The presidents of the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) and the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) have met in an historic news conference to call for an end to prejudice and greater ethnic and racial harmony.
Leaders of the two organisations met Thursday in Salt Lake City, where the LDS church is headquartered and has its primary temple. The organisations had met to begin exploring how they might collaborate to enrich efforts in areas like humanitarian work and education.
“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,” LDS President Russell Nelson said.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson said that he and his organisation admired the optimism Mr Nelson projected on the issue, and said they share similar values in regards to harmony and happiness for all people.
“Like the Latter-day Saints, we believe ll people, organisations and government representatives should come together to work through how to secure peace and happiness for all God’s children,” Mr Johnson said. “United, we call on all people to work in greater harmony, civility and respect for the beliefs of others to achieve this supreme and universal goal.”
The summit between the two organisations is the firs too its kind. The NAACP leadership is also holding national board meetings in Salt Lake City for the first time this week.
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The summit also comes just two weeks before the 40th anniversary of the church’s announcement that it would extend the the priesthood to all men regardless of race, though the president of the NAACP’s Salt Lake Branch has said that the timing is purely coincidence.
“It is a historic meeting and the NAACP Salt Lake Branch and myself as president are excited that the national board selected Salt Lake City to hold their May board meeting,” Jeanetta Williams, the branch president, told Deseret News. “We hope once they’re here and do some sightseeing, it won’t be their last time here.”
That timing, however, sparked an social media storm, with many on social media sharing posts Thursday that falsely claimed that the president of the LDS church had apologised for the religion’s history of racism, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
That social media trend was sparked after internet pranksters created a fake Mormon news website, which included summarised links to the essay that addressed the exclusion of black priests and members. At the end of that website the website attributed a fake statement fro Mr Nelson apologising for that racist history.