In honor and recognition of Black History Month, below you will find a collection of LDS Living articles, videos, and podcast episodes that celebrate Black voices and experiences. We hope you will take the time to read, watch, or listen to some of these stories and acknowledge the beauty of diversity, the importance of equality, and the power of discussion and conversation.
President Blaine Hill Evanson of the Laguna Niguel California stake recorded a Zoom call discussion with three Black men from his stake to discuss their feelings about recent escalating racial tensions, and some of their experiences with race as Black men in America and in the Church.
“Let’s seek to be less passive and more aggressive in this fight against racism. When future injustice occurs, when indignation burns within, when your confidence in humanity seems shattered due to the evil acts of others around us, let us still rise up! And more importantly, let us look up to Him who created us perfectly in His image.”
The popular musical Hairspray, set in the 1960s, sought to start a conversation about societal topics, including the issue of racial strife. The conversation surrounding racism remains more relevant than ever. In 2020, the Bonner Family used a song from the musical, “Run and Tell That,” to encourage people to speak up about racial inequality.
We often speak, as Latter-day Saints, of pioneers. We think of them as those who crossed the plains with handcarts and certainly, there were those pioneers. But do we appreciate the faithfulness and sacrifice of those who have come before us in our own families? And do we appreciate the faith of those around us?
What do you say when people’s hearts all over the world are hurting? What do you say to try to make up for the pain that has been felt over generations? Where do you start when you are determined to be better and do better? These are all questions we at LDS Living have asked ourselves over the past several months.
In June 2020, Sheryl Ellsworth and Emily McCormick appeared on KSL’s Studio 5. Their topic? Five things that mothers of children of color want you to know. Watch their segment and then read to learn more as the mothers expand on the thoughts they expressed on the show.
In April 2019, Mauli Bonner sat down on the set of his upcoming film, wrought with emotion. With tears in his eyes, he spoke to his crew.
“‘Child of God’ by The Bonner Family powerfully illustrates the soul of the Jane and Emma movie—unity, love, friendship, and that we are ALL children of God,” the video post shares.
Shortly after African American Sandra Bland was found hanged in a jail cell in Waller County, Texas, and 10-year police veteran Darren Goforth was ambushed and murdered at a gas station in Cypress, Texas, Marvin Perkins stood in front of a stake in Houston, Texas, speaking on the topic of race and division.
In 2019, Gladys Knight celebrated the announcement that she would be singing the National Anthem for Super Bowl LIII by posting on Instagram, “Atlanta, I'm coming home!” But not everyone celebrated the fact that the Empress of Soul would be taking the field. In response to the backlash and criticism she has received for agreeing to sing the national anthem, Gladys Knight gave a response The Blaze categorized as “the classiest response possible.”
The feature film Jane and Emma made waves in the entertainment industry in 2019 with its controversial topics and strong female presence in the cast and crew. The movie shows the relationship between Jane Manning, Emma Smith, and the prophet Joseph Smith.
An estimated 4.7 million people watched Jaxon Willard dance on NBC’s “World of Dance” in August 2018. Through high-flying leaps and balletic turns, Jaxon Willard told a story of personal struggle, a struggle his mother, Cindy Willard, told LDS Living her son was still going through at the time of the episode’s filming.
“I began investigating the Church in 1979. When I learned about the earlier restriction on Blacks holding the priesthood, the missionaries could never satisfy me as to the reasons why. I couldn’t understand it.”
The history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with regard to race remains one of the most difficult topics for many members to discuss. In 2017, we shared this personal essay written by a Black member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Zandra Vranes and Laurel Christensen Day’s friendship requires a conscious, deliberate effort to create trust. In this episode, they talk about why they have chosen to create a strong relationship and understanding with one another by refusing to shy away from difficult conversations. Vranes and Day discuss how racism is manifest in the Church today and what we can all do to help each other feel at home in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Debra Bonner didn’t know she could sing and she didn’t know Jesus until a friend invited her to church when she was 13 years old. Since then, she has spent her life singing the good news of a Savior while instilling a love for Him in her eight children and to all within the sound of her voice.
Born in Nigeria, raised in London and currently residing in Beijing, Lola Ogunbote is a lawyer-turned-soccer coach who has learned how to prioritize joy in life. It is her belief that true fulfillment is found as we seek our acceptance from God and celebrate each individual for the many things that make them who they are.
Carrying a television with a VHS player to school every day became second nature for Tshoper Kabambi. He and his classmates studied film by watching movies on that little TV, discussing everything from lighting to plot. Kabambi believed that if he could learn to tell a story through film, he could finally tell the story of the Congo through the eyes of someone who has lived it.
The complexities surrounding conversations of racism today are numberless but the root of the solution is the two great commandments: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. On this episode, we talk with Abe Mills and Stephen Jones, two Black Latter-day Saints, about their experiences with racism within Church culture, the faith of those who came before them, and why they don’t hesitate to share their faith in Jesus Christ.
Marcus Martins never planned to serve a mission, to be sealed in the temple, or to serve as a bishop. These things would require him to receive the priesthood, and there was a restriction in place that precluded him from doing so. But Martins’s life changed forever on June 8, 1978, when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy male members ages 12 and older. Since that day, Martins has served not only as a missionary, but as a bishop, a temple officiator, a Book of Mormon translator, and a mission president. On this episode, Martins explains how he developed a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ even before 1978 and why he has never looked back in the nearly 50 years since he joined the Church.
In this episode, Isaac Thomas shares the story of how he gained a testimony and joined the church in 1976 at a time when he, as a Black man, could not receive the priesthood. He recounts the heartbreak and joy he found as he faithfully served and waited for a revelation that would restore the Priesthood to every worthy male member of the Church.
Stories in this episode: Wendy's childhood is fraught with bullies and self-doubt until she asks God to teach her what her parents knew all along; A run-in with a trampoline right before the family reunion sends Cassidy into hiding, but she can't hide from the Spirit; When artist Melissa can't find herself in museum paintings of Heaven, she decides to take matters into her own hands.
After a year of asking and waiting, Donald finally got permission from his mom to join the church when he was 15. Being a part of this new church family felt like the right next step for this Jamaican immigrant living in Florida, but he soon learned that while the restored gospel was perfect, the people weren’t. In this story, Donald shares the moments that left him wondering about his place in the body of Christ and what helped him to chose faith and forgiveness.
Do you remember a time when your home was so full of family or guests it was basically “at capacity”? The Whitmers knew this feeling all too well in their small home with eight children. Then things became a little more exciting than usual when they took in Emma, Joseph, and Oliver to help with the translation of the Book of Mormon. As the work of restoring the gospel progressed, some of the Whitmers began to wonder how they could help. In this week’s lesson, we’ll study Doctrine and Covenants sections 14–17 to see what the Lord had to say to three of the Whitmer sons and learn how these revelations relate to us today. Listen to this full episode for free on Deseret Bookshelf PLUS+ here.
How the Gospel Brought Agbor to America and (Eventually) to Lifelong Conversion
How the Gospel Brought Agbor to America and (Eventually) to Lifelong Conversion: #ThisIsTheGospel
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After his family moved from Nigeria to Utah, Agbor's family met with the missionaries and everything changed. After a life-long dedication to serving God, Agbor has found what it truly means to be converted.
Tamu Smith: The Scripture That Comforted Me Through Rejection
A scripture in Isaiah comforted Tamu through a tough time in junior high when she felt rejected by her friends. The scripture reminded her that the Savior knows what it feels like to suffer rejection from friends and helped her feel like she wasn't alone.
Zandra: The Scripture That Taught Me It's Okay to Not Have a Picture-Perfect Family
Reading about Jesus Christ's family helped Zandra realize that no family is perfect, but that by living the gospel and following Christ's teachings, we can learn to accept and be happy with the family God gave us. “We're not in the gospel because, ‘Wow, if we had it, our families could have been so functional and so much better and so picture-perfect,’” Zandra shares. “We're in the gospel because this is always what the families that Heavenly Father has used have looked like.”
The 6 Questions That Led Me to Christianity
Watch the story of one man who used six questions to determine whether or not he would convert to Christianity.
Isaac Thomas on The Moment He Heard of the Priesthood Revelation 40 Years Ago
Isaac Thomas was the first Black man sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. Listen as he shares his life-changing moment when he learned of the priesthood revelation received by President Kimball in 1978.
Reggie Shares His Journey from “Doing Dirt” to Finding God
Reggie fell away from the Church and started doing things that made him feel like he was “as far from the gospel as he could get.” Burdened by the misery and pain he felt, he reached out to God and with the help of friends had the strength to come back to church.
"How We Move Forward" Bishop Shares His Experience With Unanswered Questions About Race
Bishop Donald Kelly joined the church at 15 and struggled to figure out his place in a predominantly white church. Watch his story and see how he navigates the complex role of race in his choice to “stay in the boat”.
Belief & Doubt: “It’s A Confusing State to Be In” - Jonas' Story
Jonas shares how his doubt creates a general sense of confusion in his life and how it requires him to lean entirely upon the love of the Savior.
What (and What Not) to Say to Black People at Church
The Sistas in Zion have some great tips for navigating those awkward moments at church when cultures collide.
It's The Best Message I've Ever Heard
Marcia was a young mother of two when she suddenly found herself caring not only for her children but the children of her deceased sister. She wanted to raise them to love God and asked Him how to do that... and the answer came in a surprising way.