I’ve heard the story time and time again. The year was 1985, I was 2 years old. My dad was the father of 8 children, a Vietnam war veteran, product of the early civil rights movement, and was bitter from the years of oppression he went through as a black man in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s. My father saw his grandfather killed in cold blood by white supremacists when he was a child. My mother, a former Black Panther lost her mother that same year. Both were looking for answers.
One day, a pair of white men came on bikes dressed in button down shirts with ties and knocked on our front door. With us living in one of the rougher neighborhoods at the time in East Winston, my mother was shocked that they even had the courage to come into our neighborhood. My mother was even more shocked that my dad, of all people, said “let them come in”. From the story my mother told me, she said they sat down and sent all of the kids back to their rooms. She said my dad listened intently, as a man that was searching for any type of mental or emotional relief from the stresses of the day.
According to my mother, the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) Mormons seemed nice. They cared in a time that many others did not. They played with the kids, they cut the grass, they just served us. That day began a lifelong journey for me in a life of Mormonism. At a young age, I learned how a man named Joseph Smith, the first “prophet” of the Mormon Church, founded the movement in Palmyra, New York. I learned the history of how the LDS religion grew, how he was killed, and how his predecessor Brigham Young carried the torch and took the Mormons out west. The Mormons eventually settled in their “Zion”, the state of Utah, USA.
I was indoctrinated from the time I was 2 years old until the time I was 30 with passages from the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price “scriptures” as well as writings from so called modern day “prophets”. The Bible was always secondary to the Book of Mormon teaching in the Mormon religion. I went to mostly all of the meetings, classes, and taught many of them. I was baptized LDS at 11 years old, a few years later than the standard age of 8 years old, and was even “sealed” in the Mormon temple at 22 years old. Family home evenings, home teaching programs, the relief society, programs all setup for “members only” was my standard.
All throughout my life I thought I was doing the right thing. I was certain that through my works I could “earn” my way to God. I mean sure, I was not allowed to drink coffee or tea, but those were the “little sins” in Mormonism. I was a southern Mormon, not from Utah, so surely my Bishop would understand if I were to drink a little sweet tea from time to time. It wasn’t like I was doing drugs or fornicating. Those were the lies I used to tell myself under the legalistic system. Then as I grew up and began doing some of the more “serious” Mormon sins such as fornication and drinking, guilt hit me like a ton of rocks. I began to get depressed many times at my sin, and as a black man I looked around for help and didn’t see other Mormon’s that “looked like me”.
I began to try harder and harder to do more works and attend more meetings to cover my sin. See, Mormons claim to believe in Jesus, but it is not the Jesus of the Bible. They say that they believe in Jesus’ atonement however it is not enough and modern day “revelation” through prophets is also essential for salvation. The concept of grace is foreign in the LDS faith. Forgiveness for the “serious” sins only comes through confession to the Mormon bishops, stake presidents, and high leadership. Even then there is a repentance process that must be completed. “Serious sins” such as fornication, adultery, homosexuality, unbelief, and a list of others can get you excommunicated from the movement based on what ward (congregation) or stake (group of wards) you are in. That repentance is decided by church leadership, not God.
By my mid 20’s I was struggling in Mormonism, and exhausted trying to live out an impossible list of legalistic rules with no real forgiveness and the guilt that came with it. One thing I do credit the LDS movement for is that they always said that “one should find truth for one’s self”. I took that concept and ran with it. I began my research, both in the Mormon doctrine and external articles. What i found was astonishing. In an article found in ‘The Mormon Church and Blacks: A Documentary History’ as presented in Wikipedia, it breaks down the race issue in simple form. “After Joseph Smith‘s death, Brigham Young taught that black suffrage went against church doctrine, that God had taken away the rights for blacks to hold public office, and that God would curse whites who married blacks.:39 These views were criticized by abolitionists of the day. Young did teach that the ban on blacks would one day be lifted. He also stated that black church members would one day receive the priesthood and its blessings, but only after this life when the other saints would receive similar blessings.:66 He was instrumental in officially legalizing slavery in Utah territory, teaching that the doctrine of slavery was connected to the priesthood ban.” Harris, Matthew L.; Bringhurst, Newell G. (2015). The Mormon Church and Blacks: A Documentary History.
When I found out that my father was one of the first black priesthood holders of the Winston-Salem NC ward congregation in 1985, I was astounded and wanted to find out more about the religion I spent my whole life in. That is when I learned about the Mormon version of the curse of Cain and how there were passages in the book of Mormon that taught how blacks were the recipient of the curse because of the color of their skin, and because of that they could not exercise the rights of the Mormon priesthood until June 9th, 1978. A Time Magazine article from 1970 states “Smith there concluded that Negroes are the descendants of both Cain, the Bible’s first murderer, and Ham, the disrespectful son of Noah; the reason for their exclusion from the priesthood is “the mark of Cain.”
Though racist 19th century Christian preachers once advanced similar arguments, the Mormons go further, maintaining that in a spiritual “pre-existence” blacks were neutral bystanders when other spirits chose sides during a fight between God and Lucifer. For that failure of courage, they were condemned to become the accursed descendants of Cain.” Through years of searching and reading the Bible, and the Holy Spirit working through Christian friends and even radio pastors, I left the LDS church in 2013. I still remember my last Sunday in Mormonism. I was teaching our men’s group called the “Elders Quorum”. These were men ages 18-49. The subject was from a journal of an LDS “prophet” entitled “We can become perfect”. It was a passage about how through years and years of good deeds, we can become perfect in specific spheres of influence, and by the end of life we can perfect ourselves in every area through works and deeds. Then when we die we will become as God’s if we are ‘sealed’ (married) in the LDS temple for time and all eternity.
Right there in the Greensboro, NC LDS Church, I told our stake president I couldn’t teach the lesson, because I no longer believed the doctrine. The push back was incredible, and when I left I can only remember 3-4 people that truly continued to associate with me. I was blackballed by what used to be my brothers and sisters. I lost my previous marriage shortly after that time, and thus my temple sealing. I lost almost everything I had as far as physical possessions and found myself in an empty 1 bedroom apartment with nothing. I lost almost everything that I thought was important to me, but I found the one true GOD!
I spent my share of days and nights alone in tears as a single father of 3 kids from a shattered marriage. I later heard the true gospel of Jesus Christ and how He came, died, and rose again so I could have the opportunity to go to Heaven. I repented of my sins and was re-baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ. I now know His grace and His mercy. God restored my life! He gave me a wonderful wife in Deidra, a Proverbs 31 woman and a help meet suitable for me. He blessed me with an amazing 4th child that I love dearly. He blessed me with a new job, new possessions, but most importantly, salvation and heaven! God gave me a wonderful new church family in 2015 at the Sharpe Road Church of Christ, where now I sing on the praise team and am a song leader!
I said all that to say this: If you see me in church and I get up and clap my hands please don’t be offended. If I am praising God with my arms stretched out wide, please understand it’s not for show. If I give a little shout from time to time or if you see my crying a little bit, please do not be alarmed. For 30 years I was told that I could not worship that way, or to just sit down and conservatively sing a hymn over a pipe organ with no emotion to reverence God. Excuse me if I enjoy the freedom to worship an Almighty, all powerful God that saved me! It’s just a response of my gratitude for Jesus.
He saved me, He plucked me, through all of my mistakes He never let me go! I cant help but to praise Him, to learn of Him, and to try my best to do a little better each day. When I do come up short, His grace covers me. This blog is not meant to be a shot at any particular person or group. I pray for the people in the Mormon faith, and other false religious systems around the world. Christians don’t always understand how hard it is to go against those traditions when it’s indoctrinated in your thinking.
It’s one thing to live a life of bad works knowing you are on a one way track to Hell. It’s a whole other concept when you are faithful to a false system that cannot save and you don’t even know it as you are systematically doing good works. It is scary, but I can only give my testimony of what the Holy Spirit did for me and try to share it with others. I cannot save anyone, only God can. I am not perfect by any means, only redeemed. Even with all of this, I do not regret the experiences I had in Mormonism because it made me see how powerful God is and how He can save anyone if He saved me. This in turn makes my faith in God stronger. That is because God chose me, without a doubt.