Monday, September 19, 2011

Great Perspective

I spent this weekend out in Tooele with my family. It was so much fun. I probably did not accomplish what I should have(finishing my resume), but I had so much fun. I got to see Jake for an entire day, went to the gym with mom and dad, saw the garden, watched a movie, mowed the lawn, played with the stinky dogs... :) It was fantastic.

While I was there, mom and I were talking and somehow the topic reminded her of an article that she saw in the LDSLiving magazine. It is about an African American man who joined the church in 1980. He joined the church 2 weeks after meeting the missionaries and later became the first African American to be accepted to the J. Reuben Clark Law School. His faith and accomplishments are pretty impressive. What impressed me the most though was his perspective.

The article talks about race and the restriction of the priesthood and temple ordinances to African Americans prior to 1978. I know that this has been a topic that is difficult to understand, but Keith Hamilton did some soul searching of his own which is enlightening. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts from the article.

"It was as a newly called bishop that I first learned of many of the rationales and myths put forth by LDS commentators and others regarding the Church’s historical relationship with blacks—namely its pre-1978 ban against black males receiving the priesthood and all blacks receiving the exalting ordinances available in the temple.

One time, two white, middle-aged sisters in the ward came to me with serious concern about the ways they perceived blacks had been treated by the Church. In an attempt to address their concerns, I researched the issues as best I could, which led me to an abundance of information. Some of it defended the Church, while other things I read severely criticized the Church and its leaders.

Over the years I gathered more and more information, and as I digested and pondered what I read, I often felt a spiritual emptiness or outright offensiveness to my spirit. Scripture study, more ponderings, and intense personal prayer led me to conclude that most of the commentary on both sides of the issue centered around a historical perspective or view toward the issues, which focused on how God’s children treated each other, or on what one of His children had said regarding the issue. It occurred to me that this approach might not be the more excellent way, particularly regarding the priesthood ban, since the priesthood is God’s, not man’s. I felt prompted to consider looking at the ban, and the lifting of the ban in 1978, from the perspective of how God has dealt and continues to deal with His children generally, and in particular, how He had apportioned the “right” of the priesthood in dispensations
prior to our current one.

This provided me the foundation of true principles, which have developed into a sure testimony that allows me to distinguish, through the workings of the Holy Ghost, truth from error and fact from folklore. It has also permitted me the ability to recognize the sublime yet tremendous impact the 1978 revelation on priesthood had on the Church and on all God’s children, black or non-black, LDS or otherwise.

In order to qualify to return to our Heavenly Father’s presence after our mortal probation, every person must pass through the trials and tribulations of this life. So, too, it is and was for many nations or groups of peoples. The scriptures are replete with evidences that, at times, the Lord’s people must pass through severe hardship, due to no fault of their own, in order to serve as instruments in demonstration to others of His love, mercy, compassion, power, and divinity. Should it have been, or be, any different for blacks of this dispensation?"

"I do not know when or why the restrictive practices against my people were adopted and carried out by the LDS Church, but I do know that the policy and practices were the Lord’s doing and not the autonomous or unilateral act of any man or men. I know this by faith in God and through personal revelation from the Holy Ghost. According to God’s wise and just purposes, He allowed the restrictions to be placed upon my people for the trial, growth, and benefit of all His children, especially my people and those of His church and kingdom on earth.

Adversity, through its many forms and faces, has dug a deep well of sorrow—and thereby created the potential for greater joy—in the lives of many peoples, not just blacks of this dispensation. Early LDS Church members suffered great hardship in establishing the Church in the Eastern states, as did the pioneers who crossed the plains into the Rocky Mountains. Twentieth-century Jews experienced horrendous atrocities during the Holocaust. Trials and adversity have been the lot for all of God’s peoples in all dispensations, including this dispensation, and my ancestors and I have not been excluded."

"The Gift of Being Black
For many years I had the good fortune to be associated with a play about the life and times of black Mormon pioneer Jane Manning James, entitled I Am Jane, which contains a poignant scene where Jane is speaking with Elijah Abel, a black convert ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Jane asks Elijah to give her a straight answer about what she has heard preached by some Latter-day Saints concerning the curse of Cain and black skin. Elijah replies that he once took the question to God, and then shares with Jane his perception of God’s response. I close this article with my sincere prayer that Elijah’s words will bring each reader the same comfort and counsel they do me:

I feel, Sister Jane, that ours is:
Not a curse but a gift t’us,
The best path we could seek
A place where God can lift us
We kneel; our knees is weak

And when one of us is kneelin’,
We understand his fears.
We know what all us is feelin’
We cry each other’s tears.

That’s just what Jesus done
For all us human folk.
He agreed to come get born
To feel ev’ry pain and poke.

So’s he could understand us,
What it is to be a slave.
So’s he could get beneath us
And push us outa the grave

Would you rather be the massa
Or the Roman with his whip?
Would you rather nail the Savior—
Put vinegar to his lip?
Or learn the lessons of sufferin’—
How we nothin’ without grace.
Jesus, He give us a callin’
He gifted us our race."

Also here is a link to a podcast "Why I believe" featuring Keith Hamilton

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great weekend. :) My friend heard Keith Hamilton speak at a fireside in Layton on Sunday. I think that would have been a good one. His perspective really is impressive- a great example of searching, and pondering, and then trusting.