The Genesis Group celebrates 50th anniversary
SALT LAKE CITY – Black Latter-day Saints are marking a milestone this weekend with a musical tribute at the Tabernacle on Temple Square.
It is a celebration of the history of The Genesis Group.
The Salt Lake Tabernacle will be filled with a distinct Gospel sound on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 22, paying tribute to Black Latter-day Saints.
“Even though we’ve come a long way, you know, as a country, we still have cultural differences,” said Debra Bonner, director of The Unity Gospel Choir.
Bonner sees her choir, which is racially mixed, as messengers of hope.
“The Gospel transcends race, it transcends culture. It’s about loving one another,” she said.
Standing at microphones in front of the choir are three Black men, representing early Black settlers – some free, some not – who tell their stories of faith through a unique hip hop song, written by singer/songwriter Alex Boyé.
“One of my favorite scriptures is, ‘If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing and dancing!’ So, that’s really what this is, but it’s also a commemoration for those, the giants, who were standing on their shoulders, you know, Darius Gray,” said Boyé.
Darius Gray was one of the founders of The Genesis Group.
He told KSL-TV the story in 2012.
“Three Black men, myself being one of them, met because we were concerned that recent converts – this was 1971 – recent converts to the Church were falling away. We knelt in prayer and felt led to approach the senior brethren of the Church,” he said.
Joseph Fielding Smith was Church President and Prophet then, and he assigned three Apostles – Elders Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson and Boyd K. Packer – to oversee the creation of The Genesis Group.
They called it a support branch, meeting the first Sunday of the month, much like a ward, with music, talks and testimonies.
And it was, Gray said, always inclusive – people of all races welcome.
Eventually, other branches of the Genesis Group were created in other states.
“Our mandate was to be a support to Black Latter-day Saints and their friends around the country,” said Gray.
Gray was in that first meeting on June 8, 1971.
Seven years later to the day, President Spencer W. Kimball announced the revelation that gave the priesthood to all men of the faith.
With racial divisions in our country now, KSL’s Carole Mikita asked him, “What do you say to people who are still confused about Black Latter-day Saints?”
Gray said he’s concerned about the rhetoric today.
“We are not coming together as children of God, and that’s reflected in the attitudes towards persons of color in the Church,” he said.
And not just Blacks, but Asian, Hispanic and Polynesian Latter-day Saints.
“Your job is not to try and educate or change the minds and hearts of everyone around you who may find some difference or difficulty with you. That’s not your assignment. You are to love them,” he said. “Don’t lose God because someone else has had a distancing from God.”
This 50th anniversary, Darius Gray hopes, can be a reason to bring all Latter-day Saints together.
“Doing that which Father would have us do – support one another, love one another, be patient, be kind and be forgiving,” he said.
The Genesis 50th Anniversary Devotional is this Saturday evening in the Tabernacle.
It will be broadcast live on the Church’s website beginning at 6 p.m.
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