Marvin Perkins has graciously agreed to answer a few questions from Times & Seasons. Brother Perkins is a Latter-day Saint music producer who is currently the Public Affairs Co-chair for the Genesis Group and who has worked to nurture understanding between African Americans and Latter-day Saints and attack misconceptions. As part of this effort, he has appeared on CNN, among other places. In late 2007, Brother Perkins and former Genesis Group President Darius Gray put out a DVD entitled “Blacks in the Scriptures” that contains four lecture-style scriptural presentations on Blacks and the Bible, Skin Color, Curses, Equality, Priesthood and Blacks as well as a historical look at Blacks and the LDS Priesthood. The DVD confronts folklore and mythology surrounding blacks and the gospel and traces the history of blacks in both the scriptures and the Church. More recently, Brother Perkins has started a Blacks in the Scriptures podcast that is available for free on iTunes and is focused on answering questions posed by those who have viewed the DVDs (to pose your own questions for the podcast, call (214) 615-6044 ext 9209).
On to the 12 Questions… or it least the first question. We’ve broken up our Q&A with Brother Perkins into more manageable chunks, and his first response is worthy of a post in its own right.
(See Parts Two, Three, and Four of the series for Brother Perkins’ responses to our next 11 questions.)
(1) How did the lecture series that ultimately came to be Blacks in the Scriptures come about, how widely has the DVD series been circulated, and what has been the response?
Darius Gray has been a member of the LDS church for over 40 years. I joined over 20 years ago. The restriction on priesthood to Blacks and the myriad of incorrect teachings that resulted from this policy almost kept the two of us from joining the church, and are responsible for turning hundreds of thousands away from the church every year. Having to deal with this obstacle in our own conversion, we have been at work for our entire membership trying to find ways to help those who have ears to hear but are turned away because of incorrect doctrines, as well as those members whose hearts are right, however are unaware of the truths surrounding these issues, thus unable to remove the walls that keep so many from joining. After I was baptized I was excited to find some of the truths that would have helped me get here sooner. I wrote to the First Counselor in the First Presidency at the time, President Gordon B. Hinckley, asking if he could share some of these truths during General Conference. He wrote back encouraging me to start small in my local quorums, wards and stakes and let the message spread in this manner. From this message I went from asking someone else to teach this, to realizing that I would be one of those who would bring it forth.
The more we’d studied, fasted and prayed, the more we learned. The more we learned, the more invitations we’d receive to present firesides and speak on the subject. I served under President Gray during his years as Genesis president, as the Genesis Mission leader and on a special project to help reactivate Blacks Saints in the Utah north area. So though we were closely connected through service, even outside of Utah, we’d never had the chance to present our firesides together until 2005 at the FAIR conference. Prior to the conference I’d received a request to come to the UK to teach my findings. I declined this invitation feeling that the money they’d spend to bring me there could go to better use, and letting them know that I could find a way to teach them this material electronically.
Shortly after, President Gray and I presented at the FAIR conference and had a chance to see how well our presentations were received, and how well they complimented each other’s. I told him about the invitation from the UK and that we had to find a way to bring all of this information to people who couldn’t afford to bring us in or who couldn’t obtain or wait for a fireside to be approved and arranged. He agreed and we immediately began brainstorming there at the conference. We agreed that putting the presentations onto DVD was the most cost and time efficient way to get the message to the greatest number of people world wide. Now, all we had to do was to put the idea to prayer and see what the Lord had to say about it. We set a date to fast and pray, and both received the answer that we should move forward with the work. Now I’m a big believer in the idea that if the Lord really wants you to do something, He makes it pretty clear and leads you in that direction. Well our first order of business was to go through our presentations thoroughly and verify all of our material. Producing this work was intended only to help others, but we were wise enough to realize that there would be critics looking for error as well.
So in the process of doing this I received another level of conversion. I remember speaking to President Gray by phone and him telling me that he’d received a flood of inspiration the night before, it just kept flowing and flowing he told me. I was in my car listening to the scriptures when this happened to me the first time. The inspiration was coming so fast that I asked the Lord if He could slow it down a bit because I was driving. I couldn’t write that fast while I was driving, and shouldn’t be writing while I was driving, and didn’t think I’d be able to remember it all. Then, in addition to putting into my mind certain scriptures, and how they tied into each other and their meanings, came through the still small voice, “this work is of me and I will help you to remember.” And he was true to His word.
On the day of the filming, I realized that we had not seen each other’s enhanced presentations. I thought to myself, the final test will be to see if there is any conflict in material, especially with his “Blacks in the Bible” and my “Skin Color & Curses.” There was not. Everything in both presentations complimented and supported doctrinal and eternal principles beautifully.
The DVDs are now in 16 countries: United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Jamaica, England, France, Portugal, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Those who buy from the website may not be aware of this, but for every DVD set sold, we donate a set. So every set in Africa, Jamaica, Peru and Mexico and Brazil were donations made possible by those who purchased from BlacksintheScriptures.com.
Blacks of other faiths see the DVDs which change everything they’ve ever thought about the Church. It’s an instant bridge that only takes an hour to build, and works better than any effort the church has ever put forth to reach the African American community. It simply takes the wall down that kept them out of the church and teaches them more about Blacks in biblical history than any church, book or preacher ever has. The only question they seem to have is why is it that two Black men are going around clearing up this problem, instead of the Whites who caused it, which is ironic because the Whites of the church think that this is a matter best handled by Blacks.
The overwhelming majority of members who view Blacks in the Scriptures express a gospel changing experience. They see the Plan of Salvation in a much clearer light. They are now grateful to be able to reconcile with scripture the discomfort they’ve felt with the previously taught folklore. In addition, they’re excited to be able to finally understand and explain to neighbors scriptures that are commonly used incorrectly to demonstrate that our doctrine is racist. Some missionaries around the country have shared with me that they avoid African Americans because they know that they’ll have the priesthood/curse questions, and they themselves can’t answer them. Now after seeing Blacks in the Scriptures, these same missionaries are seeking out Blacks to bring them the good news.
Many of the Saints express how embarrassed they are that the answers have been in the scriptures the entire time, yet they didn’t put enough time, study and prayer into them to discover these things for themselves. Many outside the church express a great deal of gratitude that “the Mormons” are finally talking about this issue and they are very pleased and impressed with what they’re hearing. And with the scriptural passage “by their fruits ye shall know them” in mind, Blacks and people of all cultures are joining the church and coming back into the church as a result. Missionaries are experiencing that many who didn’t want to speak with them anymore, now have open doors and have accepted the gospel. The scriptural truths contained in the DVD series, simply fixes one of the church’s largest problems.
And then you have a few that struggle. They’d always been taught that Blacks were less valiant or cursed or not ready etc. They’ve been taught this information by prophets and apostles and had it sustained by prophets and apostles that followed, some by their silence. So this creates two major problems. These teaching grew out of a time where we did not have racial equality, or better yet, human rights. Many grew up believing that they were truly superior to Blacks and this gave them a false sense of self-esteem, which caused them to speak as authorities instead of brothers, and carry themselves with a sense of entitlement. Now that they realize we’re all the same, some feel as though they’ve been demoted in stature and they feel less self-worth.
Then you have those who are not familiar enough with the scriptures or the Plan of Salvation to understand that all prophets and apostles make mistakes. They mistakenly believe that all prophets are to be perfect in the administration of the things of God and because of this, their testimony of the truthfulness of the Church suffers a major blow and they begin to doubt and struggle. After we show them 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.
… and a list of prophets who’ve made errors from the Old Testament to the Doctrine and Covenants they begin to see that their testimonies were weighted too much on the Brethren who are imperfect and not enough on Christ who is perfect, and His restored gospel. With this realization, the shift is made and they become stronger, more productive Saints, now able to help their brother.
Very cool – looking forward to the rest of the series.
This is great, I need to buy that DVD
Thank you for your comments. I am going to buy a copy of your DVDs.
I have a question about whether, when and how you think it is appropriate to bring up the 1978 revelation, and its history, with persons that are investigating the church.
Along with one of the most worthwhile recent projects I’ve seen, its fascinating to get the background. I particularly appreciate your appropriation of Pres. Hinckley’s initial response to you. All of us who have poignantly struggled and then come to grips with some aspect of our church/history–and without at all meaning to marginalize or understate the significance of racial issues in the church, I think most of us have or do go through significant, parallel struggles–can be inspired by your experience. Not only were you personally able to faithfully overcome, but you’ve done so in a way that has clearly built and blessed thousands, and is positively changing the church as a whole. May the rest of us have similar courage, inspiration and success.
Thanks for this. Good stuff. The DVDs should be available in every ward library.
Thank you for all for your kind words. And J, we really appreciate this question.
Every Black investigator will be confronted with this issue, period. Your rate of success in helping them into the church will be determined by who gets to them first, you or our critics. If you get to them first with correct information, when they are brought anti material, most of which is true, then they’ll have a context for understanding it and won’t be phased or deterred. However when, and this is the case with most, we either don’t know or are afraid to bring the issue up, then a family member or friend trying to warn them that we are racists, brings them a wealth of information to support these claims, and the investigators feels they’ve been deceived and that they’ve been naive. We just lost one this way recently when I shared with a Bishop and the missionaries to act first or we’d be on the defensive. They didn’t and a non member friend, trying to keep him from joining, told the investigator about 1978 and he cancelled his baptismal date and now won’t speak to the missionaries or members. They believe what they hear first and defend it against what comes second. We have to get truth to them immediately.
Marvin, I’ve enjoyed your firesides in SoCal and this DVD set.
I have a question about your comment, I thought to myself, the final test will be to see if there is any conflict in material, especially with his “Blacks in the Bible” and my “Skin Color & Curses.” There was not. Everything in both presentations complimented and supported doctrinal and eternal principles beautifully.
Your presentation says that “black skin” in the scriptures is metaphorical, not literal, and you take us through a string of references to develop that point in all the scriptures (including the BoM’s Lamanites). Darius’s presentation accepts the literality of black skin and he then traces biblical genealogy to show Jesus’s black-skinned ancestory.
My question is: how are your metaphorical and Darius’s literal assumptions not in conflict?
Thank you, and this is a good question. As you go back and review the DVD series, you’ll want to pay close attention to Pres Gray’s Blacks in the Bible presention. He never uses the biblical mention a of the word black to establish skin color. What he starts with is a widely held assumption that Ham is Black, and then traces Ham’s family line. Along that line he uses ancient artifacts to show that Ham and his posterity were indeed Black.
Thank you, thank you for engaging in such important work. I look forward to ordering this DVD.
Your unwavering faith and dogged determination to seek and share the truth cannot go for naught. Those of us who believe in what you and Darius have done and are continuing to do must seize the opportunity (and obligation) to embrace your selfless work by lending assistance however we can. I have distributed all of the DVDs I purchased to men who I prayerfully felt would be persuaded by the spirit to spread the understanding you have so intelligently and humbly presented through your media presentations. Everyone in the Church, including our leaders, would benefit from taking all of this in to their bank of knowledge. What a blessing you have brought to all of God’s children. I will be ordering more copies to give away.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your response to the question that was posed. I have the “Blacks in the Scriptures” and found the information contained therin to be a great help in my own personal understanding of some issues regarding race, and I also found the material in the presentations to be a valuable resource for a Fireside that I conducted a couple of months ago under the direction of my Stake Presidency on the 1978 Revelation on the Priesthood. May God bless you in all of your humble efforts as you labor in His vineyard.
The DVD set is also in the Bahamas, so make that 17 countries! (smile) I am so elated that the time has come by the Lord to have some answers on this issue. May the Lord continue to bless you and Dr. Gray as you labor in His vineyard.
Great work, I am hoping we can soon arrange a series of firesides here in UK, process is ongoing to make it happen!
I’ve loved the DVD and all of the comments. I myself am not black, but I do have two black children from adoption. I would love this information to be given to everyone. If we donated a copy of the DVD to the church library, would they accept it? And I also feel that this DVD should be sold in conjunction with the Preach My Gospel material. The Lord’s work would be unstoppable then. You two have been called on an amazing “lifetime” mission. Our prayers go with you!
I have a question in connection with your answer to manean (#8 above). In this reply it is mentioned that “What he starts with is a widely held assumption that Ham is Black, and then traces Ham’s family line. Along that line he uses ancient artifacts to show that Ham and his posterity were indeed Black. ” I disagree with this determination, because Ham is one of the three sons of Noah, and who were white who with their families were saved on the ark. Ham’s wife is Egyptus, who is black, so that is how the blacks survived the flood. Is this not correct?
Thanks for your question Sheridan. We’ve provided quite a bit of scriptural evidence coupled with the artifacts that clearly demonstrate our conclusion. Would you please provide the evidence that leads you to say that Noah and his family were White? Also, as you look at the Hamathites and Cushite artifacts you’ll notice something that will help you to understand that Ham could not have been White. The offspring of Black and White couples are much lighter in most cases than their Black parent and have feature changes, a blend between the two. Look around in society to see living examples of this. Notice that the features and hair of the posterity of Ham have distinct African features and hair.
Also consider the region and the skin color of the people Indigenous to that region. Considering these two facts alone should help. If you’d like more information on this, we have plenty. I recommend listening to the following podcast where we share how skin color changed. We are truly the same, simply different shades of brown.
Blacks in the Bible – Feb 13, 2009
Hey Brother Perkins!
Wow – this thing is way bigger than I had imagined – good for you and for Brother Gray! Based on the results that you have gotten from this work, I think that every mission and ward library should have copies of this DVD to build bridges into the local African American communities within their boundaries. I need to get one for myself. Good for you both for all of your hard work in this calling – may the Lord attend and bless all of your efforts!
Good job, keep up the work, the Lord will bless you. Continue to be a good and faithful servent.
Marvin and Darius, I know you can withstand this seemingly slow process. The number of souls that will be brought to the
Gospel will be so pleasing to the Lord. Thank you for all you have done for my family and the Saints around me, in clearing up unasked questions.
All I can say to all this is W O W !!!!!
You know I love this…knowledge!!!!
this truly have help in confirming that blacks too were there in this work.
But we all know it’s said that a Prophet can never lead us astray.
I am having a hard time reconciling this one.
I joined the Church (LDS) in 2006. We were challenged to read the BOM, D&C, and Pearl of Great Price by Christmas which was 6 months away. On my very first meeting with my Missionaries and ther Guides I spotted a synopsis of the chapter that said that a sore cursing came upon the Laminites which caused them to be cursed with a SKIN of Blakness. The passage also stated that while at first they were “White and delightsome”. The reason, I was later to read, that Gods people were White and that God wanted this disparity because God wanted immediate recognition so that the “distasteful” Black skin would visually make them undesirable to “God’s People”.
I have repeatedly been told that the Blackness was metaphorical and it really meant attitude. In my reading assignment I didn’t consider it so much a metaphor as a paradigm. It further states that the Lamanites (as proof of redemption) to the Nephites that their (Lamanites) skin would turn/return to White.
Another passage bothered me (among many) that when God commanded Enoch to “Gather all the peoples of the earth” to reorganize the church. He was to specifically exclude “the Sons of Cain, for they are Black and had not place among them”.
My problem is this: The deciding factors of Christianity are that one accept Jesus the Christ as the Messiah and that one must live one’s life by the Beattitudes (Matthew 5:, 6:, and 7) nothing is mentioned about Skin tone having any qualitative significance. Having said the above; my personal view is that “exterior” conditions have no place in God’s design for it, a other factors cannot be used for identification of the condition of one’s relationship with the Almighty. It is also my belief that these references should be stricken from our scriptures.
I await your response
Jamie, thank you very much for voicing this concern, which is one that other readers may have, but may not write to express it. You’ve now given the opportunity for us to help those as we attempt to help you.
First, the pattern by which we obtain truth as taught by the prophets and the scriptures in order to obtain a perfect knowledge of all thins, is to study the scriptures, ponder and pray about what we are taught. If each would do this, no prophet could ever lead the church astray.
Also, about 23 minutes into the following podcast, a caller ask that same question and we give more detail. It may help you to feel better about this, which is truly a difficult reconciliation.
Blacks and the LDS Priesthood – April 6, 2009
I’m going to have a date with my wife, then I’ll come back and answer this question. Please grab your scriptures and a highlighter. I think you’ll see these passages in a new light.
As always Mr. Perkins demonstrates the essence of a Latter Day Saint. He has a level concept of the scriptures and an untiring assistance to help new converts to stay focus. Thank you once again for being a friend to me at Cerritos 1st.
Thank you for sharing your experience and posing this question. We cover this thoroughly in the Blacks in the Scriptures DVD series.
The passage you’re first mentioned is 2 Nephi 5:21. As an investigator, I had to put the Book of Mormon down when I read that too. It’s a natural reaction, as is the call to change all the scripture passages that give the same apparent message. But hopefully you’ll see that this is not necessary.
Read 1 Samuel 16:7. In this passage the Lord is teaching the prophet Samuel something he obviously hasn’t learned yet, and is also teaching us in the process, not to judge one’s worthiness by the outward appearance. So if early in biblical history that Lord is teaching this principle, would it make any sense at all that the Lord would later (or earlier for that matter) change someone’s skin color, encouraging man to look on the outward appearance to judge one’s worthiness? No. That would totally contradict what the Lord was teaching us through teaching His prophet.
So with this in mind, you know that any scriptural passage that made you think that the Lord was changing one’s skin color, has deeper meaning that we need to search to understand. There never was skin color changing by God, just misunderstanding of scripture by man. The Lord does not contradict Himself. See D&C 3:2-3.
Let’s go to 2 Nephi 5:21. “ …the Lord God did cause a dskin of eblackness to come upon them.”
First, who do we believe the people being spoken of are? The Lamanites, who we’ve taught are the American Indians. Do they have black skin? No. So that’s the first thing that should cause readers to say “there’s more to this passage that meets the eye.”
Second, take a look at the new footnote placed on the word “skin” which takes you to 2 Nephi 30:6. Ask yourself why are they putting a footnote on this word in the new 1981 edition of the scriptures, and what significance and understanding related to “skin” is contained in the passage they’re directing us to? As you read 2 Nephi 30:6 take note of a few significant things.
1. The passage is speaking of scales of darkness over the eyes.
2. The word “white” and delightsome (pre 1981 edition) has been changed to “pure” and delightsome (1981 edition)
3. A new footnote “b” has been place onto the word “scales” which when you follow clearly tell readers that what’s being spoken of is “darkness spiritual, spiritual blindness”
So the Lamanites never had a skin color change. Every passage that you see that makes you believe they did will have new footnotes leading you back to what I call our 3 favorites on this topic. 2 Nephi 5:21, 2 Nephi 30:6 and Jacob 3:8.
For example, see 3 Nephi 2:15 and follow the new footnote for the word “white”.
The Lord does not refer to His children by their skin color. With a careful study of all of the mentions of black and white as it refers to man, we learn that black is metaphoric for wickedness, spiritual darkness etc,. as white is for pure or righteous and has nothing to do with literal skin color. This includes to passage with the command to Enoch you referred to.
For another really clear example of this, compare 2 Nephi 26:33 with Alma 11:44 where the literal meaning of the words are used in place of the metaphoric. When doing scripture study, follow all of your footnotes and understand what all of the books of scripture say. One cannot get a complete picture from one or two passages.
Let me know if you have any other questions on this.
I strongly agree with Marvin’s point in no. 6. See my post on missionary malpractice per se:
I was asked why the retention rates among blacks and other minorities is so dismal. When I asked the same questions I had posed to you, some were ignored and others were spun to semantics. Another symbolic move was patronization. The insinuation was that because I hadn’t been an LDS for many years and was “only a mere investigator” that I was somehow lacking in intelligence both spiritually and intellectually.
While that may be true in my case, the problem of retention remains. I therefore make the following proposals.
1) assume that there is information is available from over a century of General Authority speeches and authorship in which they have explained the subject of race.
2) assume that when given a counter-intuitive answer to an investigative question that volumes upon volumes exist at the click of a button or key.
3) the present General Authority should pray on expunging all such matters from the Book of Mormon, Covenants, and Pearl
of Great Price. Race is no outward indication of spirituality or lack thereof so “why IS it there”?
4) consider that White and Black are not metaphors but paradigms. “White”, whether descriptive of light or pigment, two, totally opposite sciences.
5) after General Authority has prayed on it and has direction from Heavenly Father then unashamedly state in no uncertain terms the outcome.
6) realize that opinions on what should ne and what this or that means is futile. The only entity that van command understanding is Heavenly Father.
Welcome to a fireside in UK!!
I would love to see firesides on this material herein UK ..and I have suggested it through the PA for UK. HIgh time to air this in a friendly larger group of LDS over here….so I hope we can have some venue here in not too long.
Anyway seems a lot of good comments here and in on the link, I also think it is necessary to invite investigators to search also in relevant material themselves, but to be given an intro to such material and questions relevant to them, to educate leaders about material that may be useful to members on some key issues, and for missionaries to emphasize the attitude of searching without to easily judgement as so many views are raised. Maybe a list should be introduced through the missionaries presenting the member to the functionning LIBRARY fascility in church in EVERY ward, that may have also some material to sell and borrow..that still will be explained to be not necessarily scripture, but usefulk information,educative…..to search from…like the study books on scriptures are, and the book about many religions and the LDS approach. I know in Australia they studied this book in a group. This coordinating of material and access to it, can be really part of the teaching process of missionaries, some basic lessons prepared about some key issues, and clear information about furtehr use of classes, firesides!, LIBRARY info..which then should exist.
Missionary, ward mission leader, LIBRARIAN etc can play a very direct role in securing that material IS available and activated and need only introduce in some depth what is relevant to the particular investigator. It would vary somewhat from backgrounds..beside the standard info. I think a standard lesson on a selection of common misconceptions would have helped the new church members a lot. We all need to learn a short basic intro to church history. Many would be here if we did at an early stage. Upgrading of church 4-year studies must include material on key issues in more depth.
this is a very extensive evaluation of the scriptures which I feel it was an uneccessary cretic of the scriptures, we were not going on blind faith but yes it was faith, I did that same thing that J. Smith tried & yes received an answer & I believed the prophet that received the revelationnts usthe color thing or situation is a thing that happened because that was the way that we in the mtging uptop wanted it to be, the advarsary wants us to do this (cause questioning, unsureness)remember those that are weak in the faith.james1:5