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President Nelson Called Out Prejudice In The Church, But Was That Enough?

A photo of Russell M. Nelson.
Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
President Russell M. Nelson, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, condemned racism during the Church’s semi-annual conference this weekend. Nelson called for members to respect all of God’s children.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ President Russell M. Nelson called on members to “lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice” during General Conference this weekend.

Nelson said he grieves seeing Black people suffer from racism and pleaded for members to be respectful of all of God’s children.

“I assure you that your standing before God is not determined by the color of your skin,” Nelson said Sunday morning. “Favor or disfavor with God is dependent upon your devotion to God and His commandments, and not the color of your skin.”

Nelson’s comments followed similar speeches by other top leaders Saturday at the conference. They come as many members live through a reckoning over racial injustice, especially in the U.S., following the May police killing of George Floyd.

James Jones, who is Black and an active Latter-day Saint, said before this weekend, he was hoping Church leaders would speak out against white supremacy.

Following the conference, he said it was groundbreaking to see a Church leader call out racism. He said he counts this as a victory, but wishes Nelson had been more direct.

“What we really need is condemnations of police brutality, condemnations of people who would say things like ‘all lives matter’ and other more specific examples of racism especially within our faith community,” Jones said, who is a co-host of the podcast “Beyond the Block” where he discusses marginalized communities within the faith.

He said he expects and wants more from Church leaders because he’s “trying not to be satisfied with crumbs.”

Like the leaders who spoke on Saturday, Nelson didn’t mention the Church’s ban on Black men in the lay priesthood. The prohibition — which stood until 1978 — was rooted in the belief that black skin was a curse. It remains one of the most sensitive topics in the faith’s history.

The Church disavowed the ban and the reasons behind it in a 2013 essay but has never issued a formal apology — a necessary step for some members.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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