Anyway, I digress. I have a friend who inspires me regularly. There are times when she sends an email out that simply blows me away with the basic truths contained within. This is one of those.
Author, Jewel Adams, addressed a topic on one of our email lists. I asked permission to reprint what she wrote her. The topic? Being black within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
I joined the Church in January of 1986 after missionaries found me for the second time. The first time I was so stoned and wasted that those poor young men knew they wouldn't get anywhere with me.
I got married my first time when I was sixteen years old. I didn't love him, I just wanted to get a break from my alcoholic mother. Two years later, Isaiah, the guy I married, went swimming one day, caught a cramp and drowned. I was a widow at 18. The insurance money I received from his death, which was more money than I'd ever had in my life, fueled my drug and alcohol addiction.
Anyway, it took friends and family coming out of the woodwork and bleeding me dry, thus placing me back in a housing project, married to another man I didn't love ( drugs and alcohol were all we had in common) with two babies before I was humble enough to listen when that second set of missionaries came knocking on my door. From the moment they began teaching me that first discussion, I knew the gospel was true, and despite still fighting my addiction, I was baptized. After the life I'd lived, to truly know that I had a Father in Heaven who loved me was the greatest of gifts.
Friends, or rather so-called friends, began to pester me with questions about how I could join a racist church. Finally my manager at work cornered me one day and asked me how I could join a church where for a long time the whites could hold the priesthood and not the blacks, and you know, to this day it still amazes me how quickly that answer came to me. My answer?
The blacks were not ready and the whites were not ready. A change of that magnitude would have completely torn the Church in two. There is a time for everything and the Lord knew what He was doing. I have no doubt. I never have and I never will.
Until the black members get rid of the chip some of us wear on our shoulder, stop questioning the Lord and start trusting in Him and his wisdom, they, not we, will never be content. That's why things like this bug me so.
I look at the blacks in Africa who had so much faith and waited so long for the gospel. I admire them for their unquestioning faith and their strength. And I adore Jane Manning because she never expected to be given anything because of the color of her skin.
Now, as for a prominent black in the Church, in some ways, I think he has a little Al Sharpton in him. I could be wrong, but based on what I have observed that's my opinion. I met the man and was not impressed.
I had the opportunity to attend a Genesis meeting once and I DID NOT like it, so I never went back, and I'll tell you why. In that chapel I saw more chips weighing down shoulders than I had seen since leaving North Carolina. Some people stood and talked about how they never felt comfortable or at home in their own wards because they had nothing in common with the ward members and that's why they were so grateful to be able to come to Genesis.
They didn't even give the members of their home ward a chance to get to know them. I mean, we're all different. Skin color has nothing to do with it. If you want to get to know people you have to open up and let them in. Personally I have felt comfortable in every single ward I have ever been in and I have made too many friends to count. You only get out what you put in.
I know that once upon a time Genesis was a very good thing and was both inspired and needed, but I think in some ways it has become a crutch. The black friend I went with asked me why I wouldn't go back to a meeting with her. I told her I didn't need it. My ward, no matter what ward I'm in, is my family. I'm comfortable, I'm happy, and I don't need the color of my skin validated by a group. I mean, I look at myself in the mirror everyday. I know I'm black and I love my heritage, but so do other races, right?
Sure, there probably are some racist people in the Church, but there are racist people in every church. I have yet to experience that in the Mormon church, but I am not there for the people. I am there for me, my family, and the Lord.
Black members need to focus on what is important, that being the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are all born to trial and all of our trials are different, but what we do with those trials will set our paths in this life. I saw and experienced a lot of things growing up, things that no child should have to see or experience. But, looking back on all I have been blessed with and the glorious gifts that have been given to me because of those trials, I wouldn't want a single thing changed.
I appreciate you guys for putting up with my ramblings and never judging me. You are friends in the truest sense of the word, but sometimes I have to let loose these little cannons and hope the shots don't offend anyone.
No matter what has happened in the past, no matter what race, creed, color, or nationality we are, God is perfect, He knows what He's doing, and He never makes mistakes.
Isn't that what it really boils down to? Not concentrating on our differences, but concentrating on our commonalities . . . we are all children of God. We are beloved of Him. And, each and everyone of us have a mission or missions in life pertinent to the Kingdom of God being spread across the world to every kindred, tongue and people.
Those who place a magnifying glass on the past, determined to weed out every little offense, will drown in those historical offenses. In so doing, they miss the unmitigated joy of standing tall with all those follow God, their eyes single to His living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, and the peace of mind that comes for knowing mortality is but a brief moment in an eternal life.
Jewel, thank you, as always, for being such a fantastic example to me and reminding me what is important.