After months defined by racial tensions, peaceful protests and lawless riots in the United States and in other nations of the earth, President Russell M. Nelson declared that all people are equal in God’s eyes.
“Today, I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice,” said the leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday morning. “I plead with you to promote respect for all of God’s children.”
Speaking during the 190th Semiannual General Conference, President Nelson asked 16.5 million Latter-day Saints worldwide to “listen carefully to what I am about to say.”
“God does not love one race more than another,” he emphasized. “His doctrine on this matter is clear. He invites all to come unto Him, ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female’ (2 Nephi 26:33).
“I assure you that your standing before God is not determined by the color of your skin.
“Favor or disfavor with God is dependent upon your devotion to God and His commandments, and not the color of your skin.”
The question for all of God’s children, regardless of race, is the same, he said.
“Are you willing to let God prevail in your life? Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life? Will you allow His words, His commandments, and His covenants to influence what you do each day? Will you allow His voice to take priority over any other? Are you willing to let whatever He needs you to do take precedence over every other ambition? Are you willing to have your will swallowed up in His?”
President Nelson’s words followed similar language decrying racism from other senior leaders of the global faith.
President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency said Latter-day Saints — as citizens and as members of the Lord’s Church — “we must do better to help root out racism.”
Knowing that “we are all children of God gives us a divine vision of the worth of all others and the will and ability to rise above prejudice and racism,” President Oaks said.
The United States, he said, “should be better in eliminating racism, not only against black Americans, who were most visible in the recent protests, but also against Latinos, Asians, and other groups. This nation’s history of racism is not a happy one and we must do better.”
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said on Saturday morning that Church doctrine affirms that all of God’s children are brothers and sisters.
“With our all-inclusive doctrine, we can be an oasis of unity and celebrate diversity,” he said. “Unity and diversity are not opposites. We can achieve greater unity as we foster an atmosphere of inclusion and respect for diversity.”
Wards and branches in Church are determined by geography or language, not by race or culture, he said. Race is not identified on membership records.
“The Savior’s ministry and message have consistently declared all races and colors are children of God,” he said.
Earlier this year, after protests, riots and violence across the United States following the May 25 death of George Floyd — a black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck while restraining him — President Nelson condemned racism and pleaded for peace on social media.
“We join with many throughout this nation and around the world who are deeply saddened at recent evidences of racism and a blatant disregard for human life,” he wrote.
“We abhor the reality that some would deny others respect and the most basic of freedoms because of the color of his or her skin. We are also saddened when these assaults on human dignity lead to escalating violence and unrest.”
The Creator calls on all to abandon attitudes of prejudice against any group of God’s children, President Nelson wrote. “Any of us who has prejudice toward another race needs to repent!”
President Nelson emphasized the Savior’s example of ministering to the excluded and marginalized during his earthly ministry. “As His followers, can we do anything less? The answer is no! We believe in freedom, kindness, and fairness for all of God’s children!
“Let us be clear. We are brothers and sisters, each of us the child of a loving Father in Heaven. His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, invites all to come unto Him — ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female.’ It behooves each of us to do whatever we can in our spheres of influence to preserve the dignity and respect every son and daughter of God deserves.”
Any nation can only be as great as its people, President Nelson continued. Citizens must cultivate a moral compass that helps them distinguish between right and wrong.
“Illegal acts such as looting, defacing, or destroying public or private property cannot be tolerated. Never has one wrong been corrected by a second wrong. Evil has never been resolved by more evil,” he wrote.
“We need to foster our faith in the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. We need to foster a fundamental respect for the human dignity of every human soul, regardless of their color, creed, or cause. And we need to work tirelessly to build bridges of understanding rather than creating walls of segregation.”
President Nelson concluded by urging all to come together for peace. “I plead with us to work together for peace, for mutual respect, and for an outpouring of love for all of God’s children.”
A year earlier, on July 21, 2019, President Nelson issued a call to action to members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “Arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder, may we strive to lift our brothers and sisters everywhere, in every way we can,” he said during the NAACP national convention in Detroit, Michigan. “This world will never be the same.”
During his 10-minute address, President Nelson praised the work of the NAACP — the United State’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. “Simply stated, we strive to build bridges of cooperation rather than walls of segregation,” said President Nelson.
In 2018, leaders of the NAACP, led by Chairman Leon Russell, visited Salt Lake City and met with the First Presidency.
At a press conference following that 2018 meeting, President Nelson explained that a fundamental doctrine of the Church is that all people are God’s children — all part of the same divine family. NAACP President Derrick Johnson and President Nelson then issued a joint invitation for all people, organizations and governmental units “to work with greater civility, to eliminate prejudice of all kinds, and focus on important interests that we have in common.”