My name is Chidinma and I am currently in my last year of pharmacy school! I am an INFJ, an enneagram 1w2, a sister, a daughter, a friend, and a black member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My love for the gospel, for the church, and for the people that I have met through my discipleship is unwavering and has brought so much joy to my life.
I fear that sometimes as members we have blinders on, either intentionally or unintentionally, that keep us from creating Zion. We cannot truly be of “one heart, and one mind, and [dwell] in righteousness” when there are poor among us, more specifically those who are poor in spirit. These last couple of weeks, I have been forced to be more introspective about my place in the world and my place in the Church and accept the fact that there have been many times that I have felt like a pauper standing in the overflowing warehouse of the Lord.
The first time I became acutely aware of my blackness in relation to being a member wasn’t long after I was baptized. I was sitting in Sunday School and the lesson was about continuing revelation and the Doctrine and Covenants. My Sunday School teacher looked around the room and then her eyes settled on me as she said, “Chidinma, you should know all about the Official Declaration 2 – tell us about it.” I panicked – I didn’t even know that there were Official Declarations in Doctrine and Covenants at that time. I hadn’t even started reading D&C. I tried to guess, so I looked around the room for context clues, trying to find out why I specifically should know about this mystery declaration. I wasn’t the only girl, I wasn’t the only one with glasses, I was, however, the only black person in the room.
From there it was one microaggression to another, one internalization to the next. It was almost always being the last girl to get asked to dance as a youth, swatting stranger’s hands away from my hair, suffocating in the room whenever the Race + Priesthood lesson was given. I started suppressing parts of my personality, my feelings, and my experiences because I didn’t want to be written off a stereotype. I tried to always dot my I’s and cross my t’s because I didn’t want to be that one black member of the Church that ruined it for the rest of us – who knew when the next one would move into the ward? I’ve seen and heard members of the Church say ugly things about other people who look like me. I’ve seen them weaponize the gospel and use it to drown out minority voices. I have been told that my blackness is a curse, that the Priesthood Ban was for our own good, and all kinds of other things by “well-meaning” members.
Talking about difficult topics such as race and the institution of the Church can be uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as living a life where you constantly question your belonging in the Church. Christ’s call for disciples requires us to leave the comforts of this life and to embrace the uncertainty and the challenges that come with following him. If we choose to remain comfortable in this life, then we will be uncomfortable in his presence in the next life. Choose to answer the call, choose to be uncomfortable, choose to learn and listen to people who experience life in a different way than you. How can we live up to our covenants to mourn with those who mourn, and bear one another’s burdens when we don’t acknowledge why they are mourning, or if we are complicit in their burdens?