12 Questions for Marvin Perkins, Part Two

Here is Part Two of our 12 Questions with Marvin Perkins, comprised of Brother Perkins’ responses to our next four questions. See Parts One, Three and Four for our introduction of Brother Perkins and his responses to our other questions.

(2) At an event featuring Darius Gray last fall, Gregory Prince mentioned that the DVD was shown to the missionaries in his son’s California mission. To your knowledge, has the DVD frequently been used to train missionaries and/or leadership in this way?

It most certainly has. Many mission presidents around the world have embraced Blacks in the Scriptures. One of the statements we’ve grown accustomed to hearing is “we get these questions all the time and because we don’t know how to answer them, we’re losing Black families who would otherwise get baptized”. One of the Presidents shared something that really stuck with me. He said “not only does this give us the answers we need to be successful, but we don’t have to be experts on the subject to teach it. Because they’re on DVD it allows us to just show the DVDs, and the investigators receive a consistent message each time, while we learn as well.” I’ve even been invited in to a number of missions to teach all of the missionaries there. This format gives them an opportunity to ask questions specific to what they’re encountering.

(3) In your personal study and in developing these DVD presentations, how has your research regarding these issues influenced your approach to scripture in general, not merely scripture regarding blacks, because it’s obviously no simple thing to undo centuries or generations of assumptions about certain passages?

The passages “seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you” and “unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God” have been verified to me as truths from on high. I know that there are answers to every gospel related question that I may have, in the scriptures.

The Blacks issue almost kept me from joining the Church, seeing that not one member, missionary, mission president, seminary or institute teacher, Bishop, Stake President or Area Seventy could explain Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price scriptures that appeared to me, an investigator, to be prejudiced. This only confirmed in my mind that the Church was one big racist organization, which is a natural reaction to any who are being honest with themselves.

Shortly after I joined, I remember being in a priesthood leadership meeting in the Irvine, CA stake. Elder Robert D. Hales was teaching us and he said something along the lines of “there is an answer to every one of your questions, in the scriptures”.

I positively question and test everything, no matter who it comes from, the prophet or any neighbor. The Lord has given each of us a gift by which we can know all truths, and by questioning and testing, I always know for myself. So this was a defining moment for me to test that counsel of the Apostle which I’ve found to be true. One of the ways I put that counsel to the test was on this Blacks doctrine. Facing the priesthood, skin color and curses issue has been one of the most trying, humbling, and defining experiences of my Christianity. I knew that I was not cursed, but I went to the Lord, telling Him that if I am cursed and He tells me that I am, I can handle it. So I was willing to accept whatever was true, I just needed to hear it from Him. He confirmed to me that I was not cursed and showed me in His scriptures where man has misunderstood and misused what is written, to the point where He had to chastise them.

D&C 3:6 And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men.

So it was the scriptures that freed me from the bonds of my own ignorance and that of others. I now see the scriptures as an incredible treasure chest, with many layers that will reveal to me the mysteries of God if I demonstrate to Him that I’m willing to diligently seek, act upon what He gives me, and act responsibly with what He reveals, as I move about my brothers in sisters seeking to build His kingdom. I also see the scriptures as a divide that determines one’s ability to maximize his or her effectiveness in administering the things of God. We all can obtain a pretty good snapshot of eternal truths by reading a passage or two of scripture, but in order to truly understand the things of God, the deeper mysteries and complete pictures are revealed to me when I know what all of the books of scripture say, from Old Testament to Pearl of Great Price. This truly gives me the bigger picture. So after this project, I realized that to truly understand any gospel principle I must study the voice of the Lord and of all of the prophets, from Adam to President Monson. Out of these collective voices will arise all truths.

4) In the past, scripture has been used by some to push back against the claims of various minorities, including women, various racial, ethnic and religious groups, and those advocating for alternative sexual and marital practices. Today, we often like to give a liberal reading to the scriptures, focusing on all of the tolerant verses while ignoring the seemingly intolerant ones. In your reading of the scriptures, how have you sought to deal with this? Has your research led you to insights concerning any other groups that feel aggrieved?

In my research I’ve only sought to deal with truth, find out what is true and embrace it. I have three agendas; serve the Lord, seek truth and help others. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve learned that the key to understanding the will of the Lord is through hearing all that He’s said, and all that His prophets have said. This is why we have scriptural accounts dating back from the first man up until present day. There were times when I’d take a passage or two that fit what I wanted to believe, and was afraid to read more fearing that if I did, I might run into something that brought an entirely different meaning to the topic than I wanted to hear. I could never get comfortable with this approach which lacked integrity. I could hide from or deny the truth, but that wouldn’t change the truth. My purpose has always been to be able to go back and live with God when this life is through. Using scripture irresponsibly to suit worldly comforts, victories and pursuits is simply choosing the treasures of the world over treasures in heaven. So I only seek after truth, whatever it may be.

It’s likewise easy for some groups to find scriptural passages to support their causes, whatever they may be. However, if you listen to the voice of the Lord and all of the prophets, past and present, and all scripture, on any given subject, out of these voices will arise a consistency of eternal principals that leave no doubt as to what the Lord would have us do. Invite any of the groups you’ve mentioned to the table with the purpose of searching all of the scriptures in quest of a solution for each grievance, and you’d leave the table with more solutions for those who have valid arguments, and fewer grievances from those who realize their desires are contrary to the commandments of God.

My research has led me to insights of some of the grievances of other groups. Some of them have valid arguments and deserve a seat at the table to find resolution. Some of them are so obviously not in keeping with the commandments of God, that the fact that they’ve been given so much support or attention is a great indicator that we are truly in the last days.

(5) How have you seen attitudes among African Americans toward the Church change in the more than twenty years since you first joined? How do you think the Church and its membership is doing in the effort to reach out to the African American community?

African Americans are more convinced now that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a discriminatory Church than they were twenty years ago. There are a couple of reasons for this. One reason is because of the great ease of sharing information via the media, internet, email, YouTube etc. Our critics have a wealth of documented information flowing through these channels to justify their claims. Another reason is because the Church has chosen not to talk about this subject after 1978. The African American community has been waiting for over 30 years for the Church to clarify over 162 years of incorrect teaching regarding our race, but the Church remains silent. This position has also created a body of Saints and missionaries, teachers and leaders who are completely unaware of how to answer the “Blacks” questions, arguably the biggest thorn in the side of the Church. This means not only are they unaware of the truths, but they’re still teaching error, tarnishing the reputation of the Lord’s Church every single day. It’s amazing when you think that we, ourselves, are giving the most sacred organization on earth, a racist reputation. I just can’t imagine how the Lord can be pleased with this.

Let’s look at the impact of ignoring this issue. As reported in April 2009 General Conference, we have 52,494 missionaries in the field. Let’s be conservative and say half of those are in areas where they run into Blacks on a daily basis, and actively tract five days per week and each have a chance to speak to just one Black individual per day. So that’s 26,247 missionaries or 13,124 companionships. Remember this is extremely conservative, and with these numbers, this would mean that every week, 65,620 Blacks ask missionaries questions they can’t answer regarding the Blacks issues, which in turn confirms in their minds what our critics and history are saying about us being discriminatory, thus turning them away from the Church. So with the missionary program alone, this equates to us convincing over 34,122,240 Blacks every year that we don’t care enough about them or our errors and inequality to learn, speak about and clear up all of the incorrect teachings that keep them from joining the Church. It also sends the message that we don’t practice what we preach when it comes to repentance. Now add in all of the Whites, Latinos, Asians, Polynesians and other cultures who are asking the same questions of the missionaries. Then add the members who receive these questions themselves in the workplace, neighborhood etc, and the numbers of potential eternal families being turned away from the Lord’s true Church by those who’ve covenanted with Him to do just the opposite, become astronomical.

We’re working right now with an investigator in Las Vegas who loves the Church but has been brought an incredible amount of information demonstrating our inequality towards Blacks from her family and friends. This is a typical scenario with nearly all Black investigators in the US and abroad. She’s pleading with the members and missionaries for any information that will help her to understand what is true and is receiving an overwhelming amount of silence, and no answers. Not until she found the BlackLDS.org and BlacksintheScriptures.com websites did she feel any hope that she could ever join the Church, and is feeling her baptism will be soon.

In my experience, the Church in general is content with ignoring the African American community and these issues. They’ve somehow grown comfortable with the deafening silence caused by the non existent Black presence in their wards and stakes. I guess everybody sees it as somebody else’s responsibility, and if a ward happens to have a Black family move in, or baptize one, there seems to be an attitude of “ok, we’ve got one, and this shows that the Church is truly for all.”

There are groups and individuals however that are doing an incredible job to reach out to African Americans. Many areas in the country have tremendous public affairs efforts that are building bridges to the Black community, which efforts include family history conferences. Some of these areas are Los Angeles, the Bay Area in CA, Washington DC, Georgia and St. Louis just to name a few. Other truly inspirational endeavors are coming from Darius Gray and Margaret Young with their trilogy on Black Mormon Pioneers, the new film Nobody Knows – the Untold Story of Black Mormons and consistent national speaking engagements. The Genesis Group, FAIR, the BlackLDS.org board, Armand Mauss, Darron Smith, Dana King, Ellie Awak with her Black Latter-day Saints Facebook community, Amethyst Legree with her Black LDS MySpace community, Genesis-like groups in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, Norfolk and other areas along with Bishop Fred Bethel, myself, the Coordinators of the African American Outreach Program and others are just a few putting forth consistent efforts to reach the Black community at large.

Many Saints across the country are going to their Stake Presidents and arranging “How to Reach African Americans” fireside presentations. Bishop Fred Bethel of Ft. Lauderdale was one of these. He was very concerned that we didn’t have a Church program that provided the continued support needed to ensure success in the Black community. So he, inspired by the success the Kenyan missionaries were experiencing using the Blacks in the Scriptures DVD series, came up with the idea for the African American Outreach Program which we launched in February of 2009. Twice per month, on the odd weeks, outreach coordinators throughout the country invite members to come and view one segment of the Blacks in the Scriptures DVD series and are encouraged to bring just one African American of another faith with them. In this manner, both the member and non-member are learning scriptural truths on the issues. In addition, the members have a chance to see the impact of these truths on non-members and become converted to the inspiration of this member oriented proselyting program as counseled by President Monson and Elder L Tom Perry in the April 2009 General Conference. At the end of each class, there is an opportunity to call in questions to our message line. We answer these questions on our podcast on the Saturday of the even weeks of the same month and archive them on the iTunes music store.

Also, some are quite surprised that participants of the African American Outreach Program will even go out into the Black community making street contacts and knocking on doors. We have generated 61 referrals for the missionaries so far this year, had 21 baptisms and 8 reactivations. We recently taught a set of missionaries how to be successful with African Americans, and they came back after just four days reporting that they are actively teaching 16 families because of their new approach.

Matt. 26: 40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?

So if the Saints would simply “watch with us for one hour” by joining us in addressing this epidemic, we’d be able to easily double if not triple the convert baptisms each year and put this problem behind us once and for all. Problems ignored don’t go away, they only grow larger.

10 comments for “12 Questions for Marvin Perkins, Part Two

  1. It’s very refreshing to talk about these important subjects. Thanks to Mr. Perkins for sharing your wealth of experience and knowledge.

  2. I agree that our Church continues to have a problem with respect to perception in the African-American community. I also agree that white anglo U.S. LDS, as a group, have not been as welcoming and supportive of African-Americans who investigate or join the Church as we could be. As my parents pointed out a few years ago in a letter to their stake presidency, many African-Americans felt tolerated by the predominant white anglo LDS community in the stake, but not embraced. I think that was true where they lived, in a mid-Atlantic state, and has been true in other places where I have resided.

    I am hopeful that one day clear official statements will be made disavowing racist teachings previously taught by some Church leaders. I think there are a couple of things in the way: 1. such a disavowal might remind members that Church leaders are fallible in their individual teachings–which might undermine loyalty, and 2. I doubt there is unanimity among the Brethren as to which of the previous teachings were in error and which were correct.

  3. A note to brother Perkins:

    A few years ago, a black missionary in my ward came over for dinner and at one point he pulled me aside and confided that he was really struggling with things he had heard surrounding the priesthood ban. He was distraught to the point that he was losing his faith and was likely to leave his mission. He asked if I had any answers beyond what he had heard, and I printed off a copy of one of your talks from the FAIR website and gave it to him. He took it home and read it, and the next time I saw him, he was absolutely radiant. He told me he had read the talk over and over again, and was keeping it at his bedside to read almost nightly. He stayed in the faith and stayed on his mission, and he was a fantastic missionary in our area.

    Thank you for what you do.

  4. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I am also a black female who has been a member for over 25 years. I have raised my three children to know and to love Heavenly Father and the Lord.

    I had been faced with the ignorance that Marvin speaks of; if you are black, so have you to some degree. But because we joined the Church because of our love for Heavenly Father and the Lord, we have been blessed to overcome this ingorance because of our faith in them.

    “Where much is given, much is required”.

    The time is now that all faithful men and women to learn and humble themselves before the Lord and his words and to teach with that same humility.

    Thank you Marvin, Darius, and Bishop Bethel for giving that what is required because that which was given unto you.

    I love you all.

  5. Hi all,
    I have followed the information Marvin perkins has sent out through his links. I think it is all good and I hope now the new seventy in the church especially will get into this information and that it may be also spead generally through leaders..for example an indtoductory statement from the Brethren on this matter, now it is tried and tested.
    I think a great job has been done here, and it is time more and easily accessible structure is set up to integrate it into the church programs on Sunday as well as more firesides spread all over the world. And to become a standard information for missionaries, not in its full content, but a kit for being used, and adapted to church programs’ template. (Short in some programs longer more in depth in others.
    Also I would like the brethren comment on this somehow. It is all good, and I feel it should also be recognised more generally to all.
    Have a NICE weekend.
    Synnove Ellingsen

  6. Issues involving “the status of ‘Blacks’ in the Kingdom” like many other questions facing members of the Church today reveal what – at the core — it means to be a follower of Christ. It reminds us that mortality was not meant to be comfortable, nor does it involve the pursuit of some abstract version of the “truth” designed to satisfy our curiosity for logical puzzles. It is rather a test that challenged us to ‘become like the Father” where our being in the truth in every aspect of how we humbly embrace and respond to the whole of God’s creation. Mortality brings committed believers to not only open up their hearts and souls to the light, but to actually become a “living expression of the true and the good.”

    Wrongly addressed, such issues almost inevitably lead to defensiveness, arrogance, cynicism, the loss of testimony and a self-righteousness and judgmental manner reflecting the desire to win rather than serve. Correctly embraced the same questons can just as easily draw us beyond ourselves to a more genuine understanding and practice of the Lord’s teachings.

    What I appreciate about Brother Perkins’ efforts is that they have welcomed the challenge as a way of exploring paths that God has placed before him. He does not avoid the seemingly difficult questions, which would reflect “bad faith,” but rather “positively questions.” At the core of such questioning is not dark, corrosive and self-interested doubt or skepticism, but a desire to explore, as Gadamer points out, “that which is still open to question.” it is an invitation to discover “further light and knowledge.” led by a broken heart and sincere love of the good such faithful questioning believes that God will show us the way, if we open ourselves to the “living truth.” Brother Perkins has pushed aside the temptations of self-pity, victimization and retribution in order to expose a clearer path to a right relationship with God and with His children. The result is an understanding and a life practice that serves all of us, removing stumbling blocks so that we can similarly “walk in the truth and light” of the Living Gospel.

  7. This was a great post for me. Lots to think about. We only have two black families in our ward, and I have been really dwelling on this subject lately. So many trouble in my heart. I had no idea this resource existed. I cannot wait to pass on the information.

    Thank you very much.

  8. Is there a way we can persuade our General Authorities to speak
    about this in General Conference? I would also like them to specifically address that one can be a good member of the Church and be a Democrat as well. There’s too much division among the Saints as far as I’m concerned and I think these are
    worthy topics for a GA to give a entire talk on–not just touch on it in some talk but a whole talk on the issue.

  9. In reply to msg’s comment about the General Authority speaking on this issue. Yes, there is a way, by prayer and fasting.
    I had a concern about abuse, practiced by priesthood holders, and wondered why the Prophet had not spoken out on this and denounced this horrid behavior? That following General Conference, the Lord sealed my faith and testimony of His Church being lead by him. President Hinckley spoke out rebuking all priesthood holders who practiced this. Please keep in mind that the Gospel of Christ is truth. All who listen with humility and practice- line upon line. precept upon precept, will follow God’s plan. Not man’s. This is the weeding out process. “Choose ye this day whom ye shall serve.”

  10. Thanks Brother Perkins, I have been reading the answers to Questions Part I and II. We have the DVD out to a member who is Black and is an exemplary member here with a recommend. One of her friends is looking at the DVD as well. The idea to have an Outreach Program with the Bishop’s consent will be discussed with our young Elders and then we’ll approach the Bishop. Appreciatively, Elder Jedin

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