LDS church leaders meet with NAACP, call for ‘greater civility and racial harmony’

SALT LAKE CITY - Greater civility and racial harmony. That's what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the NAACP are calling for in a joint statement Thursday.

“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,” LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson said, 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 brothers and sisters,” President Nelson said.

“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,” Derrick Johnson said, 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.”

Thursday's meeting was the first step in erasing some of the tensions between the two groups.

“Organizations evolve over time with greater understanding," Johnson said. "They're more respectful of all human beings."

The meeting comes a month before the church’s 40-year celebration marking the end of its ban against blacks holding the priesthood. When asked if the church apologized, the NAACP said no.

“I think it's not for us to demand an apology," said Leon Russell, NAACP National Chairman of the Board. "I think the church in its own way will come to that conclusion based in their own spiritual feelings and on their belief."

Donald Harwell joined the LDS church 35 years ago. He is the past president of Genesis, a group originally created for Black LDS members.

“10 years ago, we tried to pull off the same thing and nobody showed," he said.

He said this move opens many doors.

“They realized we're a value to the church," he said. "We're as important as they are. And I appreciate that. It means a whole lot.

NAACP leaders say the meeting is even more meaningful for them because today they celebrate the 64th anniversary of the Brown vs Board of Education decision - which ended school segregation.

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 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.

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.

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.