On the Eve of my Father’s Death

I am writing this at 6:35 p.m. on February 18, 2017.  A year ago at this time, I was preparing to do a presentation at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City with my co-author, Darius Gray.  My brother, Dell, was going to film it.  We had great artifacts for our audience to view, and we had our power points ready.  Darius, whose health has been terrible for several years, told me that he was particularly weak and asked… Read more

Black Mormon Pioneers Featured at BLACKPAST.ORG

For the past several years, I have contributed to the Blackpast online encyclopedia.  It is a wonderful resource. Now, director Dr. Quintard Taylor announces that BLACKPAST has one section devoted to Black Latter-day Saints  I join with him in inviting you to peruse the articles. Here are Dr. Taylor’s words: The Latter-day Saints Page on BlackPast.org African Americans have been members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) almost since its founding in 1830. Their numbers were… Read more

Companions and other projects for the DR-Congo

Below is the “Look Book” for “Companions”–a feature film, not a documentary. The film is the first part of multiple projects which Bruce and I will be doing in the Congo as Fulbright scholars at the Universite Catholique Du Congo.  If  all goes as planned, we will be in Kinshasa next October and will stay for ten months.  We also plan on doing work in Lodje. Eventually, we will return to the DR-C as missionaries. This is the basic plan:… Read more

Have You Forgotten? Part 2 – The Danger of Standing Ovations

No one is more hungry for applause than someone who questions their fundamental worth. One of my activities as a young teen was inventing schmaltzy dramas and acting them out–alone, of course.  Oh goodness, it would have been a disaster if anyone had seen me! Many of my dramas ended in tears.  It was a good way to get out my emotions and to (unwittingly) rehearse for a life of acting. My first opportunity was in tenth grade, when I… Read more

Have You Forgotten? (Part 1)

This photo was taken in July, 1963.  It was my last summer–for many years–of believing that I was lovable outside of my family.  Just around the corner, a bully awaited me, surrounded by her followers,  who were all afraid of what the bully’s revenge would look like if they didn’t follow her orders. Bullying is not an event; it is an evil seed.  If the one being bullied has no antidote (in the form of parental support, or religious/cultural re-interpretation… Read more

The First Vision–beyond words

It was years afterwards that Joseph Smith made his first attempt to describe what we Mormons refer to as “The First Vision.”  Certainly, making a pamphlet boiling down a theophany to mere words was beyond daunting; perhaps it felt like a mockery. There was a persistent request for an understandable account of an indescribable event, and eventually Joseph attempted it. In fact, he attempted it multiple times. After a century, illustrators created their own interpretations of what the divine beings… Read more

Companions (The Film Previously Known As. . .)

A look at the film previously known as Heart of Africa. This is what we’re doing.  We have raised well over $100,000. through donations and are now seeking investments. This project has been my personal opus of love. I didn’t design the “Look Book,” and would probably have deleted the soldier pictures had I done it, but I think it’s a very good peek into what we’re doing.  I would probably have added more women, as women (two main characters… Read more

Prejudice–thou Ugly!

A few years ago, I wrote this account of some experiences I had with Darius Gray.  I must share it again. Prejudice, which President Kimball called “thou ugly,” mattered deeply to President Gordon B. Hinckley. He was troubled to hear about anyone being mistreated—and particularly when the excuse for mistreatment was race-based. Darius Gray was similarly concerned as he received countless calls from men and women all over the United States who were still dealing with the ripples of racist… Read more

Race and Mormonism–2016 Edition (the less coy version)

  I won’t be coy.  I am disturbed by the upcoming Doctrinal Mastery (New Testament) manual for Mormon youth.  This is a sample of what disturbs me. The teacher is asked to divide her students into groups and to discuss the principles behind various church practices.  Questions 2 and 4 elicit a response justifying the long abandoned priesthood restriction.  In fact, the manual writers are fishing for an explanation which is indefensible.  (See note below.) Youth are given a list… Read more

Reconciliation: My Presidential Address to the Association for Mormon Letters, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011: I am writing this talk at my father’s hospital bedside.  We are in the final phase of his life, though we don’t know how much sand remains in the hourglass neck. When Dad was in the ER on Saturday, I sat at his bedside, a few feet  from my mother.  Mom gave family news, and smiled and laughed as though we were at the dining room table, not in the ER.  I kept my eyes on… Read more

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