MLK principles aligning with the Church of Jesus Christ

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. The federal holiday is celebrated on the third Monday in January. (Library of Congress)

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is not a day off, but rather “a day on,” according to the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs, meaning a day to serve, learn, educate and practice. 

One way the division encourages those in Utah to observe the holiday is to practice Martin Luther King Jr.’s six principles of nonviolence. The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change defines Kingian nonviolence as a “love-centered way of thinking.”

Kingian nonviolence shares many of the same principles taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The principles closely align with teachings found in scriptural canon of the Church.

Martin Luther King Jr. Principles of Nonviolence

Corresponding Scripture References

Principle One: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people
Deut. 31:6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
Principle Two: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding
Job 42:10 And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.
Principle Three: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, or evil, not the people
Luke 1:79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Principle Four: Nonviolence holds that unearned, voluntary suffering for a just cause can educate and transform people and societies
D&C 1:28 And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.
Principle Five: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate
3 Nephi 12:44 Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you;
Principle Six: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice
2 Nephi 9:17 O the greatness and the justice of our God! For he executeth all his words, and they have gone forth out of his mouth, and his law must be fulfilled.

The theme for 2024’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day is “Shifting the Cultural Climate through the Study and Practice of Kingian Nonviolence,” according to the King Center. The King Center was founded by Martin Luther King Jr.’s late wife Coretta Scott King and is a resource center, institution and nonprofit.

King received inspiration for his philosophy of nonviolence from Jesus Christ and Mohandas K. Gandhi, according to the King Center. The Center promotes the principles as more than just ideals, but that King’s principles of nonviolence “should be embraced as a lifestyle.”

Service is also a large part of Utah’s MLK Day observance.

Brigham Young University’s motto is “Enter to learn, go forth to serve.” Service is a key objective in a BYU Education. (BYU Photo)

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that everyone can be great because everybody can serve,” said Gov. Spencer Cox in his 2023 MLK Day statement. 

One of BYU’s mottos is “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.”

Students looking to serve locally on Monday can participate in Y-Serve’s Community Outreach Day on Monday, Jan. 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Wilkinson Student Center. Volunteers will hear musical performances and work on volunteer projects.

The following toolkit was released by the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs and offers ideas for those looking for more ways to observe MLK Day.

First created as a federal holiday in November 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated annually on the third Monday in January. Utah was the last state to adopt Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In 2000, Gov. Michael Leavitt signed a bill renaming what was previously known as Human Rights Day to Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

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