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John G. Turner

Latter-day Saint elder and Utah pioneer, was born in northern Maryland to Andrew Abel and Delila Williams. Abel left the area as a young man. Little is known of his early life; it is unclear whether he was born enslaved or free. One later census identified Abel as a “quadroon,” but others listed him as “Black” or “Mulatto.”

In 1832, Abel was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and soon gathered with the Mormons in Kirtland, Ohio. In 1836, he was ordained to the church's Melchizedek or higher priesthood, making him one of a very small number of African American men to “hold the priesthood” during the church's early years. An expectation for all righteous adult male members of the church, priesthood meant the possibility of leadership positions and the authority to perform ordinances. In December 1836 Abel had become a ...

Article

Margaret Blair Young

prominent Mormon entrepreneur, was born enslaved in Pickens County, Alabama, but was soon sent to Mississippi. Chambers's death certificate lists his parents as James Davidson and Ester Glaspy. In Mississippi he heard Mormon missionaries and was persuaded to be baptized. Missionary Preston Thomas secretly baptized him at night—a secret he kept to himself until his emancipation. At the time of his baptism, Chambers was between twelve and thirteen years old. He reflected upon his youthful decision in later life, suggesting scriptural precedent for his early faith. “Joseph was a boy and also Samuel, and the Lord spoke to them, so we see the Lord is willing to speak to boys,” Chambers said on 14 December 1875 (Young, n.p.).

After the Civil War, the newly emancipated Chambers worked as a shoe cobbler and as a sharecropper. In 1870 he began his trek west to join his fellow Latter day ...

Article

John G. Turner

was born in Vanceboro, North Carolina to Joseph Freeman, Sr., who built the family’s farmhouse, and Rosa Lee Smith Freeman. He was raised in a Holiness Church, but as a teenager began investigating other religions. At the age of nineteen he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Hawaii, a state with a large Mormon population.

At that time the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints banned men of African descent from holding its otherwise broadly held priesthood, thus excluding them from positions of leadership and excluding all individuals of African descent from its most sacred temple ordinances. Despite such open discrimination, Freeman found himself drawn to the religion because of what he described as a deeply personal conversion. With full knowledge of the discriminatory policies, Freeman was baptized into the church in September 1973.

In 1974 Freeman married a Samoan convert to Mormonism Toe ...

Article

John G. Turner

the son of Darius McKinley Gray (named for William McKinley, elected president in the year of his birth) and Elsie Johnson Gray. Neighbors in Colorado Springs introduced Darius Aiden Gray to the scriptures of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On Christmas Day 1964, one day before his scheduled baptism into the church, the missionaries planning to baptize him informed him that African Americans could not hold the priesthood. For Mormon men in good standing, ordination into the priesthood is an expectation. The ban on persons of African descent holding the priesthood meant that the church’s black members could not hold positions of authority or participate in the sacred ordinances the church taught were necessary for exaltation into celestial glory.

Gray chose to be baptized despite the ban I went home and prayed he later recounted And I received a personal revelation an inspiration from God This ...

Article

John G. Turner

Latter-day Saint and Utah pioneer, was born to former slaves in Wilton, Connecticut. Beginning as a young girl, she worked for a wealthy white family. “[W]hen about fourteen years old I joined the Presbyterian [Congregationalist] Church,” she wrote many decades later. “Yet I did not feel satisfied it seemed to me there was something more that I was looking for” (Newell, p. 263).

Around 1842 still living in Connecticut Manning was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints commonly known as Mormonism Several weeks later she experienced the gift of speaking in tongues a practice common in Mormonism during the early years Obedient to the church s principle of gathering she left her home to travel with her family and a group of Latter day Saints to Nauvoo Illinois Upon reaching Buffalo New York the black members of the church were refused further ...

Article

John G. Turner

barber, abolitionist, Freemason, and Latter-day Saint elder, was born in Barre, Worcester County, Massachusetts into a small African American community known as “Guinea Corner.” Lewis's father, Peter, born free, was a yeoman farmer; his mother, Minor, was born a slave. Lewis's name “Quack” is an anglicized variant of the Ghanian name Kwaku.

As a young adult Walker Lewis opened a barbershop in Tewksbury, a town later incorporated into Lowell. In 1826 he became a charter member of the Massachusetts General Colored Association (David Walker was another charter member), an organization that favored immediate emancipation. The abolition society became an auxiliary of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. With his money Lewis supported William Lloyd Garrison, and he and many of his relatives quietly supported the Underground Railroad.

In the early 1820s Lewis became a Freemason joining Boston s African Grand Lodge which also supported ...

Article

John G. Turner

was born in Natchez, Mississippi to a mixed-race Pennsylvanian cabinetmaker and his slave. Upon his death, McCary’s father freed his mother and two siblings in his will, yet assigned McCary as a slave to two of his own siblings. Also known as Okah Tubbee and William Chubbee, he escaped slavery as a young man and took refuge in New Orleans, later heading north to St. Louis.

In 1846 McCary using the name William went to Nauvoo Illinois which the Mormons were at the time leaving under the threat of persecution from anti Mormon mobs Showcasing a penchant for assumed identities that characterized his subsequent exploits McCary presented himself as an Indian chief He was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints and married a white Mormon woman named Lucy Stanton Bassett The couple soon left Nauvoo for Cincinnati Ohio where McCary gained prophetic influence over ...

Article

Margaret Blair Young

the last active Mormon descendant of black members of the famous Mormon migration. Bankhead's father, Sylvester Perkins, was uneducated, the descendant of slaves who came to Utah with white Mormon Reuben Perkins. According to Bankhead's oral history, she and her siblings Frank and Huron would “devil [Sylvester] out of bed to get him to read.”

Her mother, Martha Stevens, was the granddaughter of Green Flake, an enslaved Mormon (Latter-day Saints) pioneer who purportedly drove Brigham Young's wagon when the Latter-day Saints entered Utah.

Bankhead described her upbringing thus:

I was born on homestead land given to a Mrs Jones by President Ulysses S Grant She later sold it to my father It s been in our family for over one hundred years My father bred horses and we always had a garden and an orchard and all kinds of fruit But black currants and peaches were our main fruits And ...