Editor’s note: This article is part of a series highlighting the voices of Black Latter-day Saints in honor of Black History Month. Batchlor Johnson IV has a master’s degree in mass communications from BYU and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Utah. Batchlor was raised in Houston, Texas, in a family of five. He has a strong love for his Savior and tries to live every day to the fullest because of it.
The ability for me to fully be myself is what I love most about the gospel. My journey of trying to be the best disciple I can be has given me the confidence and the freedom to live at my best unapologetically.
I have always had obsessions with the idea of growth and the topic of eternity. So when I received my temple endowment last year, everything in my life made sense. The Spirit confirmed to me small and simple truths that I had been pondering, and I felt that anything worth having in my life is eternal. And those eternal things are what I want for myself and for my current and future family.
My lifestyle and my faith both complement each other. In fact, they are completely interconnected. I wish I could fully explain how my heart feels when I explain this, but it is impossible. The freedom I feel when I read Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ,” allows me to shoot for the stars (emphasis added). The motivation I get when the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Nevertheless, deep water is what I am wont to swim in. It all has become a second nature to me,” gives me fire to push through no matter what (see Doctrine and Covenants 127:2). And the prayer Nephi says in 2 Nephi 4 helps me feel understood when the road of discipleship feels tough. These are just three small examples of how I have recognized that the gospel is in every facet of my life. Learning about how the prophets—who were some of the greatest people to ever walk the earth—were scrutinized and mistreated, and yet to see them flourish in the eyes of God, reaffirms how I need never feel ashamed or alone because He is on my side, just like He was on theirs.
I am proud to be born in the body that I have and inherit the culture that I have from my parents, who are Black and Samoan. Being a Black member of the faith has drawn many questions both inside and outside of the Church. I’ve been met with extreme prejudice at every step of my life—and that includes fellow members. But I’ve used principles I’ve learned through the gospel to navigate through these challenges without losing my identity or sacrificing my morality. I have been called vulgarities by random people who have disdain toward the faith, as well as by those within the faith. I’ve been told I betray my race for being a Latter-day Saint by those who are not Black. And I’ve been called an Uncle Tom by those who share my race.
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When I speak out against racism, I am met with the same scrutiny—just on the opposite end of the spectrum—both inside and outside of my faith. I would share specifics of those experiences, but to me, it means more to share the mindset I’ve developed in my discipleship while being caught in the middle of those two extremes. My initial reaction to those things was to respond in a way I think the general public would expect me to. But I am quickly humbled when I realize that the most perfect man to walk the earth, my Savior Jesus Christ, did absolutely no wrong and was killed for it. So why would I, a young man with many flaws and mistakes, be exempt from the same hatred?
I understand with the limited African American representation in the Church how crucial it is that I am careful in how I respond because it will reflect not only on the Savior’s Church but also on the perception of African American people. So I’ve learned to set my boundaries as I feel prompted to by the Spirit and allow principles of charity to govern how I handle my personal life. Through that, I have felt the love of my Savior deeper than I feel I deserve. And for that, I’ll do anything for Him.
I’ve been asked if it’s a burden and if I feel pressure. I fully welcome it. Those who carry burdens have the opportunity to have the Savior more fully in their lives, so I will take that opportunity.
This gospel is the epitome of my soul and the song of my heart. In Romans 8:31 it reads, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” What else in this life can grant me peace? True confidence? Lasting joy? Eternal family? Endless growth? Love unfeigned? Nothing but the gospel. And the cost? Giving up any traits that are not worth having anyway. I’m so grateful for the gospel in my life, and I wouldn’t ask for my life to be any different.
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