A thoughtful, faithful and informative treatment on the controversial and misunderstood subject of African-American Mormons, Nobody Knows is long overdue and a most welcome gift for anyone seeking clarification on this matter. With interviews from black Latter-day Saints, both prominent and person-next-door, as well as insights from ministers from other faiths, the film chronicles the history, doctrines, and policies regarding God’s children from this bloodline, specifically concerning the priesthood. With testimony and faith, the film clarifies misunderstandings, addresses conflicting statements by church leaders, and serves as an effective call to repentance for any members with lingering tendencies to look down on those of another race.
The circumstances surrounding the 1978 revelation to extend the priesthood to all races, the formation of the Genesis group, Jane Manning’s incredible example, Brigham Young’s support of slavery, and Joseph Smith’s opposition to it are all covered here. The film also attempts to capture the experience of being black and Mormon. Few films are flawless, however, and this is no exception. Though the film did portray the fellowship, acceptance, and love felt by black and white members towards one another, I felt there was an imbalance towards negative experiences. Though the strength of these black members in holding to a perfect Gospel while surrounded by imperfect people is inspiring, and racism still exists in the Church (as it does everywhere), I know many black members who’ve expressed feeling loved, accepted, and rightfully treated as equals. My complaints are minor quibbles, however, compared to the overall power of, and insight provided by, this extremely important film. It comes highly recommended. GRADE: A-
CONTENT OVERVIEW: Parents should know that there is some mild profanity as well as use of the “n-word” and other racial epitaphs in the context of members telling their stories. I’d also advise parents to watch the film first before showing it to their children, both to prepare themselves for conversation afterward and to determine if their children are mature enough for the subject matter.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: According to Latter-day Saint doctrine, all are alike unto God, regardless of race (2 Nephi 26:33). Righteousness, not skin color, determines one’s blessings (1 Nephi 17:35). Racial prejudice is condemned by the Lord (Jacob 3:9; Mosiah 23:7) as is slavery (Alma 27:9), and self-righteousness.
After Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons, check out Remember the Titans for another powerful film about race relations. Rent or buy it here.
Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.