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Black, White, and Mormon II: A Conference On Race in the LDS Church Since the 1978 Revelation

Panelist Biographies

Alice Faulkner Burch is the daugher of Cleo and Elwanda Faulkner. She was baptized into the LDS Church in 1984. While serving as the first African American in the Chile Santiago South Mission, 1987-1988, she and her companion were assigned as First and Second Counselors in a Branch Presidency. 

In 1989, Ms. Burch was the first African American to be called as an Ordinance Worker in the Salt Lake Temple.  She has served in four ward Relief Society presidencies, as a Primary Teacher, and multiple times as Relief Society Teacher.

In 2017 Alice retired from full-time employment for the L.D.S. Church after 29 years of service.

She is currently serving as the Relief Society President of the L.D.S. Genesis Group and as Secretary of the Utah Chapter of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society.

Alice Faulkner Burch received her Associate’s Degree from Oxnard College.

Robert Burch was born and raised in Atlanta, and attended Talladega College in Alabama., one of the first colleges founded to educate the children of former slaves. After college, he served in the U.S. Navy for four years aboard ship in the Caribbean, South America, and the Mediterranean Sea.

He currently works at Park City Group in Salt Lake City in corporate compliance and food safety documentation through the online repository ReposiTrak. The company’s goal is to make food quality paramount to protect the health of families.

Robert is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, a service organization primarily of African American men with chapters worldwide.  He is the President of the Utah Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society that endeavors to initiate historic preservation projects  and assists members of the community to collect their family histories He serves on the Board of the Sons and Daughters of the U.S. Middle Passage, the first-ever black lineage society. He is also part of the Juneteenth Committee, a founding member of the Utah Black Roundtable, the Family History Director of the Genesis Group, and a Sunday School Teacher in his local LDS ward.

Ronald Coleman is a professor emeritus in the University of Utah History Department and Ethnic Studies Program where he taught for 42 years. His research focus is African American history and he has presented at a variety of conferences. His publications include essays on western black history.  Coleman’s involvement in history, education, and community service is exemplified by his teaching awards at the University of Utah, the Utah Humanities Council’s Governors Award, and the Days of ’47 Pioneers of Progress Award for Historic and Creative Arts.  

Ahmad Corbitt is a director in the Public Affairs Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is a former director of the LDS Church’s New York Office of Public and International Affairs. Corbitt has been a regular lecturer and moderator on religious freedom, interfaith relations and public affairs, including at a variety of universities, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the United Nations campus in New York. A former vice president and general counsel of a New York public communications firm and trial lawyer, Corbitt is a member of the bars of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  He received a B.A. in sociology from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and a Juris Doctorate from Rutgers University School of Law. He is a member of various professional and academic organizations. In 2014, Corbitt received the Norman Vincent Peale Award for Positive Thinking.

Marj Desius was born and raised in Croix Des Bouquet in Haiti.  Following the devastating 2010 Haitian earthquake, Marj moved to Utah to attend college.

Marj’s inspiring music videos have reached over a million viewers through Facebook and YouTube and her videos are played daily on national television in Haiti. She is well known for her pop song covers and powerful parodies in both the Haitian Creole and French languages. Her Caribbean sound matched with her powerful voice is unique and exhilarating, touching others to want to dance, cry, and feel joy. She also sings in Spanish. 

Her upcoming album “Be Still” will be available in summer 2018.

Dr. Robert Foster is a graduate of Ricks College and BYU Provo. At Ricks College he was the Black Student Union President and Ricks College Man of the Year in 2000. At BYU, he served as the Vice President of the Black Student Union, Vice President of Student Council, and Student Body President - becoming the first African American President in the school's history. Dr. Foster received his Doctorate from Salus University in Elkins Park, PA. He is the owner and CEO of Legacy Eye Care.

Dr. Foster has served in the LDS Church as a full-time Missionary in the "Great" California Arcadia Mission, Gospel Doctrine teacher, Youth Leader, Ward Mission Leader, Primary worker, Elders Quorum President, and High Councilor.  He currently serves in the North Carolina Raleigh South Stake Presidency as a Second Counselor.

Ryan Gabriel received his BA in Sociology from Utah State University and earned his PhD from the University of Washington in 2016. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Brigham Young University where he teaches courses on race in the U.S. and social statistics. Ryan’s research focuses on the processes of racial residential stratification. In particular, he examines the roles of racial differences in the adolescent neighborhood context on adulthood processes of residential mobility and on the perpetuation of racial stratification. Additionally, he investigates the residential mobility and neighborhood attainment of mixed-race couples. Ryan also examines the association between spatial concentrations of housing foreclosures and racial differences in neighborhood attainment. Lastly, he has conducted research on lynching in the American South. 

Trained in broadcast journalism, at the University of Utah and Columbia University, Darius Aidan Gray worked for KSL radio and television during the late 1960s and early 1970s.  He especially enjoyed documentary film production and was privileged to be placed on loan to UNICEF to film grassroots aid projects in several African countries. 

Mr. Gray was Director of Development for the Department of Communications at Brigham Young University where his past business and broadcasting background(s) served him well. He co-hosted “Questions and Ancestors” a nationally aired program on genealogy.

He was the coauthor (along with Margaret Young) of an award-winning trilogy of novels about early Black Mormon pioneers entitled Standing On The Promises. Also with Margaret, he co-produced two documentary films, Jane Manning James: Your Sister In The Gospel and Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons. The latter film was featured nationwide on the Documentary Channel.

 In 2003, Mr. Gray was released as President of The Genesis Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having served for six years. The Genesis organization was established under the direction of The First Presidency and The Quorum of The Twelve Apostles in 1971, with the goal of providing support to Black Latter-day Saints.

Phylicia Jimenez is a convert of ten years to the LDS Church. She has served in many callings, including YSA representative, full-time missionary, Relief Society Teacher, Young Women’s Secretary, Sunday School Teacher, Primary Teacher and Relief Society President. She served a full-time mission in the Maryland Baltimore Mission 2009-2011. She studied and graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho with a degree in Fashion Design and holds a Masters Degree in Education. She currently teaches high school English Language Arts. She is an activist and enjoys spending time with her family and loved ones.

Marcus H. Martins holds a bachelor’s degree in business management, a master’s in organizational behavior, and a doctorate in sociology.

A native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he worked as a systems analyst and project manager for the Brazilian government and as a freelance consultant before moving to the USA in 1990. He previously taught at BYU-Provo and Ricks College and has spoken in professional conferences and church events throughout the U.S., Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Qatar, and Singapore.

Moving to BYU-Hawaii in 2000, he has served in strategic and academic planning councils and twice led the Department of Religious Education, where he teaches Church Organization and Leadership, Marriage & Family, The Book of Mormon, and Doctrine & Covenants. In 2002 he was elected “Teacher of the Year” by BYU-Hawaii’s President’s Council, and in 2017 he was elected “Honored Professor of the Year” by BYUH’s Honors Council.

Marcus Martins joined the church in 1972, and became the first Latter-day Saint with Black African ancestry to serve a full-time mission after the 1978 Revelation. Since then he served twice as bishop, seven times as stake high councilor, twice as temple worker, and translator of the Book of Mormon. Between 2011 and 2014 he presided over the Brazil Sao Paulo North Mission, the same mission he had served in as a young missionary.

Kahalia “Kay” Montgomery was raised primarily in Atlanta, GA and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints while a freshman at Kennesaw State University. She has a B.S. in human development from the University of Utah and a master’s degree in school counseling from the University of Redlands.

Kay has served as: Primary President (twice), young women’s counselor, Relief Society counselor, ward missionary, and is currently a youth Sunday School teacher.


Wain Myers is a native of Dayton, Ohio. He earned his B.S. in Computer Science from Independence University where he graduated Summa Cum Laude and was class Valedictorian. He is a member of the Alpha Beta Kappa Honors Fraternity.

He enlisted in the United States Army in 1988 and served in the 2nd  Division of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. There he received his call to the ministry. After his military career, Wain returned to the U.S. and preached at True Vine Missionary Baptist Church in Dayton, Ohio. During that time he was introduced to the LDS Church. His conversion story was published in October 2015 by Cedar Fort Publishing Company in the bestselling book From Baptist Preacher, to Mormon Teacher.

 Wain has been an active member in The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints since 1995 and has served twice on the Stake High Council and was the 2nd Counselor in The Genesis Group Presidency.

Paul Reeve is the Simmons Professor of Mormon Studies in the History Department at the University of Utah where he teaches courses on Utah history, Mormon history, and the history of the U.S. West. His book, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness, (Oxford, 2015) received three best book awards. In 2016, the Utah Council for the Social Studies named Professor Reeve its University Teacher of the Year. He is building a digital database, A Century of Black Mormons, to name and identify all known black Mormons between 1830 and 1930.

Jacob S. Rugh is Associate Professor of Sociology at Brigham Young University, where he joined the faculty in 2012. Dr. Rugh received a dual Master’s degree in Public Affairs & Urban and Regional Planning and a Ph.D. in Public Affairs from Princeton University. His research focuses on race, neighborhood space, and immigration, with an emphasis on housing segregation and homeownership. His work has been featured in The AtlanticFiveThirtyEight, National Public Radio, and The New York Times. Dr. Rugh teaches courses on the Sociology of Race & Ethnicity, Urban Sociology, and a capstone Seminar on Race & Immigration. He also consults on fair lending civil rights cases and his work has been cited in several US Supreme Court cases. He is the winner of the John Hope Franklin Prize for the best article on racism and the law based on his work on the landmark case of Baltimore v. Wells Fargo. At BYU, Dr. Rugh is actively involved in advocating for DACA and immigrant students, recruiting and mentoring faculty of color, and contributing to BYU’s Civil Rights seminar, Africana Studies program, and Black History Month panels on race and racism today. 

Betty O. Sawyer graduated from Morgan State University in 1975 with a BS in Physical Education. She earned a second Bachelor's degree in Physical Therapy and her Master's Degree in Public Administration from the University of Utah.

As Director of the Governor's Office of Black Affairs, she gained passage of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday and the establishment of the Utah Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday Commission.  She worked with the Legislature and Board of Regents to secure $1million in funding to support a minority scholarship endowment. At the University of Utah, Betty served as the African American Program Coordinator and Black Student Union Advisor in the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs.

Betty currently works at Weber State University in Access and Diversity as the Coordinator for Community Engagement where she has established several special projects including the Men of Color and Families United Parent Engagement Program, and serves as the Black Scholars United Advisor.

She is a Life Member of and current President of the Ogden Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NAACP.  She is co-founder of Project Success Coalition Community Learning Center, a grassroots non-profit, focused on health disparities reduction, cultural arts, youth leadership, and advocacy. Betty is the President of the annual Utah Juneteenth Festival.

William A. Smith received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in educational policy studies, (sociology/social psychology of higher education). Currently, he is professor and chair of the Department of Education, Culture & Society at the University of Utah. He also holds a joint appointment in the Ethnic Studies Program (African American Studies division). Dr. Smith is the co-editor (with Philip Altbach & Kofi Lomotey) of The Racial Crisis in American Higher Education: The Continuing Challenges for the 21st Century (2002).  In 2018, he received the College of Education’s Faculty Service Award for Outstanding Research & Scholarship. Dr. Smith’s work has appeared in such prestigious journals as The International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Journal of Negro Education, Harvard Educational Review, Educational Administration Quarterly, American Educational Research Journal, and American Behavioral Scientist, among others.

Tekulve Jackson-Vann is a native of Milledgeville, Georgia. He earned a BS in Marriage, Family, and Human Development with an emphasis in Family Life Education from Brigham Young University and an MS in Marriage and Family Therapy from Valdosta State University. He is currently a PhD student in Medical Family Therapy at Northcentral University.

 Tekulve is the co-author of Broken Homes...Solid Futures: A Marriage Education Program for Adult Children of Divorce. He is the past Vice President of the Southeastern Council on Family Relations. He is a Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, a AAMFT supervision candidate, and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Currently, he is the Clinical Director of Alpine Recovery Lodge and Managing Clinician of Jay Tekulve Jackson-Vann LMFT & Associates.

He also serves as the Young Men’s President of the LDS Genesis Group, the Genesis Music Director, sings in the Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir, and is a past BYU Black Student Union President.

Audia Wells is a graduate of Emory University with a BA in International Studies and a graduate of BYU’s Marriott School of Management with a MA in International Development & Organizational Behavior.

She is a seasoned HR generalist and organizational behavior professional with a broad range of leadership and advisory positions. In 2005 she founded TILT HR Consulting through which she trains, integrates, leads, and transforms to promote change, access, and economic growth in businesses and communities.

Audia sings with the Saints Unified Voices Choir, a choir founded and led by Gladys Knight, and through which she spreads the message of the restored gospel of Jesus.

Audia also works as a Regional Manager for LDS Self-Reliance Services where she trains leaders of the LDS Church in Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois on assisting members toward greater self-reliance through education, personal finance, entrepreneurship, and employment.

LaShawn Williams is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Assistant Professor at Utah Valley University. She teaches in the Behavioral Science Department and directs the Baccalaureate Social Work Program. She has been a social worker for 17 years and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints since her mother joined in 1981. Her focus on the professional development of future social workers and their culturally competent practice and access to resources for their continual growth and development in effective service delivery. Her research agenda is on the use of relationship in the classroom connected to cross-cultural curricular delivery.


Last Updated: 11/2/18