12 Questions for Marvin Perkins, Part Four

Here is the last installment of our 12 Questions with Marvin Perkins, comprised of Brother Perkins’ responses to our last two questions. We’d like to thank Brother Perkins for the time and effort he’s put in to giving us a set of very substantive and thought-provoking responses. You can visit Brother Perkins and Darius Gray’s “Blacks in the Scriptures” website and download their free podcast by the same name on iTunes to continue this discussion (to pose your own questions for the podcast, call (214) 615-6044 ext 9209).

See Parts One, Two, and Three for our introduction of Brother Perkins and his responses to our first 10 questions.

(11) Some people have complained that the Church is being broken down or fragmented by a growing set of grievances, one might even say “grievance groups,” all of which want the Church to yield to their demands. There are secularly oriented intellectuals who feel their voices have not been heard (or even punished); women who claim they have been unjustly relegated to an inferior status; gays who claim that the Church does not understand their issues and has vigorously worked against their efforts to achieve equal rights; African-Americans who do not feel an adequate account has been given for the initial denial of the priesthood to Blacks; and American Indians who feel misunderstood and mistreated. The list could be made much longer. How can we as a Church respond in full faith to these various grievances while remaining positive and committed to the promises and covenants that ties us together?

The fortunate thing about the gospel is that it is made up of imperfect people. The unfortunate thing about the gospel is that it is made up of imperfect people. One can act from his weakness, and because he’s in a leadership position, it is seen as the position of the Church. This has been the case with the persecution of some with grievances.

On the other hand, in my experiences, it appears the Church has adopted a pattern of ignoring some problems instead of dealing with them directly. Yes, they have the power to choose which concerns are heard and dealt with, but this doesn’t make the problems they ignore go away. This reminds me of a story President Hinckley gave in a General Conference session several years ago. He recalled his father noticing a tree was growing at an angle and asked him to go out and secure it so that it would grow straight. The then young Gordon did not follow his father’s counsel and over time the tree grew so large and slanted that it could not be corrected or saved. President Hinckley’s message was that problems left uncorrected only grow into much larger problems.

I have found in my life that groups generally only make demands when their concerns are ignored. In addition I’ve learned that demands most times will produce resistance, not results. Each of these groups you’ve mentioned are worthy of and deserving of having their concerns heard. We, the Church, administer humanitarian aid and compassionate service in impressive amounts all throughout the world, inside and outside of the Church. If we have the pattern of accomplishing this, why would we not extend it to all?

D&C 38: 26 For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?

The women have a valid claim and deserve to have the claims heard and discussed. The end result may not include any changes in the way we administer the ordinances of the gospel, but there are many changes in thought and behavior that can improve their quality of life within the Church.

We could learn a great deal about what gays suffer and how we can help them in their struggles. They deserve to have their concerns heard as we work together with them in search of solutions, without compromising on eternal principles.

In 1847 Brigham Young made the first statements that the Church would stop giving priesthood to Blacks, despite that fact that the Lord commanded Joseph Smith to give priesthood to all who would embrace the gospel. From that time, Blacks have been maligned, from our contribution in the pre-existence, our reasons for being on earth, our skin color, character, lineage, noses etc. Then in 1978, when the Latter-day Saints were sufficiently believing all that they’d been taught over the 131 year span, the restriction is removed, yet none of the of the false teachings have ever been addressed. It’s the equivalent of tearing down the Berlin Wall, but never cleaning up the debris, allowing it to become a stumbling block for millions trying to come into or remain in the Church.

There is such an obvious need for clarification on the Blacks issues that many may not be able to see that there has already been a statement issued. That statement is silence. Why would the Church not speak about this, the most significant development in the Church in the past 100 years? We don’t speak about things we’re not proud of, but this one has much more at stake. Most of the Saints are deeply grateful when they see Blacks in the Scriptures or one of the firesides. They join the Church or come back into the Church or just move forward with a great fire now armed with truth. However, there are others that are shaken by it. Even though our work is positive, scripturally based and delivered with a great spirit, some unfortunately see it, and all they hear is that which they and their parents were taught by leaders of the Church that is contrary to what the scriptures actually say. This is a direct attack on their testimonies and they feel if the leaders were wrong, then the Church can’t be true. Our critics shout the exact same thing saying “If Brigham Young was wrong, then he couldn’t have been a true prophet.” This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The scriptures show us in all of the standard works, the errors of prophets and the acknowledgment of God that they would and do err. Let’s go back to D&C 1:24-28 …

24 Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.
25 And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;
26 And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;
27 And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;
28 And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.

Out of this grows our most common question “what do the brethren say about the scriptures you’ve compiled?” So we have one group, the Saints, who are looking to the brethren to speak before they act to help their brother. Then you have another group, the Church, who has committed to remain silent on the issue. Until one of these two groups realizes the stalemate and is moved to action to help build God’s kingdom, millions outside of the Church will remain outside, and millions inside the Church will be as salt that has lost its savor.

(12) A number of studies and sources dealing with race issues (particularly vis-a-vis Blacks) and the Church have appeared in the past several years, including Armand Mauss’s sociological work; important historical research by a number of researchers including Jessie Embry, Newell Bringhurst and Darron Smith; historical fiction from Darius Gray and Margaret Young; the recent documentary Nobody Knows; and of course, your own work with Brother Gray on scriptural interpretation. What areas in the race-and-the-Church umbrella remain to be explored?

First I have to make a clarification, the Blacks in the Scriptures DVD series does not deal with scriptural interpretation. It’s critically important to make that distinction and understand the purpose for doing so. Scriptural interpretation implies that we are giving our opinions on what certain scriptures mean or could mean, which is not the case at all. What we’ve done is pointed out a wealth of scripture in all of the standard works as they relate to 5 key areas that make up the foundation of the misunderstandings. With over 2 ½ hours of scriptural evidence, there is very little, if any interpretation needed, just the ability to read, common sense and a very basic understanding of the nature of God.

There are a wealth of areas yet to be explored, though I think President Gray and I have unmasked the keystone. All concerned about this issue, in or out of the Church, want to know how Mormons believe God views His children of African descent, what role did Blacks play in Biblical history, is dark skin a curse and was the restriction on priesthood of God or man. These are the issues that keep Blacks out of the Church. We’ve seen that true doctrine understood brings them into the Church.

I recall the story of the building of the Salt Lake Temple when workers found that there were cracks in the foundation blocks. They were forced to take them out and start over, using new stones that were cut to fit together without mortar. So with obvious cracks in the foundation of the teachings regarding Blacks, it is also obvious that with over 162 years of these teachings, we now have a forest of incorrect doctrine being spread and taught. The entire forest needs to be removed with seeds of truths planted in their stead. Many Saints and leaders still incorrectly teach that interracial marriage is not of God, that the Lamanites had a darker skin than the Nephites, and that dark skin is a curse. Church manuals, children’s books, artist’s renderings are just some of the trees of this forest that need to be cut down and replaced with seeds of truth. One of our greatest areas of responsibility would be to the missionaries. They dedicate 18-24 months of their lives to go out and warn our neighbors, delivering the good news. For this labor of love, we have a responsibility to send them out prepared.

Church leaders and auxillaries are in desperate need of training. We still have parents taking their children out of nursery or primary because they don’t want them in with Black kids. We recently had a Bishop refuse baptism to several Blacks families saying that we don’t want to add so many Black families to the ward all at once. We recently had a Stake President say that he doesn’t call Black Bishops because he knows they’ll try to address the Blacks issues. We have an incredible amount of Black single sisters, but very few Black men for them to marry because the folklore and the lack of understanding of these issues has a greater effect of keeping Black men out of the Church. So these faithful sisters tarry alone waiting for their blessings. Black children struggle with self esteem because they don’t have anyone that looks like them in the circles where they spend most of their lives.

So once you get involved and actually go to the forest with your ax or chainsaw, ready to help fix the problem, then you’ll have a better view of the enormous amount of issues yet to be addressed, or trees that need to be hewn down. When a problem is ignored for as long as we have, the work of restitution could take decades. So we really should get to work on it.

D&C 123: 13 Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven—

20 comments for “12 Questions for Marvin Perkins, Part Four

  1. Thanks again Brother Perkins, for your extraordinary efforts in this important area. Hopefully we all can reach a little outside of our comfort zones to do our part to address any misconceptions that may stand in the way of conversion for those the Lord may draw across our paths.

  2. Outstanding series of questions, and equally outstanding answers. There is help here for me in my own stewardship in my ward right now. Thanks, Bro. Perkins and Marc, for this.

  3. What brother Perkins is advocating is revolutionary. For starters, he is calling for a revision of the Book of Mormon.

  4. wonderful work! how can act as this voice of change and call for a foundational overhaul.

  5. Marc,

    Thank you for the opportunity to share this information with so many who want to better understand these issues and how they can help.

    Kevin, thank you and all who have shared kind words and insights.

    Jared, I love that spirit and that fire, but know that the Book of Mormon needs no revisions. We simply need to revise our thoughts and understanding of what is written. If you view all 4 segments of Blacks in the Scriptures DVD series, you’ll have a clearer understanding of what I’m suggesting here.

    The purpose of this wonderful opportunity presented by Marc is to open our eyes to what is, and what needs to be done. If it is not followed by learning the scriptural truths relating to these issues, then millions will continue to be turned away from the church every year, which we will have to answer for.

  6. It is interesting to read this series in conjunction with the series on Margeret Young and Darius Gray’s visit to the MHA conference currently at the By Common Consent blog. One thing I note is that Brother Perkins objects to black saints being expected to address Priesthood ban issues, while Sister Young seems to be concerned that the presentations regarding the ban at the conference were made and attended by white persons. I wonder if there is a disconnect between two perspectives, or if I am missing something.

  7. Marvin–

    I’m all for additional revelation as the Lord reveals His will: For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith.

    The process for receiving additional light and knowledge is established. The Lord’s house, is a house of order. We need to look to those the Lord has designated to bring forth His mind and will. If what you’re bringing forth is from the Lord, then the Lord’s servants need to be on board.

    I’m not saying anything you don’t already know. What say ye?

  8. Interracial marriages are still frowned upon in the church. My own father taught to marry in your own race. Not because he’s a racist, but because it is thought by many that they are harder due to cultural differences. What’s interesting about the whole thing is that the ones that teach or beleive this are in same race marriages. So how do they know interracical marriages are harder? And if its the cultural differences, then different colors of skin shouldn’t matter because a white person from the south and a white person from the north have a significant amount of cultural differences. So if the argument is cultural differences then we should all strive to marry someone in within our own geograpgic region right? I supose germans should only marry germans and irish should only marry irish, and americans should only marry americans. I am a white american, and my husband is a black american. We are both american but it is assumed that our marriage is harder because I am white and he is black. This is not so…marriage is hard no matter who you marry. The conflicts we have had to deal with in our marriage have had nothing to do with what color our skin was. Our cultural differences have actually been the joy of our marriage. Learning about each others history has been fascinating. And my husband gets a kick out of how I act lilke such a “white girl” sometimes. We get our kicks out of making fun with our differences. I think its cute how improper his english is sometimes and his use of ebonics. Its quite humerous to listen to us crack on each other. Conflicts in a marriage has nothing to do with race. I truly beleive that conflicts arise simply from personality clashes not from cultural differences. Just because my husband is hard-headed and stubborn does that mean that all black american men are hard-headed and stubborn. Same-race couples have just as much problems as inter-racial marriages. There will always be conflict in a marriage regardless of what race you come from. I feel it is extremely important for to teach our children to marry who you love without reagards to what color their skin is. You’ll be amazed on what they may be missing out on if you restrict their views on marriage. Thank you Marvin for providing so much information on blacks and the church…it has helped us with the many misconceptions as well. We must all spread the word!!!

  9. Mahana,

    I think this is one of those situations where one may only be able to get a glimpse if they haven’t read or seen everthing as I explained in one of the questions.

    I have no objection at all to Blacks speaking to or being expected to speak to the issue. I just pointed out that non member Blacks make this comment when we teach it in Black churches and the Black community. They wonder why the Whites of the church are not leading this charge.

    I did not attend the MHA and so don’t know Margaret’s exact comments. I do know of her great heart, mind and efforts and stand with her as she being White, answers the concern that those in the Black community have. There is no disconnect.

  10. Jared,

    I understand and appreciate your thought. Mine differs slightly. The Lord’s plan is not set up for us to gain a perfect knowledge of all things from His leaders, but through His spirit. We can only look to perfection to receive perfection.

    ALMA 4:10
    10 And thus ended the eighth year of the reign of the judges; and the wickedness of the church was a great astumbling-block to those who did not belong to the church; and thus the church began to fail in its progress.
    11 And it came to pass in the *commencement of the ninth year, Alma saw the wickedness of the church, and he saw also that the aexample of the church began to lead those who were unbelievers on from one piece of iniquity to another, thus bringing on the destruction of the people.

    Turning to the Lord for truth protects the righteous against times like this.

    Now with that said, let’s turn back to the Leaders of today. They put out the scriptures and made the changes that help us to have the understanding that we now have. Yes, if they verbally spoke to these issues it would be of greater help, or would it simply build greater dependence upon them, which is a current problem. The greater dependence should be on the Lord and His spirit.

  11. Amanda,

    You’re welcome and thank you for sharing. As the Saints study this issue, they will come to understand that the restriction was born out of inequality. All of the teachings that followed sprang out of trying to justify the unwarranted restriction, including the teachings on interracial marriage.

    Your thoughts are correct. A white person from UT and one from NYC or LA are of different cultures. However, when we all focus on our original culture, siblings of the Most High, instead of the cultures we were adopted into on earth, we minimize most differences and grow from the others.

  12. Thanks for the response. I have read all of the questions, but somehow had not picked up that you were just presenting the opinions of others with respect to who serves as messenger. I find the information you present to be valuable, and your call to make it known inspiring.

  13. Jared,

    I recall Marvin mentioning in an interview that he wrote to President Hinckley requesting the issues be addressed and the fallacies be clarified, and President Hinckley directed Marvin to begin with his circle of influence and let the truth grow from there; essentially a grass-roots movement. That direction coupled with Marvin’s statements surrounding the spiritual guidance he received throughout his journey are, in my mind, compelling pieces of evidence that this work is of the Lord and well within the established framework for receiving additional light and knowledge to bring forth truth.

    From my observation, truth can sometimes be spread and subsequent social changes can sometimes be acheived more effectively through grass-roots efforts than from statements and direction delivered by the top leadership ranks of an organization.

  14. I like to think that when the First Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve were unanimous in their views on blacks and the priesthood, the timing was right for social and political reasons, and they took the issue to the Lord in 1978, that the Lord smiled and responded “Yes! And its about time!”

  15. Marvin–

    Thanks for your follow up to my question.

    I wish you the best in what you’re undertaking. And as Kyle says, if this is of the Lord it will come out on top.

    Just one point that I think we as LDS must always remember:

    We have living prophets to lead the church and I thank the Lord for that everyday. This is what sets us apart from all other churches. And as history shows, many churches have been introduced by well meaning people who love the Bible. I understand over a 1000 different Christian churches now, and growing.

    Without prophets we would be in the same situation. Over time, with the standard works as a foundation, and without prophets, many churches would grow and branch out from what now exist, just like with the Bible.

    At some point, LDS apostles and prophets will need to be on board for this grass roots effort to be the real thing.

    Something I experienced many years ago taught me something about the leadership of this church. I interviewed a missionary and a mission president who told me a story about something they personally heard President Lee relate. It was a very powerful story about President Lee’s witness of Jesus Christ. I prepared the history and was ready to submit it to BYU. I picked up the phone and called the First Presidency’s office to ask a question of a brother Watson (in those days you could do that) and ended up with President Hinckley on the phone (about 1980 or so). I told him what I was doing and asked him if he ever heard President Lee tell the same story. He said that he hadn’t. As he spoke to me the Spirit of the Lord told me to drop my project! I had put a lot of work into this and was disappointed, but the prompting was such that I thanked President Hinckley for his time, set back in my chair, astonished at what I had just experienced.

    I dropped the project as I was told by the Spirit. I believe this kind of inspiriation occurs on a regular basis with the brethren.

    I don’t have any idea why the Lord didn’t want my history project to be recorded. But I did gain a special insight into the way the Lord works with his church leaders. These guys are the real thing.

    Again, I wish you the best and will be keeping up with the progress of your work.

  16. Jared–Perhaps it should have been dropped because it was President Lee’s personal and sacred experience that he had shared with a couple of people never intending it to go beyond them. Also, President Lee wasn’t here to verify this story and we’ve all heard lots of LDS folklore.
    But it seems to me that the issue of Blacks and the Priesthood is a public matter, not a personal one and I don’t know why the Church leaders haven’t really addressed it in detail.
    It may be that they simply don’t know anymore than we do about it. Things have a way of just being handed down generation to generation until someone finally asks about it.
    However it is correct to note that the Priesthood was held back from being held by everyone. There was a time when only a Levite, not even the whole tribe of Judah, could hold it.
    The Lord may want to control who has it and then take it to the next group, and so on. It is a sacred power and there are regulations to using it and if it were spread too widely too quickly perhaps that would mean trouble. Don’t know–just
    speculating here!

  17. Marvin,
    I was recently reading in the Discourse of Brigham Young- a question was asked of him, and i am paraphrasing, how is it that he can claim to lead people by inspiration?
    Brigham’s reply was-(paraphrased):
    he does not lead them but inspire them to lead themselves by the spirit of God. That man individually is his own judge and to follow the will of God through the Holy Spirit which testifies of Him.

    How simple is this. He places your personal growth to you!

    This was enlightening and joyful to my soul. For i have always known that I am responsible for my actions not Brigham Young or Joseph Smith weakness’ nor Adam’s transgression. And that I have a duty–to listen to the Holy Spirit which is to teach me of truth through study, prayer and mainly-Faith.

    We as members of the only true church are to ponder first, study second, and to pray always. So if this message that is brought to us is difficult for us to understand or grasp, let the Holy Spirit help you. ” For their works you shall know them, If it be of God”.

  18. Kyle,

    It’s actually a misconception that all of the Brethren were united in the decsion, otherwise the error would have been corrected in 1969 when 13 of the 15 voted to change the policy, or even in 1954 when President McKay stated that it was just policy and not doctrine. I’d really recommend reading chapter 4 of David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism to get a better understanding of the reality of what was going on in church leadership over this issue.

    Jared, we need more Saints like you who are worthy to receive and then follow the promptings of the spirit. I am also with you in my love for the leaders. But I think Cheryl sums it up best with the quote from Brigham Young. One of my biggest struggles as a kid is when I learned that I should love God more than my parents. I could not get my young mind around how the Lord could ask me to love anyone more than my parents, but I knew that I had to do it … to find a way to do it. After quite some time I realized that I could love God more and still have no less love for my parents. I believe that this is what the Lord expects with Him and His prophets. We must keep it in balance with our greatest love for and dependence upon the Lord. This should not diminish our love for the prophets.

    Msg, the leaders know a great deal about this. Speculating can be damaging and misleading and there is no need for it especially when there are resources that shed light on the truths. We must simply make the efforts to exhaust those resources. Once you’ve read chapter 4 of David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism and seen the Blacks in the Scriptures DVD series, your paradigm will change. You’ll also realize that it was not only the Levites who held the priesthood, but had the rights to the temple. Case in point, Moses father in=law, Jethro, was not a Levite, yet he gave Moses the priesthood. This errored thought was one of the many created in attempts to explain the restriction to blacks that should have never been.

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