After Katrina: Open arms in Utah?

MoroniAnd speaking of ongoing questions about doctrines of the Latter-day Saints and their impact on Utah life, check this out. Let me assure you that I have read my share of materials on the Mormon decision to open the priesthood to African-Americans. But this Reuters story by Adam Tanner is evidence of how long it takes for perceptions and realities to change.

Asked whether he would relocate permanently to Utah after being brought here as a refugee from Hurricane Katrina, Larry Andrew rattled off a series of questions on Friday on the delicate issue of race.

“How do the adults really feel about us moving in?” he asked at Camp Williams, a military base 21 miles south of Salt Lake City housing about 400 refugees from last week’s disaster. “What if I find a Caucasian girl and decide to date her? “Will I have to deal with whispering behind me and eyeballing me?” asked the 36-year-old black man.

For the mostly poor, black refugees evacuated from New Orleans, few places are as geographically remote and culturally alien as this corner of Utah, where 0.2 percent of the population in the nearest town is black.

Local leaders say the door is open. The state is growing. Change takes time.

This was a better hook for a story than I thought it would be. Check it out.

By the way (and before anyone asks), I wonder if there is any family connection, somewhere along the line, between Adam Tanner and some other well-known Utah writers with the same last name. Tanner is a famous name in Mormon country.

About the photo: “Moroni on grey,” posted on Flickr by webmink (Creative Commons Deed).

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

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  • manaen

    “how long it takes for perceptions and realities to change.” Amen!

    I’m LDS (and genetically sourced from northern Europe). Yesterday, I was visiting friends in the LDS branch in south central LA. The black branch president, his hispanic counselor, and I were smiling, as we looked across the street at the hispanic Pentacostal church and across the intersection at the black Baptist church, and commented that we’re now the diversified congregation in town.

    “‘What if I find a Caucasian girl and decide to date her? Will I have to deal with whispering behind me and eyeballing me?’ asked the 36-year-old black man.” Thurl Bailey, black retired Jazz star converted to the Church of Jesus Christ (as we prefer to call it). The Church has been holding firesides — informal evening meetings — at which Thurl and his white wife speak and bear testimony. KBYU keeps rebroadcasting one of these meetings literally around the world (e.g. Dish Network carries KBYU here in SoCal). I’ll get to meet them this Sunday evening because they’re coming down to SoCal to speak.

    You could ask Gladys Knight how she enjoys her membership in the Church. (I personally believe LaFawnduh Lucas’s character, who expands the musical world of the main characters in “Napolean Dynomite,” was the LDS producers’ nod to how Ms. Knight is stretching LDS music — check some of her recent CD’s). Her talks about her LDS life certainly encourage other people to join us.

    I suppose that refugee will find the acceptance he seeks.

    “I have read my share of materials on the Mormon decision to open the priesthood to African-Americans.” That was a very bright day for me. What most people miss is that I, not an Israelite, also couldn’t have held the priesthood for most of the world’s history. We just happened to have lived in that brief sliver of time when I could have held the priesthood but my black brothers had yet to wait a while.

  • nashbabe

    Dude’s last name is TANNER! Must be anti-mormon diatribe! *L*


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