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Genesis Group & Black Spirituality (Part 5 of 7)

The Genesis Group was founded in the early 1970s to help keep black members active even though they couldn’t hold the priesthood.  Joseph became a member of that group.  He wasn’t one of the original founders, but he will talk about some of his earliest remembrances of that group and will talk about an amazing member, Monroe Fleming.  Monroe almost became the first black member ordained a decade earlier in 1969.  You won’t want to miss this.

Joseph:  By the time I came here in 1976, I didn’t know where the group was located. People had told me about the group, even when I was in Hawaii.

GT:  Oh, really?

Joseph:  But, how do you contact the group? There was no phone number in a phone book or anything like that. When I moved into this stake, Bishop Swain knew Ruffin Bridgeforth personally. When he first sat down with me, I met with him in his office. He then said, “Are you interested in meeting members of the group?”  I said, “Yes, I’ve heard of it, and I don’t know anything how to find them. So, he says, I’ve got the number. He dialed Ruffin right then, called him up and then Ruffin invited me, gave me the address to where they were meeting. They met once a month on the first Sunday of the month. I think, maybe about seven o’clock in the evening.  I took my family. We went to our first meeting, had a great time. From that time on, I was a member of the group. Every first Sunday, we were there.

GT:  Is Ruffin still around here?

Joseph:  Ruffin has passed away.

GT:  Oh, bummer.

Joseph:  Yeah, I think had sugar diabetes. I believe that that was probably one of the things that took him away. But Ruffin was such a wonderful man. The general authorities loved him a great deal. He became more like a father to me. I don’t remember now how old Ruffin was. But in those years that I moved here, I was about 25 when I received the priesthood. I met him before receiving a priesthood. So, I was either 24 or 25 when I met him, and he was probably, in his early 50s, about that time. He just kind of took me under his wing. He was just such a wonderful guy. He was great speaker.  Ruffin shared with me a story. I think I told you some years ago that Brother Fleming had been asked by President Monson if he would write his testimony down.

GT:  You’re talking about Monroe Fleming.

Joseph:  Monroe.

GT:  I definitely want to talk about Monroe Fleming. Now for those who don’t know Monroe Fleming, I did an interview with Matt Harris about a year ago.  Monroe was almost in your shoes. He was almost the first guy, back in 1969.

Joseph:  That’s right. Yeah.

GT:  Tell us more about Monroe Fleming.

Joseph:  When people were going on missions years ago, they would go to the mission home, and it was at the Joseph Smith Building, which is [the old] Hotel Utah.  I never went to the Hotel Utah. It was just a big, marvelous building.  I didn’t have anything to do with it. Well, Monroe worked there. So, when the missionaries would be trained, and they get to the end of their training, they would bring in Brother Fleming, and have him share his testimony.  I’ve met many, many missionaries today, that are perhaps my age and that told me that they saw and met Brother Fleming years ago when they first finished the mission training, before leaving for their mission. They would just share with me how excited they were meeting a black man who had a great testimony and shared that testimony with them. After the priesthood was given, Brother Fleming contacted me. He said, “I’d like to hear your testimony.”  So, a couple of times, we went out together and went to firesides where I was the speaker. He got to share and talk over the conversation of me receiving the priesthood, how I felt and everything, and how he felt. I didn’t get a chance to hear him speak before I left Salt Lake and moved away, though. But he was a wonderful guy. I didn’t know him personally.  It’s been a long time, but I just love the guy. He’s just a really nice man.  He had a beautiful testimony.

I wish I had been able to meet Monroe Fleming.  (He passed away in 1982.)  What do you know about the Genesis Group? Check out our conversation….

Joseph Freeman tells us about the Genesis Group and his memories of Monroe Fleming.

Don’t miss our previous conversations!

492: Instant Celebrity

491: Joseph’s Baptism

490: Meeting Mormons at PCC

489: Holiness Preacher Joins Army

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Holiness Preacher Joins Army (Part 1 of 7)

February is #BlackHistoryMonth, and I’m excited to kick of the month with a race-barrier breaker!  Joseph Freeman was the first black man ordained following the announcement of Pres Kimball’s June 1978 revelation lifting the ban on black members.  We’ll learn more about Joseph’s conversion to the LDS Church, and find out that he was an ordained minister in his previous church!

GT: So, I’ve read your book, In the Lord’s Due Time. Let’s talk a little bit more about your growing up in North Carolina. So I understand that you grew up in the Holiness Church?

Joseph:  Yes.

GT:  Can you tell us a little bit more? I actually served my mission in South Carolina. So I’m a little bit familiar with it. But I think most people, especially in Utah, probably aren’t that familiar with the Holiness Church.

Joseph:  That’s right. Holiness, is, I guess, a faith that some call themselves Pentecostal, and others would call themselves Holiness. They both are very similar. Then, you could stretch it a little bit more, and you could say, the Southern Baptists are very similar because these groups of people, they like to say, “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!”  They pat their feet and clap their hands. When the minister begins to preach, he gets into it quite a bit. Everybody will be saying “Amen,” the whole time he’s talking.  For Mormons, we would think that’s irreverent.  But, it’s their way of worshipping and praising God.

GT:  I know when I read your book, it said that in a lot of ways, it was similar to LDS in the fact that there was no alcohol.

Joseph:  Right.

GT:  But, I think that the thing that surprised me most was the no dancing [policy].

Joseph:  Oh, yes. That varies, depending on where you live. But, generally, the true Holiness, the women don’t like to wear lipstick. They don’t like short dresses, or anything revealing, and alot of the people prefer that you don’t dance. This is kind of hard for young people, because kids like to go dancing, and so forth. One of the things that happens is that–the Holiness Churches sometimes say, “Well, we don’t even like you to play sports very much.”

GT: Really?

Joseph:  Yeah.

GT:  That’s blasphemy, isn’t it?

Joseph:  (Chuckling.) Well, I tell you, one of the reasons–there is no doctrine in it. Because, you can’t find anything about that in the Bible about dancing or playing sports. But the belief is this. I was told by a minister one time. He said, “Well, if you get into sports, what is your association with people? You end up going to–you become wealthy, number one, and then your lifestyle changes. Most sports people are not going to church, because they are associating with people that drink, smoke, and live all kinds of terrible lives.  [They live] a terrible life, kind of chasing women, if you’re a man or the opposite if you’re a woman. So what does it do?  It draws you away from church into the world.” So that is probably the biggest reason that Holiness are against dancing and socializing like that.

GT:  So becoming a Mormon was liberal, then. Is that right?

Joseph:  Well, a little bit. (Chuckling)  I still have two left feet. My wife lets me know that all the time.

GT:  So, I believe, I’m trying to remember.  I read your book so long ago, but I tried to refresh my memory on a few things. So they have youth preachers, is that right?

Joseph:  Yes.

GT:  Did you do something like that?

Joseph:  Yes. I say it like this.  Number one, my grandfather was a Baptist minister. Then my mother was a minister in the Holiness Church all her life until she died. I became a minister when I was about 18 years old. All my life, since I can remember, three or four years old, I had the desire to be a minister, because just the style of worship.  There’s something about preaching the gospel that’s wonderful, to touch the lives of people in a special way, and to feel the spirit of the Lord. There’s people that, I guess in our church, sometimes, a lot of them will shy away from giving talks, and they just feel like they don’t want to do it. But, for people like myself, there is something very special about preaching the gospel. It comes because you’ve got to prepare yourself, number one, spiritually, to be able to do it. Then, two, once you are prepared, and you’re in the process of doing it, you feel the spirit. There’s nothing better than to be able to feel the spirit of the Lord, when you are actually in the process of giving a talk. So, that that is just a wonderful thing.

GT:  So, you probably knew your Bible really well.

Joseph:  I love reading the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I don’t say that I know it really well. I think, since I lost my hair, I forget half the stuff. But, I love the gospel.

We’ll also talk about his enlistment in the U.S. Army, and him getting stationed in Hawaii!  (I can think of a lot worse places to be stationed!)  What are your experiences with the Holiness Church?  Were you aware they were more strict than Mormons?  Check out our conversation….

Joseph Freeman was 1st black man ordained following 1978 revelation.

Don’t miss our other conversations during #BlackHistoryMonth about Black Mormon history, from Elijah Abel to Jane Manning James to Ezra Taft Benson & MLK!


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Turning the Key to a Relief Society Quorum? (Part 7 of 8)

Dr. Margaret Toscano describes an answer to prayer, in which she found historical records describing Joseph Smith starting the Relief Society and organizing the women as a quorum of priestesses.  She describes how Joseph Smith’s theology of priesthood are larger than we have today.  We also discuss the Community of Christ revelation in 1984 in which women were ordained, just like the men.  Is that what Joseph Smith had in mind?

GT:  Do you think that Joseph would have advocated for women to be ordained as a Priest, Teacher, Deacon, Elder, Apostle, Bishop? Is that what his plan was?

Margaret:  I mean, who knows? I think that his theology justifies that.  I want to go back to the Relief Society. So in those speeches in Nauvoo, he told the women that he wanted the Relief Society organized according to the order of the ancient priesthood, and that their organization was a priesthood organization, they were essential for the church being in the right order. The church could not be in the right order without the Relief Society as a priesthood organization. I think he says that clearly. I mean, you can always argue whether it’s clear or not. But that’s my interpretation.

Check out our conversation….

Dr. Margaret Toscano believes Joseph Smith organized the Relief Society as a priesthood quorum.

Don’t miss our other episodes with Margaret!

371: Why LDS Leaders Don’t Like Popular Speakers

370: Charismatic, Ecclesiastical, & Messianic Priesthood

369: Theological Case for Women & Priesthood

368: An Excommunicated Believer

367: Feminist Awakening at BYU

366: Toscano: From BYU to Utah