generations to repair the damage it has brought forth.
In a short news cast the church divulged why they released the statement. You can find it here.
Some of the younger generations is finding the "pocked" history of the church, questioning it, feeling deceived and leaving the church because of it. Others will say, if they truly believed in modern day revelation, they would not be struggling and leaving. I cry B.S. It's not a matter of Modern Day Revelation.
It is a matter of believing that we preach that our prophets are fallible, but when it comes to their fallibility we justify it as new revelations and the field being ripe for the harvest..
The Priesthood ban and views on black people were not in accordance to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we've been teaching and learning about. Even as a kid in primary I knew that. And once you know something you can't "unknown" it.
The news cast is very telling to me. It tells me that maybe families should be teaching in the home about diversity. Acceptance of it and tolerance of others.
Gay members are surely speaking about how the church relates to them. But are they discussion on racism effects other members of the church and how we should be against it?
Feminist are surely speaking about wearing pants and ordaining women in the home, but are they speaking about racism and homophobia.
I know many black families that are teaching all of the above in their family. Some even go so far to say as I'd rather have a gay kid then a kid who committed suicide because of it. Sadly this is actually what's happening to our gay and black youth in the church. I've yet to hear about feminist suicides.
Oddly enough the church has powerful, straight forward, stances on issues of feminist rights and gay rights. They have been addressed many times in our general sessions strongly, powerfully, forcefully. There is no misunderstanding past and present views on these issues.
Blacks in the church is still a gray area. How fitting (black and white does create the color grey doesn't it?)
We hear things like...' The theory of why the ban was put in place was wrong" or " Policy upheld due to it just not being the proper time."
Amongst my white brothers and sisters in the church I hear, "But that's over now, we need to forget about all that." Why do you choose to focus on the past and revisit old spiritual wounds?" From some of my black brothers and sisters I hear.. "I don't choose to focus on that past history, I choose to move forward."
To my fellow black members: You must know your passed so it doesn't repeat and become your future.
To my white brothers and sisters: Yes, it's over now. Until your cousin approaches my daughter, niece or nephew and call them a nigger. Or tell them they were playing basket ball in the pre-existance, Or tells them "I can't date you because you're black, and my family wouldn't understand or support it."
Happens quite often for black members.
How can WE forget about it when your generations are finding ways to remind us? Black youth are becoming inactive before some of them are out of primary. Even more so for black youth with white parents.
At one point I had stewardship of 100+ LDS youth at one time, 90% of them black or biracial. All are now reaching their mid twenties most finding fault with church beliefs being in aligned with church teachings. I can count on 1-1/2 hands how many of them are still active. (I try and keep and touch, they know I love them no matter what they determine their truth is.)
As many come to understand the newly disavowed teachings and beliefs they're finding what mom and dad are saying about the church not believing this anymore isn't reflect outwardly or publically.
Scriptures are starting to be changed to reflect it. Church media, art and local leadership doesn't reflect it. We don't hear it on a consistent basis in Sacrament talks, Stake Conference, Primary lessons, General Conference, like we hear other things. Why?
We don't "choose" to relive passed wounds. Passed wounds continue to fester because they haven't been properly cared for.
I can cut my hand deeply on a rusty piece of metal run some water over it and put a bandage on it. I may wince a little as it heals. It may even scab over and heal on the surface and feel better. But every couple weeks or so it festers up again and I have to keep bandaging it. Because I've put a bandage on something that needs stitches. And if I don't properly take care of it, reopen the wound, properly clean out the infection and bacteria that's living in the wound, medicate it stitch it, back together and THEN bandage it, it will create a permanent seal that will heal.
The teachings of the church and it's views on black members is a rusty nail that has pierced the black membership of the church. It is a wound that we go to our Church leaders and white brothers and sisters for healing. All they can offer to us is a bandage to cover the wound and maybe some soothing words to take away the immediate sting. But the main pain and infection remains. Because the church has not come out and given them the tools needed to properly clean the wound and medicate it so true healing can begin.
As a member of the church when I do something that jeopardizes my standing in the church. I am asked to ponder and pray, take responsibility, confess and repent, seek council and make amends to get back in good standing. I've been taught all my life that this process is a divine principle. I believe it is. So where is the accountability? Not just for those who lead but for those who allowed themselves to be lead these now disavowed teachings.
I was listening to Sistas In Zion radio show last week when mentioned maybe the church needs to apologize for being misleading.
The serpent beguiled Eve and she did eat, but Adam partook of his own free will. There's accountability on both sides of the fruit.
Prophets, leaders and disciple's of the Lord have, do and will make mistakes. To ignore that is even a bigger mistake. Even those who feel they've been mislead need to take accountability for not seeking out their own personal revelation and petitioning to The Father to confirm unto them the truthfulness of what we are taught and what we hear from our leaders. That personal revelation is the point of what fast and testamony meetings are all about.
We are promised that if we petition the Lord for the truthfulness of what the leaders present to us that we have a right to receive that personal revelation.
And if something is out of line then we petition to the Lord for direction.
I've heard recent interactions with my feminist sisters who parallel the church race issue with inability for women to have the priesthood as well. I applaud any group of people who stand up for whatever they believe.
I don't see the connection. A white woman, feminist or not was not being denied entrance into the temple, her endowments, and a temple marriage to her husband solely on the merits of a feminist. She, like us have access to the priestood blessings They were never with held from her. A woman can change her mind, her thoughts her view to be or not be a feminist. I can stand next to a white sister of the church with either of us not saying a word. She could keep her mouth shut and not choose to divulge she is a feminist. When I keep my mouth shut, you still know I'm black. If a sniper was going to come into relief society and shoot black sisters and feminist and wasn't told which sisters were feminist. Well we know I'm getting shot. How many feminist would survive and why? Even with Ordained Women and the priesthood they aren't going without the blessings of it.
The Blacks in the church have very little to do with the feminist of the church. I can think of one of my feminist sisters who has invited me to see what they are about so that I could have a greater understanding of where she comes from. I've yet to have others come to me in conversation try and understand my struggle and share it with their others.
I dare anyone to tell a black woman she can't call down the power of the Lord because she's a woman. We've been doing it for years. This is what makes us Black Pearls of Great Price
I've never thought that I COULDN'T pull down the power of heaven and ask a special blessing upon my sick child and not have it happen because a man wasn't around to do it. I've never felt that I COULDN'T petition directly to the Lord for anything and have it withheld because i didn't go through a member of the priesthood. I've always known I've had a direct line to the Lord. And isn't it he who gives his power to those worthy of it to go forth and bless others? Don't get me wrong I would LOVE to have a husband who can handle those things for me, cuz I'm a busy woman. But I know that I will never be withheld the blessings of the priesthood because I don't have certain anatomical body parts. That, to me is a little frightening and I'm not sure why other women don't know it either.
What I do know is that my truth is not in wearing pants or baring myself to the public. We have generation of leaders who need to have a strong foundation of knowledge and not one full of "pocked" marks and cracks from an unresolved and unhealed past.
Until then we still remain strong, faithful Black Pearls of Great Price In the Mormon Church.
To read more on *Being Black in the Mormon Church* follow the links below.
Janan Graham: Addressing the Black Elephant in the Room