When Daryl Planks married his wife Rachel in 2012, he knew she was a Mormon.
That fact didn’t bother him too much. Although he’d attended a Southern Baptist church with his mother up until age 16, their community in Mesa, Arizona, had been full of Mormons. Daryl recalled they were the ones that went across the street for about an hour every day during high school. They were always nice, always well behaved. That’s pretty much all he knew.
Oh, and the temples. He was curious about the temples, but his Mormon friends had always just answered his questions with, “I can’t tell you about that.” He’d also noticed that he’d never seen anyone from the Mormon Church that was black, like him.
Marrying a Mormon
Rachel was never pushy about religion while they were dating, although she had offered him a Book of Mormon. Daryl said no thanks. “I kind of felt like I was cheating on my church,” Daryl said, although at the time he only attended on the rare holiday.
“I would have given my soul away to tell you he would never be Mormon, ever,” Rachel said. “Not in this life.”
As the two dated and got married, they attended each other’s churches together every once in a while. “It seemed every time I went to her church it was fast Sunday,” Daryl said.
“I don’t know why it worked out that way. . . . I didn’t want to tell him no, but that’s not the greatest day to bring somebody,” said Rachel.
Daryl wondered, “Why are people up there crying? I don’t get it.” The subdued nature of the music was also very new compared to the lively gospel music he’d grown up with. “To me, gospel music is almost like food for your soul.”
Over the next five years of their marriage, Daryl became good friends with many of his LDS neighbors and those in Rachel’s ward. Sometimes he naturally felt like an outsider, but he never felt excluded or pressured. “They genuinely wanted to be his friend,” Rachel said.
Interactions with Mormons
Rachel and Daryl often had the missionaries or other ward members over for dinner, and the deacons would stop by on the first Sunday of every month to collect fast offerings. Daryl was cool with all of it, until one of the deacons that showed up on his doorstep was black.
Daryl knew that this young man, Samuel Larson, was the only black member in his wife’s ward, and he thought they’d sent him on purpose. “I was so mad. I refused to answer the door,” Daryl said.
“That’s just how it worked out on the route,” Rachel said, “But he was convinced.”
Although Daryl was adamant that he would never join the Church, he would often ask questions for curiosity’s sake.
One of his biggest questions was about what happens in the temple. It bothered him that no one could give him a straight answer. Why was it so secret?
It wasn’t until a good friend, Jessica Lynn, came over that he finally got an answer that made sense. Daryl recalled the conversation:
“You know about fraternities?” she asked.
“Absolutely,” Daryl replied.
“You know how fraternities sometimes will have a secret handshake?” she continued.
“Yeah,” Daryl said.
“That’s kind of like the temple. That’s our fraternity. We do things that are sacred to us, and if you’re a member you can partake in that.”
Daryl also wondered about garments, and Sister Lynn used another analogy that finally clicked with Daryl. He recalls her saying, “It’s just like the Jewish yamaka. . . . This is our outward expression of our faith.”