INTRODUCTION: Alex Boyé is a spiritual crooner—but it hasn’t always been that way. Until five years ago he was climbing the pop charts of Europe on the fast track to stardom. Then something changed. “I seemed to have everything, but I wasn’t satisfied,” Alex said. “Deep down I felt a loss.”
Alex grew up mimicking the sounds of Motown but never considered a career in music. It wasn’t until he returned home to London, England, from a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that he realized singing was what he wanted to do.
In 1995, Alex formed the pop group Awesome. They performed locally at dances and other small venues but in 1996 their dreams of making it big turned into reality when they won a vocal competition on London’s largest radio station Capitol Radio. Universal Records of Europe signed Awesome for a five-album deal.
Awesome released three singles off their first album, Rumors, which made top-10 charts all across Europe. The group was working with high-profile celebrities and touring with artists like N’Sync, the Backstreet Boys, Missy Elliott and MC Lyte. “It really was a great experience,” Alex said. “It got to the point where I had all the things I ever thought would make me happy. I had fun and money—but then it really went pear-shaped.” People’s priorities began to change and the lifestyle did not fit him. When Alex left the band in 1999 to pursue a solo career he lost everything. The record company took the apartment, the clothes, the phone and the money.
Despite the loss, Alex persevered with the driving energy inherent in his soul, and in 2000 he released his first solo album, No Limits, which included pop and R&B for the new age. The album, full of uplifting lyrics straight from the heart, reached no. 12 in the European charts but again he found himself in the same dilemma.
“On my mission the spirit was there when I sang,” Alex said. “In the band it wasn’t ever like that and even though I was now on my own it still didn’t feel like I was where the Lord wanted me to be. One day I was reading the scriptures and it said to forsake this world and seek for something better and how the song of the righteous is a prayer to him. I realized I wanted to do music that was more uplifting, that could do something for someone.”
Alex moved to Utah to begin a new career in faith-centered music. In 2001 he released his first gospel album titled The Love Goes On and gained a rapidly increasing fan base. In 2003, he released his second contemporary Christian album, Testimony, which features a moving collection of soulful ballads aimed at touching the soul and lifting the heart.
Alex’ heart and soul voice and engaging personality can move any listener but his deeply rooted belief in who he really sings for that makes him more than just another entertainer. He said his inspiration comes from the Lord and his only purpose is to have the spirit there when he sings. “When the spirit is there it inspires you to change and to think about the things the Lord wants you to think about,” Alex said. “To be involved in that process is amazing. I’m not making the kind of money I used to make and I don’t have the fame and notoriety I used to but I’m doing what the Lord wants me to do.”
I introduce Alex Boyé.
ALEX BOYÉ…: Well good afternoon everybody, I’m so grateful to be here. This is just such a smashing opportunity. I definitely haven’t experienced something like this before because I’ve heard about the FAIR conferences and the people that speak and they have Ph.D.s and about 150,000 different letters on the end of their names and all that kind of stuff and so they asked me to come and I said, ‘The only letter I have on the end of my name is like, on the Boyé it has an accent on the ‘e’—that’s it you know. Why do you want me to come and speak to these people? They’re just smart and clever, they know everything about everything that needs to know about the Church.’
I don’t know, but I’ll do my best. I’m very, very excited to be here. I want to share with you a scripture. This is one of my favourite scriptures and I’m going to tell you the reason why. It’s in Doctrine & Covenants 4:5-6. Now we know all those missionaries, those who of you who have been on missions, this is like a famous missionary scripture and this is what you have to learn. I want to share with you something here because I remember when I first read it and I was like, ‘Oh this is good.’
It’s right here. First it talks about the requirements you need to do the Lord’s work and so it says, in verse five it says, “And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.” So if we want to do the Lord’s work, we don’t have to be connected, we don’t have to have really good grades or anything (thank goodness). We don’t have to be in the right ‘click’ or be in the ‘mafia’ or whatever, you know, we just need to have those qualities. But there are some more qualities that we need also. It says here in verse six, “Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness.” I love those two words “brotherly kindness” because when I think of brotherly kindness I think of people in the Church showing generosity to black men. (Laughter) Anyway, that’s why that’s my favourite scripture. Anyway-
All right, as you know I’m glad I had a chance to get that bio read so that I don’t have to go on about me and talk about me and stuff like that but there are a few things that I kind of want to talk about.
It’s kind of interesting, when I first joined the Church—I joined the Church when I was sixteen. For my sins I used to work in McDonald’s. And while I was working at McDonald’s saving up to go to school I met one guy, this guy his name was Aaron Clark Wills(sp?)—very well spoken black man, he spoke like the Queen. This tall black man, he was about 23-years old and while we were working in McDonald’s they have six store managers that work in this particular branch in downtown London; and, five of those store managers were awesome. There was one that everyone hated including myself. His name was Aaron Clark Wills—I hated him with a passion.
And the reason why I hated Aaron Clark Wills was because in England all the young folk we love to scrap. In case you don’t know what scrapping means, it means to fight. Love scrapping; always have to have a good scrap and a cup of tea—that was always the thing in England. A good scrap and a cup of tea and you’ll last, you know, you’ll have a great day.
So during this time I remember there was one time I was going into work and Aaron Clark Wills, you know, I could see that he always used to look at me kind of strange and I didn’t really understand why. Because we all loved to scrap, we loved all the other store managers because whenever someone was caught scrapping, the store manager would just say, ‘Hey look just take it outside or go upstairs to the restroom or changing room or whatever. Just don’t disturb anyone and when you’re finished come back downstairs.’ It was great. But when Aaron Clark Wills was on the shift, if he would catch anyone fighting, he would send you home with no pay. So here was one time, I’m here, I’m in McDonald’s. I worked a 12-hour shift for this one day, the 11th hour I get into a scrap. He catches me, he sends me home with no pay—I’ve been sweating for eleven hours and I had nothing to show for it.
I remember I went back to work the next day and he put me on the same shift as him. And I was like, ‘Oh no. Again. There’s going to be no scrapping going on today.’ And so I remember when we were out in the staff room, in the changing rooms- where all the staff is and everything, it was like everyone would sit on one side and Aaron Clark Wills would sit on the other. And so I’m sitting with everyone else and I was feeling really guilty because this used to happen all the time so one day I got my tray, and I went over and I sat next to Aaron Clark Wills, and I said to him, ‘Aaron let me give you some advice.’ He said, ‘Well what’s that?’ I said, ‘You know I could help you be so much more popular in this store. Would you listen to me if I had some of my words of wisdom?’ And he was like, ‘Well let’s hear what you’ve got. I’m open for anything.’
I said, ‘Look, when you catch us scrapping just let us carry on. It’s not hurting anyone, it’s not disturbing- well it cuts for a little while, but you know, it’s not hurting anyone else. You know just let us carry on.’ And he said, ‘Well I can’t do that.’ And I’m like, ‘Well why?’ He says, ‘Well I believe that the power of speech is stronger than the power of the fist. I believe that people need to communicate one with another without violence.’ And I’m like, ‘What are you talking about? Are you one of those God people right?’ And he says, ‘Well kind of.’ And I said, ‘You are or you ain’t—what are you?’ He says, ‘Okay I am.’ Then he started to speak more spiritually and stuff like that and I’m like, ‘Well, what church are you from?’ He says, ‘I’m from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-say Saints.’ I’m like, ‘Who’s that?’ ‘Otherwise known as the Mormons.’ I’m like, ‘Oh. See ya!’ Took my tray, I sat back over there with the rest of my people, was not interested in the slight.
And so anyway one day I was coming home from work and when I got home I was really tired, you know, I’d done a long shift and as I was going towards my door I see these two ladies at my doorstep. And so I’m walking up and I’m like, ‘Excuse me can I help you?’ They turn around, ‘Yes, we’d like to speak to an Alex Boyé.’ I’m like, ‘That’s me!’ and I was so excited. And let me tell you the reason why I was so excited. The reason why was because in England 75 percent of entertainment—that’s music, TV, radio or whatever—is from America. So I’ve grown up with American culture although I’ve never been to America. I would go to school, when I was teens, and I’d like speak American and everything you know. I’d watch BA Barackus in the A-Team ‘Ain’t goin no plane fool, shut up.’ You know stuff like that (Laughter) that was my favourite show and I’d go to school impersonating BA Barackus and stuff like that. But this was the first time that I’d ever actually spoken to an American face to face.
So I’m like, ‘Can you say my name again?’ because I just loved the America- I just loved it. And so anyway they said something like, ‘We’re members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we’d like to share with you a message.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, yeah, just come in. Come in.’ and I let them in.
So I said, ‘Can you just wait there just for a second alright?’ I went upstairs into my bedroom, I left the sisters in the living room, went up to my phone and I just called up all friends at school. I said, ‘You are not going to believe this. I’ve got two American girls in my house and they are so fine. You need to come over!’ And so anyway my friends came and they were like, ‘No way you’ve got American girls in your house?’ I was like, ‘Yes. Just come over.’ And so they came over.
It was interesting, I went back downstairs and I was stalling the sister missionaries. They were having these things, telling me to read this part and read this part in the Book of Mormon and this bit about the Saviour and I’m like ‘Yes okay.’ And I’d run outside and run to a window and see if my friends were there and I’d come back and sit down again.
Finally, there was a knock on the door. I said, ‘Can you just wait there.’ I went and opened the door, and honestly, probably about eight or nine of my friends just turned up at the doorstep. The sisters are looking at each other going oh we’re going to baptize today, they were just going crazy you know. I didn’t realize that, they just had these big old smiles and so anyway. They walk in, they sit down and all my friends are just flabbergasted—two American girls in my house and they’re ‘Oh!’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s me!’
They gave us a quick discussion and everything, I can’t remember what in the world they talked about but I just remembered them saying that they wanted to come again the next day and so I was like, fine. They gave me some assignments—I can’t remember what it was, I didn’t do any of them anyway—but I remember I went back to school the next day. The next day I went to school and you know what it’s like at high school, news travels like wildfire. So Alex Boyé is this guy now who has these two American girls as friends and so everyone was like, ‘Dude, I heard you have these two American girls that were in your house. They your friends?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Can we come and see them?’ I’m like, ‘Yes.’ ‘When are they coming over?’ I said, ‘Six o’clock, tomorrow.’ ‘Can I come over?’ ‘Yes.’ (Laughter)
So the next day, double! Okay, the sisters were like, ‘Oh this is great. Thank you Lord for answering our prayers.’ You know, there must have been sixteen of my friends just turned up and the sisters were teaching them all but they were really, really rowdy. My friends were really rowdy and this went on for maybe about a week and it became apparent that no one was interested in anything the sisters had to say—other than the fact that they were cute and had American accents. And so I started feeling really guilty, again, because that’s just the way I am. I just feel really bad about certain things. So I said, ‘Look, sisters, I’m going to stop them from coming over. I tell you what. You come back tomorrow all right and I’ll promise I will be here and I will listen to everything that you have to say.’ And they said, ‘Okay fine.
Let me just back up a little before that. When I was about fourteen or fifteen I used to have these really bad nightmares about dying. I used to just wonder, what’s going to happen to me. I’ll just die and I would just wake up in a cold sweat and it just played on my mind constantly to the point where even the church that I was going to I didn’t ask questions, I didn’t ask them, you know, about death. I didn’t want to talk about it because it just scared me. And there were so many people I wanted to talk about it but I just couldn’t—I would clam up. So it was a very scary subject for me for some strange reason and I didn’t know why.
So anyway, during this time, I’m here back at- the sisters come back the next day and they said to me, they started sharing with me a presentation and part of the presentation it was almost like, you know they take turns and everything, and so one of the sisters she kind of mentioned as she was wrapping up her part of the discussion she said, ‘And so because the Saviour he died and he was resurrected after three days it’s going to allow us the same opportunity to live again after death, et cetera et cetera’ and I’m like, ‘Excuse me? Wait a minute. What did you just say?’ She repeated it.
I’m like, ‘Where is that in the Bible?’ She showed it to me. I said, ‘Show me another one.’ She showed it to me, and then all of a sudden I just burst out into tears. That was the most amazing thing that I have ever heard because of the situation that I was in before that. It was the most incredible thing, it was almost like a whole new world just opened up. Almost like these curtains, I had never seen what was behind it before and for the first time the curtains opened and I was just like, ‘Wow!’ And then they continued and they talked to me about a few things and certain things, and situations and problems that I had in the past about certain principles. I mean I didn’t know much, I was only 16-years old but I had questions. And I felt at that point that all of them were answered. The most incredible thing. So, within three weeks of the sisters coming back I joined the Church—I got baptized. Now that’s when the journey started.
It’s kind of interesting, you know, I realized that when I became a member of the Church there were a few things I realized about myself that I had to change. Now we all know about the drinking and the smoking, I didn’t drink anyway but- I mean I didn’t drink, I didn’t smoke or any of that stuff. I swore like a trooper and I used to drink tea like anybody’s business—like Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter and that party! Oh man, I loved my tea. And so, you know, although when I heard some of those things it was just so powerful to me that it just didn’t- it wasn’t a problem.
But it’s kind of interesting. You know you get baptized and you’ve got the missionaries, they sit right next to you and they take you to the Church and they’re all excited and they’ve got smiles on their faces, the sisters are like, ‘Our new convert!’ and everyone is smiling and everything’s great and they’re teaching how to read the hymnbook because like, in the church I used to be in they’d read the hymnbook like that one, and then one, and then one and then two and then- I was like, we just read it all the way down. So I’m reading the hymn and they’re looking at me thinking, ‘What’s he singing?’ They thought I was like retranslating the hymn or something.
And then there were just things I had to learn. The next week they said, ‘We’re having a fireside. So bring your shirt and your tie.’ And I’m like, ‘To go camping?’ So you know there are all these things I had to learn but one of the interesting things was that, I realized that there were parts of me that I had to leave behind. At first I had a problem with that because I’m like, ‘This is me. I can be however I want to because this is me, this is who I am.’
Then I remember just- I kind of realized, and it took me a while to realize, exactly what those things were that I had to give up and what they actually meant. I think of reading, you know, in the Book of Mormon and Lehi and his family, they left Jerusalem okay? And then they left to go to the American continent but the Lord told them that there were certain things that they had to leave behind and it was their riches right? It was their gold. Maybe that was something that was going to stop them if they had it with them from focusing upon what they were supposed to do, upon their assignment, upon getting to the Promised Land—upon receiving inspiration and revelation and that kind of thing.
And so, I kind of equate that to myself now, realizing that when I became a member of the Church there were parts of my culture that I had to leave behind. I remember it was probably a few years ago when I heard, I think it was Neal A. Maxwell in a conference, and he mentioned something about how there is good and there is bad in every culture in this world—every single culture there is good and there is bad. He said that when we become members of the Church it is our goal to get rid of the bad parts and to keep the good.
Then I realized that, wait a minute, because I’d go around saying, ‘Well this is me. This is who I am. You can’t change me.’ And then I just realized though that that’s not what they were trying to say and because those things that I left behind helped me to become a more effective member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and helped me to progress more.
I want to talk to you just a little bit about some of those things about my culture, some of the things I realized that I had to leave behind which was really, really hard for me. But before I do that I want to show you just a little video presentation here of the group that I used to be in. So this is what I used to do, this was my career and I still- I’m still in the music situation but I was signed to Universal Records with this band—I was the only member of the Church in this band. My friends, we all grew up together, we were best, best friends and we had a lot of fun. I’m just going to show you, just a little excerpt here.
(VIDEO EXCERPT OF CD SIGNING IN GERMANY)
This was one of our first major CD signings that we had, it was pretty overwhelming. I remember that experience. It was the strangest thing because people will come up to you, you had these fans they would give you stuff—they’d give you, not just like little toys, I’m talking cell phones, I’m talking sneakers, Walkmans, it was just crazy. I mean I used to come home with all these presents; Christmas was awesome in my family!
I’m wearing a CTR ring on my thumb; I want to tell you a story about that later on (if I have time).
(VIDEO EXCERPT OF BERLIN STADIUM PERFORMANCE)
This next segment is in a stadium in Berlin, there are 50,000 people in the audience and there are 11 million people watching this show all over Europe. These are two MTV DJs and they’re announcing us on right now—I was famous for wearing these goggles on my head and all that stuff. Awesome was the name of my band, I’m really embarrassed about that—it wasn’t my idea it was my manager’s idea. I didn’t even know what awesome mean until I came to the States. But, that’s me at the front there with the goggle on my head and I was very nervous but it was a lot of fun.
I just want to point out that here I’m a return missionary; I’ve just got off my mission about two years ago. You see those outfits that we’re wearing, I don’t know what possessed, I mean, these bin liners I call them now, I mean we were sweating so much. Those lights are so strong; they have so many lights, I swear I was getting a suntan by the minute! If I designed them I’m really embarrassed about that but anyway. Okay that’s enough of that. (Laughter)
You know it’s interesting, being in that band, I had some wonderful experiences it was great. I got to achieve a lot of dreams, a lot of things that I wanted to achieve from when I was really, really young. One of the hardest things however, just to cut a long story short was, I was the only member of the Church in the band.
Now, you would say that that wouldn’t really be a problem seeing as we all grew up together, we were best friends and everything and that was the case but as we started getting more successful and stuff I remember I was saying to them, the first thing when I signed the contract, we all made a promise to each other—and it was my idea because I was a return missionary and because of certain ways- things that I didn’t want to do, like the drinking and the smoking and I had heard all the stories about all the bands and, you know, I had friends that had already committed suicide who were in bands taking drugs and all that kind of stuff and just totally getting caught up in that. And so we all made a promise to each other and we said, no drinking, no smoking, no taking drugs.
And so we made a promise to each other and it was kind of interesting because that’s what we did. We were signed to the group and that was a big thing for us. In fact it got to the point where that became the focal point of the whole band to the point where even when our songs weren’t doing well, even when our songs were flopping and were going down—because usually they always say you’re only as good as you’re next song. So if your next song is really bad, you’re not in the papers, you’re not in the magazines, you’re not on radio, nobody wants to know you anymore and you’re a has-been.
But for some reason we kept getting calls all the time saying, ‘Oh can you come and do this show? Can you do this radio show? Can you come and do this advert? We’ve got a sponsor for you, so-and-so is interested, Pepsi is interested.’
And we’re like, ‘Why are you still calling us up?’ We kept asking them and they’re like, ‘Well we don’t know. You guys are just different.’ But our songs are not doing very well. ‘I know but we just like you. We’d rather have you than Backstreet Boys any day because you speak to us. You guys are fun and you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, that’s the strangest thing. Everyone does it, all the bands do it.’
It got to the point where that was making us bigger than anything else, it wasn’t even the talent anymore—in fact the songs were really bogus. But, everyone was just- they kept calling us up because of the fact that we had a certain code in the band that we adhered to and it just got to the point where that was what helped us get more successful than anything else that we were doing.
But of course as we started getting- it was this cycle, you know that cycle you see in the Book of Mormon? You know things get great and things are going good and then all of a sudden it gets really, really good and then you take advantage of it and so what happened is members of the band, after a while, because they didn’t have as much of a motivation to keep those standards as I did and so, basically after a while one of them would start drinking and smoking and stuff like that. And I said, ‘We promised remember?’ ‘Oh no. It’s all right; it’s just a social thing. It’s okay, it’s not a problem.’ There was no motivation for them not to do it.
And so anyway, it got to the point where one of the guys in the band he kind of got hooked on cocaine and stuff like that and it just got worse and worse and worse and then it just seeped through the whole band. It got to the point where I knew that I couldn’t be in that situation anymore. When I was at an after show party and you’ve got guys next to you and they’re lining up drugs and cocaine and other bands who are really famous and really popular that you all know, that in fact maybe even your kids know- in fact your kids have their CDs and some of the lifestyles, it’s very destructive. You know, religion aside, just the lifestyles that they were living were very, very destructive and they were introducing that lifestyle to my friends and they bought it. And so we became, we were affected there. Even though I didn’t take none of that stuff I was affected because these were my brothers, I am my brother’s keeper so to speak. And so anyway I decided though that I couldn’t that situation anymore and I left the band, I left the group.
So I remember just going back to something, which I realized that I loved and that I missed, one thing that I missed was just the way that I was as a missionary when I was a missionary for the Church and the way that I felt. I want to sing you a song right now.
When I was a missionary in our first area I had a mission companion who was training me, who was teaching me the ropes of how to be a missionary and his name was Elder Buchmann, he was from Germany. He was 27-years old and he never smiled. He was the most serious person I’d ever met. I remember we didn’t get along too well because I was a total joker, a happy go-lucky kid, but I was also prideful—I didn’t want anyone to tell me what I should do and how to be a missionary because I knew it, I knew how I was supposed to be a missionary and I didn’t listen to the things that they were telling and such so we clashed.
I remember one of the first times we had an experience where we were going to this shopping mall, it was in Bristol which is northwest in England. And we’re there and he took me to this, it was kind of an initiation, and so he would basically get me to start speaking to people about the Church. So, he would stand there and he would point to someone, he was like, ‘Go and teach them.’ So I would go and I would share the gospel with them and try and get them interesting the Book of Mormon and stuff and then I gave away a book and I’d come back with a really proud look on my face you know! And then he’d say, ‘Right I want you to go and teach them.’ And so I’d go, ‘No problem.’ So I’d go over there- I got a whole box of Books of Mormon and I’m giving them and then afterwards I’m going all over the place giving away Books of Mormon like crazy and I’m having the time of my life. I’m like, ‘This is the greatest work in the world. Wow! This is too easy. People are taking Books of Mormon, people want to buy them off me they’re so excited.’ Some guy came up to me because he saw how excited I was and he said, ‘I want one of those things that you’ve got.’ And so I gave it to him and then I was just carrying on but out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that there was a man that, I don’t know, he gave me- he wasn’t happy with me. He gave me these really uncomfortable looks. He wasn’t happy but I knew that he wanted to speak to me. So he waited for his moment and then finally he came up to me, when he caught me alone, he stood in front of me. He looked at me, he looked at my badge, he looked at me again and he says, ‘You’re black.’
You know there are certain things that you don’t answer right? Certain questions you don’t answer. So he said, ‘Did you know that people in your Church did not allow you to become a member of your Church and that you weren’t allowed to have the priesthood. You weren’t allowed to be able to have any kind of ecclesiastical endorsements or anything in the Church and that you weren’t even allowed to be baptized—people of your colour. And so why are you walking around with that badge with a happy smile on your face giving away Books of Mormon knowing the things that they told you or the things that they taught?’ And I remember looking at him and I looked him in the eye and I just laughed. ‘I know what you’re trying to do. But it’s too late because I am already converted.’
I remember going home back to our apartment that day, and I was with my companion and we sat down, we’d just had a prayer together, and we were about to go to bed and I remember and I said to him, ‘Elder Buchmann answer me this question. Why is it that when he said the things that he said, that it didn’t make a blind bit of difference to me? That it didn’t shake me, it didn’t shake my testimony, it didn’t shake my belief in what believed in and what I was taught and what I learned as being a member of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.’ I said, ‘Can you answer me why that was not a problem for me?’
And then he looked at me and he said, ‘I’ll tell you why,’ and for the first time we connected. He said, ‘Because you and I are exactly the same,’ he said, ‘because you believe in the Saviour, in Jesus Christ, and he is the one that has the answers for all your problems. He puts you in places where you can shine, where you can grow, where you can improve. But at the end of the day whenever you are going through a hard time, whenever you are going through problems, that is the person that you can go to and he is there for you. He protects, he guides you, he helps you even through your trials and you still keep coming back to him because that is your motivation. That is your motivation for everything that you do.’ And he said, ‘That is my motivation too.’ Then he motioned over to the cassette recorder and he played a song and that’s the song that I want to sing for you now.
Be Still and Know
Be still and know that He is God ï Be still and know that He is holy
Be still oh restless soul of mine ï Bow before the prince of peace
And let the noise and clamour cease; be still
Be still and know that He is God ï Be still and know that He is faithful
Consider all that He has done ï Stand in awe and be amazed
And know that He will never change; be still
Be still and know that He is God ï Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is God ï Be still; be speechless
Be still and know that He is God ï Be still and know He is our Father
Come rest your head upon His breast ï Listen to the rhythm of His unfailing heart of love
Beating for His little ones; calling each of us to come; be still
(Applause) Thank you.
You know it’s kind of interesting that being back home in England, you know I always tell people this is why, because I live in Utah now, I live in Salt Lake and I always get the question about being black and being a member of the Church.
And it always felt like when I came out here that I was like the needle in the haystack so to speak, the little black dude amongst a sea of milk and cream and vanilla and stuff. It was kind of interesting because back home in England, I remember telling people, ‘You know, my bishop is black back in England, my home teachers are black, my stake president is black, many people in my ward are black. Heck even the hymn books are black!’ (Laughter) But you know it was never really a thing that I had to explain or feel out of place or feel in a situation where there were people that I could tell or let them know about my situation because I was with people—we were all in the same situation. I guess it’s the way, with the Church or any church or any establishment, if an establishment is going to be set up in a ghetto of an area then ghetto people are going to go to that establishment. If it’s set up in a real well to do area, then well to do people are going to go to that establishment. So, you know, I grew up in a rough area of London and we had a Church that was there and I was a member of that because that was the closest one to me and that’s just how it was.
When I was 13-years old, it was Christmas Eve, and you know what it’s like Christmas Eve when you’re anticipating Christmas and everything and you’ve got your family around. I mean, you’ve got family that you don’t even know that you had that turn up and everyone is there and we had a great time—all excited. We went to bed that night and it was probably about 6-6:30 in the morning I remember I just didn’t know whether I was dreaming or whether it was a reality where I heard this loud bang at our door or a door and my first instinct was well, you know, maybe I was dreaming. So all of a sudden though on top of that I heard this loud scream and it was my mother who was screaming at the top of her voice. Suddenly I woke up, I knew it wasn’t a dream. I ran downstairs and I saw a sight that I’ll still never forget.
There was a whole group of police, they came, just made their way into our house they pushed my mother aside and they had dogs and everything and they were going into every single room in the house and- the bedrooms, the living room, wherever and they were turning out the place, they turned over the beds, they went into all the restrooms, the cabinets and everything looking inside there and they went into the fridge, they went into all our cupboards and everything. And I remember shouting and screaming, ‘What are you doing? What’s going on, why are you doing this to my family?’ I was about 13-years old and I was screaming and going crazy and my mom was screaming and going crazy, the rest of the family.
Then, I went into the kitchen and two of the policemen they had my sister who was then 21, she’d just had a baby, six-months old, and she was pushed over the counter, hands behind her back and they read her her rights. And I said, ‘Mom what’s going on?’ And she said, ‘They say that there’s drugs in our home.’
And I said, ‘Why are they- we don’t take drugs. Why are they saying that?’ And then all of a sudden my mom starts screaming again and the police have taken my sister and they’re going through the front door and I’m running and I’m chasing them and I’m trying to get my sister away and they slammed the door and I just heard my sister crying, just her voice fading away in the background and I’m just by the door, and I’m laying down there just crying my eyes out.
I remember as I was laying there, just kind of like- just a few things just flashed—just memories of me and my sister just flashed by me. The good memories, the bad memories, and some things that I hadn’t thought of before; and one of them I remembered of me and my little brother, he was eleven at the time, and she used to asked us to go and deliver things to her friends and to people—little brown packages. And she’d say, ‘Hey can you just take this over to that address?’ and she’d give us the address and everything and we were like, ‘Sure,’ you know this is our big sister, we loved her, we respected her and we’d go and we’d deliver these packages and we’d pick up like a letter or something like that and come back home and give it to our sister.
I started asking her after a while, I said, ‘What’s in these packages? What’s in the letter?’ And she said, ‘Oh don’t worry about it. She wouldn’t say anything.’ Then she’d just start giving me more money and then of course I stopped asking questions because she gave me more money. Then I’d go to school, you know, here I’m 13-years old and I was wearing all the fancy gear and everything, looking really cool and everything and so everyone wanted to know me because I had the nice gear and I had all this money. And on that day I realized what was going on and I realized that in those brown paper packages were drugs.
And when I was laying down at the front door with tears in my eyes I remember I made a promise to myself that day, and I made a promise that I would never ever do anything to shame my name, the name of my family or anything that will ever bring myself or the people around me into disrepute. That was a very, very big thing for me. And so, from then on every time I was always looking for the good. I was always seeking for it and even at such an early age I was always making sure that I rejected the bad whether it was at school and there was a ton of people that were drinking and smoking and all that kind of stuff—I’d stay away from it. Whether it was, you know, it was just all these things because that one experience just helped me, put me on a certain track, a certain way—whereas all my friends all around me were- they didn’t have any motivation not to do the typical things that people were doing in my area with the kind of low income families that we all were and stuff like that. There was no motivation not to do those things but I had a motivation.
And so, when the missionaries were teaching me and they were teaching me about just so much of these things, I knew that that was the decision and that was the way that I had to go because I knew that this would help me to keep my promise. This would help me to keep my promise and to stay on the right way, on the right track, because it was hard. It was hard for me in my environment to stay away from those things even though I had a motivation not to do it, it was very hard because my best friends and the people I cared about, respected, admired, and my sister, were involved in those things.
So I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that being a member of the Church for me, it started off more- a lot less about the facts, a lot less about what was in the scriptures, a lot less about what certain things meant and certain books were about and their content. It was about the fact that there were principles in it that I knew that if I embraced those principles it would keep me in a way that I could still keep my promise of keeping myself clean and keeping my family, and keeping my family name above board so to speak.
I’ve never regretted making the decision about being a member of the Church no matter what people have said, no matter what opinions or ideas people have said to me.
I have a gentleman that emails me once a month, he started emailing me last September and actually now he’s stepping it up, it’s probably about twice a month now, and every single email—he’s a very clever man, he has Ph.D.s, he has all these things- all these names behind him and everything, and he tells me outright the reasons why I shouldn’t be a member of this Church. And he talks about the curse and he talks about all these things and I read it because I feel that he’s spent all this time researching and giving me all that information and I read it but I’ve never answered him back. I’ve never sent him an email back.
Sometimes I kind of think that he thinks that I’m backing down or that I’m powerless or that the things that he’s saying are getting to me but the main reason why is that that’s not my forte. And so there’s nothing that I can say to him that will change his mind. There’s that whole thing about- he is of the (what is it?) if you’re of the same opinion still- you can’t change. If you have an opinion you can’t change a person’s opinion if that’s the same opinion. I know that me as a human being, as an individual, can’t do that because maybe I don’t have those tools to be able to do that. But I feel something that he doesn’t feel. I feel those principles are working in my life, that are keeping me in the right way. And that’s put me in a position where this situation where I am right now is better than any other situation that I could be in for me personally. And there’s no argument—you can’t argue that. You cannot dispute that. You cannot dispute the joy that it’s bringing into my life. I remember saying to someone once, ‘You know if this whole thing wasn’t true, if I didn’t believe it anyway, you know what? I would die. I would get to the other side and think, oh! I was wrong. But you know what? I had a heck of a lot of fun while I was down here!’
And I had a friend, he’s another black member of the Church, I was in Texas and he’d just joined the Church and he joined the Church because of the influence of a 14-year old white boy who every single day he would see him and he’d notice that there was something different about this young white boy than all the other white boys and he didn’t know what it was. Afterwards he started realizing that this young kid was having the time of his life but he had boundaries. The other kids were free to do anything that they wanted but they weren’t necessarily happy.
I remember when he said that and I was like that is exactly how I feel. I’m having the time of my life—even through my trials and my problems and my girlfriend breaking up with me, but you know, just the things that you go through every day life. The trials- even through that I’m having the time of my life and no one can take that away from me. No amount of philosophy, no amount of clever words, no amount of anti-Mormon literature can change that—for me.
I just want to close up in a minute but I would like to share with you something that I’m doing right now. Right now, which is something that has been very, very- which has weighed very, very heavily on my mind and it has come from the music industry that I am in; that I’ve been in, that I’ve witnessed and that I have seen that scares me.
One of my things now, one of my biggest battles that I am fighting, I kind of see myself as this trench warrior you know and, remember I was talking to you about part of my culture that I had to leave behind? Well there’s one of them that I’m fighting with to leave behind but also helping other people to leave it behind also and one of them is I love music, and there are all different styles of music, and remember I talked to you about seeking for the good? And my goal, my purpose is to seek for the good in music and to seek out the bad and weed out the bad and to be able to help others—particularly kids—to do the same because of the influence of that music. Now there are so many different styles, there’s rock music, there’s new age, there’s jazz, there’s classical. Boyd K. Packer, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, one of the apostles in the Church, he said that there was good and bad in every style of music and it is up to us to look for it.
And I see the influence. You watch MTV now, MTV is actually- they market it to the 12 to 17 year-olds. The stuff that’s on MTV that you see is stuff which mom and dad wouldn’t even watch because it’s just nasty. But that has become the culture and so the kids will continue to watch it because everyone else is. One of the most popular music of today- Do you know what the most popular music of today is? Rap music is the most popular music of today. It’s bigger than any genre. Bigger than country, bigger than jazz, bigger than new age, classical, bigger than pop music, R&B- I mean there’s R&B music but there is hip-hop music, then rap music it’s the biggest—it is everywhere. Elevator music now you know! It’s just so popular. Even on kids’ TVs and stuff like that, you watch Disney there are elements of that in it.
Now I will stand up and say right now that hip-hop music is bringing our children down. It is stopping them from doing good things, it is influencing them and there are many different styles of music even the rock music and the heavy music that’s just bad too—but this is worse. I mean we talk about the whole Columbine situation. Five years later all right they were just- the guys- the kids were just being interviewed by some professors, I believe, and, they spoke to them and told them where the influences came from was some of the music they were listening to was already teaching them to do the things that they ended up doing. So they were listening to songs that were already telling them to shoot up their school and the influence was so powerful and so strong that that’s what- how they ended up doing that.
There is this young girl that did this experiment, she was 19-years old, she was from Ogden and she wanted to show that music can affect us in different ways. So what she did is she exposed these lizards to three different styles of music so instead of using humans as guinea pigs she used lizards. She had this glass case, she had some sand and some rocks and some trees—you know, make them feel at home—and then she exposed them to three different types of music.
First she exposed them to classical music. She went away for an hour, she came back and she looked into the case and she wrote down the results or the findings of what she saw. These lizards were peaceful and graceful, moving around sort of like- so she decided to write this down. For another hour she decided to change the music, she played some jazz, some soft rock and some country for one hour. She goes away, she comes back, she looks into the tank and she noticed that these lizards they kind of changed a little slightly in their behaviour. They were slightly more erratic and they were kind of moving around more. So anyway she decided to write down in her findings these lizards were slightly perturbed. And then she decided to change music again—even more drastic. She just exposed them to non-stop, hardcore, heavy metal, rap music, hip-hop music, R&B music, just the most angry stuff as well, of that style. Instead of going away she decided to stay for about 15 minutes to see if she could visibly see a difference. She looks into the tank, she notices there was no difference- she was like, ‘Oh that’s interesting.’ So she goes away, 45 minutes later she comes back. These lizards are freaking out, they are bouncing off the glass, beating their heads off the glass, they’re spinning around, jumping up and down, slapping each other around. In fact one of the lizards bit off the tail of another lizard. So she wrote this down and in her findings she wrote that if lizards, the most base of animals, could be affected in such a drastic way by this type of music then how about us as human beings with our sensitive minds, our complex minds? Can we be affected in the same way? Now I’m not saying that this good gentleman is going to off an bite off the tail of this good lady because he’s listening to rock music but what I’m saying is that there’s an influence there—there is an influence there.
And so, I would talk about this forever because I’ve had all these things that I don’t want to go on too much about but I just want to share with you one last thing and then tie this whole thing up.
It says here, these are just some things that I read about certain artists, some rap artists right now and these are the artists that our kids listen to of whatever faith—any faith—they listen to it, even our Mormon kids they listen to it. You’ve got the 50 Cent, and you’ve got the Eminem, you’ve got R. Kelly you’ve got the Snoop Dogg, and these are artists that your kids will know about. Then you have Snoop Dogg who just received an award, a Kids Choice Award which is great receiving the Kids Choice Award and everything that’s fine but then in the same week he received an award from the pornographic industry. So here’s a man here who spends his whole time doing music that is full of- it talks about prostitution, about killing cops, killing families, killing- all that kind of stuff and he puts it in very, very nice melodies that are very, very catchy and our kids can’t get off it because it is so catchy and it’s on the radio and we love to listen to it. These are our role models today, these are the role models of the children today.
So when I listen to- when I see these songs and the influences that they have and how, here’s an artist here Eminem, he just made a deal with the pornographic industry, with Puff Daddy who your kids all know and R. Kelly who your kids all know, and they’ve made a deal with a pornographic company because they are fed up of their stuff being on MTV and people blipping out their words and the lyrics and stuff like that and so now they are saying, you know the whole Amendment thing ‘We have the right to be able to express ourselves.’ So they made a deal with this company to do their own music station like MTV and they play all the unedited videos without the blips, without- everything is there to be seen. It’s bad enough on MTV and so now, it’s going and they show it 24 hours, they have a channel, it started two months ago.
Now when I see these things going on and I see how the kids are influenced- go to a school and the kids are wearing the same things as the girls in the music videos, the daughters and the sons are acting in the same way as the guys in the videos with not a care in the world, disrespecting women, disrespecting anything of authority. Then when I listen, I go to conference, and I listen to the General Conference at Church or I read magazines like The Ensign and in it it talks about the insidious nature of pornography and how our kids are being influenced by this type of music and the things- the answers, the things that we can do to be able to stop that from happening.
These are the things that lead me to believe that here is a Church that has these principles that can save these kids if we adhere to them and even things as simple as the Strength of the Youth program and the things that are in it—that it can save these kids—because if they abide by those guidelines, by those simple truths of good, they can steer clear from those influences and they can lead happier and productive lives.
I want to end with a song. One of my favourite songs, its called Somewhere Beyond the Moon and it just talks about the simple truths of the gospel. Sometimes people always ask- particularly non-members of the Church, you know, they say ‘Who are you? What makes you think you have the right to believe in this?’ or ‘Why do you believe in that? Who do you think you are?’ All these questions! And I love to sing this song because it just talks about the simple truths of the gospel. Sometimes we forget about the simpleness and focus so much on the fancy stuff. We forget about the truths and the really simple things and what it does to a person’s life. I have a- my goal is to be more scholarly with scriptures and I’m reading a lot more, and to know and understand that but at the same time I know that these simple things that I feel right here, that has nothing to do with here, they can’t be explained. And so, this song talks about just the simple truths of the gospel and what that is to me and what that can be to us.
Somewhere Beyond the Moon
Long ago and far away ï Before the laws of time and space ï A loving God prepared a place ï Somewhere beyond the moon.
High above this world’s facade ï A perfect realm where angels trod ï The hope of man the home of God ï Somewhere beyond the moon.
Somewhere beyond all doubt and fear ï Beyond the reach of sorrow’s tears ï Where broken hearts run strong and free ï Where every child of God will be.
Somewhere tonight someone will pray ï Lord, you are the truth, the way ï And on streets of gold they’ll celebrate ï Somewhere beyond the moon.
For every heart that will believe ï God’s promises are true ï There is a place called Heaven ï He has prepared for you ï As sure as there’s a morning sun ï And stars up in the sky ï One day we will see Jesus.
Listen now can you hear ï The voice of God calling clear ï Saying don’t lose heart ï The time is near ï And we’ll be goin’ soon ï Somewhere beyond the moon.
Q: What did your family think about you joining the Church?
BOYÉ…: I did it kind of sneakily. I don’t know my dad but my mom she was living in Nigeria at the time and so I joined the Church while she was in Nigeria. She wasn’t happy about it. She wasn’t happy about it at all but as she saw that it caused no damage to me and in fact it made me better than worse, than I could have been, it became less and less of a problem to the fact that now she sees missionaries on the streets back home in England and she brings them home and she feeds them and all that kind of stuff.