Jordan Black is a 6-foot-7-inch, 265-pound offensive tackle prospect from Alta High School in Sandy, Utah. Those that are familiar with the area know that a predominant Mormon culture exists there, probably more so than in any other city in Salt Lake County.
Having grown up in the area myself, I can attest to this fact. I grew up on the east benches near Brighton High School, where 14 of the 15 households in the cul-de-sac where I grew up were occupied by members of the LDS faith.
“Yeah, pretty much everyone is Mormon in my school, that’s for sure," observed Black, who grew up in a non-member family. “All my friends, teachers, everyone is Mormon. It was a great place to grow up since pretty much everyone I was around were great people and I had good influences, but it’s sort of weird in a way, I guess, not being part of the LDS Church growing up here.”
If my own experience going through high school is any similar to that of those whom Black associated with, most of his associates weren’t aware or even thought that anyone could possibly not be a member of the Church, as the Mormon culture is so dominant in the area. It was only after graduating that I came to know that some of my friends and associates weren’t members and still aren’t.
While some may have fallen in the ignorant-to-the-fact category I did while growing up, at least one of Black’s friends did not.
“My best friend growing up was Ammon Olsen, who played quarterback at Alta before graduating last year," he related. “He’s a very active member of the Church. His dad’s a bishop, so they were very involved in the Church, obviously.”
While some would be hesitant to bring up the tricky and potentially dividing subject of religion with their close friends and associates, Olsen, who is currently serving a mission in Mexico, was not that type of person.
“Wow, he’d ask me to go to church with him every week it seemed like," recalled Black. “Every activity, everything, he’d ask me to come. He wouldn’t force me or anything, he’d just simply ask and I’d always say no. It wasn’t as if I was anti-Mormon or anything, I just didn’t really want to. I don’t know why, I just would never go.”
But Olsen didn’t let up and finally Black acquiesced to the invitation.
“After about 50 times or so of asking me it got old, so I finally decided to go to church with him just once," explained Back. “In my mind I’d check it out, I mean, why not? I always respected Ammon and my other friends who were Mormon, so I finally decided to see what their church was all about.”
His first attendance at Olsen’s ward hardly proved to be his last, as he soon found himself going every single week. Black felt comfortable attending church almost immediately and took to the principles being taught, along with the feeling he received while in attendance.
Soon after his first week of going to church, he began receiving the missionary discussions and was baptized soon after.
“It just felt right to me immediately," explained Black on why he chose to be baptized. “I felt at home immediately when I first went to church and just kept on going back every week until I got baptized. I gained a testimony really fast and it’s been growing since I was baptized. I just love the Church. I love everything about it and I soon realized why Ammon was anxious to get me to go to church with him. He knew I’d become a better person because of it and he was right.”
Just prior to getting baptized, Black had begun receiving a lot of letters and recruiting attention. One school in particular that was after him was BYU. Having grown up in a family that cheered for the University of Utah, Black followed in line.
“I was a total Ute growing up," he explained. “I didn’t like BYU, I never wanted them to win, and I really never wanted them to beat Utah. My whole family was big Utah fans, so that’s how I grew up.”
BYU persisted in their recruitment, however, and when they gave him his official offer the Monday after he was baptized, he took it as a very definitive sign that he needed to change his allegiances almost instantly and accept the offer.
“It was meant to be,” said Black regarding the fact that he was offered by BYU just two days after being baptized. “You can’t tell me that it wasn’t meant to be. I mean, just days after being baptized, the Monday after I get offered by the school that is run by the Church. Everything just fell into place and I felt strongly, with no doubt in my mind, that I needed to commit and sign with BYU.”
While he’s still not aware of whether or not BYU coaches knew of his conversion prior to offering him, he doesn’t feel that it matters. For Black, it was a sure sign of what was meant to be.
“Here I was a new member of the Church, loving everything about the Church, and then I get offered by the Church’s school and I don‘t even think they knew that I was a member when they offered me," he said. “I was so excited and I didn’t even have to think about it long at all before I decided to commit. It was a great opportunity for me and was something I knew I had to do, just like I knew that I had to get baptized.”
His family was totally supportive of his decision to be baptized and continue to be supportive of him to this day. With his best friend now serving a mission, Black hopes to continue to follow Olsen’s inspiration and serve one himself.
“I don’t have definite mission plans and I really don’t know when I’d be able to go, but it’s something that I definitely want to do," he said. “Ammon has been such a great example to me and I’d like to continue to follow his example and serve a mission. I love the Church and I’d love to have the opportunity to share the gospel with others and bless their lives like those that shared it with me blessed mine.”
Black’s home has also undergone a color change, going from a red house to a total blue house after his parents were quick to change their allegiances from Utah to BYU.
“Oh, we’re all big BYU fans now, that’s for sure," said Black. “Like I said, they’ve been very supportive of me and my decisions, so they’re now behind BYU all the way. We all cheer for BYU now.”
With his family fully behind him, he now aims to continue receiving the blessings he’s found with being a member of the LDS Church. With the opportunity to play for and to attend BYU, Black feels he’ll be in the best place possible to help him grow even more than he has this past year.
“I love everything about BYU," he summed up. “I love the principles they teach, the coaches and the examples they are, the people that I’ll be playing with. Taloa’i Ho-Ching is one of my best friends for sure, so I’ll be going there with him, which is awesome. I just can’t wait to get there. I’m so excited to have the opportunity I have to continue my education at BYU. it’s all worked out perfectly and I really feel that all this was meant to be.”