Wednesday, February 9, 2011

FHE: Black History Month

I love African American Heritage. It is a culture rich with perseverance, solid Christianity and hope.

I married a black man. He has dreadlocks. When we were first married, he had corn rows. His hair has changed more than I'd financially like to talk about.
My best friend has a rich chocolate skin color. She is Sri Lankan. In high school we were Ebony and Ivory. She's not a member but if my husband and I die we have a pack that she'll get baptized and raise my kids. There, it's in writing. Is it legal now?

My best friend from college is African American and has lighter skin than me. Her initials spell HAM and every night I'd sing Oh Holy Night to her as obnoxiously possible.

Some of the people I love most in life deal with things you and I could never possibly imagine. Has our country come a long way, you bet! However, the need for compassion and understanding is great.
Especially within the church.

Just the other week a member from a former stake presidency was making fun of my husband, and in essence really calling him a liar when he brought up a time he was unfairly pulled over. Am I bitter, no! Just irked because this happens more often than it should. He had 3 black kids in back, driving back through rural NV from Scout Camp!! The church member said, "I'm pulled over just as much as you are. Don't whine." It's simply not true. And my husband isn't a whiner. Racial profiling exists and it's wrong. My husband was called the N word by bishops on his mission in Texas. He was beat up in the church parking lot as a child by kids screaming "Get up Jamima." The list goes on and on, but my point is MORE COMPASSION!!! Why can't we just listen to each other and support each other? Why can't we say, Wow- you've been through a lot and I admire your strength and courage?

Now, praise the LORD!!! The scriptures have been revised online to take out some of the rather confusing nature of "curses" and "skins of blackness". God loves all His children. To see more click HERE.

In honor of Black History Month, here is a lesson from that one could do with their family for FHE. Please pardon all my babbling. I just know how important it is to teach our families the importance of God loving all His children.

1.To help class members understand that God is truly no respecter of person
2.To help class members understand and become prepared to teach truths regarding skin color
3.To help class members become more dependent upon continual in depth study of all scripture and reliant upon the spirit of the Lord to receive truth and help others

Note: This outline is designed to be a brief but significant introduction to the subject matter. For more thorough scriptural coverage, play segment 2 of the Blacks in the Scriptures DVD series.

Object Lesson 1

Ask for a volunteer (Caucasian) wearing a white shirt. Ask class members what color is the shirt. Ask them to now imagine a color scale with white on one end. Now ask what is on the other end. (Black) What color is in the middle of that scale? (Gray) Now ask the class what color is the volunteer’s face. They can’t say white, because there’s a stark difference between their face and the white shirt they’re wearing.

Now ask, if you were to gradually darken volunteer’s face, what color would it become? (Brown) Yes. We are all just different shades of brown. There are no actual black or white people. Those are terms of separation created by man and used to justify elevating ones self and to degrade his brother.

Now show the unity wristband and the different shades of brown and deliver its message. There are no black or white people. We are all simply various shades of brown. We are truly all one and are commanded to be of one heart, of one mind and to be one.

Alternative Object Lesson

Pass around several unity wristbands and ask class members to find the shade closest to their skin color and then pass it on to those sitting near them. Once they’ve all had a chance, explain to them that all of the colors in the wristband are in the “brown” color scale. This demonstrates that there are no black or white people, that we are all various shades of brown.

Scripture Discussion and Application


•1 Samuel 16:7
Discuss how the Lord is teaching Samuel not to look on the outward appearance to judge one’s worthiness. And that the Lord does not see as man does, as He only looks upon the heart, but man judges by outward appearances. Ask - if the Lord is teaching the prophet Samuel not to look upon the outward appearances to judge worthiness, would it be in keeping with His own law if the Lord were to change someone’s skin color (Suggest Cain, Ham or Lamanites) encouraging man to focus on the outward appearance to judge one’s worthiness? Encourage each in attendance to think about this single gospel principal for themselves in relation to perceived skin color references in all of the standard works.

•Alma 55:4-8
Discuss how Moroni had to search among his people for a descendant of Laman because none of them stood out because of their skin color. This is much like not needing to conduct a search for African Americans in a Salt Lake City ward. There are so few and stand out so much so that searching would not be necessary. Discuss how Laman and the small number of Moroni’s men had to identify themselves as Lamanites because the Lamanites could not look at them and tell whether they were Nephites or Lamanites. Also, even in their presence, the scripture says “and they received them with joy” they could not tell that they were being deceived by Nephites posing as Lamanites.

•Jeremiah 8:21 & Jeremiah 14:2
Read, discuss and follow each footnote for the world “black” demonstrating that they refer to the spiritual state and not the literal color of skin (LDS edition of the standard King James Bible). Help class members to recognize that the footnoting of Hebrew Idiom reminds us that the Bible text is a translation from an ancient time and foreign language. That it was not given after the manner of our language, and that many times there is no direct translation from the original language. So it is critical to increase scripture study and prayer in order to come to clearer understanding. (See and read D&C 1:24)

•2 Nephi 5:21
Read and ask what is meant by “skin” in this passage? Depending on their answers, remind them of the law taught by the Lord to the prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:7. Read the following quote by Bruce R. McConkie given to CES instructors in August 1978, just two months after the revelation extending priesthood to all worthy males:

“Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. We get our truth and light line upon line and precept upon precept (2 Ne. 28:30; Isa. 28:9-10; D&C 98:11-12; 128:21). We have now had added a flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness, all the views and all the thoughts of the past.

Explain that with the additional light and knowledge, we received a new edition of the LDS scriptures 3 years later in 1981, which helped to clarify all that was misunderstood, and if they’d follow each new footnote added, that they will find that there are no loose ends, that all have been accounted for.

Follow new footnote “d” on the word “skin” to 2 Nephi 30:6. As you or a volunteer read this passage aloud, encourage the class to ask themselves individually, “what does the Lord want me to understand about “skin” that He inspired a new footnote to be put on the word and directed me to this passage?

•2 Nephi 30:6
Read and point out that before the 1981 edition, the word “pure” was actually “white”. Then point out the new footnote on the word “scales” and follow it to the bottom of the page where it states clearly that “TG darkness spiritual, TG spiritual blindness”, indicating that the “skin” being spoken of is spiritual and not a literal, physical skin color, which is consistent with everything we’ve covered thus far.

•Jacob 3:8
Read and ask – What is taking place when we are brought before the throne of God? (Judgment) After receiving verbal response, ask if the Lord is going to judge us on our physical appearance? After receiving resounding “no’s”, explain that the skins being spoken of in this passage cannot be literal then, and must be spiritual. Read passage again. Explain that this is consistent with all that we’ve read thus far.

•3 Nephi 2:15
Read and ask class members what does “skin” mean in this passage? Ask them to follow the new footnote on the word “white”, where they will find 2 Nephi 5:21, 2 Nephi 30:6 and Jacob 3:8. Explain again that there are no loose ends. All that made us believe that the Lamanites actually had a darker physical skin than the Nephites, now all have new footnoting or word changes to help us to understand that the passages are actually referring to spiritual darkness or spiritual blindness.

Special note for instructors

It’s important to be spiritually sensitive to your audience when teaching this issue. There will most likely be at least a few who struggle as they attempt to reconcile this new light in the scriptures with all that has been taught on these issues prior. You’ll want to manage your time to leave at least 10-15 minutes for this segment of the class which is design to help adjust the unrealistic expectation for church leaders to be perfect. We have found that the following help to ease their anxiety:

The Lord knew that errors would be made and that leaders would even sin. And if its ok with the Lord, who are we to judge? Christ was the only perfect one to walk the earth and all others must use the blessings of the atonement to overcome our human frailties.

D&C 1:24-28 – "Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding. And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known; And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed; And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent; And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time."

One of the difficult struggles Joseph Smith had came from Saints who were so married to their traditions, that they could not fully embrace the marriage to the Lamb of God.

“I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen [see D&C 121:40].” Joseph Smith

Brigham Young had great concern about the members falling into blind obedience or failing to seek their own spiritual confirmation regarding the pronouncements of church leaders:

“What a pity it would be, if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken the influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.”Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, p. 150

Encourage each class member to study and pray about each of the passages of scripture covered today in order to receive what God would have them know and understand. Remind them of our sacred covenants to help edify those around us and to help share the joy of the gospel with others, and that as they seek the Lord to know these truths, He will fill their lamps with oil that they might light that pathway to the gospel for others. Let them know that there is a wealth of information on the Blacks in the Scriptures website that they can simply read to aid in their study.

Share your testimony of your own personal journey to understand these truths and the witness of the spirit that came to you.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post! I agree with you that we need more compassion and understanding within the church. I am part of a multi-cultural family with 4 siblings adopted from Asia, Africa, and Central America. One of my favorite quotations is from Elder Neal A. Maxwell: "God's second commandment, love thy neighbor, clearly leaves no room for racism." It is amazing to me to see the lack of tolerance and the ignorance present in members, even from my own grandparents. I hope your readers take advantage of these great FHE lessons you have prepared and that we can all learn to love one another a little better.

Hifam said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. Thanks!

Sister B. said...

I'm so very blessed to claim that I grew up in a very cultrually diverse and loving ward. In fact, when I went off to college and visited the nearest ward, I was shocked to see that the entire ward was so white that my dad and brother (who are white with black or VERY dark brown hair and both with farmer's tans that summer) looked like they were mexican or something and were pretty much treated as outcasts. I never went back, btw (though I'm white with blonde hair and blue eyes, I felt very uncomfortable there).

I agree that especially within the church we need to show more compassion. More tolerance. More love to one another. This was a fabulously touching post and I'm happy to share it with my family this week. Thank you for your faithfulness in spite of opposition and oppression and for still loving your neighbors. <3

Simone said...


Sofia's Primary Ideas said...

Anonymous- That is one awesome quote! Thanks for sharing!! And thanks for sharing your experience.

Sister Hifam- Thank you!

Sister B- It's an odd thing where we preach love and then don't show it. :) Thanks for sharing.

Sister Simone- I love you!

Elizabeth-W said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I've been trying to think about what to do about teaching some of these concepts and this is just perfect.
My oldest is just starting to learn about the Priesthood being denied to some men, otherwise faithful. It's a painful concept to her. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how to explain this part of our history to our children, too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for taking the personal risk of sharing this potentially controversial issue. I think that the many colors and cultures of our brothers and sisters make the church a more beautiful place. I'm sure that Heavenly Father feels the same way!

Anonymous said...

I just wanted you to know how fabulously awesome you are! I very much love reading your blog and this makes me love it even more. Thanks for sharing the love!