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SALT LAKE CITY — Martin Luther King, Jr. defined the love spoken of by Jesus in the Bible as "redemptive goodwill for all men," in a speech in Cobo Hall in 1963.
"History is cluttered with the wreckage of communities that failed to follow this command," he said.
In a joint op-ed in The Detroit News, Karen Boykin-Towns, vice chair of the NAACP Board of Directors and Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, used King's words to underscore the importance of collaboration between groups.
In 1963, King's words came at the end of the famed March to Freedom, a march that was the largest civil rights demonstration up to that point. The march would not have been as effective, the op-ed authors assert, had leaders of the Detroit NAACP not insisted that it be opened to all supporters of the movement.
In a similar display of collaboration and openness toward all supporters, leaders of the NAACP have invited Latter-day Saint President Russell M. Nelson to speak at the 110th national convention of the NAACP in Detroit, Michigan, Sunday.
"By having the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speak in the same city and space where King once marched, the NAACP is demonstrating once again that it stands on the side of collaboration and cooperation," the op-ed states.
The conference is being held more than 56 years after King's speech in Detroit, in the same location where he "foreshadowed those immortal words" given in his "I Have a Dream" speech, the op-ed says. President Nelson's involvement in the conference is a nod toward an ongoing partnership between the groups.
"In recent years the NAACP and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have found significant common cause," The Detroit Press piece reads. "And the partnership has become something of a parable in what coaction can accomplish in an era too often marked by division."
Top Latter-day Saint leaders have worked to make the church’s partnership with the NAACP a “high priority,” according to a news release from the church.
The two groups met in early 2018 and customized the church’s self-reliance materials and programs for education and employment initiatives across the United States. Presidents of both organizations then called for racial and ethnic harmony during a press conference following the meeting.
Those who participate in the free self-reliance initiative attend multiweek personal finance courses in person. "The preliminary results are promising," the op-ed reads.
The Detroit News piece also highlights another partnership between the NAACP and Brigham Young University, a church-owned school.
The initiative "leverages the school’s large alumni lawyer network to assist people — pro bono — with minor legal issues before the courts," according to the op-ed.
"At a time when we have too many social divisions and partitions, this emerging partnership between the NAACP and the Church echoes, in some small way, King’s call in Cobo Hall to transform 'the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.'"