by Marvin Perkins
Editor’s Note: This talk was presented by Marvin Perkins, Director of African American Relations for the Southern California Public Affairs Council of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This talk was presented at the Westwood Chapel in Los Angeles on September 8, 2002, and is posted here with the permission of Brother Perkins. See this link for a related work in 2008.
Good evening Brothers and Sisters. It is with great pleasure that I stand before you today. This must be an awfully important message, because every challenge known to man has been thrown in front of me and my family as we have prepared for it. I thought to check my drivers license the other day to see if my name had been changed to Job.
With a topic this sensitive, I ask for your faith and prayers in delivering it. That I might do so with the spirit of our Father, in the way He would have me do so. And it is my prayer that everyone here would seek something in our words tonight, that would help us all to be more united. I also would ask that you understand, that I do not speak for the Church or lay claims to any revelation. That responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of our beloved Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley. As a matter of fact, I would ask that you do not rely on my words. But do use them only as fuel for your own research, and to articulate your personal prayers as you diligently seek Father’s guidance on this issue. Search it out for yourselves. Some things will be answered tonight, but experience and true testimony only come to those who diligently seek. If we go to the scriptures, there we can see that this is what the Lord would have us do…
D&C 9:7. Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed
that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me;
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind…
I’ve been diligently seeking for over 14 years on this issue, and I still learn something new almost daily. So I would also ask that after this night is over, that you would, in the spirit of brotherhood, share with me some of the insights you have discovered in your own search.
Why are We Doing Such a Fireside?
Why not. Some say, “that’s behind us, can’t we just move on?” To that I ask, why do we have Pioneer day, and many other celebrations that tell the stories of all the Saints had to suffer and endure? The mobs and religious persecutors? Hauns Mill, Kirtland and Nauvoo? We speak about it in Gospel Doctrine, Relief Society, Priesthood and firesides all the time. That’s behind us, can’t we just move on? Well, there is so much we gain in knowledge, strength, conviction, direction and testimony and understanding by reliving the pioneer stories. By doing this so frequently, we can never forget those who sacrificed so much so that we may enjoy the blessings of the Gospel today. Brothers and sisters, ask yourselves, might similar benefits come from a continuing discussion on Blacks & the Priesthood? Too many of us, when asked about the Blacks & the Priesthood are still teaching the false traditions, that have been passed down by good people. And this maintains the walls that are already in place in the minds of many who investigate the Church. So in actuality, it won’t be behind us until we remedy this. Hopefully, we can move a little closer to that remedy, with those of you present tonight.
On Wednesday, I’ll celebrate the 14th anniversary of my baptism. Many of you know that this issue almost kept me from joining the Church. As I was confronted with it, I thought, ‘I’ll just ask some of the members.’ The more people I asked, the more offended and distant from the Church I became. I saw in the eyes of my friend who had introduced me to the Church a desperate desire to find anyone who could give me better answers. The foolish virgins that did not prepare the lamps with oil come to my mind. No one that my friend knew, including herself, had prepared themselves to be able to answer the question that so greatly plagues the Church. And she feared that this baptism would not happen. I was fortunate enough to learn probably the most crucial lesson of my life before I was baptized. When the Stake President said that he couldn’t answer my question either, but if this book is true, holding up the Book of Mormon, that there are answers out there somewhere, I knew right then that my testimony would have to always be based on the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ alone, and not any other issue. That I would move forward based upon what I did know, and never be held back because of what I didn’t know. So hopefully what we cover tonight will help you to be better on your way to help your brothers and sisters into the Kingdom of the Lord.
I attended a baptism last Saturday of an African American brother who had been taking the discussions. He was rapidly losing his receptivity to the Elders and their message because they were not equipped to satisfy his questions on Blacks and the Priesthood. Some say this should not be an issue. I say it is an issue, and that reality cannot be altered. Many of you, I’m sure, have found yourselves in the same situation, and that may be one of the reasons you’re here tonight. Well the Elders called me; I receive these calls all the time. We all met and I taught some of what I had researched. It was enough to take down the barriers, and the discussion continued with increased receptivity. All but one of these calls, that I’ve ever gone out on, have resulted in baptism.
D&C 18:15. And if it so be that you should labor all your days
in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me,
how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father.
So I tell my friends, if you want to help people to get baptized, learn about Blacks and the Priesthood. Because most of the Church members don’t know anything about it, and so you’ll be the one getting the calls from the missionaries. So I pray that as a result of our collective efforts tonight, more souls will come unto Christ.
Now, you and I both know that this will never happen, but if the Prophet came to me and asked, “Marvin, if you could have a say in the matter, how would you send the full time missionaries into the field?” I’d reply that I’d send each individual to serve amongst a people of a different nationality or culture. When this is done, bridges of understanding that lead to a truly united people are built. And we must be truly united in order to have a true Zion. So the third purpose is to make a contribution to this beautiful bridge.
The Restored Gospel
Jesus Christ did restore His Gospel to the earth in 1830, through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Since this was all new to the young Prophet, Joseph received numerous visitations and revelations regarding implementation and administration of the ordinances of Christ’s Church. At this time, and at least up until eleven years later, Blacks were holding the Priesthood. Elijah Abel, a black man, was ordained to the Priesthood by the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1836, and ordained a Seventy by Zebedee Coltrin on April 4, 1841. He was washed and anointed in the Kirtland Temple, and served three missions for the Church. Walker Lewis was another black man of record ordained to the Priesthood. But somewhere a restriction began. We don’t know when. We don’t know why. There is no known revelation instructing the withholding to begin. President Gordon B. Hinckley has stated that we don’t know why, and all are alike unto God. We also find this quote in the teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, page 490…
“In a revelation given in 1831, which has become Section 1 of
the Doctrine and Covenants and is known as the preface to that book of
revelation, the Lord set forth one of the great purposes for the restoration of
the gospel in this the dispensation of the fulness of times. He said that, among
other reasons, the gospel was restored so that “every man might speak in the
name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world.” (V. 20.)
It does not say that every man shall speak in the name of God
the Lord. The meaning is that every man may speak, provided he is worthy and
receives the priesthood.
But for many years during the history of the Church, the
priesthood was withheld from many worthy men because of their lineage. Then, in
June of 1978, a remarkable and wonderful thing occurred. The president of the
Church, the prophet of the Lord at the time, Spencer W. Kimball, announced a
revelation under which every worthy man could, under proper circumstances,
receive the eternal priesthood with authority to act in the name of God.”
We do know that at the time of the restoration, slavery plagued our country. Though none of us, here in today’s society are comfortable with the thought, most Blacks were considered property, and had but a few human rights; not enough to have entries in the census as people, but as inventory, as were animals. This mindset is not changed in the blink of an eye. In July of 1833, three years after the restoration, W.W. Phelps printed in the Evening and Morning Star, an article entitled “Free People of Color” that angered the old settlers of Missouri. In this article, in a line in the last paragraph, it reads “so long as we have no special rule in the church as to people of color, let prudence guide;” Once the Saints learned that the Secret Constitution that was formed by the old settlers to run the Mormons out of Jackson County (they purposely misunderstood the article trying to find cause against the Saints), an “extra” was printed and distributed by the Evening and Morning Star, in the form of a handbill. It reads …
“July 16, 1833. Having learned with extreme regret, that an
article entitled, “Free People of Color,” in the last number of the Star has
been misunderstood, we feel in duty to state, in this Extra, that our intention
was not only to stop free people of color from emigrating to this state, but to
prevent them from being admitted as members of the Church.” (History of the
Church pg. 378)
These two articles give us a glimpse into the 1830s. But should we judge, or seek to understand? Thoughts and ways of life, engrained for decades and many generations don’t disappear overnight, but dissipate over time when the desire to do so and effort is present. We each grow line upon line, precept upon precept; yes even in the 1800s, as we do today. What made a man accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and still maintain slaves? The desire for him to extend all the blessings given him from God may have required much prayer, growth, experiences and time. The mindset of the majority of Americans may very well have contributed to the delays in this desire. In 1978, when the revelation was made public that all worthy males could be given the Priesthood, many left the Church. Their desire to extend to their Black brothers and sisters, all of the blessings they enjoyed, was apparently not as strong as the majority of the Saints. There is a passage in Declaration 2 that I was directed to regarding this desire.
As we have witnessed the expansion of the work of the Lord
over the earth, we have been grateful that people of many nations have responded
to the message of the restored gospel, and have joined the Church in
ever-increasing numbers. This, in turn, has inspired us with a desire to
extend to every worthy member of the Church all of the privileges and
blessings, which the gospel affords.
Attempts to Justify Withholding
There have been several attempts, before the 1978 revelation that gave the Priesthood back to Blacks, to explain why there was a withholding. These attempts make up most of the explanations given by Latter-day Saints today when asked “why couldn’t Blacks hold the Priesthood?” As you listened to Steve Gilliland, many of you probably had new understanding open up to you. Let’s explore together a few scriptures that may also open new understanding.
There are at least three significant purposes of the Book of Mormon;
- To testify the Jesus is the Christ
- To testify that all of the Bible is the word of God
- To give some of the plain & precious truths that were taken from the Bible
1 Nephi 13:24-29
24 And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld
that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded
forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the
Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to
the truth which is in the Lamb of God.
25 Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity
unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.
26 And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles
of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that
great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches;
for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which
are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken
27 And all this have they done that they might pervert the
right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of
the children of men.
28 Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth
through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain
and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of
29 And after these plain and precious things were taken away
it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth
unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which
thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou
seest–because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out
of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men,
according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God–because of these things
which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do
stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.
Ezra Taft Benson quoted Joseph Smith saying, “…that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” With that in mind, I’ve gone to the Book of Mormon to help me to understand things that are not so clear in the Bible. Since this is one of the purposes of the Book of Mormon, it seemed wise to me.
We quite often hear about the curse of Cain, and of Ham. What is your understanding of this? Let’s go to the scriptures and read a bit about Curses. As we do so, it appears that the Book of Mormon teaches us that being cursed, is being cut of from the presence of God, as a result of not living in harmony with the Lord’s commands. That this is brought upon one of his or her own doing, or as a result of the traditions of their parents. It also appears to teach us that the curse would remain unless the individual(s) repented.
1 Nephi 2:19-24 (Curse is being cut off from the presence of the Lord)
19 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying:
Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me
diligently, with lowliness of heart.
20 And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall
prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have
prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands. 21 And
inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from
the presence of the Lord. 22 And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments,
thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren. 23 For behold, in
that day that they shall rebel against me, I will curse them even with a sore
curse, and they shall have no power over thy seed except they shall rebel
against me also. 24 And if it so be that they rebel against me, they shall be a
scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in the ways of remembrance.
Moses 5:36 (Confirms Cain’s curse, with Footnote 36 a directs us to: D&C 29:41)
And now thou shalt be cursed from the earth which hath opened
her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand.
Wherefore, I, the Lord God, caused that he should be cast
out from the Garden of Eden, from my presence, because of his transgression,
wherein he became spiritually dead, which is the first death, even that same
death which is the last death, which is spiritual, which shall be pronounced
upon the wicked when I shall say: Depart, ye cursed.
1 Nephi 17:35-38.
Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is
righteous is favored of God. But behold, this people had rejected every word of
God, and they were ripe in iniquity; and the fullness of the wrath of God was
upon them; and the Lord did curse the land against them, and bless it unto our
fathers; yea, he did curse it against them unto their destruction, and he did
bless it unto our fathers unto their obtaining power over it. 36 Behold, the
Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his
children that they should possess it. 37 And he raiseth up a righteous nation,
and destroyeth the nations of the wicked. 38 And he leadeth away the righteous
into precious lands, and the wicked he destroyeth, and curseth the land unto
them for their sakes.
2 Nephi 4:5-6.
But behold, my sons and my daughters, I cannot go down to my
grave save I should leave a blessing upon you; for behold, I know that if ye are
brought up in the way ye should go ye will not depart from it. 6 Wherefore,
if ye are cursed, behold, I leave my blessing upon you, that the cursing may be
taken from you and be answered upon the heads of your parents.
2 Nephi 4:34 (Cursed is he who putteth not his trust in God, but flesh)
O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee
forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is
he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth
his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.
2 Nephi 5:20-23
20 Wherefore, the word of the Lord was fulfilled which he
spake unto me, saying that: Inasmuch as they will not hearken unto thy words
they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And behold, they were cut
off from his presence.
21 And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even
a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their
hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they
were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be
enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon
22 And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall
be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.
23 And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their
seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake
it, and it was done.
Alma 3: 9-10.
And it came to pass that whosoever did mingle his seed with
that of the Lamanites did bring the same curse upon his seed. 10 Therefore,
whosoever suffered himself to be led away by the Lamanites was called
under that head, and there was a mark set upon him.
Thus the word of God is fulfilled, for these are the words
which he said to Nephi: Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I will set a
mark on them that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed,
from this time henceforth and forever, except they repent of their
wickedness and turn to me that I may have mercy upon them.
Now the Amlicites knew not that they were fulfilling the words
of God when they began to mark themselves in their foreheads; nevertheless
they had come out in open rebellion against God; therefore it was expedient that
the curse should fall upon them. 19 Now I would that ye should see that
they brought upon themselves the curse; and even so doth every man that is
cursed bring upon himself his own condemnation.
Second Article of Faith.
We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and
not Adam’s transgressions.
Thus they were a very indolent people, many of whom did
worship idols, and the curse of God had fallen upon them because of the
traditions of their fathers; notwithstanding the promises of the Lord were
extended unto them on the conditions of repentance.
Alma 23:16-18 (Name to distinguish because they were same color)
16 And now it came to pass that the king and those who were
converted were desirous that they might have a name, that thereby they might be
distinguished from their brethren; therefore the king consulted with Aaron and
many of their priests, concerning the name that they should take upon them, that
they might be distinguished.
17 And it came to pass that they called their names
Anti-Nephi-Lehies; and they were called by this name and were no more called
18 And they began to be a very industrious people; yea, and
they were friendly with the Nephites; therefore, they did open a correspondence
with them, and the curse of God did no more follow them.
3 Nephi 2:15-16.
15 And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became
white like unto the Nephites; 16 And their young men and their daughters
became exceedingly fair, and they were numbered among the Nephites, and were
called Nephites. And thus ended the thirteenth year.
There are Blacks here today who are members of the Church. Why have we not turned White? But there are Blacks who have joined the Church, married White spouse, and their children became lighter than their Black parents. Then those kids grew up to marry those that believe as they do, which most are White, so they married White, and their kids became even lighter, and so on. Makes you think a bit, doesn’t it?
When I read Alma 3, knowing what I know, it tells me that I have to read all of the Book of Mormon in order to get a complete understanding. I think this is the intention of the Lord. Anyone can read a passage, and take it out of context. But only his true followers will have the desire to feast on all of His words, thus receiving a greater understanding. It does mention skin of blackness, but consider two things if you would, the first will be a philosophy of man, the second, scripture.
- You’ve seen Africans from Nigeria and Uganda. Now that’s black. If the
Lamanites are the American Indians, one can see that their skin is darker than
whites, but nowhere near black. You also think about the Middle Eastern region
where the family of Lehi came from. Their skin would not have been white, but
had color to it much like those who come from that region today. So with these
things in mind, literal darker skin and skins of blackness really doesn’t add
- Go to 2 Nephi 5:21 Read the passage, and focus in on footnotes d & e.
Follow footnote d – it will take you to 2 Nephi 30:6, where it explains that
“skin” is scales of darkness over one’s eyes. Then go back and follow footnote
e – it takes you to Moses 7:8, but if you go to the Church’s site at
www.lds.org, and go to the scriptures there, the same footnote (e) also brings
us to 2 Nephi 30:6 to reinforce the meaning as well as 3 Nephi 2:15. Then go
to 3 Nephi 2:15 and focus on footnotes a & b. Let’s take b first. b “white”
takes you right back to the same scriptures to further reinforce their
meaning. And a takes you to a place where you can begin to understand what a
“curse” really is. Taking one’s self out of the presences of the Lord because
of the way that they are living, or the way that their fathers lived.
Finally, the Old Testament is where most of the pre 1978 explanations of the Priesthood restriction stem from. The one exception I can think of is the New Testament teaching of the Gospel not yet going unto the Gentiles. There was a significant event that occurred after all of these. The atonement. Is there anything the atonement of Jesus Christ did not satisfy?
Were There Any Fence-Sitters or Non-Valiant in the
No. How could there be? My wife said is probably because there were no fences. But just in case, let’s again look to the scriptures for answers.
3 Nephi 13:24. No man can serve two masters; for either
he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and
despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.
And Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan.”
Many have been directed to the scripture passage in Abraham 3 to try to justify this teaching of fence sitting. These statements make reference to the varying degrees of “loyalty” and tie it into this scripture to support that after Lucifer became angry at his plan being rejected and rebelled, that there were “fence sitters,” choosing the Lord, but not quite sure with their decision. Lot’s wife comes to my mind. However, if you look closely at the scripture, you’ll see something that I think will cause one to think this through a little more. Here is the scripture passage. What do you notice about it?
Abraham 3:22-28. Now the Lord had shown unto me,
Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among
all these there were many of the noble and great ones; 23 And God saw these
souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These
I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw
that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou
wast chosen before thou wast born. 24 And there stood one among them that was
like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for
there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an
earth whereon these may dwell; 25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if
they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; 26 And
they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not
their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep
their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added
upon their heads for ever and ever. 27 And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And
one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered
and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first. 28 And
the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many
followed after him.
Notice that the discussion regarding varying degrees of valiancy or greatness as it is put, actually comes before the plan was laid out and presented, and before the rejection of the plan and rebellion by Satan, instead of after, as the tradition would have us believe.
One school of thought is that Blacks denied the Priesthood in the Pre-existence. To deny the Priesthood, would be to deny the very God himself. And for those that did, they did not receive a body, and were cast out with Satan and his hosts.
We can take counsel from one of the Apostles in regards to all that was said before 1978. That includes the things that are still being taught today, that stem from pre 1978 statements. Search out your own replies, and see if they have root therein.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote in Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, Part II – The mission of the Holy Ghost, Chapter 9–Revelation on the Priesthood 1989.
We Follow Living Prophets
There are statements in our literature by the early Brethren
that we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the
priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me
letters and say, “You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and
such?” All I can say is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in
line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have
said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whoever
has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with
a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come
into the world.
We get our truth and light line upon line and precept upon
precept (2 Ne. 28:30; Isa. 28:9-10; D&C 98:11-12; 128:21). We have now added a
new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases
all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t
I love this awesome statement of acknowledgement and humility by the apostle. Adding to today’s words from President Hinckley stating “we don’t know why.” I’d also like to point out the Jesus Christ was the only perfect person to live on the earth. That makes all of the rest of us imperfect. So which shortcomings are ok for Church leaders, or friends, or family to have? It is not my place or yours to choose. But it is our place to show our Father, that we can be like Christ in dealing with our brothers and sisters here on earth. (He who is w/o sin, let him cast … comes to mind)
Sent To Be Tested
Through the Plan of Salvation, we understand much about our purpose here on earth.
Abraham 3:22-25. Now the Lord had shown unto me,
Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among
all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls
that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I
will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that
they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast
chosen before thou wast born. And there stood one among them that was like unto
God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is
space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth
whereon these may And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all
things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
So what has the Lord commanded us? Let’s look at a couple of them. And there are quite a few more. He provided quite a bit of instruction in these things we call scriptures. Here are just a couple:
John 17: 21-22 (We experience Christ praying to Heavenly Father)
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and
I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou
hast sent me.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that
they may be one, even as we are one:
Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is
even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.
Now with that in mind let’s see how man has done with those commands:
1 Samuel 16:7. But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not
on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him:
for [the LORD seeth] not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward
appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
John 9: 2-3. And his disciples asked him, saying,
Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3 Jesus
answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of
God should be made manifest in him.
This reminds me of a poem recited by Elijah Abel in the “I Am Jane” stage play. I was fortunate enough to play the role of Elder Abel. So please excuse me while I slip into character.
“I feel ours is not a curse, but a gift to us
The best path we can seek
A place where God can lift us
We kneel, and our knees is weak
And when we’re kneeling, we understand our fears
We know what all us is feeling
We even cry each other’s tears
That’s what Jesus done, for all us human folk
Agreed to come get born, feel every pain every poke
So’s he can understand us, what it’s like to be a slave
So He can get beneath us, and push us outta the grave
So would you rather be the massa, or the roman with the whip
Would you rather nail the Savior, or press vinegar to His lips
Or learn the lessons of suffering, how we ain’t nothin’ without grace
Oh Jesus, He give us a calling. He gifted us our race.”
And He’s given each of us a calling, and an opportunity to see if we have the desire to share all of the blessings that we have with all of our brothers and sisters. At times in history, we see that man was not ready to live as God has commanded, and the Lord waited and gave men opportunity and experiences that would help to ready him to live the desired commandments. Remember the children of Israel wandering in the desert for 40 years, and then getting another 40 to root out those that just wouldn’t change. We also see evidence of this in Declaration 2.
Whether we like it or not, slavery did exist when the Church was restored in 1830. The 1870 census is the first to list Blacks as human and not property. And remember, the first pioneer company into the Utah Valley had slaves with them: Green Flake, Hark Lay and Oscar Crosby. Even though we accept the Gospel, it doesn’t turn us into Saints overnight. Changes in men happen gradually, line upon line, precept upon precept. And many times, one man’s blessings are delayed as he waits for change to occur in another. Take the case of those without our faith, who search for happiness, but know not where to find it. We have it, but may not have to the desire within us to share the Gospel. In these cases, family and friends who have ears to hear, have their blessings delayed, as they wait for the desire to arise within the Saints to want to share all that they have been blessed with. We wouldn’t dream of faulting them for our lack of real desire to have them commune with us.
June 8, 1978
To all general and local priesthood officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints throughout the world:
As we have witnessed the expansion of the work of the Lord
over the earth, we have been grateful that people of many nations have responded
to the message of the restored gospel, and have joined the Church in
ever-increasing numbers. This, in turn, has inspired us with a desire to extend
to every worthy member of the Church all of the privileges and blessings which
the gospel affords.
So instead of focusing on what happens to us here on earth, Black and White and all others, what if all of our efforts went into how we handle such things.
Mosiah 3:19. For the natural man is an enemy to God,
and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he
yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and
becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a
child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all
things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit
to his father.
And this is exactly what I celebrate. The true discipleship shown by those great Blacks who endured their earthly trials very well, and remained strong and faithful regardless of what they suffered, knowing that by remaining faithful to God, all that God hath, would be given unto them. Those Blacks who accepted the Gospel years before it would be able to be brought to them. Those who have triumphed over all obstacles, to embrace the Lord’s Church and become examples for all. The Jane Manning James’, the Elijah Abels, the Len Hopes. Those Ruffin Bridgeforths, Darius Grays, Eugene Orr’s who joined the Church in great faith, knowing they would not be able to hold the Priesthood, yet still came like John the Baptist, to pave the way for the people like myself, and you. There are Blacks joining the Church here in the US, in small numbers, and we are not yet where we want to be. But by the efforts of the Saints, you and me, we’ll get there. There is no other way. The withholding of the Priesthood is over, and Blacks can and are fully partaking of every blessing. However, there were walls created for the more than 100 years while the restriction was in place. The 1978 revelation alone, will not take these walls down. This must be done by the Latter-day Saints. There is a race of people who will flood unto the Church if only we seek the tools to help them over the walls. Who will help them if you don’t? Seriously, who will help them? We have been blessed with so much, in order to help all of our brothers and sisters to be able to enjoy the same blessings. This is our duty. As Elder Stephen L. Richards put it … “every true Latter-day Saint does all this with an eye single to the glory of God, consecrating, dedicating and devoting all his time, talent and energy to the great purpose of building up the Lord’s kingdom.” We are given strong instruction by the Lord in this….
D&C 104:14-18. I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens,
and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine. 15 And
it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine. 16 But it
must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord,
have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that
the rich are made low. 17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to
spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be
agents unto themselves. 18 Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance
which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my
gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes
in hell, being in torment.
Brothers and sisters, all are alike unto God. I hope you view your time here tonight as well spent. I testify that the differences we see in each other, are part of the design to see if we will elevate ourselves above another, or reach out a hand to, and instead, elevate each other. Most of you are parents. How would you as mothers and fathers want you children to treat each other. And if we as faltering mortals can give such a good gift, how much better would the gift from our heavenly Father be? The Gospel of Jesus Christ is simple … “As I have loved you, love one another.” Please do not let yourselves be ensnared by the adversaries complications. Seek after knowledge and testimony on this issue, that you may receive a gift that would help another into the Lord’s fold. The price of a gift, is diligently seeking. Seek the Lord diligently and be charitable in all you do, and remember that you have accomplished and acquired nothing on your own, but it is the Lord who has given you all. Therefore I pray that we all would honor Him with love, humility and charity one for another.
In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Editor’s Note: The following scriptures were handed out by Brother Perkins during his talk. They are designed to help the listener/reader research the issue of blacks and the priesthood.
- 1 Samuel 16:7
- John 8:7
- John 9:2-3
- John 17:21-22
- 1 Nephi 2:19-24
- 1 Nephi 13:24-29
- 1 Nephi 17:35-38
- 2 Nephi 4:5-6
- 2 Nephi 4:34
- 2 Nephi 5:20-23
- 2 Nephi 26:33
- 2 Nephi 30:5-6
- Alma 3:9-10
- Alma 3:14
- Alma 3:18-19
- Alma 17:15
- Alma 23:16-18
- 3 Nephi 2:15-16
- 3 Nephi 13:24
- Mormon 9:6
- D&C 9:7
- D&C 29:41
- D&C 38:27
- D&C 98:11-12
- D&C 104:14-18
- D&C 108:7
- Abraham 1:26
- Abraham 3:22-28
- Moses 5:36
- Second Article of Faith