June 7th, 1978 was a monumental day for the LDS Church. It was announced that, for the first time, all worthy male members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints could hold the Priesthood. Prior to this time, black men were not allowed to hold it.
No one knows why, for sure, although I have some ideas. I think the biggest reason may have been that the Church was restored not many years prior to the Civil War. Slavery was the norm, as was disdain for blacks in general. Any church that would have allowed black leadership at the time would have faced even worse persecution than the early Saints already did. What could be worse that being chased from your home, and being brutally tortured and murdered by mobs? I don't want to know. I don't think the Church would have survived.
Whether I'm right, partially right, or completely wrong doesn't matter. Thirty years ago the problem was rectified. Last week, there was a celebration commemorating the event. Last night I watched part of a rebroadcast of the special fireside on BYU TV. It caught my attention as I was flipping channels. There was Alex Boye, an amazing singer and member of the LDS Church – who gave up a singing career to follow his faith – singing the hymn “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth.” As Alex sang from his heart, my eyes teared up and I openly wept at the power of this fellow member's glorious message, shared through music. I began to more fully understand the impact, and importance of this event, and the mercies of God to His children.
I was only 12 years old when the Priesthood was finally given to blacks. When I first heard, I was taken by surprise. Not because I thought it strange for a black man to hold the Priesthood. It had never occurred to me that they hadn't been able to, before. Now that I'm older, and have heard the stories of my black brethren in the church, I am filled with gratitude to our Lord that all worthy men may now hold the Holy Priesthood, and participate fully in the building of the Kingdom of God.
I know. “Black brother” sounds funny coming from a white guy in Utah.
Anyway, this commemoration reminds me that we are truly a worldwide Church. It comforts me to know that I have brothers and sisters, not just here in Utah but, across the world. Even on the African continent. We are all the children of God, after all.
I hadn't planned on doing anything on the blog about it. I mean, what does all this have to do with food? After hearing Alex sing, I can't help it. I have to give back. To honor this event and my black brethren (yeah, yeah, we've been over this already) I've decided to share this West African recipe with you – Groudnut stew.
In West Africa, peanuts are called “groundnuts.” They are commonly used in soups, stews, and side dishes. It's no wonder why. This common nut lends a wonderful richness, strength, and flavor to many of my favorite dishes. I can't help but think it's the same with African, and African-American, brothers in the Church. Their lives and talents add great richness, strength and flavor to Church, and to my experience as a Mormon. I am grateful to them, and to God, for making things so.
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces.
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 /2 sweet potato, halved and sliced into “half moons”
1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 /3 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Chopped parsley and chopped peanuts for garnish
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the chicken pieces, chili powder, salt and pepper. Mix until the chicken is thoroughly coated and set aside
In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion (and a bit more salt) until the onions start to soften. Add the garlic and cook until the onions start to get translucent. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the chicken mixture. Cook until the chicken just starts to brown, stirring frequently.
Add the sweet potatoes and chicken stock and heat till just boiling. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cover the pot, and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and peanut butter. Recover the pot and simmer for ten more minutes.
In a small cup, combine the cold water and cornstarch. Stir until smooth. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the pot. Continue cooking another 5 minutes or so, until the mixture thickens slightly. Serve over hot, cooked rice. Garnish with parsley and peanuts.
Makes 6 servings.