The Black Mormon Homepage (14)

Some Prominent Black Mormons

Here are some noteworthy Black Mormons:

Joseph W.B. Johnson of Ghana

The LORD was preparing the way in black Africa many years before the 1978 Revelation!

One of the first black Africans who received the Priesthood after the 1978 Revelation was Joseph W.B. Johnson of Ghana; a man who had a "vision" of Jesus and many angels in 1964; telling him teach The Book of Mormon and the Joseph Smith Story to his countrymen. He later recounted this vision:

"One early morning about 5:30 am, while about to prepare for my daily work, I saw the heavens open and angels with trumpets singing songs of praise unto God...In the course of this I heard my name mentioned thrice, 'Johnson, Johnson, Johnson. If you will take up my work as I command you, I will bless you and your land.' Trembling and in tears, I replied, 'Lord, with Thy help I will do whatever you will command me.' From that day onward, I was constrained by that Spirit to go from street to deliver the message which we read from The Book of Mormon...I did exactly as the Lord commanded me...and immediately our persecution started." (Mormon Identities in Transition, p.84)

Joseph W.B. Johnson of Ghana. He converted over 14,000 and suffered much persecution. He is now a Patriarch (unpaid minister who gives prophetic blessings to other Mormons) in Ghana.

By 1978, after much trial, tribulation, and persecution, Joseph W.B. Johnson had converted over 14,000 people to The Book of Mormon. The great majority of these people were eventually baptized into the Church after 1978.

Joseph Freeman

The first black man of Hamitic lineage to be ordained since Enoch Abel (Elijah Abel's grandson) was Joseph Freeman; a black convert to the Church who had once studied to become a black Holiness church minister. He first discovered the Church while in the U.S. Air Force in Hawaii in the early 1970s. He was crushed when he first was told of the Priesthood-ban. Yet, he prayed about it and received an overwhelming feeling of peace. He was baptized, and later married a Mormon Tongan woman. He remained faithful and active before and after the 1978 Revelation and currently (2003 A.D.) serves as an LDS bishop (a lay-leader of a congregation of about 250 Mormons) in Salt Lake City.

Joseph Freeman and family (June, 1978)

Elder Helvecio Martíns

Helvecio Martíns was born a poor full-blooded Negro in a favela (ghetto) in Rio de Janeiro in 1930. After many years of working by day and attending school by night, he gained a university education. He rose by the power of mind and will to become one of the top executives in Brazil's major enegy company by 1972. Also in that year white American Mormon missionaries knocked on his door, and taught him the Gospel. When he was first told of the Priesthood-ban he became quite angry, but soon he prayed about it and received an overwhelming feeling of peace. He and his wife and family were baptized into the Church. At that time (1972) the Church in Brazil had many Mulatto members, but few full-blooded Negro members. Although not allowed to even become a Deacon, Br. Martíns eventually became a Gospel Doctrine teacher and the Church Spokesman for southern Brazil. After the 1978 Revelation, Br. Martíns received the Priesthood. He became a bishop, a High Councilor in a Stake, and a Mission President. While a Mission President in northeastern Brazil, he was called by The First Presidency to become a member of the 2nd Quorum of Seventy; the 5th highest quorum in the Church. He was the first black Seventy since Elijah Abel.

Elder Helvecio Martíns (c.1990)

His son, Marcus Martíns, was one of the first Mormon missionaries of Hamitic lineage since Elijah Abel. Dr. Martíns is now Chair of the Dept. of Religious Education at BYU-Hawaii.

Marcus Martíns, Ph.D. (c.2003)

From Black Panther to Black Mormon

LeRoy Eldridge Cleaver, the Minister of Information in the early Black Panther Party, and the author of the international bestseller Soul on Ice (1968)--once considered the "Manifesto" of Black Nationalists and even white Radicals.

Cleaver was the most well-known American Black Nationalist and Radical in the 1960s. He was the most well-known Black Panther in the 1960s; the Party being a combination of Black Nationalism and Marxism. After fleeing the U.S. to avoid a manslaughter charge (he was with other Panthers in a shootout with Oakland California Police in 1969) he exiled himself to Algeria and later Cuba. He soon became disillusioned with Communism and Socialism when he saw that socialist countries were no "paradises of the workers" as he had been led to believe. He had a "born-again" experience in Cuba, and became a born-again Christian. He returned to the U.S. in 1975 and was given many years of probation (he was not the shooter). Being a famous figure for years, Cleaver was "wined and dined" by prominent Evangelicals and was offered multimillion dollar contracts to start his own Christian television ministry. He declined this, perferring to work (at a low salary) with young black men in a prison ministry. He concern was not becoming wealthy, but to work with young black men in prisons; to convert them to Christ as the way to free them from crime and gangs. By 1982 he had become disillusioned with the commercialism and showmanshipism of Evangelical Christianity, and he started looking into alternative religions. Also in 1982 he met Cleon Skousen, founder of the Freeman Institute (now called the National Center for Constitutional Studies). Cleaver gave talks for the Freeman Institute, and Skousen (a well-known Mormon author and former FBI agent) introduced Cleaver and his wife to the Mormon Faith. In 1984 he was baptized into the LDS Church. He remained a Member of it (although later not always active) until his death in 1998, at age 62, of diabetes.

Cleaver in 1968 as the Presidential Candidate of the Peace and Freedom Party

Cleaver speaking at a Mormon ward (c. 1992)

Other Prominent Black Mormon Converts

In 1981 Modibo Diarra, the president of the National Teacher's Union of Mali, became a Mormon after much prayer and study of various religions and churches. Converting to a "Christian" church in Mali is very dangerous! But Br. Diarra remains faithful.

Modibo Diarra

In 1989 Jesse Thomas Jr., a former Baptist preacher, joined the Church, and now serves in local priesthood-leadership positions. He is also starting a Genesis Group in the Denver area.

Jesse Thomas Jr. in front of the Denver Temple

In 1990 Elder Helvecio Martíns (a prominent Afro-Brazilian business leader) became a Member of the Second Quorum of Seventy; the fifth highest council in the Church.

In 1995 Lee Radcliff, a black Baptist minister who served as a pastor in Chicago and Mississippi for decades, joined the Church. He is only one of many current or former black ministers who join the Church after 1978.

Lee Radcliff

Late '60s and early '70s R&B singer Gladys Knight became a Mormon in 1998 after her son Jimmy and his family did. Gladys Knight was the singer in the R&B group Gladys Knight and the Pips. Today (2001 A.D.) she writes and performs Mormon Gospel music.

Gladys Knight

A number of African-American athletes have become Mormons; including the famous college and NFL football great Burgess Owens, and the NBA All-Star player Thurl Bailey (who now composes Mormon music).

Burgess Owens

Sam Warren (center) of "The Drifters"; a famous black R&B group of the 1960s and 1970s.

Prominent Black African Mormons

In recent years several prominent black Africans have joined the Church, Julia Nompi Mavimbela (black South African woman's leader and founder of the National Council of African Women), and Justice Yohannes Chane; formerly of the Ethiopian Supreme Court. But most Black Mormons are just average folks from all walks of life.


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