Using the relationship between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the NAACP as inspiration, Elder Gary E. Stevenson offered three points of counsel to hundreds gathered Monday to honor a storied civil rights activist — “be your brother’s keeper, foster civility and emulate Christlike love.”
Speaking at the 36th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Luncheon in Salt Lake City, Elder Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressed the topic, “All are alike unto God.”
Elder Stevenson thanked the NAACP for all the organization does to “eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.”
“We commend the work of the NAACP and celebrate its mission to advance equality and justice in our society,” he said.
Established in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. The Salt Lake Chapter of the organization was formed just nine years later in 1918.
The Church unites with friends and community partners, like the NAACP, to care for the poor and needy, he said.
“We lift our brothers and sisters through various humanitarian and welfare services around the world,” Elder Stevenson explained.
Quoting Proverbs 29:18, Elder Stevenson spoke about the importance of vision, noting “where there is no vision, the people perish.”
“The Church’s relationship with the NAACP has evolved from acquaintance to friend, to linking arms, to locking arms. This could not have happened without vision.”
Elder Stevenson then shared a demonstration highlighting the power of vision. Vision statements from the Church and the NAACP enhance understanding, he said.
Elder Stevenson read a vision statement from NAACP President Derrick Johnson: “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 all people to work in greater harmony, civility and respect for the beliefs of others to achieve this supreme and universal goal.”
He followed with a vision statement from President Russell M. Nelson: “We are all connected, and we have a God-given responsibility to help make life better for those around us. … 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. If we have any hope of reclaiming the goodwill and sense of humanity for which we yearn, it must begin with each of us, one person at a time.”
Elder Stevenson highlighted the three points of counsel that honor the Church of Jesus Christ/NAACP relationship:
“The work of forming a unified society begins in the soul…,” he said. “We fulfill the invitation of the Savior to love one another for love is of God. May we all strive to be our brother’s keeper, to foster civility and to emulate Christ like love.”
Elder Stevenson said the way people speak to one another is important. More important, he added, is to exemplify civility. “It is easy to call for civility without doing the work that makes it possible,” he said. “The simple, yet profound words of Jesus Christ, ‘if you love me keep my commandments,’ speak directly to our actions.”
All are alike unto God, Elder Stevenson concluded.
Quoting the Rev. Amos Brown of the NAACP, Elder Stevenson concluded: “It can be well in this nation when we lock arms, as I locked arms with President Nelson. Not as black and white. Not as [The] Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Baptist. But as children of God who are about loving everybody and bringing hope, happiness, and health to all of God’s children.”
All people are part of the same divine family, he said. “Our wellbeing is tied to our neighbors wellbeing.”
Elder Stevenson began his remarks saying he was “deeply saddened and hurt” by an error included in a recent Church manual referencing outdated commentary about race.
“Our position as a Church is clear. We do condemn all racism, past or present, in any form and we disavow any theory that black or dark skin is a sign of a curse. We are brothers and sisters and I consider you friends.”
The relationship between the NAACP and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
May 2018: NAACP’s first-ever national leadership meetings are held in Salt Lake City; NAACP leadership met with the First Presidency.
August 2018: The Church and the NAACP launched financial education and employability initiatives in select cities in the United States.
May 2019: Elder Gary E. Stevenson honors President/CEO Derrick Johnson and Vice Chair Karen Boykin-Towns for the NAACP’s commitment to advance equality and justice in society during a BYU Management Society’s event in Washington D.C.
July 2019: President Russell M. Nelson spoke at the NAACP National Convention in Detroit. He said: “Arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder, may we strive to lift our brothers and sisters everywhere, in every way we can. This world will never be the same.”