God Gifted Me My Race
Perspectives from an African American Latter-day Saint
Keith Hamilton - August 10, 2011
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?
In a speech before the Utah Territorial Legislature, Brigham Young is quoted as saying: “Not one [particle] of power can that posterity of Cain have, until the time comes. . . . That time will come when they will have the privilege of all we have the privilege of and more.” While most commentators and readers of President Young’s statement get ensnared in his personal beliefs regarding blacks and Cain, the more important message contained in Young’s words is that he believed at some future time blacks would receive the same privilege that all the white brethren at this time had (including the right of the priesthood), and more. Black males ordained to the priesthood today receive no more authority and rights with that priesthood than Brigham Young’s counterparts of the 1800s. Worthy, temple-attending blacks receive no more of an endowment and opportunity for exaltation than temple-goers who attended before 1978. Yet today’s blacks, particularly black members of the LDS Church, may have more capacity to recognize, receive, and contain the joy of the gospel than some others because of the deep sorrow carved into their souls by past experiences and restrictions.
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.
© LDS Living, July/August 2011.