President Nelson joins senior leaders of NAACP in calling for racial reform; ‘solutions will come as we open our hearts,’ they write in op-ed

In a joint op-ed column published today by the online platform Medium, President Russell M. Nelson and senior leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called for racial reform, asking “people everywhere to join us in a journey of understanding and overcoming.”

“We invite all to pray to God that the people of this land will heed the Divine call to abandon attitudes of prejudice against any group of God’s children,” wrote the leaders. “We also invite people of goodwill everywhere to look for ways to reach out and serve someone of a different background or race. Everyone can do something.”

Titled “Locking arms about race in America: What the NAACP and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are doing together,” the op-ed is written by President Nelson; Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO; Leon Russell, NAACP chairman of the board; and the Reverend Amos C. Brown, chairman emeritus of religious affairs for the NAACP.

Video: President Nelson and the Reverend Amos Brown highlight need to move forward ‘Arm in Arm’

“Some might think us unlikely collaborators, but our respective organizations have connected in a significant way,” the leaders wrote. “Not as black or white, not as Baptists or members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but as children of God who are working to bring hope, happiness, and love to all of God’s children.”

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces the Rev. Amos C. Brown at the 110th annual national convention for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Detroit on Sunday, July 21, 2019.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces the Rev. Amos C. Brown at the 110th annual national convention for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Detroit on Sunday, July 21, 2019. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

In May 2018, the First Presidency and NAACP leaders released a joint statement calling for greater civility and racial harmony. Two months later, the Church announced a historic collaboration between the two organizations and launched a self-reliance initiative. As part of that initiative, members of the two organizations customized the Church’s materials for teaching personal finance. The 12-week personal finance program expanded from pilot groups held in Chicago and San Francisco.

The NAACP and BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School have also worked together on joint projects.

“During our collaborations, we quickly felt deep respect for one another, even referring to ourselves as ‘brothers from another mother,’” they wrote.  “Our common bond as followers of Jesus Christ and as religious leaders gave us a natural foundation from which to build a friendship as well as an opportunity to better appreciate each other’s unique perspective and experience.” 

The organizations’ joint efforts have revealed they have much more in common than issues that might appear to divide them, the leaders wrote.

“Unitedly we declare that the answers to racism, prejudice, discrimination and hate will not come from government or law enforcement alone. Solutions will come as we open our hearts to those whose lives are different than our own, as we work to build bonds of genuine friendship, and as we see each other as the brothers and sisters we are — for we are all children of a loving God.”

Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, speaks with President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at left during a press conference in Salt Lake City on Thursday, May 17, 2018.
Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, speaks with President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at left during a press conference in Salt Lake City on Thursday, May 17, 2018. Credit: Ravell Call, Deseret News

The leaders condemned the “senseless, heinous act of violence that needlessly took the life of George Floyd” and wrote that they mourn with his family, friends and community.

They also called on government, business and educational leaders at every level to review processes, laws and organizational attitudes regarding racism.

“Arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder, may we strive to lift our brothers and sisters everywhere, in every way we can.”