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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Blacks In The Church: Marvin Perkins & Darius Gray

by Seattle Jon (bio)

With most of today's media bandwidth seemingly taken up by Mitt Romney and Joanna Brooks (go Mormon Girl!), the continued effort by African-American Latter-day Saints to gain membership momentum despite our church's racially fraught history hasn't gotten enough attention (in my opinion). Two members of the church, Marvin Perkins and Darius Gray, who are also members of the church's Genesis Group, are trying to change that.

As background, from the 1830s to the mid-1800s, the church liberally extended priesthood to all worthy males without regard to race or color. Then around the mid-1800s, the church instituted a policy of restricting black male members from holding the priesthood (and serving missions or participating in temple work) that would last until 1978, when the practice was abolished. During this time, in an attempt to justify the new restrictive policy, many inaccurate teachings grew within the church regarding skin color, race and equality. In 1978, the church announced that a clarifying revelation had been received and the priesthood was once again made available to all worthy male members of the church.

Though the practice of restriction had been discontinued, the myriad of issues created by the policy, including the inaccurate teachings, misunderstandings, thoughts and some behaviors which grew from the policy, still exists among the membership nearly 34 years later for the simple fact that they have not been addressed and corrected. Therefore, issues of equality and race related to the church continue to surface.

As already mentioned, Perkins and Gray are trying to provide some much-needed clarity now that the topic is being made prominent on the national stage with Mitt Romney's campaign for the Republican nomination. In 2007, they teamed up to create a four-part DVD set to tackle many of the most vexing race questions in the church (read T&S's 12 questions for Perkins here). In the DVDs the two deal straightforwardly with the myths surrounding scriptural references to skin color and curses and past practices related to equality and the priesthood.

In addition, Darius Gray has recently co-produced/directed a documentary with Margaret Blair Young titled Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons. The documentary recently aired on the Documentary Channel and will also be shown tonight at Brigham Young University in the Harold B. Lee Library auditorium as part of Black History month.

Be sure to come back tomorrow, as Brothers Perkins and Gray will be giving away a Blacks in the Scriptures DVD set to one of our readers.

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