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Church Releases Statement Following Meeting with NAACP Leaders, NAACP Chairman Calls Meeting "God-Assisted"

On Thursday, the First Presidency and leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) met together for the first time in a historic meeting in Salt Lake City. After the meeting, President Russell M. Nelson and President Derrick Johnson of the NAACP released the following statements during a press conference:

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Image by Danielle B. Wagner
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to affirm its fundamental doctrine and our heartfelt conviction that all people are God's precious children and therefore are brothers and sisters. Nearly a quarter-century ago, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles proclaimed that all human beings, male and female, are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of Heavenly Parents, and as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. 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.
In meetings this morning we began to explore ways, such as education and humanitarian service, in which our respective members and others can serve and move forward together, lifting our brothers and sisters who need our help just as the Savior Jesus Christ would do. These are His words: "I say unto you, be one. And if you are not one, ye are not mine."
Together, we invite all people, organizations, and governmental units to work with greater civility, eliminating prejudice of all kinds and focusing more on the many areas and interests that we all have in common. As we lead our people to work cooperatively, we will all achieve the respect, the regard, and blessings that God seeks for all His children. Thank you very much. 

The following is President Derrick Johnson's statement: 

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Image by Danielle B. Wagner
President Nelson, in that statement you just expressed the very core of our belief and mission as NAACP. We admire and share your optimism that all people can work together in harmony and should collaborate more on areas of common interests, thank you.
To the media, as NAACP celebrates this 64th anniversary of the landmark decision of Brown vs. Board of Education, like the Latter-day Saints, we believe all people and organizations and government representatives should come together to work to secure peace and happiness for all of God's children. Unitedly, we can call on our people to work in greater harmony, civility, and respect for the beliefs of others to achieve this supreme and universal goal. We compliment The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its good-faith efforts to bless not only its members but people throughout the United States, and indeed the world, in so many ways. The NAACP through our mission is clear that it is our job to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. And we do so through an advocacy voice, and now, with a partner who seeks to pursue harmony and civility throughout our community. I am proud to stand here today to open up a dialogue, to seek ways of common interest, to work toward a higher interest. This is a great opportunity; thank you for this moment. 

After the press conference, Leon W. Russell, chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors, called the meeting between the NAACP and LDS Church "God-assisted." "No matter what your belief is, sometimes you have to believe there is some direction coming. I believe that spiritually this was directed. It was meant to be, purposeful, and intended," he said. "It was mutual, let's say God-assisted, work. It so happened we were looking for ways to reach out, they were looking for ways to reach out, and we got connected, and so here we are."

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Image by Danielle B. Wagner

About the Church's past restrictions with race and the priesthood, Russell noted that all churches have been influenced by public opinion, history, and evolving race relationships. "That's not a barrier to working with each other," he said. "That's a recognition of history."

About this historic first meeting between these organizations, President Derrick Johnson said, "We started with the understanding that the loss of civility can paralyze any community. Now it is our opportunity to work with the LDS Church to look at ways we have common interests, common goals, based on our mission. We both think that humanity is important, that all individuals should be treated with dignity, and from our purchase, we are going to pursue ways we can increase the respect of each and every person within this country."

Lead image from Mormon Newsroom
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