On Being a Latter-day Saint and a Black American: Singing for Love?
True stories are often the ones that fiction aspire 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.
I had a crush on Kathy! 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 Kathy. It was because of her spiritual knowledge that I longed for her. Kathy 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 beside my cousin Dexter. We rode to church with her grandmother Maud, a generational member of the Church from Utah who fell in love with her sweetheart (not a Latter-day Saint) a Southern gentleman. Kathy was the only one of Sister Maud's grandkids that went to church at the time.
Latter-day Saint Meeting House
“Rodric,” Sister Coates called out as she approached me on a Wednesday youth night at the church. With the inflection in her use of my name, I knew an assignment to do something was coming. She had that teacher sound, the overly nice/sweet sound that comes when they want kids to do stuff that they could not in good conscience force them to do.
“I would like you to sing in the ward talent show.” She had heard me singing in the church 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 was embarrassed. I had received some flack about my new faith that took me away from the traditional Black church and into the multiculturalism of the Latter-day Saints Christian church, a.k.a. mostly White people church.
“What kind of music can you sing" Sister Coates followed up inquisitively and tenaciously as any choir director should be. It was her profession besides it being a voluntary assignment of hers at church.
"We can find something for you to sing,” she insisted in a 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 because I am Black. It was not a lie, but I could have sung anything she gave me. 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 to 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 Kathy."
Kathy had the most beautiful voice I had heard to that point in my life for which she was well known. I would seek opportunities to hear her sing and she provided them. Singing with Kathy 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 is what I placated myself with.
“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 Katie that I sang with! I knew I loved Kathy 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 Kathy made me feel like just a member of the Church and not a Black one.
- Moroni Saw me
Hitting me like a ton of bricks came this verse by Moroni that reads, “Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.” There as clear as day I was mentioned!
Moroni, the guy who saw me--you know, the ancient prophet? Well, he 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 met together oft at the church would be so happy because of the girl who met together oft at the church to sing for a season. God knew what He was doing with all these beautiful women at Church. That is how you keep a good man in Church!
© 2018 Rodric Anthony Johnson