“No man… This production too good… Out of [this] world”, “This is so wonderful and breathtaking”, “I don’t want it to finish at all!”
Many Jamaican members of the LDS Church took to social media to express their feelings concerning the production. Duane McCatty, a Jamaican currently living in Washington attended the production and had this to say on Facebook:
“Just attended the [“Be One”] celebration at the LDS Conference center. Gladys Knight was awesome, and the choir was rocking, and people were standing in their seats crying and clapping. Who would have thought that the conference center would be having bass line and drums?”
Narrators told the stories of several pioneering Latter-day Saints of the past 50 years — including Victor Nugent of Jamaica, Anthony Obinna of Nigeria, Joseph William Billy Johnson of Ghana, and Helvécio Martins of Brazil. Music came from seven-time Grammy Award-winner Gladys Knight, the Saints Unified Voices, entertainer and YouTube sensation Alex Boyé, the Bonner family, the Unity Gospel Choir International and members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. In all there were hundreds of singers and dancers who participated in the jubilee.
There was a feeling of connection as Michael Nugent took to the stage, sharing the experiences of his grandfather who was the first Jamaican Latter-day Saint member. Michael, who was born in the United States, was known to many local Jamaicans as he spent two years living in Jamaica as a full time missionary. He commented on Facebook that “My thoughts reached out to Jamaica during the whole show!”
Speaking to Mormon Newsroom Jamaica, Victor Nugent shared some of his feelings concerning his experiences.
I was very happy to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, because I was privileged to get an undeniable testimony and an absolute witness that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ had appeared to Joseph Smith and re-established His Church on earth. For me, it is beyond question that Jesus Christ is the head of this church and is directing its affairs through a living prophet. Therefore, I gladly accepted the challenge to be baptized, even though I felt at the time, that I would never be ordained to the priesthood in this life. My objective was to gain salvation for me and my family – not to get authority, position or privileges. I knew, and accepted the doctrine that Priesthood was the power and authority of God, delegated to man, and that “And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” – (Hebrews 5:4).
“Four years of membership without the priesthood strengthened my testimony that the Church is true. I enjoyed the companionship of the Holy Ghost and the gracious and Christlike love of my caring brothers and sisters in the Church. I never ever felt any discrimination or prejudice or ill feeling from any member of the Church. The Priesthood Revelation in 1978 came as a surprise and a shock to me, but I immediately realized that my life would change. And it did. Dramatically.
“…The most consequential blessings I enjoy as a priesthood holder are related to my marriage, my family, our home, and the privilege of serving others. With the delegated authority from Heavenly Father, I have been able to act in His name, to give blessings of comfort, blessings of healing, and prophetic blessings of guidance for family members and others. I have been able to instruct and guide others through divine inspiration, and I have been privileged to administer in the Church and to minister to my fellowmen and watch them grow.”
President Dallin H. Oaks, who serves as first counselor to President Nelson, opened the celebration by recounting how he learned of the June 1978 revelation that rescinded the restriction on priesthood ordination and extended the opportunity of blessings of the temple to all worthy Latter-day Saints, male and female.
President Oaks said one of the most important effects of the revelation on the priesthood is its “divine call to abandon attitudes of prejudice against any group of God’s children.” He noted that racism is the most obvious of these but said many other people have been persecuted because of ethnicity, culture, nationality, education or economic circumstances.
Another local Jamaican sister concurred with President Oaks when she said, “This programme right here is not only for white members who need to recognize and accept diversity and change their mindset about how they feel about the expression of other cultures, but it is also for the blacks who have the same problem”.
Simone Baker, a Jamaican Latter-day Saint residing in Texas shared her feelings, “Being black as part of a predominantly “white church” isn’t particularly easy. I have been the only person of color in many wards I’ve lived in, always feeling like the odd one out. That being said, the gospel is what keeps me going. I am grateful for the knowledge of the truthfulness of it.
“Watching this made my heart dance. It’s a question I am asked frequently, “how can I be a part of a racist church” and my answer is always the same, I am not.”
“So thankful for those faithful pioneers like Victor Nugent and Verna Nugent who held steadfast. What a beautiful tribute given by your grandson.”
“As servants of God who have the knowledge and responsibilities of His great plan of salvation, we should hasten to prepare our attitudes and our actions — institutionally and personally — to abandon all personal prejudices,” President Oaks said.
This is what can happen when people join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Nelson said in his concluding remarks.
“Differences in culture, language, gender, race, and nationality fade into insignificance as the faithful enter the covenant path and come unto our beloved Redeemer,” he said. “[May we] overcome any burdens of prejudice and walk uprightly with God — and with one another — in perfect peace and equity.”