Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » In His Own Words: Gabriel Gomes Fidalgo, 2012
 


In His Own Words: Gabriel Gomes Fidalgo, 2012

By: Gabriel Gomes Fidalgo - March 02, 2012

Thanks to KerBearRN for arranging for this guest post.

Being the Villain in a Racist Fairy Tale

My name is Gabriel Gomes Fidalgo. Call me Gabe. I was born three weeks overdue on January 8th, 1987 in a little French town called Haguenau in Alsace near Germany. My parents were teachers in a traditionalist Catholic private boarding school and had moved there as a young married couple to flee from persecution.

You may wonder what persecution were they running away from in the 1980s? My dad is black and my mom is white. That is self-explanatory.

I realized at a very young age that I was different. My mom told me one day I was playing with her and I put my hand on her face and, amazed, I said “But I am brown!” It was exciting! I can perfectly remember my mom combing my afro while I was staring at the cows in the field near our house. I loved cows, I still do. When people ask me why, I simply respond that it is because they are black and white just like me.

When I was almost 4 my parents moved back to their hometown, the not-so-cosmopolitan city of Marseille, in southern France. I bonded with my Italian grandparents who were opposed to my parents’ wedding and my Cape Verdese family who never really cared. I have the coolest aunts and uncles and am very thankful to my Heavenly Father to have given me such a beautiful family and such a rich family history, but that is another story.

When I was 5 my dad met the missionaries and was baptized within months; my mom was baptized a year after. I remember going to Primary one Sunday and having this kid tell me that black people were cursed. Very young but very aware of what being black is, I just asked him what he meant. The Primary teacher who overheard the conversation (and who was also his mother) came to back him up and told me that God punished Cain with a black skin and that black people’s ancestors are cursed because of sins and so on and so forth, but her husband, a former stake president, could explain it better. I remember exactly what I felt this day: Nonsense.

I told my parents and they told me that it was wrong, but they never talked to me properly about it. I found myself in that same situation many times in my childhood.

When I was 10 my dad was called as a bishop, the first ever black bishop in the stake and I believe the second in the whole of southern France. I grew up being the bishop’s son.

I grew up in an area where skin color mattered. Blacks, Arabs, Italians, Spanish, we all knew where we were from and why we were here. Our parents or grandparents had left their homeland to come and build or rebuild France. We were proud of who we were and laughed about our differences, we laughed all the time about our differences. But being an Afro-European LDS, I didn’t get to do that because I was the only one. So one day I just asked my mom, “Mom, why aren’t there so many black people in the church?” and my own mother said the most shocking thing I heard at the time: “Because, unfortunately, it is a church for white people.”

The years passed. I grew up met many black youths like me across France, but we never spoke about our situation as black LDS. I remember white kids calling us “thugs”or “bad boys” just because we were from different areas and had different clothes on. I was young, silent and observing, wondering where that racism was coming from.

It was only late in my teens that I discovered the priesthood ban. I tried to get details about it, I asked my parents. To sum up the detail I got, I shall write that I heard that I shouldn’t worry, it’s the past. Black people were cursed but it’s ok now. Abel and all his offspring have resurrected… So I decided to give up and just hold on to the small testimony of the Book of Mormon I had.

When I was 19 I was called to serve in the glorious England London South Mission, where I served under the amazing President Jeffrey C Swinton and his wife Heidi Swinton. As every returned missionary does, I’ll say that it was the best two years of my life, and so on and so forth. However, I was deeply attacked on the racism front at the beginning of my mission. Some elders were holding racist comments in front of me about our African investigators. I remember this Zone meeting where to describe Africans this Zone Leader used the term “Lazy Africans.”

I remember trying to seek answers to why black people were denied the priesthood and why is there such a racist vibe against us, but people warned me to not seek for things that would destroy my testimony and that I should just go on with the present and the future. So I read everything I could find about it, from Mormon Doctrine to Brigham Young’s talks about black people. I found books in the LDS bookstores, in missionary apartments. I read everything I could find. I never found any doctrinal point in the scriptures, nor any logical explanation in books. I just found racist statements and mere theories.

I came to the conclusion that it was man-made. I focused on my mission and on being a good example to my white friends from Utah who had never seen black people, so that perhaps their view on us would change.

Time passed. I came back home and eventually I met the girl of my dreams. She’s awesome and she’s from Switzerland. We’ve had hard times, her parents not accepting our relationship for different vague reasons and refusing to meet me or to talk to me, but one day at a church activity to which I went in Switzerland I understood why. Their looks and attitude just gave me the answers I needed. Months after her mother spat it: “You know that church leaders told us to not get married with people of other colors.”

It wasn’t a surprise for me. I knew all along that it was a problem, maybe not THE holdback but still a stumbling block.

How long will we suffer from misconception? How long will the church remain silent? How long will we act like the bad has been done but we can’t do anything about it?

Truth needs to be said. Brigham Young said what he said. As one of these mixed-race children who ought to be terminated, as he said, I want the right things to be taught today. I want everybody to know that Joseph Smith ordained black people to the priesthood, I want everybody to know that when he died the church turned its back on those faithful black priesthood holders.

I want things to change and minds to evolve. I don’t want to be identified as a less valiant spirit, a fruit of iniquity, a descendent of Ham, a garment stealer, a murderer’s offspring.

I want to be able to interact with people without prejudices involved, and if I want to marry a white girl I don’t want to have to face people who will judge me because I am different.

I believe that I was taught the same principles, the same Gospel, and I took the same bread and water every Sabbath day that any other white Latter-day Saint did. I deserve to be treated and seen as a regular Latter-day Saint. No pity, no nurturing, no feeling of superiority should be involved in any interactions with other members.

The priesthood ban was a gross error that has impacted and destroyed the life and testimony of many. Even if the Church holds a strong anti-racist position now, no apologies have been made. The lack of revelation isn’t a reason. I believe revelation is not needed when you understand that the Gospel is about perfect love and unity as ONE.

I am Gabriel Gomes Fidalgo and I know that Jesus is my Savior. I know that Joseph Smith is the prophet of the restoration. And I know that this Church is the Church of Jesus Christ.

No one will make me change my mind. I was called a hippy or a rastafari many times to say that the gospel really is about one love and one unity. I’ve grown up seeing the church as a racist paradise, where racial prejudices could be explained with a smile to a black guy, and where people could actually get away with it. Today it has to stop.

Gabriel



70 Comments »

  1. Thank you Gabriel Gomes Fidalgo for sharing your story here. Thank you for expanding my understanding.

    Comment by Dovie — March 2, 2012 @ 10:26 am

  2. Gabe, this is really extraordinary. Thank you.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 2, 2012 @ 10:33 am

  3. Thank you Gabriel for your story. Thank you Ardis, for posting this.

    Comment by Jacob — March 2, 2012 @ 10:35 am

  4. Thank you for this, and thank you for your faith in adversity. This is strengthening me.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 2, 2012 @ 11:05 am

  5. Thank you, Gabe.

    Comment by Tracy M — March 2, 2012 @ 11:20 am

  6. I have only met Gabe once. We first saw him on a train platform in London waiting for the train to Woolwich. He was standing with three other missionaries a short distance away. They stared at us as we stared at them. We obviously knew they were LDS and they sized our family up as Americans– LDS Americans. They said the bright clothes and 5 kids in tow gave it away.

    As we started talking to Gabe and the other elders, we knew we should have them over for dinner at the flat we were renting for a week during our dream vacation to London. During dinner and after, Gabe stood out completely, and it had nothing to do with pigmentation or height (he is at least 6 foot 4 inches tall). He had a loving, effervescent spirit that drew us in, and we felt strongly that our chance meeting of him was not so chance.

    Gabe has been a dear friend via facebook after his mission, and we feel as if he were literally in our family. He shares our joys and grieves our heartaches and misfortunes from afar.

    Gabe is perhaps one of the finest young men I know, and I am so happy that decided to share his story here. Bless you, Gabe. And bless you, Ardis, for giving him this opportunity.

    Comment by Sonny — March 2, 2012 @ 11:27 am

  7. So powerful. Thank you.

    Comment by Angela H. — March 2, 2012 @ 11:44 am

  8. So loving this, Gabey!
    Also, what Sonny said. Except I think Gabe’s more like 6’6″. ;)

    Comment by KerBearRN — March 2, 2012 @ 11:52 am

  9. Thank-you for giving me a personal story to something I always knew was wrong. I cried. God bless you.

    Comment by jeannine — March 2, 2012 @ 11:55 am

  10. Ardis– Thanks for this, it’s so powerful. It looks like you and I have been thinking along the same lines. Now that all of the well-meaning and justifiably outraged white intellectuals have had a week of their say, that it was past time to bring some African voices forward. Good for you– beautifully written.

    See my blog, just posted at JI, here:

    Comment by Andrea R-M — March 2, 2012 @ 11:59 am

  11. 10– yes! Ardis pointed this out to me this morning– Gabe tells a difficult story but still affirms his faith. I am in absolute awe of the black LDS members I have known over the years who, in spite of “all of it”, remained active and faithful and loving. It speaks of great strength of character and testimony– to abide with hurtful attitudes directed at them, because they know it is Christ’s church, and so they stayed. I doubt I could do as much.

    Comment by KerBearRN — March 2, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

  12. I am both proud and humbled to call you Br. Fidalgo. Thank you for this witness.

    Ardis, thanks to you, too, for providing this forum.

    Comment by Mark Brown — March 2, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

  13. Gabriel, if there is any article from a lay member of the Church that has the potential to bring change, surely it is this one. Like the many missionaries you mentioned, I too held blatantly racist views regarding blacks and the priesthood for years. Church members in position of influence served to perpetuate these myths, and it was not until well after a year into my service as a missionary that I encountered information that caused me to question my long-held prejudicial views. Though I see changes in the right direction, there are still far too many Latter-day Saints who offer misguided theories as to why the Church instituted the ban in the first place. Until Mormons can humble themselves and admit that the priesthood ban was wrong (on a hierarchical level), these issues will likely never be fully-resolved. Thank you for your candor, your bravery, and your strength.

    Comment by Tyler Andersen — March 2, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

  14. Thank you, Gabe and Ardis, for this.

    Comment by Sam Brunson — March 2, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

  15. I served half my mission in Cabo Verde. Do you happen to know what island is your family from?

    Comment by jimbob — March 2, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

  16. Love this. Sorry to hear of your adversity with white missionaries making racist comments on your recent mission to South London.

    Comment by john f. — March 2, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

  17. Thank you. Strong words.

    Comment by M Miles — March 2, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

  18. Thank you.

    Comment by Julie M. Smith — March 2, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

  19. Awesome. Thanks, Gave, KerBearRN and Ardis!

    Comment by Paul — March 2, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

  20. Er — Gabe. (My fat fingers — sorry!)

    Comment by Paul — March 2, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

  21. Wonderful post, Gabriel!

    Comment by Chocolate on my Cranium — March 2, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

  22. Thank you, Gabriel. So clear and powerful.

    Comment by Jami — March 2, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

  23. Wonderful! Thanks Gabe, and to Ardis and KerBearRN for bringing your testimony to us.

    Comment by Mark B. — March 2, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

  24. Gabe, Ardis et. al. Thank you so much for sharing this. It adds a real person to the discussion of race in the Church.

    Comment by Steve C. — March 2, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

  25. Thanks Gabe. Formidable.

    Comment by Eric T. — March 2, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

  26. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Gabriel, and thanks for posting this, Ardis.

    Comment by Amy T — March 2, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

  27. Thank you guys, this is really touching me. I never thought my story would touch so many people in such a way. I love you all as you are.

    Comment by Gabriel — March 2, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

  28. God bless you, Gabe. I’m proud to share a faith with such a wonderful saint.

    Comment by Ben P — March 2, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

  29. Thank you Ben P. I’m very humbled and touched

    Comment by Gabriel — March 2, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

  30. Thank you for your story Gabe-
    I was really touched by your strong faith and determination.

    Something to think about-

    [Edited — We don’t preach to each other on Keepa. It is taken for granted that commenters are believing members of the Church, or at least are sympathetic or affectionate toward the Church, and that we don’t need to set each other straight about basic gospel principles — AEP]

    Thank you for your testimony of faith regarding this, especially in light of your own personal feelings. I marvel at your strength and wish that all of us as members could have such faith, despite not fully understanding God’s will for each of us.

    Comment by Seth Gambee — March 2, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

  31. Seth you da man!!! I like your comment.

    Comment by Gabriel — March 2, 2012 @ 3:53 pm

  32. Gabriel, thank you so much for this. I think that you should consider submitting something to the Ensign. It could do a lot of good for people to try to think what it is like to be a black Mormon. I recently watched No One Knows. When they talked about how different our worship services are very quiet and lethargic compared to the kinds of services that most African Americans attend, and that it can be hard for converts to adjust. I had never considered this before, because I have grown up in the Church and never thought about it, but I hope that I can be more sensitive about this now. I’m guessing that most racism in the Church isn’t malicious. I’m not trying to justify it, I’m just saying that it might help fix the problem if white members can start thinking about other people’s perspectives.

    Comment by mapman — March 2, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

  33. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    Comment by Zinka — March 2, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

  34. Thanks for sharing this powerful story.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — March 2, 2012 @ 8:05 pm

  35. Gabriel, merci pour ta sagesse.

    I served my mission in Quebec, Canada before the lifting of the priesthood ban. There were many Haitians in Montreal and the surrounding communities. My mission president was a Democrat, ex-congressman from Utah. We were instructed, if we were to baptize any black person, to explain that a priesthood ban existed and, importantly, that we believed that the ban would be lifted in the future and that all worthy men would be free to exercise the priesthood. Even back then, I held that hope that things would change.

    [Edited: Bill, there have been so very, very many Bloggernacle discussions this week speculating about the origin of the restriction, including the speculation you suggest, and I do not want to import that discussion here. I’m simply exhausted by the endless repetition of it all. Sorry. — AEP]

    [Y]our comments suggest to me that there is still a lot of growing to do within the “white” membership of the church. Seriously, in 2012, we should be so far beyond anything even remotely resembling racism.

    Comment by BillRichardsonMesa — March 2, 2012 @ 8:33 pm

  36. Thank you Gabe, this was so beautiful and uplifting.

    Comment by Dani — March 2, 2012 @ 9:34 pm

  37. Gabe, your parents are very proud of you I’m positive! You have a wonderful attitude! I’m sure you are very nurturing to those you have been an elder to. I’ve got lots of relatives who are LDS & have served their missions. I know how difficult life can be for you. But I see the missionaries grow their work! I don’t like seeing how the evangelicals work then leave their harvest! Therefore, I see LDS missionaries anywhere I wave! Courtesy, kindness, modesty & morality is a high value! You will have your dreams! Just a take from an Antiochian Eastern Orthodox! Love Joanna Brooks helps me understand more of my blood family!

    Comment by Cloaked Cherokee — March 2, 2012 @ 10:39 pm

  38. “Of more worth is one honest man (or woman) to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.” Thomas Paine

    Thank you for sharing your story Gabe. It is truly inspiring and remarkable. I think Paine’s quote must be applicable to you. It is one of my favorite.

    Comment by HRHB — March 2, 2012 @ 11:19 pm

  39. Thank you, Gabe, for sharing your story. I hope this comes true because its too long over due!

    Comment by Olive — March 2, 2012 @ 11:41 pm

  40. Gabe – yours is another soul stretching story shared with us through Keepa. Thank you.

    Comment by Diane Peel — March 3, 2012 @ 1:28 am

  41. Thank you very much for sharing your story Gabe. I am so sorry that you have had to face these situations. I agree, it has to stop.

    Comment by Karen — March 3, 2012 @ 8:57 am

  42. Thank you for enlightening me, Gabe. You are an inspiration!

    Comment by Carrieon — March 3, 2012 @ 10:10 am

  43. Gabe, thank you. If it’s any help at all, I apologize for my past racism yet I guess it’s kind of like any 12-step program – I will always be in recovery because I have work to do. And will keep trying to influence others for good to bring them along with me. (some are ahead, some far behind).

    Comment by Grant — March 3, 2012 @ 10:28 am

  44. Thank you Gabe. God bless.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — March 3, 2012 @ 11:04 am

  45. It’s when I meet a person who’s experienced the undeserved judgement of racism and hear individual stories that I really get it in my heart. Thanks you Gabe and Ardis for teaching me best.

    Comment by Mommie Dearest — March 3, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

  46. I was baptised into an inner London ELSM ward, now a stake centre. Before the priesthood ban was lifted, it was very much a white Church.We had 3 black members in our whole ward, whose faith (as at that time they could not attend the temple) was an example to us all. However after the revelation on priesthood, the membership demographic changed completely. My ward became predominantly black, and indeed I was married by a black Bishop (we have to be civilly married first here).

    I have no doubt Gabriel that you were sent to the right mission,and that you were blessed for your work there.

    Thank you so much for your post. Evidently it brings understanding to those not blessed to live in multicultural areas- a mindset my background doesn’t help me understand at all, but yours is obviously a voice which needs to be heard.Take care.

    Comment by Anne (UK) — March 3, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

  47. Great story, Gabe. My son served several months in Cape Verde. My stepmom lives north of Marseilles. I’m from Belgium. I’ve seen African and Belgian members scream at each other in a Sunday School lesson because the old Belgian member is teaching that “Blacks were less valiant” and all that. The church needs to issue a statement admitting LEADERS were wrong and racist and make sure it’s translated in all languages.

    Comment by Martine — March 3, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

  48. Dear Gabriel,
    My parents raised me to believe that God is no respecter of persons and that we ALL are His children.

    I remember my baptismal interview at 8 years of age in northern California. I remember telling my Bishop that I believed all that I had learned about Jesus Christ in Primary and from my parents. I told him that there was only one thing that bothered me. “If we are all children of our Heavenly Father, how come Blacks (or, people of color) cannot have the Priesthood?” (This being the case at that time.) I will never forget the look on his face. It said, “Out of the mouth of babes.” I could tell he was impressed by the depth of my faith and the thought that I put into the question. I could also tell that he agreed with me. I don’t remember his exact words but I do remember that he reassured me that this policy would change. I would just need to be patient. I felt at that time that what he said was true. I was baptized in Oakland, CA near the temple.

    Fast-forward a dozen years later and I am deep in a conversation with an LDS co-worker who grew up in Arkansas. We were discussing this issue…not IF the policy change would happen but WHEN. She stated that she didn’t believe it would happen until the Millennium when Christ personally ruled the earth. At that moment, I felt the whisperings of the Holy Spirit tell me, ‘No, SOON!”

    I will NEVER forget that day when the announcement was made changing Church policy!!! It was a mere 10 days or so after my conversation with that co-worker. I was driving to work and heard the news over my car radio. I pulled over to the side of the road and wept tears of joy.

    Gabe, like you, I’ve lived where people of my color were the racial minority. One of those times was when I was serving as a full-time Missionary. Later, while attending college, I lived with people who hated and despised my race. I was hated by some simply because of the color of my skin…by members of my own church Congregation and even some of the sisters in my shared college household! These were for the most part, returned-missionary Sisters in the gospel with whom I broke bread daily, prayed daily, attended church with, and held Family Home Evening with. These were members of the church who–like me–were taught that ALL are CHILDREN OF GOD!

    My second year at that college, I was denied a job by a Priesthood holder because of my race! (I am sure he too had sung, I’m a Child of God a thousand times at least without it making an impression.) Even after sharing that I was in his office as a direct answer to prayer, he was unmoved and stated, “You will NEVER work here.”

    Well, the joke was on him because, “God will NOT be mocked!” I was brought in through the ‘back door’ by a young man I’d met while in the Missionary Training Center in Utah who was a food service Supervisor at the center. This job provided me not only with much-needed funds but with actual sustenance. (I fit the bill as a poor, ‘starving’ student. Until then, I’d existed on Tomato & Cucumber sandwiches because all I could afford was fresh produce, bread and a jar of mayo.)

    After I was married, I read a book detailing the near-death experiences of Children, I was struck by the story of James a young African-American boy. He nearly drowned in a pool and his spirit left his body and he traveled to a great light. What he noted most about ‘Heaven’ was that all the people he saw there were neither Black nor White. They were all, “Beings of LIGHT.” What he said struck me as truth! I have pondered on this often.

    Gabe, I have also pondered the question of how people who were for the most part active churchgoers and consider themselves Disciples of Christ could possibly practice racism? The answer to that is that they obviously were not yet fully CONVERTED to the GOSPEL of JESUS CHRIST. Please remember that President Hinckley stated, “The church is NOT a clubhouse for Saints, it is a hospital for Sinners!” (I would add, including myself.) This has helped me find a measure of peace with my experiences and even the ability to forgive.

    You see, Gabriel, that we have many things in common. This is in spite of the fact that I am a 53-year-old white woman born and raised in the church.

    Where did I go to College? I attended BYU-Hawaii. Where was the job? It was with the the food service department of the Polynesian Cultural Center.

    I still love that school and I HIGHLY recommend it for the Cultural education as much as for the wonderful degrees and professional training they provide. Before attending BYU-Hawaii, I ‘believed’ Racism was wrong…that it was evil. After attending there and experiencing racism first-hand, I KNEW it was wrong!

    President Hinckley felt deeply about learning from our past because otherwise we are doomed to repeat it. However, we also need to be willing to ‘let-go’ otherwise we are in danger of remaining mired in the past.

    My sincerest best wishes to you as you journey forward in life. :)

    Comment by JLambyG — March 3, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

  49. “I want things to change and minds to evolve. I don’t want to be identified as a less valiant spirit, a fruit of iniquity, a descendent of Ham, a garment stealer, a murderer’s offspring. I want to be able to interact with people without prejudices involved, and if I want to marry a white girl I don’t want to have to face people who will judge me because I am different.”

    Done! Well, at least by me :)

    Comment by Ahmed Jamal Qureshi — March 3, 2012 @ 4:33 pm

  50. Thanks for your story Gabe!

    I was shocked most by the attitudes of the Swiss members you met. To be against inter-racial marriage in 2012?! Alarming, at the very least. I’m the same age as you and here in the States, I’ve never encountered an inter-racial relationship discrimination. Especially in my YSA ward and the other family wards I’ve been in. Actually, a few of my white friends want to marry a black or polynesian man because they’re just more attracted to them and no one has ever made any bigoted comments towards them.

    We have the understanding that those comments warning against inter-racial marriage were made decades ago in a very different cultural and political climate, especially in the US. It was COUNSEL given to members, not a commandment. The Church leaders knew that marriage is hard enough, but back then, it was even harder with racial tension. There are still those backward areas of the world where they don’t understand love and unity…but as a whole, I don’t think that counsel really applies anymore in 2012.

    So if you and your awesome girl keep having problems, come here! The saints here will love you both!

    Comment by Elyse — March 3, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

  51. Also, here is a great FAIR article about Mormon myths surrounding this issue:

    http://www.fairblog.org/2012/02/25/three-mormon-myths-about-blacks-and-the-priesthood/

    Comment by Elyse — March 3, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

  52. Thank you, Gabriel. This was powerful.

    I served a mission in the French West Indies where the population is 90% black. I was aware of the various explanations for the ban, but never taught any of it. However, your mother’s comment that “unfortunately, it is a church for white people” really hits hard. I’m haunted by the thought that one reason folks might have refused us is because of this perception.

    Comment by David Y. — March 3, 2012 @ 5:09 pm

  53. Dear brother Gabe, thank you so very much for your articulate and most enlightening post. Much of what you said resonates deeply with me. You see, I am much older than you are and I was baptized in 1965. Within a short time after my baptism I was ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood and later to the Melchizedek Priesthood. I went on to serve a mission in the deep south. But it was only many years later, even after the 1978 revelation that I found out that I have black ancestry. My grandfather’s mother was of Indian
    descent from the state of Virginia. One of her grand parents was African American. Most likely he or she was what was called in that era, a “free person of color”. But long before finding out about this ancestry, I felt uncomfortable about the priesthood ban. I had participated on the March on Washington in 1963 where Martin Luther King gave his now famous, “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. This was just two years before my baptism.
    That evening, after the announcement of the revelation in ending the priesthood ban on June 9th, 1978, I walked from my apartment down to stand in front of the east gates of Temple Square and looked up at the three illuminated spires of the Salt Lake Temple with the golden Moroni and his upraised trumpet. Tears streamed down my face as I said, Yes! Thank you, God, for taking the helm of the Church to get us over this! The Temple seemed to glow even brighter in response.
    I knew that the ban must have come from the traditions of men because I had been called out of this materialistic and avaricious mortal world into the kingdom of God and the Restored Church of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Heavenly Father knew well what my ancestry was,(He ALWAYS did), but still He wanted me in the Church. The elders that taught me assumed that my skin color came from my Hispanic grandmother, (and I am sure that some of it does), but they never felt any prompting to tell be that I could only be a member. (If they had, they certainly never broached the subject with me.) They were good and spiritual young men so I don’t believe they were not in harmony with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I
    had to conclude that it didn’t matter to my Father in Heaven that I was given the priesthood 13 years before the actual ban was ended. A non-member black friend of mine said, “Brother, you ‘passed’. The man thought you were white!” Perhaps, but I believe that the Holy Spirit would have given those brethren a sure sign if my priesthood ordination was against His Will. I also believe that I am not the only member with African ancestry who has been ordained before the 1978 revelation. Our Heavenly Father does not let the traditions of men, well intentioned or not, stand in His Way, when He wants His Kingdom to progress. Sometimes, it is all that we mortal saints can do to keep up with His advancements.

    Comment by Velikiye Kniaz — March 3, 2012 @ 6:14 pm

  54. Awesome. Just awesome. Thank you Gabe. Profound thanks. And I second the suggestion to submit your story to the Ensign, or anywhere else this could gain a wider church readership.

    Comment by Clean Cut — March 3, 2012 @ 6:25 pm

  55. Gabe, thank you for this, and Ardis for giving you the forum to teach. We need to shout this from the rooftops.

    Comment by kevinf — March 3, 2012 @ 11:34 pm

  56. Gabe, thanks so much for this beautiful post. You are inspiring!

    Comment by Ziff — March 4, 2012 @ 12:01 am

  57. I want y’all to know that your comments, touched me deeply and gave a new meaning to my life. I always felt like I was to speak out and that people would hear me but i felt too small (despite my 6″5) and insignificant. You all made me realize how blessed i am and what is my mission on earth. I love you all please keep the faith and never let Christ down.

    Comment by Gabriel — March 4, 2012 @ 6:37 am

  58. Dear Gabriel
    what a courage to write this, and how wonderfull that you kept your testimony. I don’t know if there ever will be a “grand pardon”, but in stead of that I will apologise. Lucky we are in the church for Jezus and not for some people. I hope that you will merry your Swiss girl and I’ll put your letter on my profile as well.

    Comment by Irene — March 4, 2012 @ 8:57 am

  59. Thank you for writing this. Ending racism is important to me.
    I appreciate having great parents who were the type to cry with joy when the Ban ended. They never said anything racist or used racist terms.
    But even I can see that our society needs to take it even farther. I grew up very shy and awkward with people, so of course I feel more comfortable with people most like me….it age, socioeconomic status, language, culture, religion, etc. I strongly believe that it is part of my purpose here on earth to reach out to people, to try not to let the walls between us stay between us. I make daily efforts on this score.
    The Lord sent my son a black convert 12 year old (plus his mom and sister) a couple of months ago so now my son is not the only 12 year old in the ward. I see a half black boy just a year younger coming to church with his white mom (whom I’ve known for years and care about) more now because of this new convert family (we aren’t all white, we have several races, but it can still feel too white for a kid).
    My daughter is one of only 3 young women in the ward. A half black girl from the stake is now one of her best friends. She just went to her first church dance because she actually had a buddy near her age to go with this time.
    I know these are just little things. But I see the Lord’s hand in it all and I am so grateful that if we ask him he will guide us in all our interactions with the people around us. Not only can we lift others but they are there to help us.
    It may seem like a drop in the bucket, but it is part of a great goal of a less racist world, even if I have to step out of my comfort zone. And although I know sometimes it can feel a little paternalistic when we reach out to help others (sometimes we are smarter, richer, advantaged with an intact family, etc.) I see my own children’s needs and how they need a community around them and so I know that although our family has a lot to give we are equally blessed and strengthened when we reach out. It makes me very sure that the Lord is there for each and every one of us. Very sure and very thankful.

    Comment by jks — March 4, 2012 @ 10:49 am

  60. Gabe,
    Thank you and your wonderful parents for your faith in the perfect Savior and for your patience and diligence with a less than perfect organization and it’s adherents.
    Your example is inspiring.

    Comment by Aged Observer — March 4, 2012 @ 12:17 pm

  61. Something like this really, really, ought to be in the Ensign. Even after the editorial watering-down, I’d think it could still do some good.

    Comment by Martin — March 6, 2012 @ 9:41 am

  62. Gabe (and Ardis)-
    Thank you for the powerful post. I think it could be a fantastic addition to this: http://byuarabiannights.com/
    jlj

    Comment by jlj — March 14, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

  63. Gabriel,

    Pour moi il est clair que si la prêtrise n’était pas accordée aux hommes noirs ce n’est pas à cause de leur couleur de peau. C’était à cause de certains hommes blancs qui n’étaient pas encore au niveau de compréhension nécessaire, ils n’avaient pas encore dépassé les “folles traditions de leurs pères”.
    On retrouve ce souci dans le Livre de Mormon, certains néphites orgueilleux faisaient des différences selon la couleur de peau, d’où ce remarquable verset sur le fait que Dieu ne fait acception de personne quelques soient sa couleur ou son genre.

    [Stating that “whites weren’t ready” as the cause for the priesthood restriction is as speculative as any other assumed cause. I’ll ask again that these speculations not be posted here, both because they are speculative, and because they tend to invite debate. — AEP]

    Comment by Anna — March 26, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

  64. C’est clair, je suis tout a fait d’accord avec toi. Premiere francophone à avoir répondu. Bravo.

    Comment by Gabriel — March 26, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

  65. Gabe

    I am a black american LDS member. I have experienced the same sort of things here. I have had girls tell me their families don’t support interracial marriage. This blew my mind due to the fact that I live in southern California. One of the most liberal places in the U.S.

    I like you have thought many times about blacks and the priesthood, though until now I had never reached a conclusion such as yours. Prior to reading this I had a small bit of resentment toward the church in this issue. Though thanks to elder bednars

    Comment by Maurice Cureton — May 11, 2012 @ 11:07 am

  66. Sorry I’m typing on my iPhone and hit the wrong button.

    Thanks to elder bednars talk “none shall offend thee” I have been able to keep my thoughts in my testimony and loosing what is dear.

    Due to that talk I have managed to get sealed in the temple and be happily married for the past three years.

    Thank you for your testimony and sharing this story. It truly has made me view this topic and issue in a better light. I think to simply characterize it as a gross mistake that is not irreparable is an amazing perspective.

    Thank you
    Thank you
    Thank you

    Comment by Maurice Cureton — May 11, 2012 @ 11:12 am

  67. Maurice you made my day man!!!
    It’s true that no mistake is irreparable. Everything can be made better.

    Comment by Gabriel — May 11, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

  68. I appreciate your story. I just wanted to say though that the blog editor or whoever keeps saying no speculations allowed, is incongruent considering that this post puts forth a speculation, howbeit, as a fact. Is saying “the priesthood ban was a mistake and the church should admit it” not also speculation? Or did I miss something and that is a fact? Im not saying i do or dont agree, but that I’d like to know if the blog administrators then are saying that Gabriel’s theory that it was a mistake is not a theory or speculation but a fact. I do think it is a theory just as valid as any other in the absence of an explanation by the church. I too would love explanations and think polygamy and the priesthood ban are as likely just the follies of men as anything, but like you Gabe my faith in my Savior, the book of Mormon and the gospel, grace au Saint-esprit, make it possible for me to be a very faithful and fully converted and active member regardless of such desired explanations/ apologies. I admire your testimony and faith and it makes my heart ache and my stomach churn that there were (and still are!!?) members who act, speak, or hold racist beliefs.

    Comment by Florence — May 13, 2012 @ 11:00 pm

  69. Florence: Gabe was an invited guest whose story is what it is. The speculations I edited all came from one-time commenters who did not know or care about the firestorms their speculations have caused on other blogs and which I did not want to, and will not, host here. Don’t make me an offender for a word, and don’t overanalyze. This is a blog, for pete’s sake.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 14, 2012 @ 9:28 am

  70. Thank you for sharing your story and creating awareness of a current problem that unfortunately continues to exist with no efficient correction.

    Also, thanks to Ardis for providing the medium. It is extremely important that these voices can be heard and understood.

    Comment by Manuel — May 14, 2012 @ 11:23 am

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