This June marks 43 years since President Spencer W. Kimball announced the 1978 revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy male members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Historian Richard E. Turley and creative Mauli Junior Bonner join this episode of the Church News podcast to talk about Black history as an important part of Church history.
Mauli Junior Bonner is a Grammy award-winning musician, songwriter, and now a first-time film writer, director and producer. His film, “His Name is Green Flake,” explores the life and faith of an enslaved pioneer named Green Flake. Bonner’s deep respect and connection with early African American pioneers inspired him to learn and share their stories. Today we talk about the inspirational early Black members of the Church and the lessons they can teach us.
Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with leaders, members and others on the Church News team. We end each Church News podcast by giving our guests the last word and the opportunity to answer the very important question: “What do you know now?” We hope each of you will also be able to answer the same question and say, “I have just been listening to the Church News podcast, and this is what I know now.”
This June marks 43 years since President Spencer W. Kimball announced the 1978 revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy male members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Historian Rick Turley and creative Mauli Bonner join this episode of the Church News podcast to talk about Black history as an important part of Church history.
Rick received a bachelor’s degree in English and a law degree from BYU. He led the Church’s family history and Church history efforts for decades, a job that took him across the globe. Before his retirement, Rick served as both assistant Church historian and as managing director of the Church’s Public Affairs Department.
Mauli Junior Bonner is a Grammy Award-winning musician, songwriter, and now first-time film writer, director and producer. His film, “His Name is Green Flake,” explores the life, faith and true story of an enslaved pioneer. While performing with his family during the Church’s “Be One” celebration in 2018, Mauli’s deep respect and connection with early African American pioneers inspired him to learn and share their stories.
I’m delighted to welcome Rick and Mauli to this podcast as we talk about Church history and Black history, and the inspirational early members of the Church and the lessons they can teach all of us. Welcome, Rick and Mauli, to the Church News podcast.
Mauli Junior Bonner: Thank you.
Richard E. Turley Jr.: Thank you, Sarah, and welcome, Mauli. Many Latter-day Saints, of course, know about the June 1978 revelation on the priesthood and the tremendous impact that had on the ongoing history of the Church, but relatively few know about the early African American experience in the Church. And you, of course, are an artist, but you encountered that kind of history. Tell us how you encountered that.
Mauli Junior Bonner: Well, I didn’t know I was going to be given the history when I was given it. It was the “Be One” celebration. My family, the Bonner family, we sing together, and we were asked to sing at the “Be One” celebration that was commemorating the 40th anniversary of the priesthood ban being lifted. And it was an incredible experience. Incredible. During that broadcast, while I’m backstage, I was learning about early Black history in the Church through that celebration, and it was incredible and inspiring. So it was then — and I had heard some things from my mother because she converted the same year I was born, and she spoke of Joseph Smith and how he ran for president on an anti-slavery platform — and learning this new history at the “Be One” celebration changed me, Rick, it made me want to dive in and learn so much more.
Richard E. Turley Jr.: Mauli, you and I were both at the “Be One” event: You as a performer, I as a member of the audience. Some of our audience today will not have heard of that event. Can you just tell us briefly what it was?
Mauli Junior Bonner: Yes, it was a wonderful and inspired event. The “Be One” celebration was commemorating that priesthood ban being lifted, and it was a celebration of music and history. It was beautiful, and that’s where I began learning so much about the early Black history in the Church.
Richard E. Turley Jr.: It was an event held in the Conference Center and sponsored by the First Presidency, was it not?
Mauli Junior Bonner: Yeah. And it was the most special moment for me — and there’s so many moments during that — but it was being able to sing, and see out in the audience and see tears in our leadership’s eyes and mouths open, and they were basking in the Spirit that I was basking in, and it was just such a beautiful, beautiful event. I think that is probably one of the greatest moments of my life.