Black Mormon: Different, but Yet the Same
Keith L. Brown is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and serves as the Ward Mission Leader in the Annapolis, Maryland Ward
My name is Keith Brown. My heritage is predominantly Methodist, but I was born and raised as a Baptist. I am 52 years old, a 30-year retired United States Navy veteran, an Office Administrator by trade, an amateur writer, a brother, an uncle, a friend, and I am a Mormon. To be more specific, I am a Black Mormon. I was baptized on Tuesday evening, 10 March 1998, in Reykjavik Iceland while serving on active duty.
The fact that I am Black and a Mormon should not be a major issue; however, there have been a few instances when some family members and friends have asked why I decided to become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (errantly called by the media, the Mormon Church). They do not understand why a Black person such as me would want to be associated with a Church that some people view as being prejudice and racist.
The reason some people feel that The Church of Jesus Christ–the Savior’s re-established Church on earth in our day (sometimes called the Mormon Church) is prejudice and racist is because from 1848 until June 1978 men of African lineage were not allowed to hold the Priesthood. What these people do not realize is that not being able to hold the Priesthood was more of a lineage issue than it was a racial issue. Research does show that if it could be proven that a white male at that time had any African lineage, he would have also been denied the Priesthood. Another important fact that is often overlooked is that even though Black males could not hold the Priesthood for a time, the number of Black members, male and female, continued to increase. As there was no official statement ever released by the Church as to why males of African lineage could not hold the Priesthood, Blacks faithfully believed the Church to be true and that in the Lord’s due time those who were being denied the Priesthood would one day be able to enjoy the full blessings thereof.
And so with that knowledge, of all the churches that I could have become a member of, why did I choose to become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“Mormon” Church)? The long and short of it all is that while I was a member of the Baptist church, even though I was in leadership positions and was studying and teaching the Gospel, and learning new and exciting things, I always felt that there was a piece of the puzzle that was missing. My soul yearned to find that missing piece. Within my heart of hearts I felt that there was so much more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the eternities that I could learn and know about. I had questions that I knew the Baptist church could not answer for me.
When I began investigating the Mormon Church my eyes were opened, and I was able to learn about some of those things that I long had questions about. The missionaries that taught me introduced me to another volume of Scripture – the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. I will admit that at first I was a little skeptical that there could be more Scripture. I had read the Bible in its entirety 6 times at that point, and as far as I was concerned the Bible was the only Scripture that was needed. Yet, there was something different about this Book and within me I knew that I had to find out what was contained in its pages. As I began to read and study the Book of Mormon for myself, I soon came to the realization that it is not a volume of Scripture to replace the Bible, but that it indeed compliments the Bible perfectly and helps to illumine my understanding of certain things. The Book is exactly as its title claims it to be – Another Testament of Jesus Christ. I had told the missionaries that I would not make a decision about being baptized until after I had read the entire Book of Mormon and had earnestly prayed about it. I did just that and received confirmation that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the Church that I should join as it is here that I would obtain knowledge of the fullness of the Gospel and find answers to the questions that I had been wondering about.
That was a little over 13 years ago. Since becoming a member of the Church, I can honestly say of a certainty that the Church is not prejudice or racist. Since the first time that I walked through the doors, I have felt nothing less than a welcoming spirit and an atmosphere of acceptance. I have been able to serve in several areas of leadership and to participate in many activities in the Church without the least degree of concern in regards to my race. There is absolutely no one who judges me because of the color of my skin, nor am I ever denied any privileges of the Gospel because I am Black. I have in the past and continue to this day to enjoy the full fruits thereof. There may be some differences between me and some of the other members because of heritage, culture, and background, but in the grand reality of things, we are all children of our Heavenly Father, working towards the same goal of one day returning to live in His presence for all eternity. Therefore, we may be different in some respects, but yet we don’t allow those differences to separate us, but rather we are united as one big Heavenly family.
See Keith’s Mormon.org profile.
To read a Bible devotional from Keith, click here.