Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons — UPDATED

We who blog under Dialogue’s tent are in a somewhat awkward position. On the one hand, we blog to share our passion for Dialogue The Journal and under its umbrella and, on the other, we quite necessarily share our own opinions. We’ve all come to care about you and your opinions and enjoy our conversations with you in the same way you care about and enjoy each other. We personally like being a small part of your community. But Dialogue the institution’s mission is to further dialogue, not to take sides in any cause but our own. Dialogue is governed by one belief: that dialogue is good because we are most likely to learn the truth in a free and open exchange of ideas.

Today I speak for myself, not for Dialogue, even more than usual because I want to ask you to join me in supporting a cause. I know I risk exploiting my invitation to blog with you and pray you will not be offended. I know I would want you to tell me about this opportunity in any way possible; I hope you will feel the same.

Many of you became aware in 2003 that Richard Dutcher and Margaret Young were raising funds to produce a documentary then called Eleventh Hour: Blacks and the LDS Church. Darius Gray has also been involved since the beginning. I recently became aware the research is finished. All that remains is the editing, scoring and physical production. The project could be finished by summer’s end. If so, it could be released before the PBS documentary on the church airs around Christmas and benefit from the PBS publicity. Renamed, Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons needs $50,000 for completion. It is a lot and it isn’t. It can be done with a few large and many small donations.
Likely you too were heartened by President Hinckley’s statement against racism during the Priesthood session of April conference. One of the ways we can end racism and encourage our black brothers and sisters is to tell the stories of black members from the earliest days of the church to the present. I have seen some of the raw footage collected for the video. It both wounded and inspired me. I was in tears, yet I was hopeful. Just this teaser trailer convinced me Nobody Knows will be the same high quality we now expect from Richard and Margaret. It will change hearts and minds. And it contains stunning material none of us has seen before.

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation. Because a contribution from must accompany each donation, you will need to let me know where I can mail or fax you the form.


Molly Bennion

UPDATE: the donation form is available for download here.


  1. Do you have a link to the teaser/trailer for the movie?

  2. Wow, this is excellent. I can’t wait to see it. Please email me a form and I’ll donate what I can.

  3. Anybody have details on the upcoming PBS documentary mentioned in the post?

  4. Mike, All second hand from good sources: The PBS documentary is being done by an Emmy award winning woman who has had excellent access, including an interview with Pres. Hinckley. She has interviewed several on the Dialogue board; they reported that her research and questioning was very good. She is talking to a wide range of people on a wide range of subjects. Molly

  5. Molly, please email me a form. Do you need my address, or can you access it already?

  6. Joe, thanks. My forms are hard copy and my ancient scanner is problematic. I’ll work on trying to transfer the forms to the computer.

    Connor, I don’t think so but I will double check. Meanwhile, if you are in Seattle, you are welcome to come see it at my house.

  7. Stirling says:

    Molly, do you have a digital camera? That might be an easier scanning method for you.

    A couple of months I heard the producers speak and saw some of their current footage and edited work. From what I saw, it appears it will be well-done, substantively important, and welcome.
    For anyone familiar with the book, Black and Mormon (University of Illinois Press, 2004), edited by Bringhurst and Smith, the documentary is similar in the themes that are covered. The documentary’s ability to introduce you to the speakers and let you get to see, hear, and know them is an important added factor.

  8. Thank you so much, Molly (and Stirling), for this support. I should say that our entire budget for the final cut is higher than the 50,000., but we can complete a rough cut with $50,000–which is our immediate aim. The PBS production promises to be very well done. It is a Helen Whitney production. I saw her _Faith and Doubt on 9/11_ and was impressed by her sense of balance. The PBS doc will discuss all of Mormonism, and I am certain will do so in a balanced way. _Nobody Knows_ has a more specific focus, and tells a sort of love story: Black pioneers (past and present, though our primary focus is on the present) find the gospel and fall in love with it. But “the course of true love never did run smooth.” We follow the journeys of several converts as they talk about facing the Church’s history and its lingering folklore, the reactions of their families and friends to their conversion, and other difficulties members of color face. Some find the journey too difficult and choose to leave. Others find miracles all along the path and wish they had joined the Church sooner. Several express determination to stay the course despite whatever awaits them. “How could I look my Savior in the eye,” says one interviewee, “and tell Him I couldn’t do it because people were mean?” Our intent is not to simply tell a Mormon story, but to shine a light on race issues beyond the LDS Church through the LDS experience. We have a stunning interview with Los Angeles A.M.E. Pastor Cecil “Chip” Murray–who has become one of my heroes. He speaks about a very significant conversation he had with President Hinckley. We have footage from Mormon and non-Mormon scholars (Armand Mauss, Newell Bringhurst, Greg Prince, Ron Coleman, Bob Rees etc.) and Civil Rights workers, including Martin Luther King III. Other interviews include active and non-active Black Mormons, and a descendant of Jane Manning James. (He is Catholic; there is only one currently LDS descendant of all the Black pioneers Darius and I have written about–and I understand she is no longer active.) We also have some never-before-seen footage shot in 1968, during protests against BYU over the “Negro doctrine.” Besides Richard, Darius and myself, Alex Nibley has come on board, and Danor Gerald, a young Black film maker and actor, is helping also. This documentary will build bridges. I truly believe that. It will be bold, honest, illuminating, and ultimately hopeful. And, debuting near the time of the PBS doc, we should build some cumulative momentum. We are planning on showing clips at _Sunstone_, and are working with Dan Wotherspoon on that. We are an Independent Film Production (IFP) project, and under their umbrella, which makes all donations tax-deductible. Thanks again to Molly for this much needed support!

  9. What a great project, Molly. I am totally broke but I can give a little bit.

    There’s got to be an accountant on the bloggernaccle who can figure out what it will take to collect donations via paypal or something (I am assuming that there are legal restrictions that you are concerned about).

    Once it is on the web, you will have your fifty thousand dollars in no time.

    Anyways, my e-mail is

  10. I’d like to see someone set up a finance link. The guys on this board all have the skills.

    A list of supporters (not donors, but people like the ones noted above) would be helpful as well, as it would encourage more donors.

    Wish you the best.

  11. Stay tuned. We’re making progress toward getting the IFP form here on bcc to make it very easy for donors.

  12. Jay Helton says:

    Could you please email me with donation information (either the form or link) when you have it completed. Thank you.

  13. rleonard says:

    have you asked for funds from the usual LDS sources?

    The Church itself?

    Marriots, Huntsmans etc?

    As a former missionary in South Africa this is important to me and I will donate if you get the links up.

  14. All of you who asked for a link or form: it’s now at the bottom of my original post. Many thanks to Steve Evans for cheerful technical support! And thanks so much for your interest in the film!!!

  15. For those who will be attending the Sunstone Symposium, we will be showing the trailer in session 111–Thursday morning, Aug. 10. It will be part of the “new short films” session.




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