Dr. Marcus Martins, associate dean of Religious Education at BYU-Hawaii, gave a speech on race and LDS Church doctrine at the Black, White, and Mormon II, a conference hosted by the University of Utah that took place on June 29-30. Students from both BYU-Hawaii and BYU in Provo talked about how they learned to have faith and deal with adversary from the symposium.
The idea of learning and improving was a lesson in Martins’ speech, and Jana McQueen, a former student of Martins and a senior psychology and business management from New Zealand, said, “Dr. Martins taught that prior to conversion, we are all in darkness, but once we are converted, it is our duty to seek the light. I love that with the Spirit we can be changed from the traditions of our fathers and from the unkind behaviors in today’s society.”
A word of caution was given during the speech. Martins warned against repeating the mistakes of the past, and Joseph Fitzgerald, a junior studying at BYU in Provo, said,“I liked how he talked about how sometimes the cultural ideas that surround us start negatively influencing our gospel perspective, and how he warned how that can still happen today. That made his thoughts applicable to many current issues and tensions, and it wasn’t just a reminiscence of past grievances.”
Christian Metzer, a sophomore at Provo studying neuroscience, said of Martins’ lecture, “It‘s really a powerful example to me that we get to choose whether we let persecution and trials destroy us or make us better. I really liked how he talked about having faith in the doctrine even if he struggled with the way people treated him.”
Martins also highlighted the topic of change in his speech, and McQueen said, “We can allow the gospel and spirit to change us through our trials and the injustices we may face. Dr. Martins shared an experience that showed our trials shouldn’t turn us into unkind people. The experience he shared happened on his mission.”
McQueen continued, “It was a Secret Santa being held, and during the gift exchange, he was kinda bullied. Someone teased him for his skin color. Instead of reacting bad, he turned the other cheek. From this, he set himself on a path to love people instead of reacting to them. I learned we ought to be sensitive to the persecution or pressure that those around us may be facing and treat them as the Savior would.”
McQueen said the current generation in the church can feel comforted in a society that is against the church’s doctrine. People can still seek their own witness and gain a testimony, she said, and through their experiences they can find comfort from the sacrifice of the Savior.
On asked about how people felt about the conference and his speech, Martins chuckled and said, “I was not run out of town. No one threw tomatoes. There were no broken eggs. I got a few handshakes afterwards. I got an email from one of the organizers, and they said they got positive feedback.”