Sunday, October 12, 2008

Faith and Race

It seems to me that in the past several months my faith has been called into question more than ever before. It seems like every week I randomly encounter someone who has something to say about what I believe and how misguided I am. I'd like to think it is because God has great things in store for me and Satan is working hard on bringing me down. That may be a little presumptuous, huh?

In any case, tonight my sister called me and told me about a fireside she went to, in which the topic of "blacks and the priesthood" was discussed. For the random person reading this blog that previous sentence would be understandably weird. So for a point of reference, I will tell you that I am Mormon, and until 1978 the church, while granting blacks full membership, denied black men the ability to hold the priesthood. This has bred much controversy and misunderstanding from black people and members of the church alike. Up until tonight I had no idea of what the real story was. So....back to my sister. She was confused after leaving the fireside. She didn't know what to think. It was a church sponsored event in which church scholars came and spoke and basically said that the church's position on blacks in the priesthood was indicative of the prevailing thoughts and inclinations of the leadership of the day. Not the less valiant in the pre-existence, or descendants of Cain, or Ham myths that so readily find their way through our culture.

I went online and found some good resources. The website is a cool site that has an extensive side by side time line of US and LDS black history. I also read an intriguing article by Renee Olson a black Mormon convert who started out anti-Mormon. This article is what prompted this blog. Which is saying something considering I haven't written since February.

Her tone was very conversational. She spoke of strong black members of the church, even those that were ordained to the priesthood in the time of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young before and during the ban. Men and women who astonishingly remained faithful even until death. (A myth often perpetuated is that Joseph Smith stripped Elijah Abel of the priesthood once learning of a ban. Not so, Elijah died a faithful priesthood holder in Utah and even helped on the construction of the Salt Lake temple) The validity of the ban was questioned many times throughout church history but it seemed to be put on the back burner. In either case, the Lord allowed it to continue for some reason. Olsen suggests that it may have been because the Lord knew he could count on black people to come through in the end. They had already been through countless trials and tribulations including the horrors of slavery. She may be right. There are thousands of faithful black latter day saints. I recommend reading the last section of Olsen's article entitled "Moving Forward" which is what touched me the most.

I'm not prideful enough to think I know God's intentions or his reasons for doing things the way he does. But I do know that despite the foibles of humanity, the revelations from God to his apostles are real. God uses imperfect beings to relay his perfect message. I suppose some would say that this should weaken my faith or cause me to doubt. But these things do not change the Gospel message. Christ came to this earth. He died for us. Through Him we can return to live with our Heavenly Father. Living the gospel helps me understand the plan of salvation (Who I am, why am I here, and where am I going when I die), eternal families, mercy, joy, love. It makes me a better person. It gives me a personal relationship with Chirst and my Father in Heaven.

Dr. A.F. Mensah of Ghana found a missionary tract and recieved an answer from God that no man or science book could cause him to doubt. He knew the truth, despite the ban, despite constant opposition, despite what the world and those more "enlightened" than him would say, he stood firm in the higher truth that God had given him.

Ok...time for bed.