Announcing my guest speaker, Darius Aidan Gray
A brief timeline of his life:
1964: Darius Aidan Gray becomes LDS, learning the night before his baptism that he won’t be able to be ordained to the priesthood.
1965: Darius attends BYU and is told that he must not associate with white women. He lives in poverty. His boss refuses to pay him, and friends take him to Salt Lake City to sue the man. They do, successfully. He leaves BYU “on a dead run” certain that he will never return to Utah.
1966: KSL asks to interview him for a job. He decides to return for the interview, but does not plan on staying. He gets the job, and decides to take it. KSL’s Arch Madsen accompanies him to the bank, wanting the officers there to know that Darius worked for him and should be treated well. Later, Arch takes him to the Hotel Utah, where Darius meets Monroe Fleming, another black Mormon, who is able to tell him where housing will be “conducive.”
1969: Protests against BYU flourish. The most famous starts with the “Black Fourteen” in Wyoming. Fourteen football players want to protest the “priesthood doctrine” of the LDS church by wearing black armbands. All fourteen are fired and told they will go on “Negro relief.” Darius and the Church Public Affairs representative, Heber Wolsey, go to Wyoming to calm the waters, but the protest goes nation wide.
1970: Rumors abound that Blacks will invade Utah, desecrate the temple, and ravish Mormon women. The chief of police, a friend of Darius’s, tells him the plans for placing snipers in various points in Salt Lake. Darius purchases a gun, and hears others in the store say loudly, “I can pick a Nigger off from a hundred feet away.” The rumors, sometimes supported by an alleged prophecy by John Taylor, are disavowed by the Church.
1971: Darius, Gene Orr, and Ruffin Bridgeforth meet twice monthly with Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, and Boyd K. Packer to talk about how they can support their families, especially their sons, in the Mormon faith when they are ineligible for the priesthood. After these meetings, the Church establishes the Genesis Group.
1978: The Church announces that President Kimball has had a revelation about the priesthood restriction. The restriction ends.
Years pass. Darius, fully active in the church again, is endowed in the Salt Lake temple, an experience which is glorious to him. He is afraid that if he touches anyone, he’ll shock them. Such is the power he has felt from the temple.
He works to support his family, doing lectures, taking care of Ruffin Bridgeforth, inventing a turbo charger. (Yes, you read that right.)
1998: Darius Gray becomes the Genesis president. The Young/Gray team forms. (That would be yours truly and Darius Gray.) They write three historical novels, make two documentaries, and give firesides throughout the United States on the legacy of Blacks in Mormonism.
2001: After eleven years of work, using volunteer inmates at the Utah State prison, the Freedmans Bank records are digitized and ready for release. Darius and his dear friend Marie Taylor have supervised the project. The release is announced in Salt Lake City and throughout the U.S. via satellite. In the Joseph Smith building, church apostles and prominent African Americans, including many university presidents, stand and sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as part of the program celebrating this new genealogical resource.
2003: The Genesis Group celebrates its anniversary in the Mormon Tabernacle, with Gladys Knight and the Saints Unified Choir. There is standing room only. Darius conducts the meeting, with Merrill J. Bateman presiding. This will be the last meeting with Darius as the Genesis president. He is released the next month.
2006: Darius talks to President Hinckley about the problems Black families still face in the Church. In April of that year, President Hinckley gives a pointed sermon on racism during the priesthood session of General Conference.
2008: Darius is presented with the Martin Luther King, Jr. award by Utah’s NAACP.
The Young/Gray documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons is released and becomes one of the most successful on the Documentary Channel.
2009: Wyoming State pays tribute to the Black Fourteen on the fortieth anniversary of the firing of the Fourteen. Darius is invited back. The LDS Institute has made black armbands to honor the courage of the protesters. Darius is given one, which he guards carefully.
2013: The Young/Gray team begins a feature film, still underway: Heart of Africa.
Darius continues to lecture and do firesides. He leaves this Friday for North Carolina, where he will speak on Sunday, Feb. 9. Later in the month, he will speak in Little Rock, Arkansas. On Wednesday, Feb. 12, he will be my guest speaker.
I teach LDS literature. Darius is a Mormon writer, filmmaker, essayist (his essays have been featured in the Huffington Post). All are invited to this guest lecture, which will be held in room 3380, Wilkinson Student Center at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, February 12.
Darius Gray: pioneer, patriarch, mentor. Don’t miss this.