On Being a Latter-Day Saint and a Black American: Living Now and Not in the Past
These verses below set the stage for what follows. Please read with care.
For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.
And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.
Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?
They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right,that shall ye receive.
So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.
And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
And when they had received it, they murmured against the good man of the house,
Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
Dealing With the Past
As a Black American member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one thing weighed on my mind above others.
Before 1978, Black men were not allowed for some reason to hold the priesthood authority given to every worthy male of the church.
This in turn made it seem that for some reason Black brethren were not worthy to act for God using His power.
Finding it hard to accept, because of the hurtful past of my ancestry, I turned to prayer. I knew that I had found the church from which I would spend my days serving Christ.
I needed to reconcile my feelings about what I believe to be institutional racism with the institution I knew was directed by God. I also knew that when the revelation for the change in restriction came, some members of the church left the church simply because my people gained access to the holy and sacred blessing of the priesthood.
I felt hurt about the restriction and the people leaving the church. I had to deal with the negative feelings which I did through prayer and understanding. I let go of the hurt and forgave the racists for leaving the church and for not being willing to accept me as an equal.
I forgave the church for allowing such a racist policy, which cried in the face of every doctrine it espouses. I then came across an apostle's words at General Conference which added to my assurance I had understood and obeyed God in letting go of the hurt.
There are many who would hold an inquest in the House of Commons on the conduct of the Governments — and of Parliaments … during the years which led up to this catastrophe. They seek to indict those who were responsible for the guidance of our affairs. This also would be a foolish and pernicious process. … Of this I am quite sure, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.— Winston churchill
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland mentioned from the parable in his talk that some of the workers could have made the unthinkable mistake of refusing their pay because of a preoccupation with the issues that happened earlier in the day!
Elder Holland doesn't say explicitly that could have occurred but mentions that it is possible some could have refused pay out of anger at a perceived infraction.
I realized I did have a problem with what happened in the Church in the past.
Even though I did not want to leave because of it, some do.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland cleared it up further for me when he said
"don’t hyperventilate about something that happened at 9:00 in the morning when the grace of God is trying to reward you at 6:00 pm in the evening—whatever your labor arrangements have been through the day" (Holland, 2012 ¶ 10).
I thought on Elder Holland's words as I thought about my struggle with the history of the Church and things I did not understand. I receive the same wages as all other people in Christ in the end.
- Official Declaration 2
On September 30, 1978, at the 148th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the following was presented by President N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church:
What happened to members of the Church in the past does not take away from the rewards that Christ promises me or even those who did not get what I have!
Elder Hollands Counsel
He suggests, no, he urges and pleads that we keep the covenants we have made with God despite the perceived wrongs we suffered in the past at the hand of a spouse, co-worker, church member or institution.
He then suggest that if we have not made covenants because of past issues that we make them now. If we have broken covenants he says to repent and take them up again.
His closing plea is
"...listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit telling you right now, this very moment, that you should accept the atoning gift of the Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy the fellowship of His labor. Don’t delay. It’s getting late" (Holland, 2012 ¶ 17)
Listen to 15 minutes of An Apostle's words.
My Take Away
I know that the issues people have with what happened in the past will not be healed in a moment.
Whether it is pain associated with slavery or a rape or persecution, forgiveness and looking toward the future will bring justice and peace to our lives.
It will be hard to overcome the hurt, but the reward is worth it and free to us all.
I know that God lives and that He desires us to overcome our crosses whether they are our own making or the making of another or even an institution.
This life is our time to prove to ourselves that we can keep our covenants or promises to God despite the weaknesses of the people around us--or our on weaknesses.
I have a firm witness that Jesus is the Christ; and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's restored church preparing for the last days.
For Your Education
General Conference is a series of official meetings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that occur twice yearly during the months of April and October where all members and guest are invited to listen to the general leadership of the church, namely the men and women listed as prophets, apostles and auxiliary leaders.
For Your Education
The priesthood of God is the authority to act on God's behalf as a servant of Christ. There are two branches the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods. For more information about the priesthood, click on it.
Members meet in the Conference Center or other locations for televised, radio and internet broadcasts around the world. Each Conference is recorded for distribution afterwards and available in written form at the church's official website www.churchof jesuschrist.org
- The Laborers in the Vineyard - general-conference
Please listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit telling you right now, this very moment, that you should accept the atoning gift of the Lord Jesus Christ.
© 2012 Rodric Anthony Johnson