The entire title of this talk is: “No Johnny-Come-Lately: the 182-year-long BLACK Mormon Moment.”
Darius Gray worked for many years in broadcast journalism (including at KSL). He joined the LDS church in 1964, before the priesthood was available to him as a person of African descent. He is a past president of the Genesis Group, an official arm of the Church organized in 1971 to meet the needs of black members. He is the author of “Standing on the Promises” and is completing special features for the documentary “Nobody Knows: the Untold Story of Black Mormons.”
He started out with a joke saying that he just had hip surgery and the surgeon made a mistake and gave him a “white hip,” and how he only has rhythm on one side.
He says this is the Mormon Moment. He mentioned the “Book of Mormon” musical, Mitt Romney, Harry Reid, etc.
But he says most members are just as ignorant about the rich black members’ heritage.
He praised blacklds.org, which is led by Scott Gordon, president of FAIR.
Better-known black saints: Elijah Abel. Elijah Abel was a missionary, carpenter and undertaker. He worked on the early temples and took care of the mortal remains of Joseph Smith. Elijah Abel had a lot of progeny. Many of his sons were ordained to the priesthood. Elijah Abel was a great preacher and was named a Seventy.
Jane Manning. Became a Church member when a teenager — brought her entire family into the Church. Walked 800 miles to join the the Saints. She suffered crossing the plains to Salt Lake. 1871: Jane got divorced, lost her daughter and son. A few years later, another daughter dies. Then a granddaughter dies. Then several more grandsons and granddaughters die.
Green Flake. Brigham Young was speaking to Green Flake when he said: “this is the right place” when he saw the Salt Lake valley. He was baptized. Green Flake was a slave. He gave very inspired thoughts on his lack of freedom as a slave.
Less well-known black Saints: Amanda and Samuel Chambers. A former slave, Samuel attended church in the Salt Lake area in the 1880s. He could not hold the priesthood, but he regularly presented his testimony. He went on his own from Mississippi to Utah so he could be around the Saints.
Paul Cephas Howell. Salt Lake’s first black policeman. Born a slave in Louisiana. He served on guard during the dedication of the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City.
Abner and Martha Howell. Abner Howell was told by somebody that “no black will go to heaven.” He started weeping. An apostle told him that the Lord invites all to partake of his goodness, black and white, bond and free.
Len and Mary Hope and his family. Len Hope was the son of a sharecropper from Magnolia, Alabama. He wanted to receive the Holy Ghost. He prayed to find out the truth. Went to ministers, didn’t get an answer. While he was praying, two missionaries came to his shack where he lived. They had left a tract from their church on the Holy Ghost. “While he was praying over here, the Lord was responding over there.” He served in WWI. He brought a Book of Mormon with him to Europe. Later, back in the United States, he wanted to be baptized. The KKK, dressed in white robes, came to his shack. The KKK wanted to know why he would join a white church. Len Hope bore testimony to the KKK and told them he was joining the church of Jesus Christ, and they left him alone. Elder Hanks was a missionary and knew the Hopes.
Gray says: “we are brothers of the same God. We are truly brothers and sisters.” When Darius Gray received his Patriarchal blessing, he was not given his lineage. He asked the Patriarch, who said, “it wasn’t time yet.” Several black members did not have their lineage declared. “Here we are in 2012, and we still have Patriarchs who do not declare the lineage of our black members.”
(A note from Geoff B: I regularly felt an incredible witness of the Spirit during Darius Gray’s talk. I wept regularly when thinking about these wonderful Saints and their incredible faith.)