By Elisa Anderson
While addressing BYU students at a Black History Month lecture Thursday morning Feb. 27, Darius Gray, president of LDS Genesis, said race is a calling, not a curse.
The BYU Multicultural Student Services sponsored the religion lecture. The topic was the history of blacks and the priesthood.
1832 was the year in which the first black joined the church, Gray said.
In 1836, a black man received the priesthood and was not the only black priesthood holder at that time, Gray said.
There is no known revelation on record that restricted the blacks from holding the priesthood, he said.
“Some have had issue when it has been stated that blacks are the descendents of Ham,” Gray said. “I have no problem with that at all.”
Gray opened the scriptures to the book of Genesis, Chapter 10, and recounted Ham”s descendents, beginning with his sons.
Gray then traced Ham”s descendents to Melchizedek, the high priest of Jerusalem before King David stormed the city.
“I”m not saying that Melchizedek was black, but I am saying he was hanging with the brothers,” Gray said.
From Melchizedek, Gray traced Ham”s descendents down to Jesus Christ”s earthly father, Joseph, who was thought to be possibly a cousin of Mary, Gray said.
“If the Savior didn”t mind being a descendent of Ham, then I don”t mind either,” Gray said.
The Council of the Twelve formed LDS Genesis in October of 1971 to help support black converts to the church.
The Genesis group meets once a month for testimony and support meetings.
Gray converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1964.
Right before his scheduled baptism, Gray found out he would not be able to hold the priesthood.
As he read about the Lamanites and the Nephites in the Book of Mormon, he learned the Lamanites, who had a dark skin, were out of favor with God.
“My question was how, if in any way, does this relate to me?” Gray said.
A missionary told him he would not be able to hold the priesthood because of his skin color. He no longer wanted to be baptized, and he went home to ponder.
“I had a testimony of the gospel, but I was also a proud, black man,” Gray said.
That night, he turned himself over to God, and had a personal revelation the church was true. He was baptized the next day.
Gray closed his remarks by testifying that the Church of Jesus Christ is the true restored church.
“I encourage you to embrace it,” he said.
Delvique Newsome, 21, a UVSC student, attended the lecture.
“He told us to keep our heads up and not to be so stuck on the whole racism thing here,” Newsome said. “It”s everybody, not just white and not just black, who should keep focusing, keep their heads up and walk forward.”