MHA with Darius – Part 1

Wed. May 20: It’s been a bad week for Darius. Two phlebotomies (the only way to control his particular type of cancer, Polycythemia Vera). He is weak. I know he won’t show it during MHA–although I’ll notice his energy levels and he’ll be honest with me. When anyone asks how he’s doing, he’ll say either, “TERRIFIC!” or “Blessed and highly favored!” Bruce and I pick him up at 5:30 a.m. Darius gives his wife a hug and a kiss, and I understand that she is now entrusting him to me. We head to the airport. My youngest son is with us. We will part ways at Chicago, and he’ll go to Indiana to be with his sister. I’ll join them all (including my grandkids) after the conference.

After a lunch at O’Hare, Darius and I walk my son (Michael) to his gate. Michael grins as Darius slips him five dollars. “Thanks, Darius,” he says. I am grateful that my children know him as a member of our extended family, and that they address him comfortably. Years ago, I took my youngest daughter with me to a writing session with Darius. She had a gall stone attack while we were at his house, and he gave her a blessing. The attack ended immediately. Later, when she needed another blessing, she asked that Bruce and Darius give it to her. Darius drove to Provo from Midvale (where he lives) to answer her request. He respects the priesthood in a way few men do. Until June 8th, 1978, he didn’t think he’d be a priesthood holder in this life. He puts on his Sunday clothes whenever he gives a blessing.

We arrive in Springfield, meeting a sunny, breezy, spectacular day. After some rest and a quick meal, we walk around the city. Lincoln country. There are statues of the 16th president everywhere. Benches on the street include quotes from Lincoln. I am aware that the next day, President Obama will talk about torture, and Dick Cheney will talk about “enhanced interrogation.” The quote on one bench speaks so loudly to me that I write it down: “Let every man remember that to violate the law is to trample on the blood of his father and to tear the character of his own and his children’s liberty. Reverence for the law must be the political religion of the nation.” Quotes about slavery abound: “Just as I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. That to me is the definition of democracy.”

Darius’s grandfather was born a slave. I will become more aware of that reality over the next few days as I sense the spirit of Abraham Lincoln presiding over Springfield and even visiting MHA.

Thursday May 21: We go to Nauvoo, mostly wanting to attend the temple. The recognition begins–not so much for me, but for Darius, who is on a BYU television program called _Questions and Ancestors_. The man who will be his veil worker recognizes him, the temple president recognizes him, the person renting us our clothes recognizes him. Darius doesn’t like it. There was a time in his life when he became a bit of a hermit, feeling the pressure of being “Brother Gray–the Mormon Negro” as a huge burden. It was particularly hard when he personally was given all sorts of attention (he was a reporter for KSL), but nothing changed in the ways other blacks were treated. The priesthood restriction was in place, and all sorts of justifications were being taught. The Church was sending him all over to tell his conversion story, but at the same time, debate over segregation and Civil Rights was igniting a lot of racist talk. White people spoke about the policy which kept blacks from the priesthood or the temple, and usually satisfied themselves quite well with their answers. Blacks, for the most part, simply kept their distance. Darius held on to his testimony, which never wavered. But the conflict deepened, and came to a head in the early 1970s (that’s detailed in special features of our documentary). He became inactive in the church. He holed up with his wife and a dog, and simply disappeared for a time.

In the temple, Darius and I exchange pleased smiles as we realize that we will be walking from room to room during the session, not just sitting in one place. I know he’s in pain, but he’s not letting it show at all–except when he needs to stand. His joints hurt terribly, and he can’t control the grimace as he rises. I instinctively reach out to steady him, but I’m too far away. When the time comes for the presentation of the Law of Consecration, he and I are seated directly opposite each other.

He considers his covenants to be not just for the person he’s representing, but as a recommitment for himself. This is the hardest one. CONSECRATE yourself. He has received many priesthood blessings, and his energy is better than it was five years ago. But the pain has not ended (in fact, it’s worse than ever), and he still has cancer. Promising to live the Law of Consecration means accepting more invitations to speak, doing more travel, fielding more anguished questions from black Latter-day Saints who are just now learning what was believed and said of them by previous church leaders and members, or who are just finding out about the full implications of the priesthood restriction. He has over a thousand messages on his e-mail.

I meet his eyes. I watch him make his promise to God. We give each other a subtle but solemn nod.

After the session, we go outside the temple and walk up to a particular stone Darius has designated. He touches it and says, “This is for you, Brother Elijah Abel. And for you, Green Flake.” I touch it and speak the names of Jane Manning James, her brothers and sisters, and her children. They too are family.

Comments

  1. Margaret, this is devastatingly beautiful and moving. Thank you for sharing it. I’m adding Darius to my prayers.

  2. This is amazing; thank you for sharing it. I had the chance to hear Brother Gray speak at a fireside a few years ago, and I’m just amazed at his faith.

  3. As Steve said, this is truly beautiful. You are doing the Lord’s work, both of you.

  4. Thank you, Margaret, for sharing these tender moments and feelings. You always touch my heart.

  5. Darius Grey is one of the nicest people I have ever come in contact with. It was as a result of the Genesis Group that my wife and I met – and that was during his time as the President.

    He gets all the respect in the world from me.

  6. Margaret,

    Simply beautiful. Thank you. Darius truly exemplifies to me what a humble disciple of Christ should be like.

  7. Thank you, Margaret.

  8. Thank you Margaret. And thank you, Darius. We were in that temple only the day before, and I can imagine exactly what you describe… Blessings and love on both of you and your families.

  9. Paul Reeve says:

    Margaret,
    Thank you for sharing this. You and Darius are going about doing good. God bless. It was wonderful to see you both at MHA. Darius looked good to me. I hoped he was feeling as good as he looked. I’m sorry to learn otherwise. I will keep him in my prayers.

  10. Margaret,

    Thanks. I’ve admired you and Darius since I met you in 2004. I truly believe you two are the Lord’s special messengers to all the world on this topic. I would not doubt that you were foreordained to accomplish this important task.

    My prayers will be for Darius that he may be healthy and strong, so as to continue his great work for many years to come.

  11. Beautiful, Margaret. Thank you.

  12. Thank you for this, Margaret. I’ve admired Darius since I’ve known of him. I’m especially grateful for his gentle conversation and hug to my now-wife when she was a fledgling member wondering what God had told her to do by leading her into this different kind of Christianity.
    .
    I’ve been grateful to you also since we met at the San Diego screening of “Nobody Knows” early last year.
    .
    We’ll keep Darius in our prayers.

  13. Darius would be really upset if he thought I had left an impression of him as a super-sick cancer victim. He is indeed in constant pain, but he would probably remind readers that everyone carries some burden. His particular burden–at least the medically diagnosed burden–happens to include physical pain. There are other kinds of pain which he doesn’t have, and he experiences great joy. I’ll tell about some of that joy in part 2. He loves people, though he gets embarrassed by the fact that so many people love him. He did look good, Paul. The message of this post is not that he’s sick, but that he’s heroic. I have prayed for his healing many times. I certainly prayed for it in the temple. Maybe one of my BCC friends could link the talk “But if not” by Dennis Simmons, delivered in April 2004. He expounds on the scripture: “If it be so [if you cast us into the furnace], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand. But if not, . . . we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”

  14. Jeffrey Needle says:

    Margaret, this is just beautiful. Knowing both of you has enriched my life so much.

    I’ll be staying in Midvale for three weeks this August. I’m guessing my blessings will be many, being so close to Darius .

    Please give him a hug and a kiss for me, a down-payment on a big hug this August.

  15. Jeff– you’ve enriched OUR lives. We love you dearly and are looking forward to seeing you in August.

  16. jjohnsen says:

    Wonderful, thank you Margaret.

  17. Cynthia L. says:

    Margaret, you and Darius are treasures. Thanks for the peek into the life of an extraordinary man.

  18. Paul Swenson says:

    Margaret

    This is a profoundly beautiful and moving piece for any of us who know both you and Darius. Will you please remind Darius how much I love and admire him, and that I will be praying for and thinking of him in coming weeks. Thank you both for your meaningful and deeply personal attendance at my Sunstone session last year, and our visit afterward.
    I hope and pray I will see you both at this year’s symposium in August.

    With much respect,

    Paul Swenson

  19. Polycythemia Rubra Vera can be controlled with drugs like Hydrea.
    I am a Polycythemia sufferer and the symptoms are much inproved on this drug.

  20. Thanks for these loving comments. I am assuming we’ll get to Sunstone, Paul.

    Dave–I don’t know what drugs Darius takes. There are a bunch. I know he’s on an e-mail list of PV sufferers. Somebody suggested interferon. My brother had to do a year’s worth of interferon and had a psychotic break, so I’m not real enthusiastic about his using it. I’ll ask him if he’s taking hydrea. Thanks for the heads-up.

  21. Darius Gray says:

    <>

    Margaret shares too much. Period.

    Not surprisingly she did not tell me of this blog and I found it only because it was mentioned in an email reply she made to man searching for answers. I was copied on that reply.

    Thank you all for the kind words and the genuine support that you have shown me over the years. Your expressions are deeply appreciated.

    Now, about my health. I AM blessed and highly favored! The health issues I face are minor in comparison to those suffered by millions of souls in this nation and around the world. All is well.

    Much love and many thanks,

    Darius

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m glad you found us, Darius!

  23. James Walker says:

    Brother Gray, My wife and I love and care for you so much,
    thank you for all that you do for everyone and know that you are constantly in our prayers.

    Jamie and Dusty

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