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That's how many black women describe their place in the LDS Church.

Visiting a Mormon temple while in her 20s, Janan Graham-Russell felt forced to ask, "Do they see me?" after coming upon a painting of Jesus surrounded by angels celebrating him in heaven.

"When I looked closer," she said Friday, "all the angels were white."

That matters, the Howard University graduate student said, because it has spiritual implications for blacks in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"This is how my fellow saints see the eternities," Graham-Russell said. "I felt that my brothers and sisters didn't see me — not only on a cultural level but on a theological level."

A panel at the University of Utah's "Black, White and Mormon" conference explored what it means to be black and a Mormon woman. The lectures and discussions, organized by the U.'s Tanner Humanities Center, wrapped up Friday afternoon.

The panel featured Graham-Russell; Catherine Stokes, considered a "pillar" of black Mormon history; LaShawn Williams-Schultz, a clinical social worker in Utah; and Tamu Smith, co-author of "Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons" and co-creator of the "Sistas in Zion" online radio program. It was moderated by Paulette Payne, a talk show host in Atlanta, who said the struggles of women of color in the Utah-based faith often go unheralded.

Williams-Schultz said as a black mother to children "who pass as white," the LDS Church doesn't foster open communication about current doctrine about black people.

"I don't want my son, who will be baptized in a couple months, to come and ask me the question, 'Mommy, are you cursed?' " she said. "But we're not having the conversation in our church that allows my son to never have to ask that question.

"Until our curriculum and our conversations change, my babies will ask those questions."

She was referring to now-disavowed theories previously put forth to try to explain the LDS Church's former ban on black Mormons being ordained to the all-male priesthood.

That policy also prohibited all people of African descent — including women — from receiving the faith's highest ordinances in Mormon temples.

While the former priesthood ban itself may be discussed, the panelists said, the effect of the temple ban on black women is seldom talked about.

That is further evidence, they said, of how black women simply aren't seen in the church.

All of the panelists said they stay active in the faith because of their relationship with God.

"There's no place you can go where there isn't racism," Stokes said. "I thank God for white people who embrace you, and strengthen you to put up with the crazies."