Tomicka Barnes—Alabama, USA
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“Tomicka Barnes—Alabama, USA,” Ensign, August 2019

Portraits of Faith

Tomicka Barnes

Alabama, USA

It wasn’t learning about the priesthood ban that shook Tomicka’s faith; it was the speculation behind that restriction put forward by some Latter-day Saints. Tomicka faced a choice: walk away from the Church or hold to the rod. Thanks to the Book of Mormon, she held tight.

Leslie Nilsson, Photographer

Tomicka Barnes

I grew up in the Church. I attended Primary and went through the Young Women program. I loved it. My best friends were Latter-day Saints. When I went away to college, however, my activity in the Church wasn’t as great as it should have been.

I never had a doubt that the gospel was true, but after college I was reading about the priesthood ban on African-Americans. It really began to bother me—not so much the ban, but what people said were the reasons for the ban.

Some people said things like, “You weren’t as valiant in the war in heaven” or, “You’re not as intelligent or as faithful.” Those things didn’t mesh with what I knew to be true from my mom, from other black members of the Church who are really good examples of faith, and even from faithful black people outside the Church.

I had a moment, a crisis of faith, when I thought that I could just walk away from it all. But at that moment, I thought, “Is the Book of Mormon true? Do you believe it to be true?”

I could answer, “Yes, without a shadow of a doubt, I believe it to be true.” Then the Spirit told me, “Well, if the Book of Mormon is true, then everything else is.”

I got the impression that the gospel is perfect, but people aren’t. And so, I have to remind myself over and over that people sometimes do things and say things that don’t match with what the gospel tells us.

Some people in the Church are going to say things that are wrong. The gospel is perfect, but people aren’t perfect. The Church is for imperfect people. We’re trying to get there, but we’re still a long way from it.

A friend asked me point blank, “How did you stay, knowing all of this?” I said, “It’s my testimony of the Book of Mormon.” I believe it to be true. No, I know it to be true.

That was the reason I could stay.

Tomicka Barnes

After church, Tomicka enjoys playing with her new nephew, Aiden, two months old in this photo.

Tomicka Barnes

“When you’re struggling and don’t feel like praying or reading the scriptures or going to church, do it until you feel like it,” says Tomicka, who draws to relieve stress. “It’s very therapeutic to create.”

Tomicka Barnes

For years, Tomicka sang alto as part of a trio, performing in church and at weddings and interfaith nativity concerts. “I picked up ukulele because I’ve always wanted to learn to play an instrument,” she says. “It was a bucket-list item. I’m not good at it yet, but I enjoy it.”