1 Comment


You may download this lesson from the following link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1syCijRVhSDkjycX2pHU64JaQ6b4ycDZf/view?usp=sharing

Prepared by Melissa Inouye, in consultation with Tarienne Mitchell, a black Archivist at the Church History Library, and Alice Faulkner Burch, the Genesis Relief Society President.

Purpose of this lesson: To 1) teach Primary-age kids the inspiring stories of some of the black Latter-day Saints who helped make the history of the Restoration and 2) to make them aware of the harm done by racism and how we can stand against it.

This lesson was originally written to help families introduce their kids to the significant documents in black Latter-day Saint history on display at the Church History Library between June–August 2018.

The documents are available online at the following link: https://history.lds.org/blog/significant-documents-from-black-latter-day-saint-history-on-display?lang=eng

Note: The lesson below is a rough transcription of an actual lesson. The words in sentence case are the things I planned to say, and the words in UPPERCASE are things that I said along the way, to keep the audience of about ten kids, ages 3-12, engaged. You can improvise and adapt all of the elements of this lesson based on the audience. A youth audience can handle more texts (such as more extensive quotes from primary sources, and more thorough discussion of scriptures and history).

Time: 15-25 minutes
Younger kids: 15-20 minutes is about right. You may want them to draw pictures instead of write words for “My Mission” or “My Journey.”
Older kids and youth: 20-25 minutes should be enough. Leave some time to discuss what they’ve written.


Picture of Elijah Able (from the Significant Documents)
Picture of Jane Manning James (from the Significant Documents)
Ordination certificate of Elijah Able, with space for free writing (“My Mission”)
“Diary” of Jane Manning James, with space for free writing (“My Journey”)
Pencils or pens
Print out the three scriptures in large type so that three separate kids can read them

Music: For the two-part “song” to help the kids remember Elijah’s and Jane’s stories, you can use any tune, but I adapted the tune of “Doctor Foster Went to Gloucester.”

Audio clip of this song is available at the following link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1rGIxY_h8LpP-qLoj3HKS-DMPL3PqLtj-/view

Actions (feel free to improvise/adapt):

Elder (put hands on head as in ordination)
Able (make muscles with both arms)
built a table (pound fists, as in “Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock”)
then he built a temple (make a spire with both hands above the head)

Her shoes wore out (march with feet)
her heart was devout (make a praying gesture)
she crossed the Plain (drag an imaginary handcart—walk about if you have space)
and her name was [jump, so you land on “Jane”] Jane.


Today, we’re going to tell the stories of two of our Latter-day Saint pioneers [show pictures of Elijah and Jane].

Their names were Elijah and Jane. Pioneers are the first people to do something. Usually that something isn’t easy. Elijah and Jane were pioneers for two reasons.

First, they were among the first people to join the Church. They were among the early Latter-day Saints who got into wagons and travelled west, clear out of America, trying to find a place where they would be safe.

Second, they were among the first Latter-day Saints to face racism, to steadfastly exercise faith in the Lord and in the work of building Zion, even though people treated them poorly. All of these things took amazing faith and courage. We can learn from their examples today.

Part 1: Pioneers in traveling far to build Zion

Elijah Able, born in Maryland, made a daring escape from being enslaved. He travelled north along the underground railroad, a network of people who believed that slavery was wrong, and crossed into Canada. He was baptized in 1832. He was ordained to the priesthood and made a member of the quorum of the Seventy. He served several missions, including missions in Ohio, New York, and Canada. He crossed the Plains in 1847.

Guess what Elijah did for a job? He did the same job as Jesus.
[Stop and ask the kids what job Jesus did]

He was a carpenter, and he helped to build the Salt Lake Temple. Eljiah served until the very end. He was called to serve a mission as a very old man. He fell sick and returned home from his mission early. He passed away on Christmas Day. But the things he built, like the Salt Lake Temple, and the church we belong to, are still here with us today.

Carpenters are people make things with wood. We can remember what Elijah did with a little song:


Elder Able built a table And he built the temple!

Jane Manning James, a free black woman, was born in Connecticut. She went to listen to the missionaries even after she was told not to by her pastor. She joined the church along with her mother, sisters, and brothers in 1841. The Manning family wanted to gather to where the Saints were in Nauvoo, Illinois. They set out traveling by boat, along a canal. The boat was supposed to take them to Columbus, Ohio, which would get them almost halfway to Nauvoo. But the people running the boat refused to take them further than Buffalo, New York. So they left the boat and walked over 800 miles to Nauvoo.

[Stop and ask the children the farthest they have ever walked. HOW LONG DID IT TAKE? WERE YOU TIRED? DID YOUR FEET HURT? Give them some sense of how long Jane’s walk was compared to theirs. Ask: DO YOU THINK SHE REALLY CARED ABOUT BEING PART OF BUILDING ZION? Say: JANE CAN ACTUALLY TELL US ABOUT HER WALK IN HER OWN WORDS, IN HER DIARY:]

In Jane’s diary, she wrote:

We walked until our shoes were worn out, and our feet became sore and cracked open and bled until you could see the whole print of our feet with blood on the ground. We stopped and united in prayer to the Lord; we asked God the Eternal Father to heal our feet and our prayers were answered and our feet were healed forthwith.

Eventually they made it all the way to Nauvoo. Jane lived for a time with Joseph and Emma Smith in their house. After the Saints left Nauvoo and went west, Jane was among them. The distance from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Valley was only a little longer than the distance Jane and her family had already travelled. In the Salt Lake Valley, Jane married Isaac James and raised ten children, and also had grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Jane was faithful, and her heart was pure. We can try to be like her.


Her shoes wore out, her heart was devout,
She crossed the Plain, her name was Jane.

[Sing both parts of the song:]

Elder Able built a table
And he built the temple!

Her shoes wore out, her heart was devout,
She crossed the Plain, her name was Jane.

Pioneers in facing racism and other kinds of prejudice

[Check to see if the children have a working definition of racism. If necessary, explain that racism is when people think that a group of people is different from them, and not as good as them, just because of how they look, particularly because of how much melanin they have in their skin. Melanin is what helps protect you from getting sunburned. It is awesome. For some reason, when Elijah and Jane were living in America over 100 years ago, and even today, many people have thought that people with a lot of melanin in their skin were completely different from people with not much melanin in their skin. It’s like saying “people with big, hairy, thick eyebrows are completely different from people with small, fuzzy, thin eyebrows” (EVERYONE CHECK YOUR EYEBROWS!!!! CAN YOU TELL WHETHER SOMEONE IS GOOD OR BAD BECAUSE OF THEIR EYEBROWS!?)

or “people with short toes are good and people with long toes are bad” (EVERYONE CHECK YOUR TOES!!!! CAN YOU TELL WHETHER SOMEONE IS GOOD OR BAD BECAUSE OF THEIR TOES!?)

In other words,

Prejudice isjudging people negatively [for very young children, “thinking people are bad”] without even knowing them.

Racism is when people who have power make a big mistake--the mistake of thinking that other groups of people are not as good or not as much a child of God as they are.


1 Samuel 16:7: the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 John 4: 20-21
20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God loveth his brother also.

The Book of Mormon says: “all are alike unto God,” including “black and white, bond and free, male and female.” (2 Nephi 26:33)

It’s also contrary to the teachings of living prophets. Elder Ballard recently asked us to “eliminate sexism, racism, and nationalism.”

Elijah and Jane were pioneers because they were among the earliest Latter-day Saints to deal with racism. Some of the early Latter-day Saints owned black slaves. Some of the early Latter-day Saints were racist. Elijah and Jane were treated poorly by other church members on account of their skin color. One church leader used his power in the wrong way, and taught that people like Elijah and Jane who had a lot of melanin in their skin were, quote, “uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.”[1]

[BEFORE READING THE QUOTE, ASK THE KIDS TO LISTEN TO THE QUOTE AND GIVE A THUMBS-UP IF IT REFLECTS THE TEACHING THAT “all human beings are created in the image of God and each person is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents with a divine nature” AND TO GIVE A THUMBS-DOWN IF IT IS RACIST.]

You’re right. These beliefs and comments were racist, and they were wrong. In the past, because of racism, black Latter-day Saints like Elijah and Jane were not allowed to hold the enter the temple, even though Elijah and Jane had helped to build it. Over time, Church leaders also “forgot” that Elijah Able had been ordained an elder and a member of the quorum of the Seventy. For many years, our Church did not allow black men to hold the priesthood. Black women and men could not go to the temple. Black families couldn’t be sealed together forever. Can you imagine how this felt? Over and over again, Jane wrote to church leaders and asked to receive her temple blessings. She was a believing Latter-day Saint who believed that the temple was the house of God, a place of love and beauty. She was prepared to enter, but church leaders would not allow her to because of the color of her skin. She wrote, “Is there no blessing for me?”

[Pause for a little bit to let the kids imagine how this felt. If a little more specificity is needed and is appropriate, say: “HOW WOULD YOU FEEL, IF IN PRIMARY, THE TEACHER TAUGHT, ‘IN THE TEMPLE, FAMILIES CAN BE TOGETHER FOREVER . . . EXCEPT FOR YOURFAMILY’?”]

However, in June, 1978, the prophet Spencer W. Kimball announced the time had come for this policy to come to an end. This was a day of rejoicing. We just had a big church party, at the beginning of this month, on June 1st, to celebrate the 40thanniversary of the end of this policy.

At this party, Elder Dallin H. Oaks acknowledged that racism causes pain. He reminded us that racism, or any kind of prejudice, is wrong. He said, “we are all called to repent of [racism].”

As Latter-day Saints, how can we repent of racism?
Can we change the past?

Can we remember the past and learn from it?
Yes, absolutely.

From Elijah Able, a builder and a missionary, we learn that all of us can use our skills to build Zion, to build people up, to bring good news to people.


Elder Able built a table
And he built the temple

From Jane Manning James, we learn that no path is too long or hard if we really believe in where we’re going.


Her shoes wore out, her heart was devout
She crossed the Plain, and her name was Jane.

[Sing both parts of the song:]

Elder Able built a table
And he built the temple

Her shoes wore out, her heart was devout
She crossed the Plain, and her name was Jane.

From the story of these black Latter-day Saints who dealt with racism, we learn courage. When people say racist things, we can speak up and say things like, “What you said was rude.” When people are unkind, we can stand up to them.

In closing, in the past the Latter-day Saints have made mistakes. These mistakes have taught us to be humble. We learn that sometimes, our mistakes are huge and cause the suffering of others. We learn to be aware of that suffering. We learn that we can stand up for our beliefs: every person is a beloved child of Heavenly Parents and is created in their image.

[Bear testimony about how Jesus is real and how if we rely on the atonement, we really can come to know Jesus and become his true disciples, like Elijah and Jane]

Further notes:

[Possibility for kids with remaining attention span: Distribute sheets of Elijah Able’s ordination certificate / “My Mission” or Jane Manning James’s autobiography / “My Journey”. After giving the kids about 7-8 minutes to freewrite, helping the younger kids, we can invite a couple of the kids to share their stories.]


[1] Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 7, 1859, p. 290. It may make some Latter-day Saints uncomfortable to have children recognize that something that Brigham Young said was racist. However, the fact of the matter is that this sort of speech was indeed racist, and that the church’s policy of denying priesthood and temple blessings to black people had its origins in such racist views from Brigham Young and other church leaders. When giving the lesson to children who think in black and white terms, you need not mention the name of this particular church leader. When giving the lesson to youth who can handle a little more complexity, and who need to be able to come to terms with the fact that in the past, LDS church leaders said things that were racist and wrong, you can attribute the quote and explain that church leaders such as Brigham Young held views that were typical for white Americans in the nineteenth century. It is okay to name things as racist and wrong if they were indeed racist and wrong. As the Gospel Topics essay “Race and the Priesthood”says, “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or peope of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”[Back to manuscript].

Full Citation for this Article: Inouye, Melissa (2018) "Black LDS History Sharing Time / Family Home Evening Lesson," SquareTwo, Vol. 11 No. 2 (Summer 2018), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleInouyeBlackHistoryLesson.html, accessed <give access date>.

Would you like to comment on this article? Thoughtful, faithful comments of at least 100 words are welcome. Please submit to SquareTwo.

COMMENTS: 1 Comment

I. Raymond Takashi Swenson

Thanks to Sister Inouye for this. The revelation to President Kimball was significant and a great blessing to all the Latter-day Saints of every race or ethnicity. To understand its value, and why we continue to celebrate it, we need to explain to our children and grandchildren the conditions that preceded that blessing.

At the same time, I would want my grandchildren’s understanding on the topic of racial issues among the Latter-day Saints to include the rest of the picture. I would want to give them a lesson that introduces them to the Latter-day Saints of African descent who have been pioneers in their communities, including members in the eastern and southern United States who are bishops, stake presidents, and temple workers; members in the Caribbean, including Haiti and the Dominican Republic; members in Brazil, including Elder Helvecio Martins of the Seventy; and members in Africa, including Elder Joseph Sitati of Kenya. The story of the 1978 revelation is not complete without the yearning of the thousands of people in Nigeria and Ghana who asked for missionaries to come baptize them, and the yearning of faithful Brazilian members like the Martins who contributed to the building of the Sao Paulo Brazil temple, even though they had no immediate prospect of receiving the blessings of temple worship, just like Brother Abel. And yes, the yearning of the rest of the Latter-day Saints to be able to share the blessings of priesthood service and temple worship with the African American members who were our neighbors and the brave people we baptized before 1978, whose faithfulness took a prophet to his knees in sustained pleading with the Lord.

The story of the Latter-day Saints and ethnicity also includes the missionary labors among the American Indians that began with Oliver Cowdery and Parley P. Pratt in 1830, and continued with the father of Spencer W. Kimball. The story of the Latter-day Saints among the people of Polynesia includes the 1844 mission of Addison Pratt to Tahiti and the labor of Joseph Fielding Smith, nephew of the prophet Joseph, who served as a missionary among Hawaiians and returned near the end of his life as Church President to establish the school that evolved into BYU Hawaii, and to begin the construction of a temple to serve the people of the Pacific. The story of the Latter-day Saints in Asia includes the missionary work of future president Heber J. Grant in Japan that started in 1901, and was continued by American servicemen in Occupied Japan who became missionaries among their former enemies. The story of the Latter-day Saints in Mexico and Latin America includes the conviction that the indigenous people of those nations shared an ancestry from Israel, and are intended beneficiaries of the Book of Mormon.

The majority of Latter-day Saints today live outside of the USA, Canada and Western Europe, whose people dominated the first century of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of faithful Latter-day Saints of all ethnicities and a hundred languages are preaching the gospel, establishing families and wards, and building and worshipping in 150 temples around the world. There were 4 million Latter-day Saints in 1978. Forty years later, in 2018, there are 16 million Latter-day Saints, of which perhaps 2 million were alive in 1978. The vast majority of us have never lived in a church that had different rules for members with African ancestry. We live in a church that has the same blessings and opportunities for all its members, whether African or European, Asian or Polynesian, American Indian or Latin American. I want to bring my sixteen grandchildren on a walk through our history, to this present time of rejoicing with Latter-day Saints around the world.