A Black Man in Zion

Last weekend I attended the FAIR Conference where, among other good speakers, I heard Marcus Martins speak about being a “black man in Zion”. Marcus joined the Mormon church in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1972, a time when the Church did not allow blacks to hold the priesthood. In 1978 when the priesthood was extended to all worthy males regardless of skin color, Marcus received the priesthood and was the first black to serve as a Mormon missionary.

Here are my notes from his talk:

  • The priesthood ban is an “undeniable part of history but an insignificant part of the present”.
  • Blacks have an opportunity to exercise faith that other races will never have.
  • I believe the priesthood ban was never part of the everlasting gospel, but a custom or law in response to a societal situation
  • Priesthood ban not instituted by revelation? “For me this would be enough to explain the ban.”
  • “The ban didn’t prevent me from receiving blessings”
  • The Nephi-Sam continuum: “To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know…” while “to others it is given to believe on their words” (D&C 46:13-14). Sam apparently didn’t experience what Nephi did but he believed Nephi and was blessed.
  • We must ask ourselves: Am I faithful, obedient, loyal?
  • The 1978 revelation extending the priesthood to blacks helps fulfill D&C 1:20, and was another step in “restoration of all things”.
  • The lifting of the priesthood ban parallels the extending of the Gospel to the Gentiles in biblical times.
  • It’s His Church. He can do whatever he wants with it.
  • Time is a time for activity, not activism. All I want to do is serve in the Church.
  • We can teach the past without opening wounds.
  • There’s so much war and hatred and people who can’t let go of past prejudices. They should follow the counsel of Paul to be an “example of the believers”.
  • My experience is a result of my ancestors being brought to Brazil as slaves by others of my ancestors
  • Joseph in Egypt (a symbol of the Savior) also sold as slave and knows what it’s like
  • Someday I will have thrones, principalities, and dominions
  • In 1973, President Kimball met with my father (Helvecio Martins) and told him that if he remained faithful, he’d receive all blessings of the Gospel. He repeated the promise at the laying of the cornerstone of the Sao Paulo temple in 1977.
  • Should Church apologize so we can move on? I don’t think so. No apology needed because the ban was not instituted by Revelation.
  • President David O. McKay considered lifting the ban but received “not now”. Harold B. Lee also received a “not now”.
  • If Lord took away the priesthood again, I wouldn’t have to hometeach! (Just kidding)
  • Some people still harbor racism.
  • The ban wasn’t racist but it was a religious justification for racism in some members.

Additional reading:
The Need for Greater Kindness, by President Gordon Hinckley
BlackLDS.org, a website dedicated to black members of the Mormon church
Black Latter-day Saints: A Faith-FULL History
FairWiki: Blacks and the Priesthood