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NAACP, UNCF and Church of Jesus Christ announce new joint initiatives

Jun 14, 2021, 11:42 AM | Updated: 12:13 pm

SALT LAKE CITY –Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, joined with leaders from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the United Negro College Fund outlined plans for three new collaborations in a joint announcement Monday.

“Leaders of the Church have found common ground with the NAACP as we have discussed challenges that beset some of God’s children,” President Nelson said on Monday.

“The challenges are huge, and our capacities are limited. But together, we want to make a difference, even though our efforts may seem relatively small,” he continued.

President Nelson said on the week before Juneteenth, a time set apart to remember the end of slavery in the US, that the groups came together to announce these plans.

The groups announced first an educational scholarship through the UNCF to help Black students attend college in the US. President Nelson announced the church has committed to donating $1 million each year for the next three years.

Also announced was a one-time donation of $250,000 to create an Amos C. Brown Student Fellowship to Ghana. President Nelson said this program will allow students to understand and learn more about their heritage.

The third was a commitment from the church to donate $6 million over the next three years in humanitarian efforts to help teach self-reliance in underprivileged communities around the country. 

Two great commandments

“These efforts represent the ongoing desire of The Church of Jesus Christ to teach and live the two great commandments, to love God and neighbor. We are pleased to corporate, and collaborate with the NAACP on these opportunities,” President Nelson said.

Derrick Johnson the President and CEO of the NAACP said their partnership with The Church of Jesus Christ was founded on friendship and those same two great commandments. 

“We are honored to continue this partnership with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints … And as a community who have experienced extreme polarization and otherness in this country, we also understand that other communities have also suffered as a result as the dominant culture creating otherness.”

President Johnson continued by relating a sermon he heard from a minister who had traveled to Africa and noticed a unique way the people in a particular village greeted each other. 

“When individuals see each other, regardless of their walk of life, they are greeted with the saying, I see the Christ in you.

“Think about that saying. If we are true believers and we can see one another and we can the Christ in each other we can start from the place of being open and understanding. Start from a place to appreciate one’s uniqueness as their genius, and appreciate the need to collectively put all our geniuses together because God created all of us in his image,” he said.

President Johnson said the efforts outlined on Monday are a beacon of light in a polarized world where two groups can look at each other and “see the Christ” in each other. 

Inclusion and love 

On Sunday, President Johnson spoke in a sacrament meeting held in downtown Salt Lake City in the home ward belonging to Elder Ronald A. Rasband and Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elders Rasband and Gong were present, and The Church News says Elder Rasband called NAACP leaders “dear friends.”

President Johnson’s remarks included a memory of his pastor speaking about Nehemiah and about love — “build a wall of inclusion, build a wall of love, build a wall so that you are not distracted by the outside forces trying to pull people apart, but included in the space of love that we are all intended to be in,” he said according to the Church News.

President Johnson said the sermon concluded with a plea to be open enough to love despite differences “because our uniqueness is actually our genius.”

In May 2018, President Johnson stood with President Russell M. Nelson together in the same spot in the Church Administration Building to call for greater racial and ethnic harmony and ending prejudice.

They also discussed ways their members could collaborate in the future.

“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,” said President Nelson at the time.

“I am proud to stand here today, to open up a dialogue, to seek ways of common interest, to work towards a higher purpose,” said President Johnson.

This story will be updated

Related links:

June 2020 Church president, NAACP call for “racial harmony” in joint op-ed
April 2021 ‘Tangibilitating’ the Gospel: How President Nelson has made faith real and obtainable

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NAACP, UNCF and Church of Jesus Christ announce new joint initiatives