I am a proud conservative republican and Mitt Romney supporter. With the level of vitriol hurled at black conservatives, I was not going to chime in as I think “why bother” sometimes, as this is not my fight. But I have a right to my say and views as much as anyone else. I don’t insult anyone who feels differently, nor do I resort to name calling because I disagree politically with anyone.
Having said that, I am by no means a defender of the Mormon faith but knowing what I know, I could not stand by and let some of the assumptions I have seen go unchallenged. I have been to Salt Lake City several times and have Mormon friends. I stayed with one and her family one weekend and had a blast. They treated me with the utmost kindness and respect. Back then, I found it surprising that they were fans of Bill Cosby and his philosophies because I had heard that Mormons did not like black people. Just throwing that out there for those who think the LDS is nothing but a bunch of racists. I would also like to point out that this publication ran a post on the rising number of black women marrying Mormons, not to mention that said black women are converting to LDS in record numbers. Then we have some black icons who converted to Mormonism such as former Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver, NFL player Burgess Owens, NBA player Thurl Baily and superstar singer Gladys Knight to name a few. I don’t know that they all support Mitt Romney, but they all accepted the Mormon faith.
As an advocate who encourages interracial marriage options for black women, I am always researching early black woman interracial marriages. One evening in June 2009, I was researching blacks in 1800s Utah. I was beyond elated to discover this vintage photograph of George and Lucinda Stevens.
Many of you have seen this photograph on various Internet sites since. The photographed served a noble purpose to prove that black women and white men formed marital unions before, during and after slavery. But it is also significant to blacks in the early Mormon church. Lucinda is actually Lucinda Vilate Flake-Stevens. I had known about Green Flake, a slave who drove Brigham Young’s wagon when they migrated to Utah. He was 15 years old when he was freed by Brigham Young. Green Flake was baptized and became a prominent member of the group. He was the father of Lucinda Flake-Stevens. Lucinda and George met at a Mormon sponsored dance.
Joseph Smith welcomed all into his religion regardless of race. It was only after he died and Brigham Young took over that changes were implemented. See, southern slave owners had money, and southern slave owning converts wanted to keep their slaves. Their money and influence made an impact on how blacks were seen and treated. The changes that came about lasted for decades. But in the beginning this was not so. There were quite a few blacks who achieved the priesthood in the early Mormon church. Here are some of them:
- Joseph T. Ball
- Elijah Abel
- Walker Lewis
- Enoch Levejoy Lewis
- William McCary
- Enoch Abel
- Elijah Abel (II)
- Isaac Van Meter
In addition to Green Flake, there were several other prominent black members including Jane Manning James, Oscar Crosby, Hark Lay, Samuel Chambers, Lynn Hope, Biddy Smith Mason and many others.
A little research would reveal all of this information and more, but it seems that folks just want to make Mitt Romney responsible for all the sins of the racist early Mormon church. I don’t know any Catholic, Baptist or most protestant religions that did not have racists leaders, condone slavery, mistreat or even sanctioned killing of blacks at some point in our Nation’s history. Just look at the “Crusades” that took place 300 years in the name of Christ. Christ sanctioned no such war in His name. It was all political and man made (St. Francis of Assisi, Aquinas, etc.) to further the cause of Catholicism, not Christianity per se. Once Constantine gave the go ahead that Christianity was not OK, then the masses changed their views towards Christians and the fight was on. I know I am breaking this down terribly into modern terms but at 2:30 in the AM, that is the best I can do.
Regardless of one’s political purview, I would hope that anyone with an open mind would not hold Mitt Romney responsible for the sins of the Mormon founding fathers just as you don’t any other candidate running for president. Mormonism turns out to be another denomination. Most Christian denominations hold the Bible as it’s inspirational source for teaching and beliefs. That means that most hold similar views on women’s roles, murder, and Scriptures clearly teach that homosexuality as a sin. Some accept part, all or nothing, so that to me is picking and choosing which part of the Bible one will follow and which one will ignore. Times and people have changed, but the Bible has always been the Bible.
And what about dissent? What governing body is going to allow those that don’t follow its beliefs to be a leader or speak on it’s behalf? People disagree all the time, but most will choose to agree, disagree or leave. People can say what they want to say. It just may not be for a religious board room but again individuals are free to say what they wish. Personally, I like when fraud is exposed, but it is usually not from the board room of particular body. It will be where an audience or general public can hear it. Even then, loyalist who refuse to believe anything negative about their so called “pastor or beliefs” will disavow and keep their beliefs regardless. Let some average member (dissenter) try appealing to the powers that be (if they can even reach them) at any popular televangelist ministry and tell them how much he or she disagrees with their views. I don’t know how far any would get.
My only purpose for adding my two cents worth was to show that the early Mormon church had black members and men in the priesthood. And that those people we not so different than anyone else at the time regarding race considering the racial climate of the time. Change in leadership changed the way things were done and who was accepted. I am not Mormon nor do I accept its teachings, but I do know that if we were all to look into the origins of the religions we practice, we would find things of which some founding members should be ashamed —- if judging by today’s standards. And for those of us in America, we would most find various slave owning members who were possibly the most devout and ugh, faithful.