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Convictions of Paul L. Sleet: Black Latter-day Saint Profiles

Updated on August 16, 2016

Within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints exists a multiplicity of views and experiences as members from all walks of life interact and share cultural differences. Members make adjustments as needed to transform their lives in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ and their commission to His church.

Brother Paul L Sleet is one of millions of faithful Christians who has taken this commission from Christ and applied it to his life and that life of his family. Paul describes his relationship with The Church of Jesus Christ and his views on the veracity of teachings associated with the church.

In, Out and back to the Church

In 1989, I was trying to be a salesman and knocked on the door of an older White woman. This older White woman had an old White husband and lots of white kids. I frankly was surprised that they even let me in the house. Long story short, they introduced me to a pair missionaries who did an excellent job of answering my questions about life. Along with my wife, I was baptized by a White man who, along with his family, soon became my close friends. I was introduced into a ward of people that were very genuine, wonderful people. They were all White. They seemed very patient with us while we were learning.

Shortly after sharing the gospel with ALL of my friends, one of them claimed that I had just joined the most racist church on the face of the earth! I went back to all of these wonderful people I had met and they were all either silent or embarrassed by the claims against the church--unofficial claims about Blacks and the priesthood banned from Blacks until 1978. I had a bishop share with me some of the most racist things I have ever heard in my life that he called an explanation of the ban. I, after sharing with him a few words with him I had learned on the streets of St. Louis, committed to never set foot in a Mormon building ever again.

Consequently, the effects of the Book of Mormon are permanent. I conducted my own investigation into the teachings I heard; and with much prayer, I came to the certain conclusion that what I was told by this man was not true. I shared this with the dear old White lady that shared the gospel with me in the first place about that bishop and my leaving the church.

She said, "Why would you quit. It's not his church. He might be wrong."

She was right. He was wrong. Dead wrong. So I was back.

No Token Member

Over the years I have lived in stakes in California and Missouri. I've been in leadership positions during most of my time in the church. During my period of time in California all of my conversations were race free. I was an elders quorum president at one point and I actually mentioned something about being black. The bishop quickly quipped..."we don't think like that here." I dropped the subject and continued on.

It wasn't until moving to Missouri that this whole issue about race seem to blow out of control. I was asked repeatedly to attend special meetings to visit "inner city" branches. White members determined that Blacks would really love to see an example "like you!"

I think I was first introduced to Black Latter Day Saints on Facebook at that same time. At first, I welcomed the attention; but after awhile it became an intense burden--to be the Black member to meet!

No one was interested in Paul Sleet, as were the members of the church in my previous wards (congregation); but they were interested in a Black man. People were so excited about introducing their friends to a Black man, a Black Mormon!

I wish the couple who introduced me to the church were still alive. I'd have them make a video and show it to everyone. I'm sure they felt that their purpose in life was to raise their children; however, for me, they were sent to earth to share the gospel specifically with me. I doubt very seriously, based on all the people I have met over the years, that I would have listened or responded to anyone else.

One introduction a member began changed my views about being on display as the Black Mormon. The man suggested, "Here is Paul Sleet. He's Black and he doesn't have any issues with the priesthood ban."

I responded almost in anger! I did have an issue with it! The circumstances regarding the whole thing was racist and untrue! The person who gave me such a glowing introduction was upset that I didn't support his racist position. I gave him a piece of my mind and he never contacted me again.

For the sake of the wonderful White people who I know all over the world. I pray that they will develop better answers. I pray that they will educated themselves. I pray that they will not sweat, stammer, stutter and reach for their nearest Black friend to respond for them. I pray that they will stop teaching the old racist nonsense. I pray that they can learn to interact with Black, White, Hispanic, Asian and other members just like anyone else without creating special groups, speak differently or tell special stories about how they met a Black or any other race of person on their mission.

Marvin Perkins is a Latter-day Saint music producer and DVD producer.
Marvin Perkins is a Latter-day Saint music producer and DVD producer. | Source
Margaret Young is a writer-turned-filmmaker who hopes to return to writing very soon, and uses blogs the way pianists use scales: warm ups. She teaches creative writing at BYU and is considerably older than everyone else at BCC. Margaret’s interests
Margaret Young is a writer-turned-filmmaker who hopes to return to writing very soon, and uses blogs the way pianists use scales: warm ups. She teaches creative writing at BYU and is considerably older than everyone else at BCC. Margaret’s interests | Source
Darius Gray was educated at Brigham Young University, the University of Utah, and Columbia University in broadcast journalism, and worked for many years at KSL television.
Darius Gray was educated at Brigham Young University, the University of Utah, and Columbia University in broadcast journalism, and worked for many years at KSL television. | Source
David Allan Bednar (born June 15, 1952) is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). An educator by profession, Bednar was also president of Brigham Young University–Idaho from 1997
David Allan Bednar (born June 15, 1952) is a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). An educator by profession, Bednar was also president of Brigham Young University–Idaho from 1997 | Source

Fast forward to 2013.

I am honestly embarrassed by the behavior of many of my White friends when this topic comes up. They still respond as if we are in 1989. Some even respond as if it was prior to 1978!

I still hear people justifying the priesthood ban on Blacks--people still teaching it and people still trying to explain its conception and continuances to 1978. The ban on priesthood is NOT a Black issue at all! Not one Black person was involved in its creation, perpetuation or explanation of the ban or the culture of exclusion developed around its racism.

The ban is a White issue that needs to be fixed by White members of the church period! The people should say they don't know or go do some research on their own! The tapes and books on this topic are not for you to buy and give to someone Black as a missionary tool. These items are for White members to read and digest! Darius Gray, Margaret Young, and Marvin Perkins have produced top notched materials that uninformed members should master.

Some people say, "Why don't you get over it?"

I am over it! The very last day this ban was an issue for me was when I spoke to Elder David A. Bednar. He told me that the church was well aware of this issue--the hurt and confusion the ban causes some.

If they decide to do nothing, the sin lies at someone else's doorstep. The actual ban is not an issue at all to me because I know it was racist, not from God and all of the teachings that surround it are completely untrue!

So as long as there are people in Sunday Schools, Seminaries and even missions who continue teaching pre-1978 explanation for the ban as if it were gospel, I'll be praying and speaking out on it.

Black Latter Day Saints Page

All Black people regarding the racism in the church's past obviously don't think the same about the topic as I do. I assume that White members join BLDS to listen and understand the concerns of Black members because they have interactions with Blacks or family members who are Black.

If that is not the case I apologize. BLDS is not my page so I cannot say what is to be done. I did not meet another Black person in the church for the first 10 years or so of my membership. However, I would suggest that maybe when someone Black posts something White members might think of a question to ask them versus responding to teach them a thing or two. I also assume Black members join looking for support and other Black members! Anyone on this list has a love of the gospel and some form of testimony or why be on a list of Black Mormons?

Until joining this BLDS I would have never even imagined that there would be Black people that would accept racism and racist teaching. There are also a significant number of Whites that rally behind those Blacks that support the "microaggressive" racism. I personally don't see what is the point of having a brain and the gift of the Holy Ghost if I am just supposed to support the authorities without question, but I certainly would not question someone else's interpretation of discipleship. And that's where I'm coming from. If my views are not in harmony with the objectives of this BLDS, I will gladly unsubscribe.

 Las Vegas Nevada LDS (Mormon) Temple
Las Vegas Nevada LDS (Mormon) Temple
 Las Vegas Nevada LDS (Mormon) Temple
Las Vegas Nevada LDS (Mormon) Temple

The Church is True But the People are Flawed

The revelation in Doctrine and Covenants Declaration 2 did not mention anything about giving anything to people of color. That is racist speculation. It does, however, state correctly God's position that the priesthood is for every worthy male. This issue will never be resolved as long as people who talked about not speculating about what happened yesterday are speculating today; and also Blacks who desire to be considered cursed at one point but not today

Who knows what Brigham Young was thinking when he enforced the ban? What he wrote, what he said and what he did on that particular subject was all racist and wrong. He might be a legend in all other areas but not in that area.

It was an immoral, racist practice. Unless someone produces an official document or scripture that clearly spells out who, what and why anyone was restricted then what people are saying about the priesthood ban lacks any foundation. How dark did someones skin have to be to ban them? How do you know a person is African just by looking at them? Could someone that looks White pass the test for priesthood? What about South African Whites, who are clearly White but absolutely call themselves Africans? This whole topic is ridiculous and get worse!.

I met an older Black couple several years ago. They shared a story about being members of the church prior to 1978. They claimed that a White family "adopted" them so he didn't need the priesthood. I found the whole conversation so obnoxious that I think I blanked it out of my mind! I probably should have shown more discretion and tact; but I thought they were fools and let them know how I felt. What grown man and woman would want to be 'adopted' by someone? I never had the opportunity to apologize for my behavior towards this couple.

When I moved to St. Louis I knew we were in trouble when I went to a stake priesthood meeting and a blind man started his talk by saying that he was proud to be a White man. I kept thinking how ironic that a man that could not see even cared what race he was. Now that I'm in Nevada members generally ignore us which is much better than being on display.

I think people have to decide to either follow the words of the prophets and the teachings of the savior or not. If people just want the good ole days where the church was this little Utah thing then those days are gone.

I am confident that the church or the prophet of the church would not put me in a position to follow a commandment that was against any of my core beliefs as a human, which I would not follow it they did! I would not oppress another person, kill another human without a cause, nor would I curtail anyone's right to pursue their lives however they please.

I was in California when the church was supporting the ban on gay marriage. My bishop invited me to contribute money and go door to door. I flat out told him no way. I was asked to pray about it; which I did and came up with the exact same answer. People may think I'm on some slippery slope but it's my slope to slip on.

People take this authority stuff too far. Every last one will tell you to follow God and follow the spirit. I have never heard one prophet or apostle that was not humble and said, come follow me...they ALWAYS point to the savior. But man in his weakness always wants to follow man and worship man.This does not mean in the least to disregard their counsel. However,

The gospel tent seems big enough to hold all of us. So because there are a significant number of Backs that either passively or actively accept racism there probably is no way anyone would take the issue seriously. It would be very difficult to have a conversation with someone that feels that the current situation has been divinely dictated by God without being accused of not supporting the church and its authorities. I'm not saying to give up; but this has been an education for me.

One would think that members of a church with a well-defined history of persecution that the members would be more accepting and open minded to different people and cultures. Although there are some very beautiful and wonderful people in the church. they coexist with some of the most closed minded people that I have encountered anywhere.

I always say in order to join the church you have to be unbelievably open-minded on a wide variety of topics to even investigate it! After you join, you discover that people who were born in the church are not open minded at all and are completely narrow-minded about almost every topic--even those topics that have nothing to do with religion.

People keep saying "the church is perfect but the members are not." Well, when you are experiencing racism or narrow-mindedness such and explanation does not help you at all with hard situations. I have yet to find a close friend that I would really confide in and have an open conversation about race issues. Those kind of people, sadly are few and far between. However, when you find one, regardless of their race, life is good.


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