Today I drove by a small pioneer cemetery as I have countless times. This time, with my two oldest children, I stopped. When my sons asked me what we were doing, I explained that this was a cemetery, and that I wondered if we knew anyone that was buried there. “Oh, a grave yard.” Yes.
On April 7, 1844 Joseph Smith arose at his final General Conference and delivered what many believe to be his greatest sermon. He was intent on showing the people that he was not a fallen prophet. His discourse was polarizing, but its topic—the history of man and God—forever transformed Mormonism.
That same day John Brown baptized Green Flake, a sixteen year old black man in South Carolina. Flake was a slave. With his owner, he traveled West and joined the Vanguard pioneer company. References by Church leaders to the black men they were traveling with weren’t particularly enlightened. But when Brigham Young lay ill at the head of Emigration Canyon, he sent Flake among others to prepare the road. When Young arrived in the valley, Flake had already planted crops. He also carved his own grave stone with the words, “In my house there are many mansions.”
My children had a peculiar look on their faces as I wept at the grave. You see boys, this man was a slave and he is our kin. And I remember Joseph Smith’s words offered on the day Flake was baptized:
their is many mansions in my father’s Kingdom, what have we to console us in relation to our dead, we have the greatest hope in relation to our dead of any people on earth we have seen them walk worthy on earth and those who have died in the faith are now in the selestial kingdom of God, they have gone to await the resurrection of the dead (Woodruff report)
Yes, there are many mansions, and undoubtedly Flake inhabits the highest.