Mormons are not easily identifiable with the African American cause. As matter of fact not many people know that there are Black Mormons. June 8, 1971, exactly seven years before President Spencer W. Kimball received a revelation extending the priesthood to “all worthy males,” modern Church history was made as Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder Thomas S. Monson, and Elder Boyd K. Packer (then junior apostles) met with three Black Latter-day Saints—Ruffin Bridgeforth, Darius Gray, and Eugene Orr—to discuss how the Church might better support its members of African descent. These six men worked together weekly until The Genesis Group was established as an auxiliary unit of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on October 19, 1971, under the direction of President Joseph Fielding Smith.
Summary of the Black Mormon experience:
-The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“Mormon Church”) was founded by the Prophet Joseph Smith and five others in 1830. There have been black Mormons since 1832.
-Elijah Abel, an early Mormon Seventy Apostle, was African-American (one-forth Negro)–his son and grandson (who appeared white) were also ordained elders
-Black Mormons were considered equal in the time of Joseph Smith, and there were at least several dozen black Mormons in the time of Joseph Smith including at least one Presiding Elder in Boston. While running for U.S. President Joseph Smith advocated that blacks be freed, educated, and given equal rights. Joseph Smith was assassinated in June of 1844.
-1865 the U.S. government frees all slaves. Black Mormons (about 50 to 70 individuals at this time) form a small farming community in Salt Lake Valley called “Fort Union” or “Union” (now part of Midvale, Utah). Not long after Brigham Young died in 1877, Church leaders began to preach the “Less Valiant Doctrine”; that some spirits who followed Jesus in the War in Heaven were “less valiant” than others and were punished by being born into the seed of Cain as Negroes (and denied the priesthood and the ordinances of Mormon Temples which lead to eternal marriage and godhood (exaltation).
-A small number of black Mormons remained in the Church during the 130 year “Priesthood-Ban Era” which was from 1848 to 1978, but most were inactive and perhaps a dozen “Negro” converts or less were made each year.
-Beginning in the late 1940s black Africans began to hear about the Church and request information, or they got copies of The Book of Mormon from relatives in England, and they began to form their own Book of Mormon believing independent congregations, and requesting further information. The Church was slow to send further information. The Council of Twelve Apostles want to lift the priesthood-ban but President David O. McKay prays in the Salt Lake Temple and the reply he gets is “not yet”.
-Gladys Knight: Renowned singer and entertainer “Since I joined the Church, I desire to be more and more obedient to God. As I do so, many people say to me, ‘I see a light in you more than ever before. What is it?’…During one performance at Disney world…[a member of the audience asked,] ‘Could you please tell us…how you got that light?’ “the question was direct. so I gave a direct answer: ‘I have become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” In 1997, she was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, following her son and daughter. Knight married current husband, William McDowell in 2001.
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