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LDS Church, NAACP leaders call for more civility in society in first meeting

Thursday , May 17, 2018 - 3:52 PM

KARISSA NEELY, Daily Herald

SALT LAKE CITY — Leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People officially met for the first time Thursday, calling for more civility and respect in society.

Marking the 64th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson and NAACP President Derrick Johnson spoke briefly to the media after historic meetings between officials from the two organizations. Johnson explained that this is the first time leaders have officially sat down together.

"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," Johnson said.

Both leaders asked for civility, respect around the nation and the world, and pledged to work together toward common goals — including addressing disparities in education, issues of poverty and hunger.

"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," Nelson said.

Though the history of the LDS Church is marked by discrimination against people of color, NAACP representatives said that is not their focus in these meetings. After the press conference, Leon W. Russell, chairman of the NAACP, explained that all religious denominations have some form of prejudice in their history, and the important point is that the LDS Church has acknowledged this.

"This church has evolved, as the rest of the world has evolved. So that history is there, we face it, and we use it to build for the future. That's what we do," Russell said, adding that he is excited about an upcoming event celebrating the 40th anniversary of the church's announcement of a revelation that allowed all worthy men to become part of the church’s priesthood and all worthy members to enter the church’s temples.

The goal, Russell explained, is to form a partnership and move forward "on issues that are important to both organizations."

"We're very concerned, as you heard in the remarks, about civility in the civic arena. People need to think about people. They need to talk civilly. They can disagree, but they need to look for solutions. And we think that you do that when know each other — when you get to know each other. And that's what we want to do with the church," Russell said.

Nelson and his two counselors in the church's First Presidency met with Johnson, Russell and several other NAACP national board members Thursday morning at the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City.

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