Feature Stories

I’m a Pioneer: First Black bishop in one South Carolina stake

Glenda and Harold Dial.jpeg
Dominic McKelvey

Latter-day Saints will be celebrating the 175th anniversary of Pioneer Day on July 24th this year. We wish to recognize that in addition to the sacrifices of these early pioneers, there are many modern-day pioneers across the globe who have built the Church in their nations or in their families. In this new series of articles, it is our hope to recognize these current pioneers and to celebrate and remember all who have helped make The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints what it is today.

It was a Wednesday afternoon when Glenda Dial heard an unexpected knock at her front door. She had no family and very few friends in the area and was not anticipating any guests. She decided to open the door and there stood two ladies. They introduced themselves as sister missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Standing in the corridor, the missionaries shared a compelling message about Jesus Christ.

Before this seemingly out of the blue encounter, Glenda and her husband, Harold, had been discussing ways to increase their Bible study but had not yet acted upon this inclination. Glenda decided to invite the missionaries inside, intrigued by the possibility of this newfound opportunity. As they moved toward the sofas to continue their chat, Glenda began to recall a childhood memory of her mother inviting messengers of a similar faith into their home. Glenda saw this moment as divine inspiration, a potential gateway for her family’s spiritual growth.

During their conversation, the missionaries asked Glenda, “What do you know about Mormons?” Glenda shared that she’d heard a rumor that Mormons had a very low cancer rate because they did not smoke nor drink. Glenda had also heard another rumor—one she opted not to share—that Mormons did not like Black people, yet they had knocked on her door to share a message about love. Glenda would soon learn this misconception was not true.

The missionaries ended their conversation and asked to return. Glenda obliged and invited them to come back the following week. In the meantime, in less than 72 hours, Harold and Glenda located a home to rent and moved from their apartment. Glenda, having forgotten all about the follow-up appointment, was cleaning their empty apartment when she heard a knock.

Her husband had gone out to buy more cleaning supplies so she was anticipating his return. Instead of seeing her husband at the door, Glenda was surprised to see a couple dressed in Sunday clothes. They introduced themselves as Brother Wendall and Sister Muriel Young. The Youngs, a missionary couple from Rupert, Idaho, had come to visit and wanted to continue the conversation about Christ that the missionaries had begun days prior. Needless to say, they were all shocked—Brother and Sister Young to see an empty apartment and Glenda to see someone other than her husband!

Glenda gave the Youngs their new address and set an appointment for the following Tuesday. The Youngs taught the Dials the discussions in their new home. They learned of the Great Apostasy, the plan of salvation, the First Vision and the Restoration of priesthood authority. During this process, the Dials and the Youngs became close friends. Harold and Glenda often recalled how the presence of the Holy Ghost was so strong when the Youngs taught truths in their home and how that feeling would slowly dissipate when the missionaries left.

During the missionary lessons, Harold would share his concerns. For him, certain principles were easy to accept while others were more challenging. Specifically, Harold had difficulty understanding the need for baptism by the proper priesthood authority and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Furthermore, Harold had already been baptized and did not understand the need to be re-baptized. The Lord knew that Harold needed to gain a testimony of this principle for himself.

Shortly after taking missionary lessons, Harold began to experience excruciating lower back pain. The pain would occur while doing mundane activities such as sitting, walking, and standing. Disappointingly, it seemed their much anticipated family trip would need to be canceled as Harold’s lower back pain was not subsiding.

Following the wise counsel of his wife, Harold decided to have his lower back examined by a doctor only to learn that he would need surgery. Brother Young could sense Harold’s dismay and offered to give him a priesthood blessing. After Brother Young explained the importance and significance of a priesthood blessing, Harold reluctantly but willingly accepted Brother Young’s invitation. Harold could sense something special was about to happen. Brother Young and Brother MacDonald, another member of the Church, placed their hands on Harold’s head and offered him a priesthood blessing of healing. Immediately, Harold’s pain was gone.

Harold felt ‘a new light in his life.’ He had a testimony of the priesthood authority. He promptly stated to Brother Young and Brother MacDonald that he was ready to enter the water of baptism with his family. He and his family were able to take their family trip, the surgery was performed with no complications, and his recovery was speedy. On July 26, 1981, Harold, Glenda and their family were baptized as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Harold and Glenda had no idea then how many miracles would take place in their future.

Over 41 years later, at least 20 family members including myself were baptized as members. For almost seven years, Harold served as the first Black bishop in Anderson, Greenville, South Carolina Stake. He and his wife shared the gospel with hundreds of people in his ward, extended family and community. Their five children were raised as members of the Church and continued to build their testimonies of Christ. Their sons served 2-year missions to Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil. Years later, their sons served as bishops in their respective areas.

Their children would have more children. As grandparents of eleven beautiful souls, Harold and Glenda would witness multiple baby blessings and baptisms for their precious posterity. Their sons would date and marry women who would learn of the restored gospel and be baptized as adults. I know this story because I am one of those women.

Sherry Dial and her husband are photographed on her baptism day.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I learned that the restored gospel did not take away from, but only added to the foundation of Christ taught by my parents. I shared the restored gospel with my family. Years later, my brother decided to be baptized and I was able to serve as a witness. Shortly after, my mother was baptized by my husband. In the next few weeks, she will receive her endowments in the temple. My husband and I have three children, each born under the covenant and each of whom have been baptized at the age of 8.

Because of pioneers like Harold and Glenda, the gospel continues. That is why we are here on earth—to pass on the legacy of Jesus Christ. Acknowledgment of the power of the Holy Ghost is essential, it will instill a permanent impression in your life and in the lives of future generations. I am a beneficiary of the spirit Harold and Glenda Dial, my father and mother-in-law, experienced on a marvelous spring day in 1981.

“And now remember, my son, that God has entrusted you with these things, which are sacred, which he has kept sacred, and also which he will keep and preserve for a wise purpose in him, that he may show forth his power unto future generations.” (Alma 37:14) Heavenly Father loves us! Together, we can help each other build our testimonies, deepen our conversion, and, once we have been converted, strengthen our brethren.

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