Marvin Perkins has graciously agreed to answer a few questions from Times & Seasons. Brother Perkins is a Latter-day Saint music producer who is currently the Public Affairs Co-chair for the Genesis Group and who has worked to nurture understanding between African Americans and Latter-day Saints and attack misconceptions. As part of this effort, he has appeared on CNN, among other places. In late 2007, Brother Perkins and former Genesis Group President Darius Gray put out a DVD entitled “Blacks in the Scriptures” that contains four lecture-style scriptural presentations on Blacks and the Bible, Skin Color, Curses, Equality, Priesthood and Blacks as well as a historical look at Blacks and the LDS Priesthood. The DVD confronts folklore and mythology surrounding blacks and the gospel and traces the history of blacks in both the scriptures and the Church. More recently, Brother Perkins has started a Blacks in the Scriptures podcast that is available for free on iTunes and is focused on answering questions posed by those who have viewed the DVDs (to pose your own questions for the podcast, call (214) 615-6044 ext 9209).
On to the 12 Questions… or it least the first question. We’ve broken up our Q&A with Brother Perkins into more manageable chunks, and his first response is worthy of a post in its own right.
(1) How did the lecture series that ultimately came to be Blacks in the Scriptures come about, how widely has the DVD series been circulated, and what has been the response?
Darius Gray has been a member of the LDS church for over 40 years. I joined over 20 years ago. The restriction on priesthood to Blacks and the myriad of incorrect teachings that resulted from this policy almost kept the two of us from joining the church, and are responsible for turning hundreds of thousands away from the church every year. Having to deal with this obstacle in our own conversion, we have been at work for our entire membership trying to find ways to help those who have ears to hear but are turned away because of incorrect doctrines, as well as those members whose hearts are right, however are unaware of the truths surrounding these issues, thus unable to remove the walls that keep so many from joining. After I was baptized I was excited to find some of the truths that would have helped me get here sooner. I wrote to the First Counselor in the First Presidency at the time, President Gordon B. Hinckley, asking if he could share some of these truths during General Conference. He wrote back encouraging me to start small in my local quorums, wards and stakes and let the message spread in this manner. From this message I went from asking someone else to teach this, to realizing that I would be one of those who would bring it forth.
The more we’d studied, fasted and prayed, the more we learned. The more we learned, the more invitations we’d receive to present firesides and speak on the subject. I served under President Gray during his years as Genesis president, as the Genesis Mission leader and on a special project to help reactivate Blacks Saints in the Utah north area. So though we were closely connected through service, even outside of Utah, we’d never had the chance to present our firesides together until 2005 at the FAIR conference. Prior to the conference I’d received a request to come to the UK to teach my findings. I declined this invitation feeling that the money they’d spend to bring me there could go to better use, and letting them know that I could find a way to teach them this material electronically.
Shortly after, President Gray and I presented at the FAIR conference and had a chance to see how well our presentations were received, and how well they complimented each other’s. I told him about the invitation from the UK and that we had to find a way to bring all of this information to people who couldn’t afford to bring us in or who couldn’t obtain or wait for a fireside to be approved and arranged. He agreed and we immediately began brainstorming there at the conference. We agreed that putting the presentations onto DVD was the most cost and time efficient way to get the message to the greatest number of people world wide. Now, all we had to do was to put the idea to prayer and see what the Lord had to say about it. We set a date to fast and pray, and both received the answer that we should move forward with the work. Now I’m a big believer in the idea that if the Lord really wants you to do something, He makes it pretty clear and leads you in that direction. Well our first order of business was to go through our presentations thoroughly and verify all of our material. Producing this work was intended only to help others, but we were wise enough to realize that there would be critics looking for error as well.
So in the process of doing this I received another level of conversion. I remember speaking to President Gray by phone and him telling me that he’d received a flood of inspiration the night before, it just kept flowing and flowing he told me. I was in my car listening to the scriptures when this happened to me the first time. The inspiration was coming so fast that I asked the Lord if He could slow it down a bit because I was driving. I couldn’t write that fast while I was driving, and shouldn’t be writing while I was driving, and didn’t think I’d be able to remember it all. Then, in addition to putting into my mind certain scriptures, and how they tied into each other and their meanings, came through the still small voice, “this work is of me and I will help you to remember.” And he was true to His word.
On the day of the filming, I realized that we had not seen each other’s enhanced presentations. I thought to myself, the final test will be to see if there is any conflict in material, especially with his “Blacks in the Bible” and my “Skin Color & Curses.” There was not. Everything in both presentations complimented and supported doctrinal and eternal principles beautifully.
The DVDs are now in 16 countries: United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Jamaica, England, France, Portugal, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Those who buy from the website may not be aware of this, but for every DVD set sold, we donate a set. So every set in Africa, Jamaica, Peru and Mexico and Brazil were donations made possible by those who purchased from BlacksintheScriptures.com.
Blacks of other faiths see the DVDs which change everything they’ve ever thought about the Church. It’s an instant bridge that only takes an hour to build, and works better than any effort the church has ever put forth to reach the African American community. It simply takes the wall down that kept them out of the church and teaches them more about Blacks in biblical history than any church, book or preacher ever has. The only question they seem to have is why is it that two Black men are going around clearing up this problem, instead of the Whites who caused it, which is ironic because the Whites of the church think that this is a matter best handled by Blacks.
The overwhelming majority of members who view Blacks in the Scriptures express a gospel changing experience. They see the Plan of Salvation in a much clearer light. They are now grateful to be able to reconcile with scripture the discomfort they’ve felt with the previously taught folklore. In addition, they’re excited to be able to finally understand and explain to neighbors scriptures that are commonly used incorrectly to demonstrate that our doctrine is racist. Some missionaries around the country have shared with me that they avoid African Americans because they know that they’ll have the priesthood/curse questions, and they themselves can’t answer them. Now after seeing Blacks in the Scriptures, these same missionaries are seeking out Blacks to bring them the good news.
Many of the Saints express how embarrassed they are that the answers have been in the scriptures the entire time, yet they didn’t put enough time, study and prayer into them to discover these things for themselves. Many outside the church express a great deal of gratitude that “the Mormons” are finally talking about this issue and they are very pleased and impressed with what they’re hearing. And with the scriptural passage “by their fruits ye shall know them” in mind, Blacks and people of all cultures are joining the church and coming back into the church as a result. Missionaries are experiencing that many who didn’t want to speak with them anymore, now have open doors and have accepted the gospel. The scriptural truths contained in the DVD series, simply fixes one of the church’s largest problems.
And then you have a few that struggle. They’d always been taught that Blacks were less valiant or cursed or not ready etc. They’ve been taught this information by prophets and apostles and had it sustained by prophets and apostles that followed, some by their silence. So this creates two major problems. These teaching grew out of a time where we did not have racial equality, or better yet, human rights. Many grew up believing that they were truly superior to Blacks and this gave them a false sense of self-esteem, which caused them to speak as authorities instead of brothers, and carry themselves with a sense of entitlement. Now that they realize we’re all the same, some feel as though they’ve been demoted in stature and they feel less self-worth.
Then you have those who are not familiar enough with the scriptures or the Plan of Salvation to understand that all prophets and apostles make mistakes. They mistakenly believe that all prophets are to be perfect in the administration of the things of God and because of this, their testimony of the truthfulness of the Church suffers a major blow and they begin to doubt and struggle. After we show them D&C 1:24-28 …
24 Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.
25 And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;
26 And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;
27 And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;
28 And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.
… and a list of prophets who’ve made errors from the Old Testament to the Doctrine and Covenants they begin to see that their testimonies were weighted too much on the Brethren who are imperfect and not enough on Christ who is perfect, and His restored gospel. With this realization, the shift is made and they become stronger, more productive Saints, now able to help their brother.