Are there any Black members of the Mormon Church? If so, where are they located and how many?
Doris, from Baltimore, Maryland
From the very earliest days of its organization there have always been Black members of the Mormon Church. Here is an excerpt from the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, by Andrew Jenson, Vol. 4, p.703
“Flake, Green, one of the three negro servants who belonged to the original company of Utah pioneers, was born as a slave in January, 1828, in Anson County, North Carolina, on the plantation of Bro. James Flake’s father and spent all his early life in that family. He came with that family to Nauvoo, and thence journeyed west during the exodus from Nauvoo. He was baptized in 1844 by John Brown and given to Pres. Brigham Young by Bro. James Flake. After his arrival in Great Salt Lake Valley, Green Flake resided for some years in Union. Later he moved to Idaho Falls, where he died Oct. 20, 1903.” (LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jenson, Vol. 4, p.703)
Although members of African descent were prohibited from holding the priesthood, many of them, receiving testimonies of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as held by the Mormon Church, were baptized and were faithful members of the Church. For many years the Lord withheld the blessings of the priesthood from members of the Church of African descent.
President Gordon B. Hinckley has stated,
“The question of extending the blessings of the priesthood to blacks had been on the minds of many of the Brethren over a period of years. It had repeatedly been brought up by Presidents of the Church.” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p.492)
In fact, every president of the Mormon Church prophesied that the day would come when the priesthood would be given to the Blacks. That day finally came on June 9, 1978, when President Spencer W. Kimball received a revelation from God to that effect. That revelation is recorded in the Mormon Scripture, Doctrine and Covenants, as Official Declaration – 2. An excerpt from that Declaration is as follows:
Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood, and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.
He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color.
From that day on, persons of African descent have joined the Mormon Church in record numbers. The first Black General Authority in the Mormon Church was Helvecio Martins, from Brazil, sustained as a General Authority on March 31, 1990.
The first Stake of the Mormon Church in West Africa was organized on May 15, 1988. Alexander B. Morrison reports on this event in the following terms:
“Just as June 9, 1978, the day the revelation on the priesthood was announced, is a red-letter day in the history of the Church in Black Africa, so too must the date of May 15, 1988, stand as a milestone for all time. On that day, Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve, assisted by Elder Robert E. Sackley of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, created the Aba Nigeria Stake. This stake is not only the first in West Africa, but also the first in the history of the Church in which all leaders are blacks. In fact, all members of the stake are Africans. (Alexander B. Morrison, “The Dawning of a Brighter Day: The Church in Black Africa,” p 89)