'We are all part of the same divine family,' Elder Stevenson tells Salt Lake NAACP

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SALT LAKE CITY — Leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have again joined with their associates of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles was the keynote speaker at a luncheon for the NAACP’s Salt Lake City branch Monday at the Little America Hotel, where he commended the organization for its work in advancing equality and striving for justice in society.

Among those honored during the luncheon was Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera for her work in the community, according to the Deseret News. Rivera, who is the first female sheriff in Utah history, was awarded the 2020 Rosa Parks Award.

“We are all part of the same divine family,” Elder Stevenson said. “Our well-being is tied to our neighbor’s well-being.”

Prior to his prepared remarks, Elder Stevenson expressed sorrow for an outdated commentary on race that appeared in a recent church study manual.

“It was mistakenly included in the printed version of the manual, which had been prepared for print nearly two years ago,” Elder Stevenson said, as first reported by Deseret News reporter Tad Walch. “When it was brought to the attention of church leaders late last year, they directed that it be immediately removed in our annual online manual, which is used by the great majority of our members. We have also directed that any future printed manuals will reflect this change.

“We’re asking our members to disregard the paragraph in the printed manual. Now I’m deeply saddened and hurt by this error and for any pain that it may have caused our members and for others.”

Elder Stevenson then reiterated the church’s position on race, racism and race relations.

“We do condemn all racism, past and present, in any form, and we disavow any theory advanced that black or dark skin is a sign of a curse,” he said. “We are brothers and sisters, and I consider you friends. I love and appreciate you.”

Elder Stevenson ended his remarks with a quote from the church’s Book of Mormon, where he said God invites "all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denies none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female … all are alike unto God.”

Monday's gathering was the latest installment in a series of recent meetings and visits between the church and the NAACP. Church President Russell M. Nelson addressed the association’s national convention in July in Detroit, where he reiterated the same scriptural verse shared by Elder Stevenson on Monday.

“We are all connected,” President Nelson said. “We don’t have to be alike or look alike to have love for each other. We don’t even have to agree with each other to love each other.”

In May, the church awarded the NAACP for its work in promoting equality and justice. Elder Stevenson called for unity and civility in remarks he gave at a gala where the award was presented.

"Being your brother’s keeper will lead to bridging divisions rather than creating divisions," he said.

President M. Russell Ballard, acting-president of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, recently met with NAACP representatives in New York City, and the church’s top officials joined with the NAACP’s head leaders in a joint call for civility in 2018, as well. The two groups have also worked together on various initiatives, including adapting the church's self-reliance materials for black inner-city communities.


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