First Presidency and NAACP Leaders Call for Greater Civility, Racial Harmony

First Presidency and NAACP Leaders Call for Greater Civility, Racial Harmony

Video

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the national leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) are calling for greater civility and racial harmony. Senior Church leaders and the NAACP released a joint statement Thursday morning following a meeting in the Church Administration Building on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. 

Downloadable video: B-roll | SOTs 

“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,” said President Russell M. Nelson, who was joined by his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring.

“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 therefore our brothers and sisters,” said President Nelson.

“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,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP. “These include humanitarian and welfare services, pioneering work in higher education and promoting the dignity of all people as children of God.”

In addition to Johnson, other NAACP leadership in attendance at the meeting included Leon W. Russell, chairman, board of directors; Wilbur O. Colom, special counsel to the board of directors; Jeanetta Williams, local Utah branch president; and Dr. Amos C. Brown, chairman of interfaith relations.

The NAACP and Church leaders are exploring a possible service project where local members of each organization can work together, as the Church does with a number of organizations. Current plans are being considered to increase education and wage improvement among members of a mutually identified community.

“The thing that’s great about this morning is that we’ve begun a dialogue, a dialogue I think that will be fruitful in the sense that it gives us an opportunity as two organizations that believe highly in education, that believe there’s a need to eliminate poverty in this world and eliminate hunger in this world,” said Leon W. Russell, chairman of the NAACP board of directors.

“I’m thoroughly impressed that this program and this news media opportunity came together,” said Donald Harwell, a Latter-day Saint in Utah.

“I look forward to wonderful, marvelous things happening because of this joint venture. And I applaud it. I thank God for it,” said Catherine Stokes, a member of the Church.

On Friday, Church leaders hosted a luncheon for the NAACP and invited community members. Paul Cobb, a lifelong NAACP member and a newspaper owner in Oakland, spoke of his decades-long friendship with the Church. When he was editor of the Oakland Tribune some 25 years ago, he was approached by a Church leader who asked him to write articles about Latter-day Saints.

“Little did I know, after 21 articles and being inspired by what I discovered about the Church, I found out that prophet [Gordon B.] Hinckley of the Church had made copies of those articles and circulated them to all the members of the apostles. And it was required reading,” Cobb said. “When I finally met the apostles and I met the prophet, they all knew who I was, and I didn't know why or how they had known.”

Pointing to the JustServe pin on his jacket, Cobb said Thursday’s announcement embodies the idea that the NAACP and the Church “are here to move forward into the rest of the 21st century with the motto of ‘Let's Just Serve.’” He also said he hopes this partnership “will cause us to rediscover the common bond of our rootage so that we can branch out to reach out to the rest of the country.”

On Sunday, the group will attend a special performance of "Music and the Spoken Word," featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square.

The NAACP’s visit to Salt Lake City comes two weeks before the Church’s 40th anniversary celebration of the 1978 revelation on the priesthood, scheduled for June 1 at the Conference Center.

Read the full statements 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 therefore our 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 the Savior, Jesus Christ, would 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 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. 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 very much. 

Derrick 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.

To the media, as the NAACP celebrates this 64th anniversary of the landmark decision Brown vs. Board of Education, 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 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. The NAACP, through our mission, we are clear that it is our job to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. And we do so in an advocacy voice, but now with a partner who seeks to pursue harmony and civility within our community. I am proud to stand here today to open up a dialog to seek ways of common interest to work towards a higher purpose. This is a great opportunity. Thank you for this moment. 

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.