Times and Seasons’ 2013 Mormon of the Year: Darius Gray

January 14, 2014 | 47 comments
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Darius GrayAfter due consideration the staff of Times and Seasons has selected Darius Gray as the 2013 Mormon of the Year, our annual designation of the Mormon who had the greatest impact or influence on Mormons and Mormonism during the year.

This past year represented a culmination in Gray’s lifelong work on race issues in the LDS Church, with the publication in December of the LDS Church’s Gospel Topics page on Race and the Priesthood, which for the first time repudiated much of the logic used by Church members to justify the priesthood ban. While events of the year may not have attracted attention personally to Gray, his quiet and consistent effort over decades has clearly led to a changed attitude among both leaders and members of the Church.

Despite continuing and significant health issues, Gray has maintained a frequent travel and speaking schedule, in which he has spoken to both Mormon and non-Mormon groups across the United States. In addition, he has written regularly about race and what it means in a Mormon context. In  particular, the 3-volume series Standing on the Promises, authored with Margaret Blair Young, has clarified Mormon history about race and brought more accurate perceptions to a generation of Church members.

While many Mormons attracted attention in the media this past year, Gray’s influence has accumulated to lead to real change, clearly seen in the current views in the Church about the priesthood ban.

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Times and Seasons is not the only media to recognize Gray’s efforts over the years. Particularly touching is author Margaret Blair Young’s recent tribute to him. Interviews with Darius Gray appear on the pages of the Genesis Group, Mormon Artist and Mormon Stories. And Gray’s own thoughts have not only influenced a Mormon audience, but has gone out to a national audience in publications like the Huffington Post.

The Mormon of the Year designation is a recognition of the effect that the person or group of persons recognized has had during the past year. It is not a prize or award, so nothing of value is being given to anyone as a result of this designation, and it is not necessarily meant to honor the person or persons recognized, so no effort will be made to contact or notify Gray.

We were very pleased by the interest in selecting the Mormon of the Year. The Times and Seasons readers and staff nominated a total of 31 candidates. We learned a lot from those nominations, especially the range of our readers’ beliefs and feelings and about Mormons who have done significant things and really deserve to be on a list of possible Mormons of the Year.

The LDS Church’s First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were excluded from nominations.

We also appreciate those who dropped by and participated in our online vote, which taught us a lot about the passion that many people have for their friends and those that they admire. More than 2,200 people voted in our poll, more than any year except our first year. We hope that those who dropped by enjoyed Times and Seasons and will drop by again.

Please plan on participating in next year’s Mormon of the Year nominations and designation. I’m sure that many of the nominees will show up next year, and those of us who were unfamiliar with some of the nominees can use that time to become more familiar with them. Certainly we will re-nominate some of them next year.

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47 Responses to Times and Seasons’ 2013 Mormon of the Year: Darius Gray

  1. Amy T on January 14, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Wonderful. Congratulations to Darius Gray, and also to Times and Seasons for this excellent choice.

  2. Chris Henrichsen on January 14, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    Well done and a nice change from previous choices.

  3. Clay Cook on January 14, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Very much deserved! Great Choice!

  4. European Saint on January 14, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    Congratulations to Brother Gray. A good man and a powerful testimony. Bless you for your efforts.

  5. charlie on January 14, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    Darius who?

    Isn’t he the guy who got 1.08% of the vote here? that is from more than 2200 votes, people who came here to vote ,T&S heard, err, 24 people? 24 who voted for brother Darius out of 2200?

    Don’t jet me wrong here, I’m sure the man is an excellent person and does a lot of good for ‘mormonism’. But T&S did invite people to “VOTE” for the mormon of the year. But then it goes off and ignores the result. wtf???

    What if we selected our presidents or senators that way? -we’ll maybe we do select senators that way going by the results.

    Maybe next year you could keep the results confidential, like the Oscars do, so that we don’t find out how useless our votes actually are here on T&S..

    (But I still love you all off course :) )

  6. wreddyornot on January 15, 2014 at 12:17 am

    May I express my gratitude for this worthy man among us and say bravo.

  7. Cameron N on January 15, 2014 at 2:16 am

    Good choice. Great man.

  8. Kent Larsen on January 15, 2014 at 9:02 am

    Charlie, we were very upfront about the way we handle the selection. We clearly stated multiple times “THE WINNER OF THE ONLINE VOTE IS NOT NECESSARILY THE MORMON OF THE YEAR!!!”

    This also has not changed from what happened in any of our past selections. In fact, IIRC, we usually have not chosen the popular vote winner.

    IMO, this is necessary, because the popular vote has been the subject of active campaigns by supporters of those nominated (this year there were at least 3 such campaigns) and is subject to fraudulent voting (as has been admitted elsewhere).

    I’m sorry but choosing a Mormon of the Year can’t be left up to the popular vote.

  9. James on January 15, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Kent, that’s understandable. And I know that you were clear that the winner of the voting wouldn’t necessarily win the award. But when the winner only got 1% of the popular vote doesn’t that render the voting element of the process pointless?

    I think Brother Gray is a worthy winner. But if only 1% of votes were for him, what was the point of voting? It surely played no part in your deliberations. That is fine. But by asking people to vote and then to not be influenced by the voting at all seems a little disingenuous. Better just to ask for nominations and drop the voting aspect, no?

  10. Last Lemming on January 15, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Of course I think you should have been doing this for decades and given the designation to Darius Gray in 2001 (for his work on the Freedman’s Bank records), but that’s just me. Better late than never.

  11. Kent Larsen on January 15, 2014 at 10:54 am

    “But if only 1% of votes were for him, what was the point of voting? It surely played no part in your deliberations. That is fine. But by asking people to vote and then to not be influenced by the voting at all seems a little disingenuous. Better just to ask for nominations and drop the voting aspect, no?”

    Well, I don’t quite see it that way. [And my comments here shouldn’t be considered as the views of my fellow bloggers — I don’t know how they see it exactly]

    When I look at the popular vote, I discount a lot of it because of the campaigns and fraudulent voting — so Darius would then get a significantly larger percentage of the vote as a result. Also, I DO think the popular vote weighs in our discussions. It is certainly discussed, and when we have more than one candidate being considered, the popular vote has an effect. So, I DO think that the vote is useful.

  12. Rameumptom on January 15, 2014 at 11:05 am

    Great choice. I was one of the 24 who voted for Darius. His efforts have had real impact over many of the other choices on the list. Kent and T&S did the right thing in making a tough choice. This was not a popularity contest, but an impact issue. And as noted, Darius has often worked in the background, quietly. He has never sought to blow his own horn, like several of the other candidates have done with their careers. I applaud this choice, and I hope Margaret has the opportunity to let Darius know of this soon.

  13. James on January 15, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Kent, that’s fair enough. And I wouldn’t want a discussion of the voting to detract from the award. As I say, Brother Gray is a worthy winner. Congratulations to him. I hope this award in some way sparks greater interest in his contributions to our community.

  14. chris on January 15, 2014 at 11:33 am

    Well, we all know the electoral college decides the winner. Not the popular vote :)

    But really James, I think the point of the vote is to get interest and the discussion going. To signal where “they” are thinking. As far as campaigning, that presumably shouldn’t be “against the rules” since that’s kind of a part of voting. I can inform all my friends they should vote for X, but at the end of the day they have to look at the options and decide who to vote for.

    If there is a real concern about voter fraud, the site should close polls down to registered users next year.

  15. charlie on January 15, 2014 at 11:46 am

    Kent, fair enough. I would also look at it from a reject the fraud point of view. Supporters can skew the results for their candidate. Maybe using an offsite survey counter could help eliminate some of the fraud.

    However Darius was at 1%. He wasn’t a front runner nor in the middle of the pac. He barely picked up a few votes. Must be because us mormons don’t know much about his activities. He seems to be good ldsaint and does important work and has done since the early ’70s but then again, why vote? like James suggest maybe its better just to ask for nominations, then see who seconds and thirds those. Anyways, we’ve been over this and I guess we will always disagree unfortunately.

    Hey by the way, I heard that the people over in FIFA are copying the T&S technique for choosing their Ballon d’Or, they seemed to have also ignored the popular vote for Ribery in favour of Ronaldo. Your views seem to be catching on over there Kent.

  16. Wilfried on January 15, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Very happy for Darius Gray.

    The popular vote clearly reveals why it was so necessary that he obtained the MOTY. Now those who did not know him well have a chance to realize his significance. Many voters tend to be a little local for their home candidate or group – quite normal. But T&S considered the worldwide church and which nominees meant most in that perspective. Darius helped influence the single most important Mormon event of the 20th century – the lifting of the priesthood ban – with its tremendous implications for the universal value and international growth of the church. He did it like Mandela: patient, conciliatory, inspiring. As explained in the post, 2013 marked a culminating moment in a long chain of events.

    This thread is to pay tribute to him (and not discussing the voting procedure – that is best done on the Voting post).

  17. charlie on January 15, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Darius helped influence the single most important Mormon event of the 20th century – the lifting of the priesthood ban

    Oh, so he’s the 1978 mormon of the year? who received his award a little late. Well I congratulate him too since that was an important church changing event back in ’78 and aparently only now in 2013 has lds.org recognized it!

    Wilfried, we all understood that the winner of the online vote wasn’t necessarily the MoTY. And that’s fine. I recognize that people tend ask friends to vote for their candidate too. I even suggested a run off for the top three since no one got more than 18% and I personally didn’t want to see the mormon feminist (top vote) win anything.

    However in choosing Darius -a good and fine man who’s done a lot of good work who only got 1% of the vote- tells me that voting here in T&S is a waste of time since the powers that be will choose whomever they want to anyways, irrespective of what people vote for or don’t vote for -since they don’t listen nor really consider it, clearly, since they went with a man who was way down the list of voter preference.

    For me it means that I wont bother next year with the voting bit. And I doubt that T&S will bother asking me or will miss my vote.

  18. Chris Henrichsen on January 15, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Voting is almost always a waste of time. A pretty well know fact within political science. Now, whining about a blog ignoring your vote…THAT is effective.

  19. Geoff on January 15, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Good choice, though I admit I’m surprised it wasn’t Kate Kelly.

    If you’ve never seen “Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons,” I highly recommend it.

  20. Hammersliben on January 15, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Bah, it was fixed before we started to vote. Next year just give us two names to choose from. Perhaps you can flip the coin via Skype.

  21. Kent Larsen on January 15, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Bah, Hammersliben, I think you mean you **believe** it was fixed. Since you aren’t involved in the selection, how can you know?

    As someone who IS involved in the selection, let me make it clear: You don’t know what you are talking about.

    Perhaps the better question is simply, why do Hammersliben and charlie care so much?

    Please, lets move on to something worth discussing. If you feel strongly about our procedures and have a constructive suggestion for improving them, send us a note or post a recommendation on the nominating post. We welcome constructive suggestions.

  22. Al Doan on January 15, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    his sauce is weak!

  23. charlie on January 15, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    “Perhaps the better question is simply, why do….. and charlie care so much?”

    Because I for one took the time to find out who some of those on the list were. Not all but most. And that was time wasted as #18 tells me too.

    Constructive suggestions? there have been several from different people here and during the nominations phase but it seems you aint listening. Seems writing here might be time wasted too, right?

    But I still love you Kent…

  24. charlie on January 15, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    %22,

    isn’t ‘weak sauce’ a bit of an insult in your neighbourhood? just asking.

  25. Chris Henrichsen on January 15, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    charlie,

    Sorry for being so dismissive in #18. I actually named my own Mormon of the Year at my own blog…partially to poke fun of the overly serious nature of the award here. BTW, T&S does take this very seriously. Kent was not pleased with my sin against the true order of the Bloggernacle.

    To be fair. T&S has done it this way every year. I am actually quite pleased that they picked Brother Gray over some of the alternatives. Given the ideological divides here, I cannot imagine this was an easy process.

  26. Kent Larsen on January 15, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    “Kent was not pleased with my sin against the true order of the Bloggernacle.”

    or I was just annoyed that you called your designation the same thing and didn’t bother to even try to be a little original.

    I’d have gotten over it, Chris.

  27. Chris Henrichsen on January 15, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    I am over you. But it is clear that what y’all have going on here is not really working.

  28. Kent Larsen on January 15, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    “Constructive suggestions? there have been several from different people here and during the nominations phase but it seems you aint listening. Seems writing here might be time wasted too, right?”

    Ah, so if we don’t take your suggestion and immediately put it into practice, we’re not listening? Or do we have some obligation to respond to every idea that anyone comments?

    I’m not sure that sounds reasonable.

  29. Kaimi on January 15, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    I suggest that we put all of the nominees into a giant cage and force them all to fight to the death. Last one standing is named MOTY.

  30. Kent Larsen on January 15, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    “it is clear that what y’all have going on here is not really working.”

    Well, I’m not sure what you mean by “not really working” — what constitutes “working?”

    This year we got more attention than we have had since the first year. I think we made a very good choice, and most readers seem to be happy with it. Where is the “not really working?”

  31. Chris Henrichsen on January 15, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    It does not matter. I apologize for stepping into it….though I endorse Kaimi’s proposal.

  32. Dave on January 15, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    Let’s ignore the complaints (really, go waste someone else’s pixels) and note what makes the process fun and enlightening for all. First, a wide-open nominating post allows anyone with a favorite candidate to throw a name in, and most readers discover a Mormon or two or three on the final list that they were unaware of. Second, a wide-open voting process (too wide open, but this is the Internet, folks) allows anyone and everyone to participate … sometimes five or ten times. The results of the vote are public and available for all to see. The results speak for themselves. This year’s vote shows how many supporters (at least online supporters) there are for Ordain Women and how well known are Ezekiel Ansah and Geoff & Al.

    Yes, the T&S permabloggers make a final vote that determines the award. It’s our site and our award, so that sort of makes sense, doesn’t it? Of course we take the online voting into consideration, but it’s more than just a popularity contest. If that bothers you, start your own group blog and run it for a few years, then do your own poll-based award. Or get a column at Patheos like Chris and make your own choice and announcement.

    As for the award itself — Darius Gray certainly deserves recognition for his many years of quiet, productive effort to move the Church forward on the race issue. He was working for change not just before most of us were blogging but before many of us were even born. He never played the media card or tried to force change by embarrassing the Church publicly. Others who were nominated certainly had some influence and accomplished something worthwhile this year — but you can’t pick everyone. We picked Darius. He certainly merits the award.

  33. Ardis E. Parshall on January 16, 2014 at 12:02 am

    An excellent choice, the right choice, a choice honoring a contribution that is permanent and meaningful in a way that politics and sports and business just can’t measure up to. Thank you, T&S.

    As for all the sniping and snark about voting method: We’ve fostered a blogging culture that encourages precisely this kind of criticism: Rather than celebrating something that is right (yay, Darius), we fill screens with complaints that this is wrong and that can be improved by taking our enlightened advice. We can spend the Church’s money better than the Church can. We can make better use of the missionary force than the Church knows how to do. We can determine social policy and more righteously than the Church does. Is it any surprise that the “we know better” attitude insists that whatever voting scheme would have elected our preference is better than what Kent & Co. did?

    I didn’t vote, but I did read the nominations. Although I love Darius, it didn’t occur to me that he had done anything in 2013 to merit MOTY status for that specific year. But then this announcement post reads:

    “This past year represented a culmination in Gray’s lifelong work on race issues in the LDS Church, with the publication in December of the LDS Church’s Gospel Topics page on Race and the Priesthood”

    Of course that is right. Darius’s decades of patient, faithful, positive, gentle, unwavering, dignified example and teaching did lead to this point in 2013 where the Church not only could, but did, and should have, and no doubt was pleased to publish that essay, vindicating Darius’s life. He’s the perfect choice; I didn’t realize why until this post was published; T&S’s system works.

    Thanks, Kent. Thanks, T&S. Thanks, Darius.

    And I pass back into silence.

  34. Chris Henrichsen on January 16, 2014 at 12:07 am

    Ardis is right. Questioning Times and Seasons is totally how I began down the path to apostasy.

  35. Frank McIntyre on January 16, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Thanks, Ardis. I think, and hope, that many other viewers see it that way as I think that is how many of us saw it once we started discussing the issue.

  36. Rameumptom on January 16, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    I also agree with Ardis. 2013 has been a difficult year for Darius in regards to health. He has worn out his life in this great project. Without Darius’ work that led to 1978’s revelation, and his work since (several books, films, conferences, etc), there may not have been a 2013 announcement.

    Others were noted in the media for sports or being loud about one thing or another, but none have had the real impact on the Church as Darius has had. Maybe in a few years Kate Kelley’s efforts may come to fruition and she’ll be someone to truly consider, but for now she is just one voice among many. As for those making it in sports, they’ve made the news, but will fade with time. Darius’ efforts have lasted decades, and will continue to be important to the millions of Africans and other blacks that will join the Church over the coming years.

  37. Bob on January 16, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    Who did win the popular vote, though? Out of curiosity? Seems like in past years you’ve given them a nod in a footnote at least.

  38. Kent Larsen on January 17, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Bob, the vote results are available on the voting post

  39. Old Man on January 17, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    I step away from the digital world for a few days and miracles happen. Darius is a humble giant. I never would have imagined that the T&S crew would name Darius as MOTY. I salute you all!

  40. Margaret Bair Young on January 19, 2014 at 1:22 am

    I found out about this award a couple of hours ago. I’m in California for the weekend and rarely on a computer. I am so gratified that Darius was named MOTY! I didn’t even vote for him because I was pretty sure I knew who’d win. I know probably better than anyone what he has done over the past sixteen years, because I’ve been privileged to be at his side. His contributions from 1964-1972 were huge. The Genesis Group was vital to the lifting of the priesthood restriction. He became Genesis president in 1998, and he and I started our adventures with angels. I have seen and experienced miracles with him. I have seen him stretch himself to exhaustion in answering phone calls, giving comfort even when he was uncomfortable, attending baptisms, sealings, priesthood ordinations. Rameumpton is right. He does not broadcast the things he does. He goes about them quietly.
    I doubt I’ll ever tell everything I know about him. I will say that T&S has chosen a truly righteous man this year, and I am grateful.

  41. Janet Howard on January 19, 2014 at 11:33 am

    Congratulations to a nice, humble, and Kind man. This honor was richly deserved.

  42. SteveF on January 19, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Excellent choice! At first I also didn’t understand why Darius Gray was the right choice for the year, but after reading the post I’m convinced he is absolutely the best choice for 2013 (despite that it didn’t occur during the voting stage). Job well done, T&S! I think Ardis in #33 summed up my feelings/thoughts better than I could.

  43. Sumina Aldhizer on January 19, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Congratulations Bro. Gray, I am so happy for you! I am grateful for your testimony & all that you do to help bring positive change & clarity. God called you to this work & I want you to know you’ve inspired me & through your & Sis. Young’s books you educated me.

  44. Ray on January 19, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    I would not have thought to vote for Brother Darius on my own, and I missed the voting this year. Outstanding choice.

    When all the records of heaven are opened, and when we all finally get to see him and his life as fully as is deserved, I believe we all will rise up and call him blessed. I know of nobody I admire more.

  45. julia g blair on January 20, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Congratulations to all of you. We have profound respect and love for
    Darius Gray. Marvelous choice!

  46. Frank McLeskey on January 21, 2014 at 2:40 am

    Looking at the list of nominees, it appears no one Mormon is yet identified in the gay rights/SSM arena as “influential “, when in fact there are several on both sides of that issue.

    Maybe next year!

  47. Sharee on January 23, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    I posted a comment a few days ago, but it is not showing, so I will re-post. I am glad Darius won. I voted for him. He is a righteous, wonderful, humble man who is a true servant of our Heavenly Father. I e-mailed Darius to let him know of this honor. He said he was aware, and was appreciative, and was also aware of those who dissented. He said: “In the end that which I’ve been a part of is known by God and that is what matters.” Isn’t that what truly matters for all of us? The honors men bestow are fleeting. It’s what God knows about our actions that is what’s important. I’m sure God is well-pleased with Darius Gray.

    [Ed: Sharee, I couldn’t find any previous comments in the spam filter. Thanks for reposting.]