My Q&A with Wain Myers,
Author of "From Baptist Preacher to Mormon Teacher"
September 6, 2015
On August 23, 2015, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Wain Myers. He's the subject and author of the captivating new book "From Baptist Preacher to Mormon Teacher". In his book, Wain shares his tumultuous and miraculous experiences that lead him to membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Wain Myers is the father of seven children, and has been married to his wife, Sebrina, for 20 years.
In his book, and in this interview, Wain Myers talks about his struggles that lead him to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the backlash he endured at every step, his passion for serving Christ, the realities and implications of being a black Mormon and the former priesthood ban, his work with The Genesis Group, his lifestyle of excesses as a Baptist pastor, the seer stone, what keeps his faith burning, personal revelation, why he feels a close bond with Joseph Smith, his opinion on why the being a casual Mormon is untenable, and why he rejoiced LDS Church services are 3 hours.
You can order your copy of "From Baptist Preach to Mormon Teacher" by clicking on the links on this page.
KB:Thank you for allowing me to interview you today, Wain. The name of your book is From Baptist Preacher to Mormon Teacher, since you gave away the ending in the title why should people still read the book?
WM: Even though the end of the book is given away the journey in itself is really what's compelling, even more than the transition or the end of the book. I've had questions like "So how does someone become a preacher". In the LDS faith you know there are processes to becoming an elder. And so a lot of [LDS] members don't know how someone actually becomes a preacher. When we talk about [priesthood] in the LDS faith, when we talk about authority and where we get our authority from, and why our authority comes from Heavenly Father. We can track that it comes from Christ; we can track that through our priesthood lineage. There are a lot of people in the church that have questions about where does a preacher get his authority. So I answer questions like that.
KB: Just reading from the 3 pages you had on-line it was quite the journey. I can't wait to get your book and read more about it. So now that you are a Mormon, rather than a Baptist preacher, how does it feel to be going to Hell now?
WM: (Laughter) Good question! (laughter) I've been condemned so many different times that it's funny that you ask that. I've been put in Hell quite a few times through my life. At least I've got the truth, you know. So I'm going to Hell with the truth. So it feels kind of good!
KB: So you're from Ohio. Other than passing by a Stake Center that you didn't know was a Stake Center at the time, did you have any other encounters with Mormons or church history? Like did you ever drive past Kirtland and wonder what the temple was?
WM: No, I'd never even been up there before. By the time I got up to Northern Ohio I was already an adult, and I didn't know anything about Kirtland. I was driving a semi-truck and I'd just been driving in the larger cities, like Cleveland and Akron. I'd never even heard of Kirtland.
KB: Have you been back to Ohio since you joined the church?
WM: I've been back to Columbus but I've still never been up to Kirtland.
KB: Well it's probably just as well since they drive Mormons out of there anyway.
KB: Your wife's name is Sebrina. From what you've written she's literally the girl of your dreams.
KB:Reading the book, it's such a sweet story on how you two met. Basically, love found on the bus, love on wheels. After people read this story what lesson should your readers learn about your first encounter with Sebrina?
WM: Wow. Good question. The lesson is to pay attention to The Spirit. A lot of times I think we miss our blessings because of the packaging that it comes in. And so when Heavenly Father presents something to us in an unexpected package, or in an unexpected way, I think we really need to learn how to pay attention and to hear His voice.
KB: The story about her in her workout outfit was brilliant, by the way.
WM: (Laughter) Yeah, she was testing me. Quite a bit!
KB: For those that haven't read the book yet, on Wain's first date he came to Sebrina's home to meet her and she came walking down the stairs in a, what was it again?
WM: She had on kind of a leotard and a sports bra. And she had on some gray spandex shorts. And yeah, that was a bit much for me for a first encounter! (laughter) I couldn't handle that, that was...yeah.
KB: And that was what she did to see if you could keep your eyes front and centered, like eyes front soldier. What was the date you had planned for that night? Do you remember?
WM: I really just wanted to talk with her and get to know her a little better. We weren't going to go out on a date because it was probably around 10:30pm and it was a weekday. I had just gotten off work and had just come to visit and talk with her, and just really to find out a little bit more about her. I had been married before and was in the process of a divorce. And I'd just been through so much that I did not want to go through that again. So I really wanted to sit down and get to know her and see what kind of person she was that Heavenly Father would speak to me so clearly and say "that's your wife"."
KB: Had she done that before? Or was that something she had just come up with? Coming down stairs in the workout outfit to see what a guy was really thinking about?
WM: I don't know if she had done it before but that's a good question. I wish she were here so I could ask her. I've never asked her that. I'll have to ask her tonight. As far as I know that's the only time she's done it. But it was pretty amazing.
[After the interview Wain asked Sebrina about it and she confirmed it was the first time she'd tried that tactic.]
KB: So was it after she saw your reaction is that she went upstairs to change, or did she tell you what she had done first, or did you know find out until later?
WM: I didn't find out until a couple of years later. She immediately went back upstairs and changed her clothes and put on something a lot more modest. (laughter)
KB: So you've been married for how long now?
WM: We'll be married 20 years in October, on October 7.
KB: And you have 7 children?
KB: High-Five! Good job!
WM: We've got a TV now so... (laughter)
KB: People still asking if you know what that happens?
WM: Yes. All the time. Members are like, "Really? Only seven?" I didn't realize that after 8 you get tax exempt. But I didn't find out that until after I got fixed and then I was thinking "Now your tell me!"
KB: Wow, no kidding? You were almost there! Are all your children with you and Sebrina or are some from your previous marriage?
WM: Previous marriage. We're a blended family.
KB: How long was your previous marriage?
WM: I got married in 1989 and divorced in 1995.
"I came in from the perspective of what I was doing wasn't working. So please teach me how to be a better man. I need to know how to be a better man, to be a better son to my Father in Heaven." -- Wain Myers KB: How long have you been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
WM: I was baptized August 25, 1995.
KB: What a great way to commemorate the 20th anniversary of your baptism to have your book coming out.
WM: It is pretty awesome.
KB: You write about how Sebrina was an important person in your joining The LDS Church. How do you think things would have been different if Sebrina hadn't been involved?
WM: Kelly, I think about that often. And I don't know if I would have ever been in a position to find the gospel had it not been for Sebrina because she opened up so many doors. I was raised in Dayton, Ohio. In the 1999 almanac, Dayton was rated as the third most racist city in the United States. And so my relationship and my interactions with Caucasian people were just not. It just didn't happen. And so when I met Sebrina she opened up just a whole new part of my life. So I really have contemplated that so many times to figure out what would have happened in my life had I not met Sebrina. So I really can't even answer that, because I don't see me joining the church without her.
KB: Especially it being her that introduced you to the missionaries as well.
WM: Yeah, I'd always thought they were police. (Laughter) I'd say, "Look, that's police."
KB: Wait, you thought the missionaries were police?
WM: Oh yeah. That's what we always thought, that the missionaries were police. Kelly, we're in the ghetto. We're in an urban area. Two white guys riding a bike with ties on? That's police! (laughter)
KB: That's awesome! How has your relationship with your mother and your family changed since joining the church?
WM: *sigh* Well, they thought I was going to be a television evangelist.
KB: Oh, they thought you were going to be the next Creflo Dollar?
WM: Right, yeah. And I was going to set the family up and really be in high place in the church. So when I told them I was joining the LDS Church my mom didn't like it. She said Sebrina was making me change gods. So that was her thought on it. And to this day we still have an estranged relationship.
KB: Oh, even after all this time?
KB: What about with your other siblings?
WM: Ummm, my brother and my sister are both fine with our relationship. We talk quite a bit; we call each other on the phone. I just talked to my sister probably 2 days ago so we're fine.
KB: Do you ever talk church or religion with them? Or do you keep your distance in regard to that so you can keep the relationship going?
WM: My brother, he'll talk to me about religion from time to time. He's dealing with some things in his life so he'll come to me for some guidance and some advice. My sister, she will too, she'll talk to me about some advice but not really as far as teaching the gospel. I just try to be the example and stay consistent and I think that's one of the things my sister admires. She wrote this huge article when she graduated from college about 5 years ago about how proud she was of her me because even though the trials and tribulations my wife and I have faced we've remained consistent [in our faith] and that's the one thing she's most proud of. That we're still standing our ground and not backing down off our belief.
KB: That's a nice testament to you, and your wife as well. You write about issues you had with your biological father and how he wasn't present while you were growing up. And as an extension of that you developed almost a stronger relationship with your Heavenly Father because of that. Have you had any contact with him since joining the church?
WM: He calls me from time to time now. Because my father didn't raise his children he doesn't have the knowledge or wisdom of how to talk to us. And so it's really a difficult conversation because we just really have nothing in common that we can talk about.
KB: So you spent time in the military as a chaplain, and then after you got out of the military you worked as a pastor. During those two experiences how long were you pastoring for?
WM: Well I wasn't a chaplain. I went to a chaplain and he directed me to a Pentecostal because the chaplain said, "I don't have no idea what you're talking about. You're seeing visions and hearing the voice of God. I don't have any idea what you're talking about, Private. But there is some hope for you. There's this Pentecostal preacher you can go talk to." So he sent me to someone else. I was honorable discharged from the military April 4, 1990. And I started preaching at True Vine Missionary Baptist Church in Dayton, Ohio in May or June 1990. I went in preaching so I wasn't a member of the church; I went in installed as a preacher. Then became youth pastor and youth activities director.
"When I started out [preaching], I had a heart to change the world. To bring men unto Christ. That was my desire. That was my passion. Then the money started coming. Then the women started coming. Then the friends started coming. And as that happens you get distracted. You just really get distracted." -- Wain Myers KB: You've written that you received some pretty clear answers from God that you were to become a pastor. Why do you suppose Heavenly Father wanted you to go through the experience of being a Pastor prior to being led to the LDS Church?
WM: Kelly, that's a great question! We teach in the LDS doctrine of line upon line, precept upon precept. I don't necessarily think that Heavenly Father wanted me to preach in the Baptist Church. I think that Heavenly Father was guiding me all along to the truth; to the fullness of the gospel. Looking back in retrospect I think that's what was happening. However, along the way there were some things that I didn't know. That I didn't understand. It's kind of like a puzzle. You know as you put a puzzle together the picture becomes more and more clear. And a lot of times when you have that puzzle you're putting small pieces together, and you look at it and think it's one thing; but then as it expands out, and you add more pieces to it, and you find more pieces to it you go "oh that's what that is". I think that's what my experience was with being a pastor and a preacher, is that God was leading me to the LDS Church and I was listening. As I grew and got more pieces of the puzzle I realized "Oh, that's what I'm supposed to be doing". I'm thinking that's how it unfolded, and how I grew into the truth. If that makes sense.
KB: You've written about revelatory experiences you've had since you were young. How has your communication and relationship with the Holy Ghost changed from the time you were young, then as a pastor, until now having received the Gift of the Holy Ghost?
WM: Kelly, to be honest with you, I don't see how it has changed. I believe I've grown; kind of like a child. When a child hears their parents' voice you understand, you know your parents' voice. You know mom's voice. You can be in a crowd, playing with your friends, and if your mom calls you know that's mom. You know that's her voice. And so as you grow older, not only do you learn that's her voice you also learn more about her tone of voice. You're able to pick up on what she wants, and also know what she meant by saying it. I think that's the same way with Heavenly Father. It just really became clearer and I understand Heavenly Father's voice from a more mature standpoint now. When I heard him before I joined the church, I know He was directing me but I didn't know His undertones. I didn't know what He was saying. I just knew He was speaking to me indirectly.
KB: When you were a Baptist minister did you ever do revival meetings or tent meetings with speaking in tongues or faith healings?
WM: Yeah, I did. I did a revival. We did a week-long revival and tent meetings. We really didn't get into the faith healings in the Baptist faith. Faith healings are more Pentecostal, more Holiness Churches which is where I started. The speaking in tongues, Baptists are coming around to things like that. But in the Pentecostal faith we did the speaking in tongues. I was maybe 13 or 14 years old in a different church with my mom.
KB: How have the gifts of the spirit changed for you from the tent revivals to now as a member of the Mormon Church?
WM: Now they're clearer. I get clearer instructions. I know what I'm supposed to do, where I am supposed to go. Things just kind of unfold. I would say I have a better understanding of the order of Heavenly Father, that there is a certain order that He has. You look at the ordinances that we do. Why we do those ordinances. And I have a better understanding of the sacrament and why we take it. In the Baptist church it was Communion. We did it once a month, we had white gloves on. We passed it and blessed it and so on and so forth. Now it makes more sense to me. You did the ritual in the Baptist church but you didn't understand that you were renewing your baptismal covenant. The things we understand today as members of the church that I didn't understand then.
KB: You write of the hellfire shaming of people to scare them into accepting Christ and being saved; such as the harsh, bombastic interchange you witnessed between the military pastor and the man in the chair. How does that contrast with your experience in the LDS Church? Do you see people in the LDS Church trying to save by shaming?
WM: Being a member of the LDS Church you are really expected to establish your own relationship with Jesus Christ. Now a lot of people will tell you, and many told me, that Mormons are a cult. That Mormons have all these rules and regulations and all these bylaws that you have to live by or you get excommunicated. But I find that the standards that we live by as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provide a safety net for us, a security for us. That's what they're used for.
Shaming of someone into repentance, I don't really know any other way of saying it, you can see Satan's plan in it. You just can from the shaming. Satan's plan is "send me I'll make them serve You, whether it be shaming them into serving You whatever it may be, I'm going to make them serve You." So they shame someone into admitting that they've been wrong and that they've done wrong. Contrast that to someone getting on their knees and praying. Asking for direction like Joseph Smith did from Heavenly Father; and getting an answer and then searching your own heart and you go "this isn't the right way to go". As opposed to a pastor saying "you're going to hell! If you don't change your life, you're going to die! You're going to go to Hell! You'll spend an eternity suffering!" You know what I mean? So there's a whole different feel to that. One presents the side of God that says He's a tyrant. That He's a brutal abuser. Right? When you really look at it one side says He's an abuser. The other one presents him as a loving Father who wants to share everything He has, and He's offering it to us whether we accept it or not. So for me that one makes the most sense.
KB: Do you still carry bits of Baptist preacher with you?
WM: That's funny, because a lot of people ask me when I'm in church now do I change what I'm doing? No, I haven't. I'm the same. I've grown in the gospel and I have a fullness of the gospel but my presentation is almost identical. Without the, and I will say, I don't do the hoop and the hollering.
KB: Do you still let an occasional, "preach it brother!" "hallelujah" or boisterous AMEN slip out during sacrament meetings?
WM: Oh yeah! I still do that! We still do that. In fact I was in a, I think it was Indiana, and I was giving a talk in Sacrament meeting and one of the sisters shouted out "AMEN!" and I was like "Thank You, Thank You, I feel at home now". (laughter) So yeah, I still do that. Here, I got up and when I got up for the very first talk I gave the person before was talking and he got up and said "Mahalo" and all the Saints said "Mahalolao"—the response. And so when I got up I said "Praise the Lord, saints" and everyone was just kind of looking at me going uhhh what do we do, what do we do? So I said okay I'll teach you how we do it and I literally taught them all the call and response right there. I said "I'll say praise the lord, saints and you guys respond in-kind. Just say praise the Lord." And we did that about three times, it was pretty cool! (laughter)
KB: Before you became a pastor did you have to complete any formal bible training, or did you go through bible school?
WM: I didn't have to do it before, but I went to bible college while I was preaching at True Vine. I also went to American Baptist Theological Seminary. They had a campus in Ohio so I went there as well.
KB: So you would have been very knowledgeable about the Bible during your training there.
KB: With your background did you have any problems reconciling any of the unique teachings of the LDS Church that some other churches claim contradict the Bible, such as families being together forever, Eternal Marriage which they claim contradicts Matthew where it reads that people are neither married nor given in marriage in Heaven? Or about the premortal existence? Did you have any issues reconciling that and if so how did you do it?
WM: I didn't really have any issues. Because at the time I joined the church I was so open because when I was a Baptist preacher, the things I was doing, the way I was living was so foul that I knew that it was wrong. And so I was ready in my heart to either give God up or to live for God completely. And so when I joined the LDS Church I was so open to ideas of God at this point. Because what I was doing wasn't working. So I didn't come in from the perspective of I'm battling, like "I wanna fight" "I wanna bible bash". I came in from the perspective of what I was doing wasn't working. So please teach me how to be a better man. I need to know how to be a better man, to be a better son to my Father in Heaven. So when I had questions that contradicted what I had learned I just went and prayed about it because that's how I came into the church. I'd just pray to Heavenly Father about it and He lead me to the LDS Church. So I always knew that I could go to Heavenly Father if I had questions that seemed to contradict what I learned in previous teaching.
KB: Since you just brought up the issues you had as a pastor, you've written online about the rampant drug use, excesses and raucous lifestyles that you participated in and that was prevalent among the pastors you knew. In your experience, is this common among pastors and what is the cause of it?
WM: Kelly, you're going to get me in trouble. (Laughter). I'll just be blunt with you. I didn't want to come off as offensive. I don't want to offend anybody. But at the same time I do want to tell my story. But there are some things that we thought may offend that we decided to remove from the book. However, I will answer questions. (Laughter) I will answer questions because it is already out there.
KB: Thanks, and keep in mind I'm not asking this as a blanket statement about every single pastor. We're strictly speaking of your experience and the pastors that you were with.
WM: Well I didn't smoke weed with every pastor that I knew. Or every preacher that I knew. But quite a few of us got together from time to time and that was the drug of choice was marijuana. What they did on their own I have no idea. But my drug of choice at the time was marijuana. And I would drink beer from time to time. But I wasn't a heavy drinker because I'd see people who drank a lot and would wake up with hangovers. You don't get that with marijuana. You wake up and you're fine. You don't have your head in a toilet. But the other preachers I would have out with, yeah, we were womanizers. And it was about the money and the lifestyle—the fast cars and the fast women. So yeah, that's the reality of what I dealt with.
The reason why I personally think it happens, and I'll just put it out there and I'll just tell you, Kelly, the reason why I think that it's an issue like that is because it's the apostate church. I'll be honest with you about my feelings. Satan has generals, just like Heavenly Father has prophets, apostles, teachers, evangelists. Satan has those same things. Satan has men that are on this earth that are working strictly for him. And you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out who it is. You know, if you go to church, and you're struggling to pay your bills, and your lights are getting turned off, and you take your tithing, you take your check and you tithe but instead of paying your rent you pay your tithing. And your pastor is driving a Bentley? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who he's following. It's not like you can follow God, or follow Satan, or follow this person in the middle. That isn't an option. It's either one or the other. There's the church of God or the church of the devil. Those are the only two choices on the earth. And so if you're struggling, and you're hurting, and your pastor is driving a Bentley, and lives in an $8 million dollar home then you don't have to be a genius to figure out that this person isn't serving God. Especially if you look at the life of Christ. Jesus rode in on a donkey, right? Your pastor just rode in in a Bentley. Do the math! (laughter)
I don't believe these pastors started out this way. They had a pure intent. I believe some of them, a few of them, saw the money and decided that's what they wanted to do, they had the gift of gab and went for it. Me personally, when I started out, I had a heart to change the world. To bring men unto Christ. That was my desire. That was my passion. Then the money started coming. Then the women started coming. Then the friends started coming. And as that happens you get distracted. You just really get distracted. And you get caught up believing the hype that everyone is telling you. "Oh yeah, you're the man", and this that and the other "you're the man of God. Make way for the man of God, he's coming", yada yada. Women buying you clothes and jewelry and "oh our pastor is going to look good", yada yada yada. Then you get the cars. It's a vicious cycle. The priestcraft is a real vicious cycle that's rampant upon the earth today. And we see it but a lot of us don't even recognize it as the priestcraft.
KB: That's interesting because what you're describing almost exactly matches the life-cycle of the Nephites. They start off humble; they start off as followers of Christ. But then the excesses start coming in and they get prideful, and "wham" then they get brought down and have to start over again.
WM: Yes, that's exactly it.
KB: A lot of pastors might be shocked to learn that they're living a Book of Mormon story and pattern.
WM: (Laughter) Yeah!
KB: So you meet Sebrina, and she invites you over to meet with the missionaries. When your missionary first told you about Joseph Smith and the First Vision and gave you the first discussion, how did that resonate with you in regards to all your past experience with questions, truth searching, and prayer? And did you see any parallels between your experience and the Joseph Smith story?
WM: It was identical! I mean, when my missionary talked to me about it, it was so overwhelmingly identical that all I could do was cry. It was almost like a road to Damascus type feeling where Paul fell off his horse and just knelt before Christ. It was just identical to when I was on the mountain and I was praying. When I met with the missionaries and they shared the Joseph Smith experience, I just knew. I knew Joseph saw what he said he saw. Because Heavenly Father told me. When I was a pastor I didn't know anything about Joseph Smith. I didn't know anything about the LDS religion, let alone who the founder was. If you ask most pastors who founded the Baptist church, they wouldn't be able to tell you. They don't know their history. If you ask most pastors period of any denominations who started their denomination they wouldn't be able to tell you because to them it isn't relevant.
KB: They'd tell you Jesus started their church back in the New Testament times.
WM: Right! And to hear it, it resonated to me huge because my thought was it happened to me. That was my path. That was my experience.
KB: While reading your story it seems like you and Joseph Smith had similar experiences, like when he was 14 and he would tell ministers about the visions he had and they wouldn't' believe him and you would tell people about amazing experiences you'd had with Heavenly Father and many didn't believe you or downplayed it. I saw a lot of parallels so I wonder if you felt a special affinity to Joseph Smith because of these shared experiences.
WM: My love for Joseph Smith is very, I don't want to say it's unique because all of us as members love Joseph Smith. But I think I do have a special connection with Heavenly Father because I think I'm here today, that my purpose for being on the Earth today is to testify that what Heavenly Father revealed to Joseph Smith is true because it happened. And so I believe that my witness from that perspective is Heavenly Father repeating Himself. Not with the visions and the angels in that perspective, but saying yes, I know Joseph Smith saw what he saw in a modern day. I've come to testify of the truth of what Joseph Smith saw.
"The church, the institution, the organization, the LDS Church is trying to move forward but its culture that members are embracing won't allow it." -- Wain Myers KB: In church history I have a great admiration for black members such as Jane Manning James, who joined the church and walked barefoot from Connecticut to Nauvoo, Illinois to join with Joseph Smith and the rest of the saints. And, of course, Elijah Ables and everything he did. Who are some black members from church history that you identify with or have an admiration for?
WM: You named them. Of course, Jane Manning James, Elijah Ables, Ruffin Bridgeforth—who was the first president of The Genesis Group. Darius Gray. All those brothers and sisters have inspired me. Partly because to be black in the LDS Church today, there is still a stigma that comes with that. It is still hard for black members because we get it I think from both sides. So not only do we get it from antimembers who are Caucasian, we also get it from blacks who aren't members and antiMormons outside the church that ask how can you be part of such a racist organization. There's a stigma that comes from being black and being LDS for a lot of black members. And as a member of The Genesis Group presidency I get the opportunity to talk to a lot of black members, not just in Utah but all over the United States. I get emails, I get instant messages. People send me articles and life stories. It's unbelievable how much information I get sent to me from other black members.
KB: For those who may not be familiar with The Genesis Group, could you please explain what that is.
WM: The Genesis Group is an organization that was established in 1971 by junior apostles Thomas S. Monson, Gordon B. Hinckley and Boyd K. Packer to really find out why black people were leaving the church. So they got with Ruffin Bridgeforth, Darius Gray and Eugene Orr, and wanted to figure out what was going on and the birth of that was The Genesis Group. And The Genesis Group was established as a way to help retain African Americans. In 1996, it kind of dwindled down. It never stopped, but it dwindled down because the question was do we still need it? And we found that that that yeah, we do really still need it because there are a lot of things that we still haven't healed from.
KB: The interchange between you and your missionary over the past priesthood ban is quite an interesting read, especially the juxtaposition of emotions from you. Day one you're like "Baptize me now!" and then suddenly Sebrina drops the bomb on you about the past priesthood prohibition and then you're like "Wait...what?" I can't wait to read how you fleshed this out in your book because there was such a range of emotions involved. So here's the obligatory black man in the Mormon church questions, How do you respond now when people bring up the church's discriminatory past?
WM: Well, one of the things that I've learned is that the LDS Church was not the only ones, and didn't hold the exclusive rights to racism. You have the Missionary Baptist Church for example. The whole reason you have the Missionary Baptist Church in the first place is because Southern Baptists wouldn't let black men come in and preach to a white congregation. So blacks developed their own Baptist church and formed the Missionary Baptist Church. So that's one of the things that I mention. So then people will ask how do you justify it [priesthood ban] going as long as it did. I don't look to justify it. These are answers that you have to pray about and ask for yourself. I have my own understanding about it that Heavenly Father has revealed to me, which is that it was a product of our time. In the 1970's racism still existed. I mean, it's 2015 and racism still exists! So the brethren were a product of their time when the ban was lifted in 1978. The priesthood ban was never doctrine; it was a practice that was intended to end. President David O. McKay said that. Some other church presidents said that, and in 1978 it did.
KB: Do you feel like you're becoming the poster child for black members?
WM: (Laughter) That's a great question, Kelly! You know, I don't think so. And I don't know if this sounds wrong. But I would hope that I am. And the reason being is because I believe personally from the purity of my heart that I want to serve my Heavenly Father and I want this work to go forward. I want people to know that Joseph Smith saw what he said he saw. I want people to know that the gospel has been restored to this Earth. And that's my passion. That's my true passion. So if a poster child is what I'm becoming then I would welcome that. And I know that might sound kind of like "Well you're black, they've got a token, he's the token black member". And I don't feel as a token, but as a poster child, if anything I would be honored by that. Because Heavenly Father has given me that ability with a responsibility to help others, not just African American members. But with other members because Caucasian members struggle with the priesthood ban as well, and with that history. We lost a lot of Caucasian members because of the priesthood ban, and still lose members to this day because of when they find out about it. So it's not just a black matter. That's what frustrates me when I talk to some Caucasian members. We were trying to start a Genesis Group in Columbus, Ohio, and my wife and I were talking to some Caucasian members about it and they said, "Well, that's not our problem" and I was like "Well yes it is!" This is a church issue. It isn't limited to just black people, it affects us all.
You know? I have an article that if I can share it with you. This was a talk that was given by Darius Gray, its one he'd given in 2006. I found it online in 2007 and fell in love with it because it answers the priesthood ban for me. I read it in a talk I gave at BYU on the priesthood ban. I want to share an excerpt from this that addresses what some of the brethren said prior to 1978. Two works published by Orson Pratt were found to have advanced incorrect and unsound doctrine. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve corrected Orson's false teaching with a public reprimand published in the Millennial Star in Vol. 27 page 657, dated October 21st 1865. And this is what it read: "We do not wish incorrect and unsound doctrines to be handed down to posterity under the sanction of great names, to be received and valued by future generations as authentic and reliable, creating labor and difficulties for our successors to perform and contend with, which we ought not to transmit to them. The interests of posterity are, to a certain extent, in our hands. Errors in history and doctrine, if left uncorrected by us who are conversant with the events, and who are in a position to judge of the truth or falsity of the doctrines, would go to our children as though we had sanctioned and endorsed them. Such a construction could very easily be put upon our silence respecting them, and would tend to perplex and mislead posterity, and make the labor of correction an exceedingly difficult one for them."
And this is the time that we're in. Is that because these falsities weren't corrected it's extremely difficult, exceedingly difficult to deal with. This is talking about the priesthood ban. That's what this whole article is about. What Margaret Young and Darius Gray did in putting this whole time line together shows that the priesthood ban was a bouncing ball. That we don't know where it came from, or how it implemented, or how it even came to be. We know when it ended. We don't know it started, and we know it wasn't revelation, or at least that it hasn't been given as revelation. And now the "Race and the Priesthood" essay that's online says it was never revelation. So that is I think what we're dealing with today. Because it was never corrected this is a church wide issue, that we really just don't know how to deal with at this point.
KB: There are black members, like Darius Gray, who was a member of the church before the ban was lifted, who stuck with the church and stayed faithful, then became one of the first men to receive the priesthood after the ban was lifted. You have some black members that were like that, and then you have some Caucasian members that leave the church upon hearing of the ban. What are your thoughts about the black members who stay and the Caucasian members that use the ban as a reason for leaving?
WM: You know? I don't know if you've ever watched the movie Selma? The Caucasian culture, and I don't want to say just the Caucasian culture, but our American culture has gotten to the point where if we can't put our hands on it, if we can't experience it, if we don't see it, then it didn't exist. And so in the movie "Selma" where you saw the scene on the bridge where blacks were brutally beaten, dogs are set on them, hoses are turned on them, this that and the other, and they televised that. Televised as the troopers were doing that to these people in that day. That's when it really became real for America. It became real at that point. That you have people now all across the world, all across America that's watching this just, brutal struggle and it affected Caucasians. Those that had turned an eye to it and said, "Well, it happens but ... you know", it affected them in such a way that action had to be taken. And I use that because when, I believe, members found out about the priesthood ban then found out they had black blood, like a distant relative, they left the church because it became more real to them that we're all connected. How to handle that was to leave. I couldn't imagine the burden you'd have to carry. I can imagine it from the Baptist Preacher to Mormon Teacher. I was Baptist so I know the Baptist side of it and I understand the LDS side of it. I don't know the Caucasian side of it so I can only imagine how difficult it must be to be raised your all your life thinking that "I'm Caucasian and loving it", well not so much loving it but not even having to think about it. I'm Caucasian, this is life. This is life as I know it. Then BOOM! You hear the "one drop theory", then you do your genealogy work and find out your great great grandfather was a black man. Oh My Gawd! You know? Wait a minute! Are you telling me then, because if you support the thought that one drop of black blood in you disqualifies you from holding the priesthood, from holding a temple recommend, from all the privilege you have now as a fully active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And you embrace all the doctrine and all of the teachings and then you find out if you black you can't have this. It's reserved. Woah. The torment! Because you had such a strong belief. So I can only imagine how hard it was.
KB:What progress do you see in the institutional church? What progress do you see among the membership?
WM: I see a lot of progress in the institutional church. The hang up that I see, or the digression I see is among the members. We still have a lot of members that think that black people are cursed. The church is trying to move forward. The church, the institution, the organization, the LDS Church is trying to move forward but its culture that members are embracing won't allow it. And that's painfully obvious when you get into the anti's. They make it painfully obvious that the membership is not progressing. There are still some racist idealists in the church that invoke the privileges or the non-privileges of race. And so the institution itself is doing everything it can to move forward, but members are holding it back.
KB: After you'd met with the missionaries and had dealt with information about the former priesthood ban and agreed to keep meeting, they invited you and you agreed to attend church. How did you react to hearing that church would be three hours long?
WM: I rejoiced!
KB: Did you really? You were actually excited you'd be sitting in church for three hours?
WM: Three hours? Do you know long I'd waited to go to church for only three hours? Oh my goodness!
KB: Was it because your previous church services were longer?
WM: Longer? Kelly. I would have to be at church at 8 AM, and we'd start Sunday School by 8:30 or 9 o'clock. After Sunday School we'd go to a BTU, a Baptist Training Unit. And that would last from 10 to 11 am. Then you'd go to your worship service. Worship Service would last anywhere from 11, 11:30 to 3 in the afternoon. And then you'd take a break, go eat dinner, and come back for the night service. And that's if you're Baptist. If you're Pentecostal, that happens every single day! So you'd go to work, or go to school. At 6 o'clock on Monday you've got prayer meeting. And you might not get out of prayer meeting until 11 o'clock depending on who's testifying, or who's doing this that or the other. Tuesday you'd have a break. Wednesday you'd have bible study. Thursday you'd have a service. Then Friday you'd have another prayer meeting. Saturday you have a break, and then Sunday you go back. And I found out the LDS Church only had 3 hours of church a week? Hallelujah! Hallelujah! (laughter)
KB: That's awesome! Usually when I mention church lasting 3 hours to my Catholic or Lutheran friends they're like "3 hours? What could you possibly be doing for 3 hours?" You're the first person I've talked to that was "Only 3 hours? This is great!"
KB: Your reaction to your first LDS Sacrament meeting was really fun to read. You were like "Where's the drums?"
WM: (laughter) Yeah, that was great.
KB: So you've been an active member for 20 years now. I'm sure Satan has still been trying to work you over during this time.
"The scriptures teach us that everything that is done in the dark will come to the light. And so I think that those that are having trouble with it? Heavenly Father is shaking the tree. And some of us are going to hold on and some of us aren't. And so our testimonies are going to be tried." -- Wain Myers WM: Yes.
KB: What have you done to keep your faith burning when doubts start creeping in?
WM: Lately, it's been going to the temple, fasting, praying and studying the scriptures. I've found that in the last year with the book coming out, and the whirlwind associated it, that I've gained such a testimony and understanding. My Stake President spoke today in our ward, and he talked about the seer stone and about all the hype that's going on about the seer stone. And one of things he mentioned is that it has strengthened his testimony. And with everyone thinking how weird the LDS Church is. And members going "How could they put something like this out" and the light its painting us in. That kind of thing. I'm sure you've heard it. But what my Stake President said today was that it has extremely strengthened his testimony that The Book of Mormon was written for our time. And that's one of the things that has just really kept the fire burning in my spirit is the knowledge that the Book of Mormon is written for our time. It talks about so much of what is going on today, that it's just unbelievable. Unbelievable in the sense that if you don't really have a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father you're not going to believe in the Book of Mormon. You're just not going to believe it. When I sit and read the Book of Mormon, I find a quiet place and I sit and read my scriptures, my testimony is just set afire every single time. The Book of Mormon is just so powerful. Where it was written for us today, it's untainted. It was translated from the perspective of Heavenly Father to Joseph Smith through the seer stone. The Stake President brought something up today that to me is just so powerful. Every single word crossed that seer stone and how powerful that is. And now today we have it. Not just the Bible that's been translated we don't know how many times. The Book of Mormon that came from Heavenly Father to Joseph Smith to us. So that in itself just lights my fire constantly.
KB: It's funny you bring up the seer stone, because that was going to be part of my next question. It's a sign! But let me go on a tangent for a moment. It is kind of weird; the reaction some people are having about the seer stone. They're okay with the Liahona, a little metal ball that has words coming across it. Or the Urim and Thummim in the Bible where the High Priest would ask questions and the words would appear in the gems of the Urim and Thummim. Or they're okay with Joseph Smith's Urim and Thummim that came with the golden plates, which were two stones that he looked through to translate the Book of Mormon. They're fine with all those rocks but they freak out about an oval chocolate colored rock.
KB: So they're fine with what is basically the same thing, but they're bothered by the seer stone because there's a hat involved.
WM: Right! Right!
KB: The seer stone has been in the news, as have the essays you mentioned where the church explicitly addresses issues from church history, such as the priesthood ban, Joseph Smith's versions of The First Vision, that make some people scratch their heads. As a convert, how have you been handling all the revelations from the church's new push for transparency? What would you say to church members, or people in general who have been troubled by some of these facts?
WM: Well first thing I'm going to say is that if your testimony has been shaken, or if you're troubled by the revelation that's coming, then you really haven't studied the scriptures. Because Heavenly Father tells us in The Bible that knowledge is going to flood the earth. Knowledge of the gospel and of Heavenly Father, and that there's going to be just as much light and as much as evil because it's going to be able to combat it. So that's one point that we as members should see and know, that as transparency in the church is evolving, and the knowledge that we're having, the Internet technology that we have now, it's all prophesied. So these are things we should be expecting, and not be surprised or shocked by them. Even though we look at it and think "that's weird, why would the church share that information? We're already getting beat down enough" right? But I think that's part of Heavenly Father's plan is to be transparent, to let everybody know. The scriptures teach us that everything that is done in the dark will come to the light. And so I think that those that are having trouble with it? Heavenly Father is shaking the tree. And some of us are going to hold on and some of us aren't. And so our testimonies are going to be tried. And nobody, no one will escape. Members who think they can just sit back and coast through this thing, and not be affected, not have to defend the faith, not have to work for their testimony? Those are some of the ones that are going to let go because they've just been sitting back watching everybody else fight the war. And just kind of feeling protected believing "I don't have to do anything, I'll just sit back and protect my testimony and raise my family" and so forth. It's just not going to work.
KB: As a 20 year convert to the church, what advice would you give someone who is thinking about accepting the restored gospel but is teetering on whether or not to be baptized?
WM: I would say pray. Just pray. That would be my advice is just pray. Because if you join for any other reason than Heavenly Father telling you this is true then you're not going to make it. I just don't see it, especially today. You're not going to make it. If you join for camaraderie, if you join for business purposes, if you join for just self-preservation then I don't think you'll make it. Not today. Not in today's society. There's too much opposition against us right now. The family is being destroyed by society; it is literally being torn down and shredded by society. And society appreciates that and they love it. So the only way you're going to make it is to pray and ask Heavenly Father yourself and gain a testimony of its truth, and about the truthfulness of this gospel. That would be my advice.
KB: We'll end off with a stereotypical question, what do you hope people gain from reading your book?
WM: I hope people gain an outlook of being able to find their own purpose no matter what. That what you think you know, if you know that it's the truth, test it. Don't be afraid to test it. If you get those answers, go with those answers. Test those waters. Get the right answer. Don't be afraid of opposition. Don't be afraid to overcome your fear. One of the things I've learned from a friend of mine a few weeks ago is that we need to exercise our faith to grow. We have to overcome our fears to do it. And I think that's what this book is all about is overcoming your fear and finding your purpose whatever it may be. Mine just happened to be facing the opposition of the history of blacks. The Martin Luther King's, the Malcolm X's, the Marcus Garvey's and all the ancestors that stood between me and the truth. Not saying that those brothers didn't do a great work, but I had to step out of everything that I was taught and everything I thought to be true, to venture off and find my own way. And find the way that Heavenly Father wanted me to go. And I think that's what this book is about is just venturing out and overcoming your fears whatever they are and finding your purpose.
KB: Could you elaborate on what you mean by you were being held back by your ancestors?
WM: As black people we have faced and continue to face more than our fair share of trials, tribulations and injustices. My ancestors had to fight and countless of them had to die for many of the freedoms I have today, which cultivated bitterness; therefore, this bitterness generationally transferred. For me to fully understand the teaching of my Father in heaven I had to be willing to open my mind and heart to the possibility that my culture did not have all the answers. So I did not step away from the teachings of my ancestors, in fact I still embrace them today, the instruction I was given from the Holy Spirit said there was more. So my ancestors did not hold me back, it was my peers who tried to hold me back and convince me that what I heard came from Satan. Some of them are still trying to hold me back today by questioning my loyalty to my culture.
KB: Wain Myers, thank you so much for taking this time to answer my questions, and thank you so much for taking to the time write this book and to share your remarkable story. People can read more about Wain's background, his experiences as a preacher, the amazing experience he had meeting Sebrina, his heated interchange with the missionaries, his wrestling with the priesthood bad and the inspired events that lead to his conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, plus more in Wain's book "From Baptist Preacher to Mormon Teacher". Click and order your copy today.