The Columbia News Service’s columnist John Dorman has written an article entitled “A New Beginning: Blacks Giving the Mormon Church a Second Look.” I must admit, I found the article interesting, to say the least. According to the article, blacks are giving the Mormon church a second look, in part, due to the religious pillars of service and community outreach. One member, a 28-year old woman, who left her Baptist church in Brooklyn to become of member of the Harlem branch of the Mormon church said she found a commitment to diversity at the church. There is still a great deal of skepticism, from the fact that blacks were not allowed to serve in high positions in the church or intermarry prior to 1978, as to how the Mormon church can minister to blacks. Many still view this religion as a racist one.

There are roughly 13 million Mormons worldwide, and about half of those live in the United States, according to figures frequently cited by the church, which doesn’t record members’ racial or ethnic background. Interestingly, about three percent of the Mormon Church in America is black, and less than 0.5 percent of black Americans are Mormon, according to a survey in 2007 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Policy. That would translate to slightly less than 200,000 black Mormons in America —- a huge increase from the 5,000 to 10,000 estimated by many experts at the turn of the century.

The article states that the growth of Mormonism among blacks is commonly tied to two events:

In 1978, the church abolished a long-standing practice that kept black men from seeking priesthoods and black women from participating in temple ceremonies. In 2006Mormon president Gordon B. Hinckley publicly declared the faith open to all people. Aw geez, only two years ago? That doesn’t bode well for this religion, no matter what people say.

“I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us,” he said. “I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ.”

The Harlem church opened in 2005, about the same time as new Mormon facilities designed to attract more blacks and Latinos opened in Philadelphia, Detroit and San Antonio.

The article cites Chris Carter, a 22-year-old black in Florida, who is not affiliated with any congregation after leaving his Baptist church. He went to a Mormon service and said that he felt like more of an individual, despite the church’s reputation for homogeneity.

“My old church had this monolithic philosophy to it,” Carter said. “I just grew out of feeling like everyone was supposed to think the same, when I have always been my own individual.”

Church outreach efforts to blacks include a strong emphasis on missionary service and volunteer work in immediate neighborhoods. The church has a Family Home Evening once a week where families discuss Scripture and religious issues affecting their lives, often with the aid of books, videotapes and other audiovisual tools.

So, I guess it depends on what you are looking for in a church, but for me the Mormons ain’t it. You be the judge…..