Elder Gerard: As President Russell M. Nelson has said, we need to focus on doing everything we can together as followers of Jesus Christ to root out the evils of racism and prejudice throughout the world.1 As fellow Christians, what work is there yet to do?
Reverend Brown: We developed this inhumane, dichotomous attitude and actions of them against us, us against them. We have not mastered that pronoun we. We are family. We came from one Creator. And as the scripture says, we are all made of one blood.2
This thing of racism in the world is a man-made, woman-made, nonsense expression.
Regardless of how different we may be with external features, we are one as human beings. Every person is endowed, imbued with the sacred, and we should respect the worth and dignity of all persons. And all peoples means all.
Elder Gerard: You’ve had a lifetime of experience. What are some of the other changes we need to continue to work toward?
Reverend Brown: I thank God that I never forgot what my Sunday School teacher told me at the age of eight: “Amos, do you know what your name means in Hebrew? ‘The prophet who bears the burdens of the people.’” And I think that’s why President Nelson and I really connected, because he has borne that burden of bringing to the people the right revelation. What is that revelation? To follow Jesus of Nazareth.
When we stay focused on Jesus, we will be able to rid our society, our congregations, and the world of this evil action of man and woman’s inhumanity to each other. It’s all about love. What is love? Practical expressions of seeking, laboring untiringly for the best of the beloved.
We need to be engaged with each other. People tend to hate each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because they do not know each other. And they do not know each other because of a lack of communication. We must communicate with each other, listen to each other, see each other, feel each other’s pain, and celebrate with each other in times of joy and accomplishment.
Elder Gerard: I’ve been struck by your special love for our hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints.”3 What is it about the hymn that means so much to you?
Reverend Brown: That hymn embodies a statement of the struggle of the human family. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints went through struggle. Your congregation did not rest in the ruins of oppression. It did not just survive. It struggled to soar above the persecution that was inflicted by persons who didn’t like you because you were different.
But the prophets kept saying, “Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear.” That opening line really impacted me when I first heard it over 50 years ago, and I never forgot it.
Elder Gerard: President Nelson said: “God does not love one race more than another. His doctrine on this matter is clear. He invites all to come unto Him.” He has called upon the members of our church to “lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice.”4 In your opinion, what are the best ways for average people to work toward eradicating prejudice in their own lives?
Reverend Brown: First, the regular person should be good to himself or herself by knowing that God loves them and they don’t have to take shortcuts to importance or to be mean to others by elevating oneself. They need to say, “I’m going to use what I have for the good of others and not just myself.” Many people are dying spiritually because they are focusing only on self, never concerned about the welfare of other selves.
Elder Gerard: Are there any universal principles that you would share for how individuals can make a difference in their communities in overcoming racism and prejudice, no matter where they are in the world?
Reverend Brown: I don’t mean to make it simplistic, but it is simple: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.5 We reap what we sow. Injustice anywhere, as Dr. [Martin Luther] King said, gets around to affecting all of us everywhere.6 It is like the ripples of the waves. When you throw a pebble in the water, there are ripples. We ought to be about making positive ripples.
As I recall, Howard Washington Thurman once told a story about his mother, who lived in a community in which this White woman didn’t like the fact that she had a Black neighbor. And she would be mean to Mrs. Thurman. But Mrs. Thurman kept on going to church, rearing her children, being kind to everybody.
One day, [Howard’s] mother told him to get ready to go with her next door to see this lady who was ill. [Mrs. Thurman] cooked a bowl of soup, and they went over to the house. The lady said to her, “Oh, you didn’t have to do all of this.”
And Mrs. Thurman said, “No, but the love of Jesus told me I had to do it.”
And then she said, “Howard, go back over to the house and get those roses I left on the table.”
He came back with these beautiful red roses. And the sick woman said, “Oh my. What florist did you buy those roses from?”
And Mrs. Thurman said: “I didn’t buy those roses from any florist. When you were unkind to me, you would throw the chicken manure from your chicken coop over into my yard. But you didn’t know that while you were throwing the chicken manure, God was preparing the soil for me to grow my roses.”
So that’s what we’ve got to do in the midst of evil. Take the manure but have the faith in God to use it to grow a garden of roses.
That’s what we have to do. Be kind, do the right thing, and love and respect all people. They are God’s opportunity for you to touch their messy situations and leave them better than they were before.