Alan Cherry

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Alan Gerald Cherry (born 1946) is an African American who in the 1960s had the courage to join the Latter-day Saint, against opposition. He was inspired by that period's general black surge toward greater freedom and opportunity.

Blacks were and to some lesser extent still are rare among Mormons. In those days Mormon practice prohibited women of all races and black males from serving as priests, but Cherry proudly chose to serve his God on whatever terms available. When combined with a lively speaking style and some gift as a comedian, this made him a person of some note, mostly in but perhaps outside his local Mormon circles. He was an inspiration to his new LDS fellow believers, and he was either a curiosity or a disappointment to the people he came from. Cherry once said, paraphrasing: It's hard to get New Yorkers worked up about things. They take life in stride. They've seen it all. After I found God, I rushed home to share it with my parents. 'Mom, I found the Truth!' 'That's nice, dear. Do you want butter on your peas?'

Biography[edit]

Born and raised in New York City, Cherry as a teenager was in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom during which Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. A few years later Cherry acted on a desire for religious freedom as fervent as Dr. King's desire for African-American political and social equality. He joined the LDS Church in 1968 while in the US Air Force. By his own account in several speeches in Provo, Utah, given about 1975, his military status became an obstacle to his religious expression, although it is not to the grand majority of Mormons in the military. Cherry insisted on his own version of the dream: he sought a discharge. His course of action seen as dereliction of duty, he was punished by his superiors. When told the only immediate discharge he could have would be dishonorable, he persisted. The honors of men meant little to him, only the approval of God. After difficulties, they released Cherry to pursue his faith.

In the early 1970s Cherry was part of the Mormon-rock band Sons of Mosiah, which had Orrin Hatch as their manager.[1]

He expressed his religious zeal in part by doing a BA and an MBA at Brigham Young University (BYU), where he was an original member of the Young Ambassadors, a touring performing group. In 1978, after LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball received what he announced as a divine revelation allowing black Mormon men to receive the Priesthood and act on behalf of God on Earth, Cherry sought and was called on a Mormon mission to Oakland, California. He later served in high local church callings.

In 1985 Jessie Embry hired Cherry to interview black Mormons as part of BYU's LDS African-American Oral History Project. Doing this, Cherry met Janice Barkum, whom he married in the Salt Lake Temple in 1987, and with whom he has had three children.[2]

Cherry has had an occasional acting career in LDS produced or oriented movies. He played an IRS agent in Mormon Kieth Merrill's 1981 film Harry's War.[3] He was also cast as a freed slave in the Mormon inspirational film Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration.

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