Black LDS Experience: A personal story

This “Voices” feature was written by Tanisha W. 

I have been in the Church since I was two years old. I have gone through primary, the young women's program, and seminary and truly Love Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ.

I have thrived in the church despite various ups and downs but ran into a roadblock when my stake decided to form a "student" ward which, rapidly turned into a "singles" ward. The challenge that I faced there, in adjusting and feeling at home compacted when my father passed away in 2006. I began struggling more than ever with identity and felt a loneliness and emptiness as I tried to make sense of life.

I made the mistake of quitting too many of the activities that I had been involved in, in other aspects of my life, and found myself socially and emotionally dependent on this singles ward setting. I became incredibly depressed and the only message I was hearing on a consistent basis in church was about marriage. I grasped onto any message of the Savior and clung to it, but those messages didn't come often enough. I began to have panic attacks and on one Sunday after Sacrament Meeting I was stopped by an older man that told me how as a child, he was jealous of black babies because he believed they were breast-fed chocolate milk. The turmoil in my spirit escalated and I froze, not knowing what to say. I did not need this added attack on my body image.

I've since been able to return to my home ward where I felt a much greater peace as I enjoyed serving in the primary. But as I have come out of my depression I've begun seeing how much of what I was feeling the whole time, was race-related.

The singles ward after sacrament was somewhat of a meat-market with flirting and chatting among the majority of the young adults looking for dates. This didn't appeal to me at all in the first place, as that is not the place that I am at in my life right now. Then I began to realize that even if I were interested in dating, there was no one in my area to even talk to with the same ethnic heritage as me. Increasingly I realized how many "what-if" scenarios existed. I realized that the culture of the church is one that is not really welcoming to people of African descent, particularly not African-Americans.

I am 28 now and have steadily been searching information on blacks in the church, and see that I am not alone in how I feel.  I have found the Black LDS Facebook Group where church members of African-descent along with members of other backgrounds can discuss the gospel as well as the various experiences that we have gone through.  I have also discovered the Genesis Group, an organization that the church formed in 1971, in order to further fellowship African-American saints.  I have found these treasures and many more.  I have been greatly blessed by the information that I have found and look forward to what the Lord has in store.

-Tanisha Waggoner
~ Aspiring Game Designer and Entrepreneur
Hana o sakaseyou!

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