NAACP and LDS Church meet as 40th anniversary of priesthood extension approaches

1115
LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson (center left) shakes hands with National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Derrick Johnson during a short press briefing on Thursday, May 17, 2018, after a historic meeting between the two organizations earlier in the day. The two groups put a terse history behind them and began exploring new opportunities for collaboration.

The NAACP and the LDS Church issued a joint statement Thursday morning expressing their shared interest for greater civility, racial and ethnic harmony and mutual respect after a past history of tension.

Marking the beginning of a new relationship, the presidents and other prominent leaders of the two organizations stood shoulder to shoulder in the Church Administration Building and expressed appreciation for their shared dialogue.

Thursday morning’s meeting was the first time that top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have officially come together after a history of friction during the 20th century. Until a revelation on June 1, 1978, announced by then-Church President Spencer W. Kimball, black men were barred from holding the faith’s priesthood, incurring the condemnation of the NAACP and other African American organizations.

The church will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the revelation extending the opportunity for priesthood blessings to “all worthy male members” with a public celebration at the LDS Conference Center on Friday, June 1. The event will feature a slate of African American LDS musicians and music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The “Be One” event will be featured live online on the church’s website, www.lds.org.

Thursday’s event also fell on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 that ended segregation in public schools and was a civil rights milestone.

At Thursday’s press briefing, which was also broadcast live on the church’s website, both organizations said they feel optimistic about the future.

“Together we invite all people, organizations and governmental units to work with greater civility eliminating prejudice of all kinds and focusing more on the many areas and interests that we all have in common,” LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson said.

The joint statement came hours after NAACP President Derrick Johnson and President Nelson began exploring new ways respective members can work together to accomplish their core values in a meeting that morning.

Without going into specifics, President Nelson said efforts like education and humanitarian work are some of the areas in which the two groups plan to serve and move forward as one.

“Today, in unity with such capable and impressive leaders as the national officials of the NAACP, we are impressed to call on people of this nation, and indeed, the entire world, to demonstrate greater civility, racial and ethnic harmony and mutual respect,” President Nelson said.

He went on to affirm one of the core doctrines of the LDS Church expressing the need for acceptance.

“All people are God’s precious children and therefore, our brothers and sisters,” President Nelson said. “Nearly a quarter a century ago, The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve apostles proclaimed that all human beings male and female are created in the image of God, each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents and as such each, has a divine nature and destiny.”

President Johnson said the NAACP admires and shares the LDS Church’s optimism for a new era of collaboration and common interest.

“Like the Latter-day Saints, we believe all people, organizations and government representatives should come together to work to secure peace and happiness for all of God’s children,” he said. “United we can call on all people to work in greater harmony, civility and respect for the beliefs of others to achieve this supreme and universal goal.”

President Johnson also praised the LDS Church for their worldwide humanitarian aid programs.

“We compliment The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its good faith efforts to bless not only its members, but people throughout the United States and, indeed, the world in so many ways,” President Johnson said. “These include humanitarian and welfare services, pioneering work in higher education and promoting the dignity of all people as children of God.”

The NAACP’s mission is to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, President Johnson said, expressing his happiness for the new partnership between the organizations.

“I am proud to stand here today to open up a dialogue, to seek ways of common interest, to work towards a higher place. This is a great opportunity. Thank you for this moment,” he finished.

The two organizations have warmed toward each other in recent years, and local NAACP officials have previously met with top church leadership.

Last summer, the church issued a strongly-worded statement after a white supremacist event in Virginia turned deadly and created racial tension nationwide. “White supremacist attitudes are morally wrong and sinful, and we condemn them. Church members who promote or pursue a ‘white culture’ or white supremacy agenda are not in harmony with the teachings of the church,” the church’s statement said.

Read the complete statements from Thursday’s press briefing below:

President Nelson

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to affirm its fundamental doctrine—and our heartfelt conviction—that all people are God’s precious children and are therefore brothers and sisters. Nearly a quarter century ago, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles proclaimed that “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.” 

Today, in unity with such capable and impressive leaders as the national officials of the NAACP, we are impressed to call on people of this nation, and indeed, the entire world, to demonstrate greater civility, racial and ethnic harmony, and mutual respect. In meetings this morning, we have begun to explore ways—such as education and humanitarian service—in which our respective members and others can serve and move forward together, lifting our brothers and sisters who need our help, just as our Savior, Jesus Christ, would have us do. These are His words: “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:27).

Together we invite all people, organizations, and governments to work with greater civility, eliminating prejudice of all kinds, and focusing more on the many areas and interests that we all have in common. As we lead our people to work cooperatively, we will all achieve the respect, regard, and blessings that God seeks for all of His children. Thank you. 

President Johnson

President Nelson, the statement you just made expresses the very core of our beliefs and mission at the NAACP. We admire and share your optimism that all peoples can work together in harmony and should collaborate more on areas of common interest. Thank you.

Like the Latter-day Saints, we believe all people, organizations and government representatives should come together to work through how to secure peace and happiness for all God’s children. Unitedly, we call on all people to work in greater harmony, civility and respect for the beliefs of others to achieve this supreme and universal goal.

We compliment The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its good faith efforts to bless not only its members, but people throughout the United States and, indeed, the world in so many ways. These include humanitarian and welfare services, pioneering work in higher education, and promoting the dignity of all people as children of God. We enthusiastically look forward to continuing association with the Church and its leaders, as indicated. We invite all people and organizations to follow our mutual example in coming together and finding ways to work in harmony and with greater civility. Thank you.

Read or listen to a Portuguese translation of this story.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email