Sunday, January 6, 2008

Black Panthers and Mormons

I'm on an airplane, sitting next to a 20 year old college student who discovered I was Mormon. He proceeded to tell me what I believed. I was astonished! I didn’t know I believed such things. I was greatful this college sophomore could enlighten me. He apparently didn’t understand sarcasm as I continued to graciously thank him for informing me on my beliefs. He then started to sound off about how the LDS faith didn’t allow blacks to hold the priesthood till 1970, and that by being Mormon I was racist, which is where I drew the line and said, “If Eldridge Cleaver didn’t have a problem with it, I don’t see why some white boy from California should take issue.” To which he responded, “Who’s Eldridge Cleaver?”

Exactly.

Eldridge Cleaver was the former leader of the Black Panthers, and yes, he was a Mormon.

I dated a guy who wasn’t LDS, and knew little about the faith. I gave him some LDS literature. He later told me he didn’t read it- he had learned all he need to know about Mormonism from a South Park episode. I told him that learning about a world religion from a cartoon made him an idiot. Lucky for me, I quickly found out he really was an idiot and we broke up.



With Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign my religion has been in the news frequently, which I’m not accustomed to. Growing up in Southern California, my church would only be in the news for it’s humanitarian efforts- of recent I’ve heard a number of news correspondents who have done little less than a google search make commentary on Mitt Romney’s beliefs. Which brings me back to this 20 year old frat boy on the plane, and Matthew 7 where it simply states: “Judge not lest ye be judged” It seams natural that if you want to understand Buddhism, you'd ask a Buddhist. If you want to understand Judaism, you'd talk to a Jew. But apparently if you want to understand Mormonism, you ask an actor who plays a Mormon on TV. That's as inane as valuing Martin Sheen's political commentary because he was the president on West Wing.


Update: I just found out about a great film called Untold Story of Black Mormons

25 comments:

adam said...

This is another (of the many) example of how we all tend to believe what we hear, no matter the source.

Great post. Much better than my rant on O'Donnell. I'm embarassed to say I didn't know who Eldridge Cleaver was either. : ) Thanks for the history lesson!

Salt H2O said...

Thanks. I figured most people our age didn't know Eldridge Cleaver, they don't spend a lot of time on the Black Pathers in US History.

It's Eldridge Cleaver who said, "You're either part of the solution, or you're part of the problem."

Hadz said...

I actually do know who Eldridge Cleaver is, however, I never knew he was a member of the church. Fascinating!

Michael said...

I know Wikipedia says he was baptized and stayed a member until his deaht- although I haven't seen a verified source on that. I do know that late in his life Cleaver claimed to have never been Mormon, only to have studied with the Mormons and to have been called Mormon by others. Not sure the truth in that, but if he was baptized it seems clear he likely was not an active member for long since he was involved with other churches not long after that time he investigated.

Michael said...

oh, just googled and found more sources (other than wikipedia) indicating Cleaver did indeed join the church, though they also claim he never renounced his membership- though I've read interviews where he claimed to not be Mormon.

Hadz said...

While I was living in Manhattan, I was riding the subway back uptown after church one sunday when I was similarly "verbally" assaulted by a young man. I served my mission in Philadelphia where I had these racial/religious attacks quite often. Regardless, I didn't feel like getting into any Bible bashing arguments. However, I had just gotten tickets to the Gladys Knight performance that was to be held at our Stake center. I had two extra tickets which I offered the gentleman. I explained that she would not only performing, but will also be speaking about her conversion to the church. I told him that it would be a good opportunity to hear a perspective on the LDS church from not only an African American member, but from a beloved American icon. He proceeded to tell me where I could stick those tickets! Oh well, I ended up giving them to my neighbors, an African American couple who were curious about the church. They gladly accepted the invitation, sat with me and a friend and had a wonderful spiritual/musical experience.

Salt H2O said...

Michael,
Knowing Cleaver's background I'd understand why he'd say he wasn't LDS.

Here's the NYT story after his death. I changed the link in the blog to this as well.

Salt H2O said...

Hadz,
Sounds like a great experience. Nice that you were able to score extra tickets to an event like that.

Have you heard of the Genesis Group?

Steve said...

It seems more and more that Romney's religion isn't going to be such a big issue, at least no bigger than say Huckabee's or Obama's, which the conservative media has made my parents think he is Muslim due to his name, haha.

Salt H2O said...

The conservative media! Ha! Steve, you're such a jokester. Unless you're talking about good ol' talk radio, and I can't imagine anyone related to you would listen to Hannity.

The reason Huckabee is a contender is his religon. He's a man who raised taxes, and freed murders- not typically the features of a viable Republican candidate. All he has going for him is his religous affliation, and he's milking it.

Steve said...

I come from a blue-collar, poe-dunk town in a staunchly Republican county where the guns outnumber the people. My parents are just victims of only really talking to people that repeat talking points on Faux News.

That being said, I feel tv media does slant slightly to the left (not nearly enough in my opinion!), but every channel now has their token ultra-right winged characater and talk radio is almost all conservative. Not saying that is all bad, I've listened to Air America and although I do like it, I prefer the crazies on the right talkers to make me laugh. But my point was to show that the media can't be trusted! :)

I find it ironic that candidates that are trying to benefit from their 'strong' Christian beliefs ala GWB did suddenly get defensive sudeenly when all their social policies are religious based and when asked about said religion act like it shouldn't be brought up. Hypocritical of much of the right, hahahaha.

Hadz said...

I had never heard of the Genesis Group. Man, I wish the internet was around when I served MY mission(oops I am dating myself.) I could have shared that website with many investigators. My point to the whole story is that it saddens me how content people are to wallow in their own ignorance. Even when presented an opportunity to learn from the proper channels, they reject it. I believe that many people choose to be angry and misinformed...to get their information about the church from the media and lame cartoons. It is for this reason that missionaries search for humble people whose hearts are softened and desire to truly learn about the church. I have many political discussions in many of my classes and I am always amazed at how misinformed people are in regards to religion and politics and how angry in general people have become. It seems that america has been flooded with propaganda and conspiracy theories like never before....and the problem is that America eats it up.

Steve said...

hadz,
It's a sad state in America right now, that is for sure. The fact that so many people eat up all the Britney and Paris BS and buy 'people" and "Us Weekly" just goes to show that people are suckers. It's easy to blame the media, but they wouldn't be around and making a profit from it if Americans didn't back it up with their money and time.
I wish I knew how to turn it around, but I think it simply comes down to laziness; people are more willing to sit and be told what to say, think, and do and feel good about bad stuff happening to the "rich and powerful" to justify what is happening in their own lives and ignore politics and truths.
We are the Romans.

Salt H2O said...

An interesting article in the Deseret Morning News about how it's hip to hate mormons.

Daisy Paige said...

One of the best friends I made in Las Vegas couldn't believe I was Mormon when I told him. He had also gathered all of his information from that South Park episode, asking me about Joseph Smith writing the Book of Mormon out of a black magician's hat.

I didn't realize what he was talking about until I looked it up (scroll forward to about 2 minutes):
http://southpark.comedycentral.com/videos.jhtml?videoI
d=104257&episodeId=103933

I don't know why, but he thought the South Park portrayal was for real. South Park is a comedy show. Why would anyone think its information is anything more than entertaining? I mean, have you seen the PETA episode?

crazy4danes said...

Dude I hate to say it, but there are a couple South Park episodes that have a Mormon theme and they are funny! I'm Moromon, so I can find the humour, however, if someone didn't know anything about the church it could be a bad way to find out, however for the most part they are pretty accurate (see the July 1993 Ensign for reference to the Joseph Smith Episode), they just make fun of the Mormons.

And as for the Joseph Smith episode refering to him using a black hat and seer stone, that is actually a method that COULD have been used according to Russel M Nelson. It was referred to in a talk by Russel M Nelson in the July 1993 issue of the Ensign, Brother Nelson says:

"The details of this miraculous method of translation are still not fully known. Yet we do have a few precious insights. David Whitmer wrote":

“Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Mo.: n.p., 1887, p. 12.)

It has been said that one of the writers of South Park was Mormon, I could see this as the things they say are pretty close to the truth, they just exagerate and make fun of it. There is one episode about a mormon family moving in to south park and it's pretty correct also.

It just comes down to not getting your feathers ruffled. Anyone can take any religion and find something odd about it to make fun of it. We are an odd religion and there is ton to take the wrong way for sure!

Steve said...

crazy4danes is right. When I met with the missionaries, they told me the hat story, along with the papyrus and the other details. If I walked up to any of you on the street and stated I also did such a thing, you'd all laugh in my face. :)
And it's not like the Morms are the only group that is ever picked on. It's just your turn due to Romney putting the religion in the spotlight. Before there were plenty of Catholic, evangelical, and even the occassional Jewish joke on the nightly shows and The Daily Show. It just makes it harder to swallow now that the religion is out of the shadows, for the time being.

f*bomb. said...

The Joseph Smith episode was AWESOME.
I love that it brings about more questions from people I know and opens the forum for humor and discussion of Truth. People who believe the ridiculous are CHOOSING to be ridiculous. If you can't see that, there's no point in talking.

Steve said...

See, people make fun of other religions too, even in Utah!!!!

http://wonkette.com/343929/thin+skinned-catholics-offended-by-deep-fried-christ

Jennifer said...

You put South Park on your blog! That's Awesome!

Salt H2O said...

I learned about a film that doesn't necessarily discuss cleaver but it does discuss the black history of momonism. Check it out HERE

Crystal said...

Have you heard this presentation? http://www.mormonstories.org/blacksandtheldspriesthood/

Carlos said...

I said something to myself about the Mormons once .. it was 1968 .. that is when I started to find out .. I was a friend of Cleaver's at that time .. in 1980 I found him again and told him I was a Mormon .. he had already found out somethings himself .. in the Moody library in Chicago .. he asked me what I knew about the Melchezidek Priesthood .. he had see the interior of the Kirtland Temple in a book on religious architecture .. the podiums of the Aaronic and Melchezidek Priesthoods .. he was baptized in Oakland a few years later .. I was with him when he met with Ezra Taft Benson in his office at 50 West Temple .. carlloeber@yahoo.com ..

lawafterthebar said...

Um, really: why are you so funny. I almost pee my pants every time I end up here.

Lani Wendt Young said...

Funny. Love this post. Reminds me of - my mother in law who kept giving my husband 'Mormons are Satanists' pamphlets. And wanted him to watch a dvd about the sicko sexual stuff Mormons do in their temples (apparently). and yet, after he went to the temple for the first time...she had NO interest whatsover in hearing him tell her that NO, sorry but nobody was getting busy in the temple and NO, sorry but nbody in a devil mask came and danced naked around him.
Nope. Some people dont want to hear stuff straight from the source. They would much rather believe a whole lot of crap churned out by people who have no clue what theyre talking about.