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First Presidency, NAACP national leaders call for civility, talk possible future efforts together

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — In a unified global call for increased civility, harmony and respect, the First Presidency joined leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in pledging to explore ways to serve together and lift those in need.

In a pair of statements offered Thursday morning in the Church Administration Building, both groups — the Church and the organization that seeks equal rights without discrimination based on race — briefly mentioned the possibilities of shared future efforts in humanitarian work, welfare service and education.

Citing “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” and its fundamental doctrine that all people are God’s children and therefore brothers and sisters, President Russell M. Nelson said: “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.”

Saying that service together to lift others needing help follows the Savior’s example and teaching, President Nelson added: “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.”

President Nelson was joined by his counselors in the First Presidency, Presidents Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring. Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles conducted the media conference and introduced the participants.

Derrick Johnson, who was elected in October 2017, as NAACP president and CEO, followed with his organization’s statement, mirroring phrases of calling “people and organizations and government representatives” to work “in greater harmony, civility and respect for the beliefs of others.”

Saying the NAACP strives to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, Johnson said the organization "now with a partner" in continuing to pursue community harmony and civility.

"I am proud to stand here today, to open up a dialogue, to seek ways of common interest, to work toward a higher pursue," he said. "This is a great opportunity. Thank you for this moment."

Johnson and the handful of NAACP leaders with him were in Salt Lake City for quarterly meetings of the 109-year-old organization’s 65-member board. It was the NAACP’s first-ever leadership meetings held in Utah.

The First Presidency and the NAACP leaders met together briefly Thursday morning before issuing the statements. Neither President Nelson or Johnson took any questions from the media after making their statements.

Below is President Nelson’s full statement made Thursday morning:

“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 the 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 have begun 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 ye are not one ye are not mine’ (Doctrine and Covenants 38:27).

“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, regard and blessings that God seeks for all of His children.

“Thank you very much.”

Johnson then followed with the following full statement, first addressing President Nelson and then directing his remarks to the gathered media:

“President Nelson, the statement you just expressed, the very core of our beliefs and mission at the NAACP — we admire and share your optimism that all peoples can work together in harmony and should collaborate more on areas of common interest. Thank you.

To the media, as the NAACP celebrate this 64th anniversary of the landmark decision of Brown v. 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 all 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, we are clear that it is our job to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. And we do so through an advocacy voice, but now with a partner, who seek to pursue harmony and civility within 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 pursuit. This is a great opportunity. Thank you for this moment."