For the record, I respect Mormon missionaries. Any young person who would give up one-and-one-half to two years of his or her young life to go door-to-door and share his or her faith and testimony gets my respect. I can’t think of much else that is more laudable. I may not agree with the Mormon church's stance on political issues, but I respect that young people of their faith go on missions.
For the record, I tend to attract certain types of people and things: Dogs (the four-legged canine kind and, when I was single, the two-legged pretty boy non-monogamous kind); elderly people on public transit (don’t know why, but they sit next to me and tell me their life stories); children (if you don’t want me to know what’s going on in your household, don’t tell your children because if they’re around me, they’re probably going to spill their guts to me; again, don’t know why, but they just do), and Mormon missionaries.
In light of these facts, I invited two young Mormon missionaries into my living room last Saturday to listen to them share their testimony and speak of their faith. Because they are young women and pretty conspicuous in their conservative dress and name tags, I tend to feel protective of them just because I would want someone looking out for my daughters if they were going door-to-door -- that is, if I had daughters. I can’t help it. Regardless, I’m the kind of person who will stop and take time to listen to just about anyone (or any canine, for that matter) trying to communicate with me. I can’t help it.
In sharing their testimony and faith, they asked me to read some scripture from the Book of Mormon (I already own a copy, a gift from a friend who is Mormon) and pray as to whether the idea of Joseph Smith as a prophet was true to me. They also informed me that Mormons believe that not only has Jesus Christ returned on occasion since the Resurrection and Ascension, but that he has come to the United States.
That’s where they lost me.
I asked BMNB, who is a Baptist (National Baptist, not Southern Baptist – he’s asked me to make that clear to anyone I speak to about his denomination), whether Baptists believe it is possible that Joseph Smith is a prophet and the Book of Mormon his testimony.
I asked him whether Baptists believe that Jesus Christ has returned since the Resurrection and Ascension and, in particular, to the U.S.
And then it made sense to me: If Jesus Christ had returned to the United States, black folks would have known about it.
Black folks in America are, in my opinion, the most Jesus-loving people on the planet. It is that love of Christ that kept us –well, most of us -- from armed insurrection and outright violence during slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, if you ask me. I read a statistic that said that African Americans have the highest rates of regular church attendance in the United States – about 70 percent – as compared to a just over 50 percent rate for whites. This might explain why most black folks are profoundly unimpressed with Taylor Swift. On any given Sunday in any black Baptist, Pentecostal, COGIC or AME church in this country, there’s some 15 year-old who is singing a solo and raising the roof in a song of praise to rival the likes of Whitney, Mariah, and the Clark Sisters combined. Nobody sings a song of praise like black folks, in my opinion. And yet, we are a people who can write and sing a most salacious and misogynistic rap song, win a Grammy for it, and then give “all honor and glory to Jesus Christ” for winning the Grammy without a hint of irony. That is how ingrained the love of Christ is in most of our lives.
So, if Jesus Christ had returned to the United States, black folks would have known about it. If He had returned during slavery when most of us were illiterate, we would have composed a song about it and handed it down through the generations. If He had come back in more contemporary times, Langston Hughes would have written a poem about it, August Wilson AND Tyler Perry would have written a play about it, Smokey Robinson would have written a song about it, the Five Blind Boys of Alabama would have sung about it, and Stevie Wonder would have lead a movement to make the date of His return a national holiday. African Americans spend too disproportionate an amount of time in praise and worship of Jesus Christ to have been overlooked upon His return to the United States. This I cannot believe. Mind you, He would have been overwhelmed by us, what with folks wanting to praise him interminably (“Jesus, I just have to thank you for getting me up today and making sure my car started and getting me to work and making sure I had a job to go to and . . . . ) and, for those “problem children” among us, wanting to ask him for stupid stuff (“Jesus, do you think you could let a brother hold $20 until next Tuesday? You know I’ll pay you back. Well, actually, it’s all yours anyway, but you understand what a brother’s tryin’ to say . . .”), but He would not have ignored us. This I cannot believe.
And stories of our encounters with Jesus would have been handed down through the generations. Families with members who had encountered Jesus would have been revered. I could go on and on. But I just can’t wrap my brain around the concept that Jesus would have come to the United States and not said “boo” to black folks. This I cannot believe.
Now, I just have to find a way to tell those nice Mormon missionary young women next week . . . .