Being a Latter-Day Saint and a Black American: Crushes, Songs
This Is Personal
True stories are often the ones that fiction aspires to live up to. Truth is stranger than fiction only because the truth does not always follow the rules of logic. In this seventh installment of a historically true series told from my perspective, I capture the lessons learned. The contention is that an ancient historian looked into the future and saw my life--making a commentary on my experiences that would help me become a better person. Strange, right? It is stranger than fiction. Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals. Yes, the experiences are only anecdotal.
I had a crush on Esther! It was a youthful crush, we both innocent youth. I am Black and she is White. At the time, I and much of society did not think that it was appropriate for White people and Black people to date and marry. Mrs. Connell, my third-grade teacher (rest her soul), had taught me that Blacks and Whites do not go together. The book Moroni Saw Me goes into detail about that.
Because of this worldview on race I harbored, I never tried even to hint at an attraction to Esther. It was because of her spiritual knowledge that I longed for her. Esther became the focus of much of my attention though she was younger. She had a weepy personality with a strength of character that I admired. She was the Roadrunner to my Wiley Coyote.
In our local congregation, she was the only other youth from my area that regularly went to church. The boy I was, I fell in like with her. Esther had everything I desired in a friend starting with her love for God.
Latter-day Saint Meeting House
“Rodric,” Sister Canes called out as she approached me on a Wednesday youth night at Church. With the inflection in her use of my name, I knew an assignment to do something was coming. She had that overly nice/sweet sing-song sound that comes when they want kids to do tasks they could not in good conscience force them to do.
“I would like you to sing in the talent show.” She had heard me singing in the choir, being the director, and thought that it would be a good idea for me to sing in the Ward Talent Show. Not waiting for a response, she showed me the music.
“Uh, I can’t sing this,” I lied. It was a rock song. Already I was attending church with White people and I am being asked to cross over musically to the White side, I thought, or that's what I remember thinking.
Embarrassed I had received some flack about my new faith that took me away from the traditional Black churches and into the multiculturalism of the Latter-day Saints Christianity, a.k.a. mostly White people church in the US, I did not want to capitulate.
“What kind of music can you sing" Sister Canes followed up inquisitively and tenaciously as any choir director should since she did so professionally besides volunteering her service at Church.
"We can find something for you to sing,” she insisted in the sing-songy type happy that made me want to help.
“I sing R&B music and stuff,” I huffed out quickly as if she should know that about me because I am Black. It wasn't a lie, but I could have sung anything she gave me. My Black culture did not include a vast musical selection as other Black cultures likely did. I assumed that I had to stay true to my "Blackness," though. Confident that she would not find the type of music that I sang, I awaited her to say Okay, maybe next time.
“Don’t be shy, Rodric,” she singingly accused instead—seeing through my insecurity. “You can sing this song," she said revealing the song "A Whole New World" (R&B version sang by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle), "with Esther."
Esther had the most beautiful voice I had heard to that point in my life. I sought opportunities to hear her sing, which sue frequently obliged. Singing with Esther would be a way to satisfy my desire to be around her without compromising the tired old Southern code to avoid race-mixing. At least, that's how I placated myself.
“Okay,” I responded as she put the sheet music in my hands ushering me off to the girl I crushed on to sing! I would sing only, mind you, only because it was Kathy that I sang with! I knew I "loved" Esther when we sang "A Whole New World" from the Disney movie Aladdin together.
Being a Saint and a Black American is not hard. It is as difficult as I make it. In the beginning, I seemed to want to accentuate my differences from all of the White people. The law of attraction seemed to be the only thing that could make me admit to my humanity above my race. Singing with Esther made me feel like just a member of the Church, no racial identifier needed.
Moroni, the guy who saw me, the ancient prophet in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, wrote in his book that "the church did meet together oft" followed by some other words. What was not in that writing was that the boy that meets together oft at Church would be so happy because of the girl who met together oft at Church to sing for a season. God knew what He was doing with all these beautiful righteous women at Church.
Despite my cultural attachments, the desire for a girl, and the love of God slowly changed my heart to become open to the whispering of the Spirit of God, "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:34-35
No, I never got the girl. I did have an experience brought on by my fear of letting go of the mental restrictions of my past. I began the process of learning how to let the most important descriptors, or identities I need to focus on rule my actions: I am a child of God, I am a child of the Covenant, and I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.
© 2018 Rodric Anthony Johnson