On Being a Latter-day Saint and a Black American: Revelation & Observations

Updated on October 31, 2019
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Rodric has been a member of Christ's Church since he was 15 years old. He has a lot to say about his religion.

In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost

— President Russell M. Nelson
President Russell M. Nelson
President Russell M. Nelson

Revelation Through Order

President Nelson said during the April 2018 General Conference,

In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost... My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. [1]

President Nelson challenges those of us with concerns about any subject to get personal confirmations from God through prayer, revelation. It is a direct invitation to go unobstructed to Deity and get an answer from the source on matters such as whether or not the racist teachings and practices of members of the Church in the past were authorized by God.

James E. Faust, former president and late prophet of God gave a key to know how to discern the truths of God in matters dealing with the Church and questionable teachings. Quoting Joseph Smith he said,

“I will give you a key that will never rust, if you will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray.” [2]

In the 2019 October General Conference of the Church of Christ further light, or admonition by modern prophets gave a new key for these final moments of the last days. President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor of the First Presidency and President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church reiterated teachings by fellow apostles Todd D. Christoffersen and Neil L. Anderson. Quoted he,

“It should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.” [3]

“The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk.” [4]

Though President Oaks referred to a rising predilection for the Saints to take interest in the near-death experiences of fellow Saints, it can apply to doctrines of the past as they relate to the present. God has provided a new standard for doctrine because of what has happened in the past regarding things such as the restrictions on Blacks of African descent.

President Brigham Young only had to speak a thing and it became law until the Lord revealed to His servants that before doctrine can be officially activated in the Church, all of the apostles and prophets must have the same witness to go forward in unison. Also, the members of the Church must receive it as binding through a vote. The doctrines peddled as teachings from the Lord regarding Blacks of African heritage never went to a vote to the Saints. The revelation to remove the policy did go through the vote to become binding on the Saints.

This format is what precisely took the Church such a long time to change the policy initiated by President Young over a hundred years earlier regarding the segregation of Black Saints from the temple blessings and priesthood ministry.

...the Lord purifies the people to match the doctrines He revealed to those men whom He entrusts to guide the Saints until He comes to reign personally as King.

— Rodric Anthony

Personal Revelation Is Personal Until God Commands a Prophet to Speak it!

Some people claimed that God never commanded that the Blacks not receive the full fellowship in the church. Many Black Latter-day Saints do not accept the teachings of the past and never believed them. A former leader of the Genesis Group, an official auxiliary organization for Black members of the church in Utah, by the name of Darius Grey offered his opinion on the matter. After receiving a personal witness that the Ban on those of Black African descent from the priesthood and temple ordinances was not of God, he petitioned the president of the church (Gordon B. Hinckley at the time) if he could teach his views. Grey shares in the video below his experience.

The most noted part of this experience is that Darius Grey did nothing until after he consulted the prophet of the Lord! That is the Key. No revelation from heaven went to the prophet to declare that the racist policy started during President Young's ministry was not of God that he should share with the Saints. But before sharing his witness, Darius Grey sought the counsel of the prophet of God, who dually instructed him that Darius did not speak for the Church, but he could speak to the Church about his experience.

The current Prophet challenges the Saints and encourages the petitioning of God, though not specifically, to ask if President Brigham Young taught God's will regarding segregating out Blacks of African descent from temple blessing and priesthood as discussed in the previous articles of this series.

In the past, we made excuses that there are deeper understanding that was not apparent to most people and that we should trust in God. It felt wrong to some, but we would not allow one teaching or idea to destroy a lifetime of faith, which is a miracle apparent to our lives. One question unanswered does not destroy hundreds confirmed in my estimation.

My experiences as a Saint and a Black America when it comes to the spiritual manifestations of God are enough to certify that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's kingdom on earth. Slowly the Lord purifies the people to match the doctrines He revealed to those men whom He entrusts to guide the Saints until He comes to reign personally as King.

Observations

Being a Black American and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is its own crucible of faith. The history of the Church and its treatment of Blacks is an ever-present reminder of what has occurred in the United States at the hands of Christians who claimed to worship Jesus Christ as a few took whips to the backs of human beings they refused to see as fellow brothers and sisters.

Latter-day Saints in the past have always been generally supportive of freeing the slaves prior to the Civil War in American history. Black people have been members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for nearly the entire time that it has been in existence.

The doctrines of the Church of Christ have always consisted of inclusivity and fellowship to all of the family of Adam. The culture and tradition of the people who composed the Church have not always reflected the lofty ideals of the brotherhood taught by the organization, which is how racist ideology found its way inside the leadership for policy to exclude members of African heritage.

The Church supported obeying and honoring the laws of the land. In the South. The law of the land was to marginalize Blacks. The idea of freedom and equality during the Civil Rights Movement was not one that came from the Church due to its decision to frown upon the acts of civil disobedience that many Americans participated in rather than handling legal redress in the courtrooms.

There is no official teaching from the Church explaining its policy toward Black people in the past, yet. However, it took an act of God to get the members of the Church to accept Blacks as worthy people to enter the temples and participate equally in the church.

Elijah Abel
Elijah Abel

Elijah Abel was a Black member of the Church who held a prominent position in the community of Nauvoo, a city built from the swamps of Commerce, Illinois at the prompting of Joseph Smith, the first prophet of the Church. Elijah received employ as an undertaker and received a calling in the priesthood as a member of the Seventy of the church and missionary during the presidencies of Joseph Smith, Jr. and Brigham Young. He is one of a small number of Black men who held the priesthood before the Revelation on Priesthood in 1978 allowing all worthy male members of the Church to be ordained regardless of race and color.

He is important to mention because though his life was not typical of Black Latter-day Saints during his lifetime, he was a prominent reminder that Black members of the Church were intrinsically connected to the culture of the Church even during the times of overt racism.

Conclusion

Black Latter-day Saint Cons

  • Being Black and a member of the Church means wondering who will walk by and use some excuse to touch your hair uninvitedly.
  • It is being occasionally reminded that there are not many of you by a well-meaning older person who says something offensive when trying to express appreciation for your presence.
  • Being Black and a member of the Church in America is not always fitting in with the members of the congregation.

Black Latter-day Saint Pros

  • Being Black and a member of the Church means to have a connection to God that brings a satisfaction that would otherwise be lost in a sea of confusion and doubt.
  • It means to have direction and understanding of who you are, why you are here, and where you are going.
  • It helps to connect you to your ancestors in a way that means everything when all they were to their slave owners in many cases were numbers on a slave manifest.

Nothing can be stated to salve and heal the wounds of racism in America or the world without the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. There is not law, no reparation, and not sanction that will undo the centuries of hurt and hate perpetuated by the White people against Blacks that will heal our hearts. This healing comes only with accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and forgiving all trespasses.

Good things are common to all faithful Saints. Knowing that Jesus is real and God really talks to us if we have faith to hear Him is a Latter-day Saints hallmark. Each member of the human family faces challenges inflicted on him or her by circumstances of life, heritage, education, temperament, the agency of others, and a host of other things. Being able to move past all of that and still live the tenets of the Gospel is what being a Black Saint is about. It is the ultimate goal of every Latter-day Saint to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ and partaker of His grace. That's just the way it is.

Reference Sources

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Rodric Anthony

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