To say that My Lord, He Calls Me: Stories of Faith by Black American Latter-day Saints, ed. Alice Faulkner Burch (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2022) is an important collection would be an understatement.
While small (clocking in at 225 pages), the volume contains around 35 chapters written by Black American Latter-day Saints, including conversion stories, testimonies, and other experiences and thoughts. The contributors cover a range of ages and time periods, including the words of 19th century Latter-day Saints–like Jane Elizabeth Manning James or Samuel Davidson Chambers–to contemporary teenagers in the Church. In addition, several poems are also included that are quite powerful and touching.
The book was compiled with several reasons in mind. As explained in the introduction: “It is meant to strengthen and aid the Black American Latter-day Saint community as well as educate other members of the Church who want to better understand the experiences of Black American Latter-day Saints…. Ultimately, the hope of this book is to help all Church members become united through better understanding or another.”
As part of opening a view into the experiences of Black American Latter-day Saints, the book does not shy away from discussing racism. The intro begins by noting that the experiences shared in the book “offer sacred truths in maintaining faith while overcoming challenges, including racism,” among other things. Individuals share experiences where they have experienced racism. For example, Hayle and Millie Fletcher write that: “Since days we get tired. People touch our hair, ask us if we play basketball, and assume that our birth moms were on drugs. We have heard and been called the N-word more times than we can count, and our family has experienced racism in many ways.” Along with recounting these types of experiences, however, the authors also talk about their relationships with God and how they have remained faithful disciples even though those things have happened.
The book was meaningful for me for a number of reasons:
- As an armchair historian, I appreciate that the book gathers and makes accessible the words of people who aren’t heard from as often. It provides a glimpse into the world of members of the Church throughout its history in the United States, including the Church in the 21st century.
- As a disciple of Jesus the Christ, I was touched, uplifted, and strengthened by the experiences, testimonies, and insights that were shared.
- As someone who strives to follow the words of the prophets, including teachings from Gordon B. Hinckley, Dallin H. Oaks, and Russell M. Nelson about ridding ourselves of racism and prejudice, it helped me better see and understand what that racism looks like and how it is experienced by marginalized individuals in the Church.
For all of the above reasons, I highly recommend picking up a copy and reading My Lord, He Calls Me: Stories of Faith by Black American Latter-day Saints, ed. Alice Faulkner Burch (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2022).