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(RNS) — Russell M. Nelson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will address the annual meeting of the NAACP on Sunday, the latest sign of rapprochement between Mormon leaders and the nation’s historic advocacy organization for African Americans.
Since Nelson took office in January of 2018, Latter-day Saints have joined with the NAACP in several appearances to promote racial equality and put an end to prejudice of all kinds. Notably, the church is drawing upon its own commitment to individual self-reliance by partnering with the NAACP to offer free courses in personal finance and business in four U.S. cities.
Guess - Nelson - Program - Convention - Ventures
It’s my guess that we’ll hear Nelson speak about this program at the convention or possibly present other joint ventures that have yet to be announced. I would be surprised if he openly discusses the elephant in the room: the church’s own past discrimination toward people of African descent.
It’s not a history of which church members should be proud. The mission of the NAACP, founded in 1909, is “to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.”
Mission - LDS - Church
That is not a mission the LDS church has always supported.
In 1908, according to historians Matthew Harris and Newell Bringhurst, the church’s First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve instructed missionaries not to “take the initiative in proselyting among the Negro people . . . or people tainted with Negro blood.”
Century - Policy - America - LDS - Church
A century ago such a policy was, unfortunately, not terribly unusual in America. What was unusual was how long, and how vigorously, the LDS church clung to and defended its ongoing racism. It did not ordain black men to the priesthood or allow black men and women to enter its temples until 1978, more than a...
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