If you were to meet me out at the store, or at a social event we’d probably hit it off and I’d be talking your ear off, but if you were to happen to meet me at church… It would be a different story. It’s the one place I close up like a clam and avoid eye contact, conversation and answering questions that are asked to the group. I’ve never been sure if this is because I’m usually the only black member in the ward, or because I’m a convert… For me, I think it’s a little of both.
My family and I started going to the LDS church when I was about 9 years old. My parents took the discussions and were baptized, but we soon became inactive. When I was about 11 we became active again and I took the discussions, and was baptized. It didn’t take long for us to see we were a rarity in the LDS church. It was years before I met others.
When it came to activities and dances on days other than Sunday I was able to open up and make friends, despite looking different. Dating was a different story. When friends told me they “had the perfect date for me” I knew it meant they had met a black guy at some multi-stake dance and thought we’d automatically click because we shared the same skin tone.
As I got older I became more confidant in my faith, and in my testimony, and good thing, because that’s when the questions came.
One of the first things people ask me when I tell them I went to BYU or lived in Utah is “You aren’t Mormon are you?” in a laughable tone.
I’ve had a range of responses when I tell people I AM in fact LDS. Most people don’t believe me at first and ask “Really?” a couple of times before realizing I’m not joking. Once a man even took a photo of me because he couldn’t believe he had met a Black Mormon.
“I thought Black people couldn’t be Mormon,” some people ask me. “I thought they weren’t allowed to join the church?” I then try my best to explain that the priesthood ban was against Blacks having some privileges in the church but that no longer exists.
It’s hard to explain the details I don’t understand myself, to people who hardly know anything about the LDS church. I try my best to explain things were different then than they are now, as it is for a lot of churches.
While I was at BYU I met so many other Black LDS members and even joined the Genesis Group. It was nice to be surrounded by people who looked like me, and who had a lot of the same questions and concerns I do. One being about the issue with dark skin being considered a “curse.”
BYU offered a sort of devotional course on Blacks in the Scriptures, and it was a great experience. It was wonderful seeing a mix of people… Black, white, Asian, Hispanic… All types of people, LDS and non, looking for answers to the same questions.
I’m not sure how long being a Black member of the LDS church will be considered a rarity. In the ward I’m in now I’m one of many. In many countries it’s not unusual, which to me, is beautiful. Across the world our members are of all shapes, sizes and shades, but the gospel is the same. Over the years I've learned to appreciate that fact the most.
Jennifer, also known as Future Mama, started as a wanna be mom blogger rambling about pre-mommyhood on her blog BabyMakingMachine. September 2009 she decided to make it official, turn the machine on, and she now has a baby on the way. She graduated from BYU and she now works as a journalist in Texas and lives with her husband of five years and their dog Snoop.