Isolation vs Faith: What it’s like to be a black Mormon

By: Rebbie Groesbeck & Chad Peters //

As a blonde, white girl from Utah, I am your stereotypical Mormon. Sonja and Vernon Wilbert, however, are not.

Sonja and Vernon

I sat down with them to ask about the ups and downs of their experience in the Mormon church. I wanted to understand what it is like to be part of a church where you are in the minority. I wanted to know what motivates them to be part of a faith that culturally might not be a perfect fit. 

Mostly, I interviewed them because I knew they wouldn’t sugar coat their story.

I have been asked many times, “Can you be black and be Mormon?” According to the Wilberts, the answer is a resounding YES. Whether you’re Mormon or not, it’s worth 15 minutes of your day to hear what they have to say. 

Meet the Wilberts: Part 1 — The Wilberts discuss how they were introduced to the church and how it has affected their families.


 

Meet the Wilberts: Part 2 — The Wilberts talk about the struggles they have faced while being Mormon, and what makes it worth it to stay faithful. 


 

 

 

 

 

11 comments

  • I love this! I live in UT and sometimes I look around and want to scream at how alike everyone is here. :) I grew up in TX though, and have also live in GA, CA, and PA and know that the church isn’t just all white, blondes. It’s so great to see you sharing that.

  • June 12, 2014 at 11:22 pm // Reply

    Being a convert to the church and black myself, I found this very interesting. My ward has been wonderful. Black people who are not LDS always ask me do I feel out of place being the only black person my congregation. I tell them that you have to experience the love of the Church to understand why I am and will remain a very happy member.

  • Bro. Wilbert’s simple explanation for why he feels the blacks received the priesthood when they did was one of the best things I’ve heard.

  • July 3, 2014 at 6:57 am // Reply

    As a member of a vibrant black LDS community, I have to ask you to talk to more than just two of us. Speculation about the priesthood ban and priesthood restoration (yes, we had the priesthood before, Elijah Abel, etc) is something the church has asked us not to do. Please come to Genesis, and talk to more than two of us before you try to represent that only two of us represent our shared experience.

    • Devan! Sincere apologies if the post made it seem as though we were projecting the Wilberts’ experience on all black Mormons — that was certainly not the intent. We know their experience is personal and unique to them alone, just as any other Mormon we interview on this site. Regarding your other point, I would love nothing more than to talk to more than just two of you! Send me an email at normonquestions@gmail.com and let’s set something up.

  • July 28, 2014 at 9:11 am // Reply

    I grew up in Mississippi. I love this! My ward had members of all races. How grateful I am that I grew up with such love and acceptance for all! That is the way it should be everywhere! Thanks for this!

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