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LDS church president calls on members to help end racism

LDS church president calls on members to help end racism

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ president issued another plea for members to help end racism, saying Sunday at the faith’s signature conference that God loves people of all races equally and that it pains him to see Black people suffer prejudice.

Russell M. Nelson’s comments followed similar speeches by other top leaders Saturday at the conference that comes as many members live through a reckoning over racial injustice, especially in the U.S. following the May police killing of Black man George Floyd.

“God does not love one race more than another. His doctrine on this matter is clear,” Nelson said. “I assure you that your standing before God is not determined by the color of your skin.”

Members believe church presidents are living prophets who receive revelations from God.

Like the leaders who spoke on Saturday, Nelson didn’t mention the church’s past ban on Black men in the lay priesthood. The prohibition — which stood until 1978 — was rooted in the belief that black skin was a curse. It remains one of the most sensitive topics in the faith’s history.

The church disavowed the ban and the reasons behind it in a 2013 essay but has never issued a formal apology — a necessary step for some members.

The Utah-based religion known widely as the Mormon church doesn’t provide ethnic or racial breakdowns of its 16.6 million members — but scholars say Black followers make up a small portion of adherents. None of the 15 men who will sit on the faith’s top leadership panels are Black. Church leadership did become more diverse in 2018 when it sent to the previously all-white Quorum of the Twelve Apostles its first-ever apostles of Latin American and Asian descent.

This weekend’s twice-yearly conference is the second one held this year without an audience.

Since becoming president in 2018, the 96-year-old Nelson has called for racial harmony and launched a formal partnership with the NAACP.

“I grieve that our Black brothers and sisters the world over are enduring the pains of racism and prejudice,” Nelson said.

Mormon president calls on members to help end racism

This Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, video image streamed by The Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shows church President Russell M. Nelson, at podium, with top leaders during the opening of the 190th Semiannual General Conference at the Conference Center Theater on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.

In Saturday’s meetings, top leaders from urged members to root out racism and make the faith an “oasis of unity” while also decrying violence at recent racial injustice protests they said amounted to “anarchy.”

A church leader also offered guidance ahead of next month’s presidential election: Peacefully accept the results.

The election advice from Dallin H. Oaks, the second-highest-ranking leader of the faith, came after President Donald Trump has refused to commit to accepting November’s results and tries to sow doubts about the voting process.

Oaks didn’t mention Trump by name, but referenced teachings from church founder Joseph Smith for members to follow laws where they live.

“It means that we obey the current law and use peaceful means to change it. It also means that we peacefully accept the results of elections,” Oaks said. “We will not participate in the violence threatened by those disappointed with the outcome. In a democratic society, we always have the opportunity and the duty to persist peacefully until the next election.”

In the same sweeping speech at the signature conference of the faith, Oaks said peaceful protests are protected by the U.S. constitution but spoke out forcefully against actions at recent rallies that he said go beyond what is protected by law.

“Protesters have no right to destroy, deface or steal property or to undermine the government’s legitimate police powers,” said Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice. “The constitution and laws contain no invitation to revolution or anarchy.”

Oaks tried to strike a balance between preaching unity and obedience to the faith’s 16.6 million adherents worldwide. He called on members to help root out racism against people of all cultures.

“This country should be better in eliminating racism, not only against Black Americans ... but also against Latinos, Asians, and other groups,” Oaks said. “This nation’s history of racism is not a happy one and we must do better.”

Fellow church leader Quentin L. Cook, also a member of a top governing panel called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, made a similar plea for the religion to become a big tent for people of all racial and cultural backgrounds.

“With our all-inclusive doctrine, we can be an oasis of unity and celebrate diversity,” Cook said.

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