In 1964, when I was four years old, my grandfather, Ennis Morton died from a massive heart attack. The only memory I recall of him is when I was sitting between him and my father while he was driving and he hit the brakes real hard and I bounced my nose off the dashboard. I ended up with two black eyes and a bloody nose. I'm sure both my father and my grandfather felt worse than I did. Ironically, several years later I received a James Bond 007-spy camera for Christmas. It looked like a film camera but when wound the knob, a foot long barrel of a machine gun popped out. I decided to get a close up of my grandma Morton, pulled the trigger and proceeded to break her glasses and give her a black eye when the barrel of the machine gun smashed into her face.
After my grandfather Morton died we moved to Huntington Beach, California. A couple of year’s later grandma Morton moved down the street from us and I developed a close relationship with her over the years. No one ever likes to talk about these kinds of things, but I was her favorite grandchild. It wasn’t fair for the other grandchildren but sometimes these things happen and no one has any control over it. I used to spend the night at her house at least once a week and would stop by on my way home from school to watch television or to do odd jobs and chores. She always had snacks and would let me watch whatever I wanted on TV except whenever Hee Haw; Lawrence Welk or the Roller Derby was on. Her name is Ola Morton. She worked as a nurse’s aid at a convalescent hospital within walking distance of her apartment.
I wish I could conjure up more memories from my past than the few I seem to always remember over and over again. When I started Kindergarten we lived just two blocks from the beach. I remember my first day of school, but wonder if it is more of a memory of the home movie my parents filmed as I skipped and jumped and mugged for the camera. I also remember that an angry German shepherd attacked my sister Becky but I am reminded of that by the family portrait of my sister, my brother and myself with the bandage on my sister’s brow. I was five years old at the time and had more important things to do than remember things, not realizing then that memories can be priceless and comforting or painful and uncomfortable.
I wonder how I really felt when my sister and my brother were born. Was I jealous? Was I overjoyed? I seemed to like being in the spot light and was always aware when I was being funny and making people laugh. I do know that as we got older, we were each other’s best friends and worst foes. I always loved my brother and sister and I can only hope they they felt the same about me. Mormons believe in a tight, loving family unit and I think we all benefited from that. My father was usually working at least two jobs and my mother was about as much of a friend as a parent can be. The neighborhood kids would even come to our house to see if my Mom could play. My father worked at different jobs at local supermarkets and for awhile was known as the balloon man because he would blow up balloons and give them to children as they shopped with their parents.
My family was always active in church activities and we would go camping frequently and were avid beachcombers. We would take Sunday drives and go to museums and swap meets. It was the mid 1960's and sometimes we would drive into Hollywood to look at the hippies and weirdoes. My dad was a natural born comedienne. He had a way with a joke and was always telling tall tales and playing practical jokes. Once, when I was learning about Benjamin Franklin in school, my father told me that the history books were wrong because my great, great, great, great grandfather Morton was the man who really discovered electricity. The next day at school I raised my hand and proceeded to correct my history teacher. It didn't take much longer before it became clear that I was the victim of one of my father's practical jokes.
If there is such a thing as a perfect childhood then I came pretty close. The first five years of my life were full of love, happiness and pure innocence. Ages six and seven were pretty much the same but something horrible was beginning to happen that completely petrified and terrified me. I have always been skinny. Not sickly skinny, but naturally thin. I also had a very high voice. This slowly began to become a problem for me. I was teased relentlessly. Only at school though. As far as I was concerned it was not your normal everyday teasing but merciless and cruel and completely uncalled for. It started in the first grade and continued until I was about fourteen years old, with varying degrees of teasing continuing until I was around eighteen. Being teased by my peers became my occupation, my job, and my lot in life. I was almost never teased at church or Sunday school or in my own home except for normal sibling rivalry. Monday through Friday. Five days a week. Suddenly I became known by so many other names besides Brian. Toothpick, skinny bones Jones, sissy, and the list goes on and on.
Up until this time, I was protected by my family from the world and this ugly side of life. My parents and my brother and sister may have been aware of the teasing but not the full extent of it all. I couldn't understand why anyone could be so uncaring and cruel as to pick on someone. In the beginning, when I was about six years old, I would start to cry and that would only make it worse. Then I was a crybaby. It never really got physical but sometimes I would be pushed or tripped. I don't recall any one abuser because the teasing would sometimes draw a crowd and soon it became a group activity.
One of the only persons who didn't tease me was Jayne Larsen. We were neighbors and went to church together. I always had a secret crush on her. For some reason most of the people my own age that I went to church with lived in other school districts and were unaware of the daily torment I had to endure. My family wasn't aware of the severity of persecution I endured on a daily basis. But unfortunately I began to tease my brother and sister. In retrospect I can see that I was acting out my frustrations of being teased at school on my brother and sister. But at the time it must have been just as cruel for them as it was for me.
I thought I was keeping a secret. When my brother and sister started going to school I was afraid they would discover that their older brother was really just a big old crybaby, but thankfully that never happened. My home life was still pretty much the Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best household. Becky was your average tomboy and would make sure that my teasing never got out of control. We were each other’s best friends. We had some neighborhood friends but our family was so much fun to be around that we usually just stayed at home to play.
I was always showing off and acting goofing around the house. I took after my dad, or at least I tried to. I loved my father with all my heart and remember that as soon as my brother, sister and myself would hear our fathers car drive in the driveway we would start the chant, "Daddy's home, daddy's home." When he walked through through the door we were all over him. It's such a great memory putting your feet on top of your fathers' and having him walk you around. It's those special little things that make up for so much. My dad had a way with a story or a joke that was incredibly entertaining, and his sense of humor rubbed off on me. I wasn't very good at telling a joke, but I discovered that I could walk funny, distort my face and talk in funny voices. I started putting on skits and plays for my family and neighborhood friends. As Mormons we had what is called Family night, were we would gather as a family and read scriptures and tell stories and I turned Family night into my own weekly Hollywood extravaganzas.
I would basically force my brother and sister to wear ridiculous costumes and act out my weird ideas and fantasies in skits and parodies that were mostly improvised on the spot. My favorite TV show was the Carol Burnett show but it was on at ten o'clock on Saturday nights, past my bedtime. So I would wait till everyone was asleep, sneak out of bed and watch the Carol Burnett show with the sound turned down real low. I also loved Jack Benny, Charlie Chaplin and anything with Jerry Lewis. As a family we spent a lot of time at the movies. We would bring a large shopping bag of popcorn and spend evenings at the drive in or go to discount movie theaters and watch double and triple features.
In 1968 I was eight years old and on your eighth birthday as a Mormon you are eligible to become baptized into the church. My father reminded me in his letter, that I was very excited about being baptized. My grandmother and grandfather Lance were Mormons but over the years had become inactive and no longer followed the word of wisdom, which means they smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol. I loved my grandparents a lot but they lived about fifty miles away and we didn't visit them as much as I would like, because my father didn't want us to be exposed to their lifestyle.
I decided that if I could get my grandfather to quite smoking and drinking he could baptize me and then we could spend more time together. Grandpa Lance "gave up" smoking and drinking long enough to be able to confirm me into the church but my father performed the actual baptism. My grandfather continued to smoke and drink after my baptism and we would still visit on a regular basis but not as often as we would have liked. But the seeds of an eternal and everlasting love were planted between us as family.
I loved both of my maternal grandparents, but there was something extra special about my grandfather. Charles Lance. I had a very funny, infectious laugh similar to woody woodpecker, and grandpa would sometimes almost bruise my ribs from tickling me so hard just to get me to laugh. I would laugh so hard my guts would hurt. All of us children loved Grandpa Lance extra specially and each of us thought he loved us equally but also hoped we were his favorite. And even though I never had any interest in sports it was always a treat to go to the golf course with grandpa Lance. I wasn't a very good golfer but it gave me a chance to be around my grandfather and show off my Jerry Lewis routines and inpersonations. Grandpa Lance knew I was a strange boy but he always made me feel like I was special and I was very grateful for that.
My mothers’ side of the family lived in the Upland/ Ontario area about fifty miles east of Los Angeles. There was grandma and grandpa Lance, my Aunt Helen and Uncle Tom and my cousins Marlene and Jack. Then there was my Aunt Marylin and her children. Let's see... there's Juanita, Vivian, Charley, Carlene, Richard, Katie, and Valerie. It is not my place or right to get into the personal lives of my cousins but suffice it to say my Aunt Marilyn had her hands full. I think that all of my Aunt Marilyn's kids came to live with us at various times when we lived in Huntington Beach.
I remember when I was about eight or nine years old my cousin Charley came to live with us for awhile. Charley was about 15 years old at the time. One night my father caught Charley smoking a cigarette on the side of the house and my dad smacked him around a bit as he scolded him. In my entire life my father never laid a hand on me other than the rare spanking which was usually given by my mother. Charley also "accidentally" hit my brother in the head with a hammer once. Charley didn't stay very long and eventually would spend most of the rest of his life incarserated and in and out of hospitals.
My Aunt Marylin was married to someone at the time who was not a good role model or father figure to say the least and I think our house was a safe haven from an abusive situation. Richard stayed with us for quite awhile and it was cool to have an older brother type figure in the house. He introduced me to rock and roll. The time was the late sixties, early seventies and being Mormons we didn't really listen to FM hard rock radio stations. We basically only listened to top forty, country and oldies. Richard had some Led Zeppelin albums and from then on I knew I had a rock and roll heart. I have always loved music. I was always telling my mom to turn up the radio in the car when a song I liked came on. I really liked the Beatles, the Supremes, the Doors, Credence Clearwater Revival, and well there wasn't much music I didn't like. The first single I remember buying was "Waterloo" by Abba and the first album I bought was a Michael Jackson album with the song "Ben" on it. I was lucky because both my parents had a wide varity of tastes in music.
My parents used to take us to the movies a lot. Drive in’s and double/triple features were popular. My father liked scary movies and thrillers. We saw just about every movie that Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Roger Corman ever made. The most chilling movie adventure we had though, most definitely, was the Night of the Living Dead.
We were at a drive in and as the movie started it became clear that this was not your average everyday scary movie. Even though it was filmed in black and white I remember it being in color because it was so realistic in its depiction of Zombies and cannibalism. The terror started within the first few minutes. The movie starts with a brother and sister at a cemetery where they are attacked by a living/ dead Zombie. The zombie kills the brother as the sister escapes. It was at this time that the fear and tears started. My mother and father were in the front seat and Mike, Becky and I were in the back seat of our station wagon.
All three of us kids started crying, "We're scarred, we want to go home, etc...." My dad told us to close our eyes and just go to sleep. This was unbelievable, how could we sleep when we could hear the screams and slurping noises of this flesh eating feast. Our repeated requests to leave were denied. We huddled together in hopes of protecting ourselves from these zombies in case they escaped from the movie screen into the drive in. My mother tried to talk my dad into leaving but he was not going anywhere until it was all over. I must say that even after such a tramatic experience I inherited my fathers love of movies especially horror. My father also had a thing for sexy red head actresses like Shirley Maclain and Ann Margaret, which meant we saw some rather risqué movies like Sweet Charity and Barberella.
Living near the beach in southern California we were exposed to a lot of the sixties sub culture, from the hippies and war protests to the rebellion of all things traditional. We were exposed to the horrors of the Vietnam War thanks to our television. We saw African Americans protesting and demonstrating for equal human rights. We watched as many of our leaders one by one were assassinated. We saw men land on the moon. Rock stars dying from drug overdoses, sexual liberation and many more things that Mormons aren’t exposed to on a regular basis or that we at least try and avoid. I was aware of many things that were going on in the world and society but from afar and with rose colored glasses and with very naive dreams.
Through church programs we would invite service men and Mormon missionaries to spend holidays with us. Some of these boys and young men from the military had seen horrible things over in Vietnam and it was nice to know that we could offer them a good meal and let them be surrounded by a loving family for the holidays. It was about this time that my family became involved in a foster program through our church. Native American children were given the opportunity to live with a Mormon family for the school year and then return to the reservation and their homes for the summer.
We were blessed to welcome Carol Begay into our home. She is from the Navajo tribe. Indians, of course, are not really Indians. People who live in the country of India are Indians. The Navajo's prefer the term, "The People." The fact that anyone continues to call Native American’s, Indians, is a testament to the ignorance and arrogance of many traditions that influence our lives, traditions that are based on lies and misinformation. The story I always heard was that Christopher Columbus was trying to sail to India, took a wrong turn and ended up on the North American continent and mistakenly called the native Americans Indians.
The ride home from the bus terminal where Carol arrived was full of gasps, ooh’s, and ahs. It was as much of a culture shock for Carol as it was for us. Carol had never been off the reservation before and was overwhelmed by all the lights and the southern California skyline. It really was amazing to see the look on her face and her reaction the first time she saw the Pacific Ocean. She had never been off the reservation before and everything she saw and experienced was new and exciting.
I have been skinny my entire life and one of the reasons I was so skinny, besides my metabolism, was that I was a picky eater. This became even more evident when I would watch Carol eat a chicken leg or barbecue ribs. She would devour every speck of meat, skin and fat until there was nothing left but bones and cartilage. I would eat just enough and then try to hide the rest of my food under a piece of lettuce or a napkin. I would come to learn that on the reservation when an animal was killed for food, every part of the animal, from the blood and the brain to the hoofs and the tail are used in some way. This was out of respect for an animal that died so you could live. Growing up in the suburbs in the 1960’s, I took so many things for granted and did not fully appreciate the sacrifice and respect that animals offer and deserve. I am very grateful that Carol Begay and her family came into our lives. It was very interesting and rewarding to be influenced by and introduced to other cultures...and to learn.
We became very close to Carol Begay and her family. We started taking vacations to Page, Arizona where Carol's family lived. The reservation is located near Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam near the Utah border. Carol's family lives on many acres there and it is a breathtaking and beautiful place to live or visit. Carol’s family built a house on their property but also lived in the traditional Hogan. Carol's mother fell in love with my sister, Becky, and would sit for hours braiding her long, blond, curly hair.
Carol came to live with us in 1968 I believe. We must have made the trip to Page about ten times over the years. On one of our trips to Page I will always remember because we had gone to the store that morning and later that day when we were back home I asked where Becky was, and no one knew. In a panic my mother and father started back to town and we passed a pick-up truck and as it drove by we saw Becky’s long, blond ponytail bobbing up and down in the back of the truck. Some friends of the Begay family had found her wondering around town and recognized her and were bringing her back to the house. The panic and the uncertainty that happens when a child is missing is intense.
I used to love our trips to Arizona. We discovered the most beautiful place called Oak Creek Canyon that had natural water slides built into the river. We would go to a thrift store before our vacations and buy extra shorts because even though the rock slides were slippery they would wear holes in your shorts from repeated use. I had a lot of admiration for nature and loved hiking and rock climbing. My father would take us camping and hiking quite frequently and I will cherish those times forever. The church sponsored many father and son outings and I was a Boy Scout and an Indian Guide.
Even though I loved camping and hiking I began to notice at an early age that there was something different about me. I felt awkward and uncomfortable at times and sometimes even a little curious when I was with a group of boys. This was especially true in gym class at school. It was obvious I was not athletic or macho. I was always the last one picked for teams and my experience with this is typical and clichéd but unfortunately true. I didn't ackowledge or realize it at the time but I was a homosexual and attracted to other boys, but more about this soon. It was different though when my father was involved. He was an incredible man to be around and spend quality time with. These campouts and vacations were very special moments for me and I cherish them so much.
My father recollected…"Do you remember the Scout snow trip we took to Big Bear? We had to try to set our tent up in the snow and ice. I don't think I have seen you blue since. We stayed in that little tent and froze our butts off that night. A memory I will never forget. I was always very impressed with how strong you were. Do you recall that Father/ Son outing where you won the stick pull? There were guys your age twice your size and you beat them." I don't remember winning the stick pull but I remember the outing and how we always had such great fun together. I never really cared much about winning but the adventure and experience of the challenge was what really interested me. I did not have a competitive nature and as I have grown older this has been a blessing and a curse. Even though I am a survivor I have never been able to embrace or master the art of survival.
Even though I loved camping and hiking, there were some other activities my father was into that were not exactly my idea of fun. I enjoyed the time we spent together but I just did not like hunting with rifles, fishing or sports events. It was cool though; when I caught a barracuda while fishing once with my father, but otherwise I had no interest in hunting for my food or watching grown men play with a ball. Not that there is anything wrong at all with hunting or sports but they just weren't my thing. They did not interest or excite me. My father would encourage me to join after school sports programs like basketball or baseball. Even though I did it, it was something I really didn't want to do. I was just trying to make my father happy.
What my father didn't know was that most of the teasing I received at school was during physical education classes, recess and lunch breaks when sports were played. While all the girls would play hopscotch and jump rope, the boys would play soccer, football, baseball or the most terrifying and disturbing sport of all, dodge ball. I was skinny and weak and apparently, the stick pull was the only sport I ever excelled in.
I was teased and picked on so much at school that I slowly began to sabotage my own desires and interests. I wanted to be an actor and entertainer but if I took acting classes or dance lessons I would have been persecuted by my tormentors even more, if that was possible. That is why I used to put on my own plays at home and would volunteer for every church function that had skits or musical numbers. For some reason, the church was a safe haven for me where I could be myself without the agony and torment of being teased and picked on. Gradually over the years the teasing became less of an issue even though it never really stopped. I began to use my humor to ease the tensions and conflicts that would build between my bullies and myself. Sometimes it helped but more often than not it made things worse because humor was my way of saying, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.”
Even though I put obstacles up for myself I never lost the desire to be an actor/entertainer. I had the lead in the church Christmas show one year where I was the Christmas mouse who narrated throughout the show. After the first musical number, it was time for me to start narrating and I suddenly realized that I had not bothered to memorize the script. I ran backstage desperately looking for an extra script, which I read from. It was my first lesson in theater; always be prepared…and memorize your lines as well as everyone else’s.
My father and I even starred together in a church play once as a hillbilly father and son. Then when I was about eleven years old, Becky received a letter from a talent agent. I remember thinking that it was unfair at the time because I was the actor in the family and I should be the one getting letters from talent agents. My parents made an appointment with the talent agent to come to our home and assured me that I would be able to talk to the talent agent as well. My parents did some research first to make sure we weren't getting involved in some kind of scam. The most important information they received was that if they ask for money it’s just a scam. When the talent agent arrived I remember the first thing she did was open a book filled with pictures of her clients. I saw pictures of a couple of kids from the Brady Bunch TV show and other recognizable child actor’s, but as soon as the talent agent mentioned a registration fee my father literally escorted her out of the house. I was devastated. I wanted to be discovered.
For many years I was active active in boy scouts and the Indian Guides. The Indian Guides was similar to boy scouts but with more of a native American influence. We would camp out and wear war paint, dress in Native American clothing and wear traditional headbands with feathers. For a fourth of July parade in Huntington Beach my Indian guide troop was participating in the parade by riding in a float that looked like a boat. I was very excited and got there early so I could secure a front row spot on the float. I had my war paint on and my headband with about a dozen feathers and was ready for the parade to begin. As the other Indian Guides arrived they all found spots and then right before the parade started a boy arrived who has decked out in full Indian attire. He had a full length headband with dozens of feathers, professional looking war paint and an authentic spectacular costume. His father came up to me and told me I would have to move because his son needed to be up front so everyone could see him. I was not very happy about this and after complaining that I was here first several other adults agreed that people watching the parade would be impressed with seeing this boys extravagant costume over mine. I was disappointed but tried to have a good time anyway.
I was growing up. I was twelve years old. As a Mormon boy you become eligible to receive the Aaronic Priesthood when you turn twelve. I had to have an interview with my Bishop, the Mormon equivalent of a minister or chaplain. Everything was going good until he asked me if I had ever masturbated. With a straight face and with complete innocence I told him I didn't know what that word meant. He explained that it was the same as playing with myself. I knew what that meant. But at that particular moment I felt trapped. In my twelve years of life, no one had ever mentioned to me that I should not masturbate. And I could tell by the question that my answer should be, "no, I don't play with myself." So that is what I said. It was a lie, but for some reason I knew that this was not a subject that could be debated. And if I told him I masturbated then he would tell me to stop and that just didn't seem normal or natural to me. It was one of the few pleasures I could reward myself with.
This wasn't the first time I lied. I think the first time I ever lied was when I was a little boy and my parents were trying to potty train me. I could see how happy they were when I didn't have an accident in bed and how angry they got when I did. So sometimes when I had an accident in bed I would wake up early and change my sheets, putting the soiled sheets in the bottom of the laundry basket hoping mom wouldn't find them. It really is sad the oppression and stigma associated with natural body functions, especially since it is something we have to deal with everyday of our lives.
One day after school, when I was about eleven years old, I was snooping through some boxes in our garage. I found an envelope that said, "Not to be opened until my death." It was signed by my mother. Needless to say, I opened the letter and began to read. My mother talked about how she had a baby out of wedlock before she met my father and had to give her up for adoption. I turned white as a ghost. All of a sudden the perfect little life that I had envisioned was all a lie. Maybe I was just extremely gullible and naive or just stupid and selfish, but no matter what, it woke me up to the fact that I had a lot to learn about life.
After I read the letter I didn't know what to do. I ended up walking to my school that was just a block away, and started to run. I ran and ran until I collapsed then got up and ran again, crying and praying the whole time. My plan was that I would run until my heart gave out and I died. The only thing that happened was that I got really tired. I felt like I wanted to die but I don't think it had anything to do with suicide because throughout my life, suicide has never even entered my mind as an answer to any of my problems. Although, when I was about one year old I am told that I ate a whole bottle of baby aspirin and had to be rushed to the hospital to get my stomach pumped. Apparently I thought the aspirin was candy and not a “way out.”
I didn't tell anyone about the letter I found, but a couple of years later my mother sat my brother, sister and myself down to tell us about the daughter she gave up for adoption. She wanted to tell us before we heard about it from someone else. My mother explained to us that she had a baby with her high school sweetheart, Jack Kelly, and times being what they were she was forced to give her baby up for adoption. Both of my mother's sisters, Marylin and Helen had had out of wedlock babies with their high school sweethearts and had to give their babies up for adoption as well.
About this time Shirley Charley came to live with us. She was also of Navajo heritage, but her circumstances were a little different than Carol's. Instead of living on a reservation, Shirley lived in downtown LA with her mother and brothers. Surrounded by crime and poverty, Shirley not only grew up surrounded by the lights of the big city but experienced first hand the harsh realities of urban/street life. Shirley was a couple of years older than I was and we had a little more in common than Carol and I had. Carol was about five years older than I was and much more mature. Shirley was somewhat street wise and could probably tell right away that we were spoiled. We had it good and we knew it.
My mother was a good homemaker and housekeeper but Carol was immaculate. You could tell she respected her surroundings and probably felt like she had to pay for her way while she stayed with us. She was very grateful and respectful always to me and my family. Unfortunately, because Carol was several years older than the rest of us kids she ended up being a surrogate nanny/ baby-sitter and maid, as well as an older sister. Shirley was also an immaculate housekeeper, which further exposed the fact that Michael; Becky and I were lazy and sloppy. Carol and Shirley made sure that the rest of us kids did our part in helping with the chores around the house but it was an on going battle.
Our house was always full of neighborhood kids, music and laughter. We would have water fights with buckets of water, garden hoses and water balloons, outside and inside the house. Our friends and neighbors were always welcome in our house and we would spend hours watching television, listening to music and dancing. I was a television junkie. I loved Saturday morning cartoons, sitcoms like I love Lucy, Bewitched, Gilligans Island, Jerry Lewis movies, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, The Little Rascals and so on.
I loved awards shows and I had to watch The Oscars, The Emmys and The Grammys. Every Saturday afternoon I had to watch American Bandstand followed by Soul Train. I loved old black and white movies and would watch them whenever I had a chance. I studied movies and television shows as if I was a student. I would mimic and reenact scenes and bits from Jerry Lewis, Carol Burnett, Jonathan Winters and the list goes on and on.
Carol Begay lived with us for about three years before she decided to stay home year round on the reservation. I grew to love Carol Begay and her family and missed her very much. We still continued to visit Carol and her family periodically over the years. As I got older I began to realize the full impact and influence that Carol and her family had on my family and myself. The key or secret to our strong family bond was that the love we had for each other was genuine and very spiritual. We cared about each other and even though we would fight and tease one another, we knew that we needed and loved each other as well. The Begay’s were a wonderful and special influence on my family.
The Navajo People are very spiritual and praise and respect every aspect of life and nature. According to the Book of Mormon, many of the North and South American people of today are descendants of the people spoken of in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is the account of a man named Lehi who is told by the Lord to leave ancient Jerusalem. Seeking refuge in the wilderness, the Lord instructs Lehi and his family to build ships to take them across the ocean to the land of Bountiful. As Lehi and his family prosper in the land of Bountiful, which is believed to be located in the American continet, they evolve into two separate civilizations. One is known as the Nephites and the other is known as the Lamanites.
Eventually, the Lamanites were subjected to a curse of the flesh which turned their skin a darker color, similar to the Bible's account of Cain and how people have come to believe that differences in skin color are caused by curses from God. To this day people believe, without a doubt, that Cain was cursed with black skin for killing his brother Able, but that is not what the Bible says. Over the ages people have interpeted this in many inaccurate ways which is cruel and unfair because of the cruel and unusual treatment of people of color for thousands and thousands of years based on this very misinterpreted information. I know God is capable of things we as humans can not even imagine or comprehend, but I have my doubts about God cursing people by instantly giving them or their children darker skin pigmentation as a punishment. If you believe that then chances are you will believe almost anything.
I was taught in Sunday school that when we were spirits in the spirit world, before we came to earth to receive our bodies, Jesus and Satan disagreed with each other about how earth life should be executed. Satan wanted God to send him to earth as our savior, leading all mankind into salvation, so that no souls would be lost. For all that he would do for the salvation of mankind, Satan then wanted all the glory and honor for himself. Jesus on the other hand wanted us all to be accountable for our sins and for all he would do for the salvation of mankind; Jesus would bestow all the glory and honor to God.
God was pleased with Jesus and when Satan rebelled, God cast him down out of heaven. Now this next thing is something I don't think is official Mormon doctrine, but I was taught it anyway in Sunday school. In the spirit world, when Satan was cast out, some spirits took Satan's side and some took Jesus’ side. Then there were those who couldn't decide. I was given the impression in Sunday school that the spirits who could not decide were cursed by having dark or black skin and destined to be ansectors of Cain. I’m pretty sure that is not official Mormon doctrine but it is something that is out there and people with no common sense will embrace almost anything especially if it makes them feel a little bit superior to someone else That is why I do not feel it is blasphamous to discount many scripures as 99.99% inaccurate. Sometimes common sense and humble rational thought must be accounted for.
If God did indeed cause people to have dark skin as a sign of disobedience in this life or our previous one, then I'm sure God has a damn good reason for it. That reason is far from obvious at this point in time, since it only seems to reinforce the hatred, prejudice and racism that has plagued mankind since before recorded history. Besides, there are so many different shades of skin color in the world that if this reasoning is true, then God had a lot of fence sitters to deal with in the spirit world. My parents never used derogatory slang words when talking about people of different races. We laughed along to our Bill Cosby records, danced and sang along to the Supremes and the Temptations, and cried when Martin Luther King died. I am not color-blind because I can obviously see our differences in skin and facial features, but different does not mean better or worse, it just means different. Every culture and race has distinguishing features and characteristics that should be embraced and accepted without prejudice.
My father recounts more of our family history…"In 1943 your grandfather went to California to find work and make a home for his wife and two children. When he found a job and saved enough money to get us to California he sent for us. The first place we lived in California was downtown LA. Your aunt Lola and I went to school at 9th St. Talk about a culture shock; we were the only white children in the entire school. In Arkansas we never had any reason to associate with black people so Lola and I did not understand the reason for segregation. It was obvious they were black but that was all. It bothered us that the teachers would not let us play with them. They had us play with the few Mexican kids in our classes." I will forever be grateful to my father and his father before him for instilling in me the importance of not using skin color as a reason to hate another human being.