Friday, July 25, 2014
LDS Black History Month
I've always been fascinated with the history of Blacks, or African Americans, in our country and throughout the world. I went to a highschool that was about a third white, a third Mexican and a third black. To say the least, my highschool experience was unforgettable. (But to tell the truth, I loathed highschool). There were often massive fights between classes, sometimes where the entire 5A school of close to 3,000 (or maybe 4,000) were transfixed by a gang fight. It was a literal battlefield somedays. Teachers, (with empty classrooms) tried to break up these huge fights, but to no avail. It was almost comical. Our small to mid-sized town shared its main drag with an Army base, hence the draw for many African Americans. We were also very close to the border, hence the Mexicans. (We lived in the Gadsen Purchase from Mexico). Then there were many rich caucasian families, often comparable to Beverly Hills teens. Ya, I was often out of place. However, I had friends of every color under the sun. I had enemies too, some who simply hated me because I had black friends and talked to black boys. Others despised my white skin and blond hair. I took both verbal and physical abuse from a few, but thankfully I had a few good friends with ebony skin who were good and kind souls. I remember going into our libraries (we had two) and seeing the routine Black History Month. So, this is the theme of my late night/early morning blog.
I came across an interesting article about black pioneers today. Really? How fascinating! While they had some negative things to say about blacks and the priesthood (and temples), I found the article fairly mild in the anti-Mormon sense. The overall theme was that it was high time these Saints were remembered. One such saint was a slave, given to a Mormon couple as a wedding present. He was freed of course, and joined the faith, but many focused on how Mormons owned slaves. I find that statement ridiculous. For one, ofcourse Mormons owned slaves. Most of the country did at the time, regardless of their faith. What should be more relevant is the history of the Saints during the Civil War. If you're wondering what side we took, it was not with the South. Many Saints were known to have freed their slaves. What a beautiful thing that this particular slave was freed and joined the faith, even if he was listed as a servent in the history. Then, he crossed the plains with the Saints and stood near Brigham Young when he said, "This is the Place!" over the Salt Lake Valley. That's pretty cool. I certainly don't have any known ancestors with that historic claim.
Then came the comments afterward. Many bashed the faith, discussing how persecuted and mistreated these black saints were. I was not there and do not know, but clearly this article claims the opposite. While I may be accused of taking a Polyanna approach, I like to imagine they were loved and well cared for. The article mentioned the tragedy it was that they were erased from LDS Pioneer History, but were they really erased? While it would have been nice to have heard of their story sooner, this is not something the leaders of the church kept under lock and key. I doubt they paid off others to keep it a secret. Thousands of pioneer stories have gone untold. We mostly recall/retell the major tragedies like Hans Mill and the Martin Harris Handcart company and rightly so. These horrific stories involved blood, frozen babies and many graves. Of course these were/are overtold, but they were just as unbearable then as they are now.
Mainly the comments bashed on the controversial history of the priesthood, so I thought it relevant to share my experience as a missionary with the many black Saints that I came to love instantly in England. I was surprised at how different these blacks were compared to African Americans. They weren't all obessed with entitlement, racism and to be blunt, not as many were "cocky". They were just so different, mostly in a good way. I was also bothered by the comments made about Mia Love, a black Republican running from Congress from Utah. Many were offended that she was a Mormon. I almost chewed out the few who ripped on her, but I realized I'd be wasting my breath. (I think she's a gem).
So, I bit my lip and put in my two cents. While I am white and cannot speak for the black Saints and Pioneers, I do find all of their stories remarkable. I can't wait to hear more. I do like the news and don't have network television, so I sometimes comment on these online debates/threads. Sometimes, I get positive feedback, other times, the trolls come out. But that's not the point. The point is that we all have our opinions, but mine is just better than yours!
Just kidding. The point is that we all have a voice and we should not be afraid to sing out,especially with our Faith. For your reading enjoyment (or disgust), here are my comments made to the article posted on Huffington Post. How convenient that it came out on/near Pioneer Day!
"I will likely get bashed here, but I want to stand up for my beautiful faith. While I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1990s in England, I came across a different kind of African-English people (likely much like Isis Green).They were not caught up in political platforms, reverse racism, playing the victim, etc. When they prayed and blessed the sacrament, it was compelling, let alone richly spiritual. It was as if they regarded their newly ordained authority with a bit more humility and respect than many, likely because it did not come easily. Here's a little fact for the haters and anti-faith oriented people who bash on the priesthood in our faith. In biblical times, it was only allowed to be in hands of the Levites (Levitical Priesthood). Millions of faithful Christians were not allowed to hold the priesthood, regardless of their skin color or wealth. Only in the modern times did the priesthood spread to many tribes, lines and families. In my opinion, it took so long because of the great need for humilty and respect. It was never about a right. I adored, and still do, the entire black congregations and always wanted to be around them. I brought new/future members to these members of our faith (along with those who were Phillipeno). How wonderful it is to learn of their early history, but please, stop making this about rights and persecution. And don't get me started on the controversy with women, that will take another epistle. It's all much like the argument with Jesus' color of skin. We don't need to be offended that he was a fair-skinned Jew. It just is what it is. This is God's plan and I find it eternally beautiful. God Bless & Keep the Faith. ♥ (www.lds.org)"