Summarized by Kent Larsen
LDS author, support group honor Black contributions to Mormon history
BYU NewsNet 28Feb00 D3
By Beverly Beal: NewsNet Staff Writer
PROVO, UTAH -- With Black History Month ending today in the United
States, NewsNet's Beal looked at the history of blacks in the LDS
Church, and discovered that their history is long and interesting.
Beal interviewed BYU professor Margaret B. Young,co-author of the
"Standing on the Promises" trilogy and Darius Gray, president of the
LDS Church's Genesis group, and discovered several black LDS Church
members early in LDS history.
Probably the best known black in LDS Church history is Jane Elizabeth
Manning James, who joined the Church in Wilton, Connecticut and
traveled to Nauvoo, Illinois, where she met the Prophet Joseph Smith.
James then went on to cross the plains and was an influential member
of the Church until her death. LDS Church President John Taylor gave
her permission to do baptisms for the dead, but she was never able to
enter the Temple. She and her brother were given designated seats in
the Tabernacle, however. Last June, the Genesis Group dedicated a
monument to James in Salt Lake City.
Another well-known black in the early Church was Elijah Abel, who was
ordained to the priesthood by Joseph Smith and received some temple
ordinances in the Kirtland Temple. A Seventy, Abel had his
certificate as a Seventy renewed twice, including once in Utah
following the pioneer trek, leading Joseph F. Smith to conclude that
his ordination should continue to be recognized. He served three
missions for the LDS Church before he died in 1884.
Beal's article also tells the story of Green Flake, who arrived in
the Salt Lake Valley as one of three black servants in the very first
pioneer company. All three were LDS Church members and remained
faithful all their lives. "Green Flake worked for Brigham Young for
two years, and Young released him acknowledging that he bought his
freedom by the work he had done," said Margaret B. Young.
While these original LDS Church members stayed faithful, their
children and descendants didn't do so, according to Darius Gray. He
says that this should make our admiration of the original black
pioneers even greater, "The tenacity in the face of adversity,
dedication to their faith is altogether remarkable. They are true
examples of what we should be," he said.