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Ruffin Bridgeforth

Some people let circumstances discourage them and cause them to abandon their goals and dreams in a fit of bitter despair. Others learn to master circumstances and hang onto their convictions at all costs.

Ruffin Bridgeforth was solidly in the latter group, and his life will stand as a testament to faith and boundless optimism.Bridgeforth, who died Friday at age 74, stood as an unshakable pillar of strength to black members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He joined the LDS Church at a time when black males were not allowed to hold the priesthood. He accepted that condition on faith and continued undaunted in following the teachings of the church. He had a spiritual conviction that was unconditional.

In 1971, he was made president of the Genesis Group, which was organized by church leaders and was charged with fellowshipping black members of the church. There he worked tirelessly, always with the attitude that he needed to contribute as much as he could to his church and to other people.

It was a philosophy he never abandoned. When the priesthood was extended to all worthy male members of the church in 1978, Bridgeforth was one of the first black members to be ordained. He then served as a stake high councilor and in the bishopric of a church branch that served inmates at the Utah State Prison.

His life may have attracted attention mainly because of his race and his ability to bridge an important turning point in church history, but Bridgeforth's real legacy is one of service. Friends remember his tireless efforts to help others. He was often in area hospitals visiting sick church members. He worked hard to help the poor and to bring comfort and hope to prison inmates.

Bridgeforth should be remembered among the great Utahns of the 20th century. His life was an example all people would do well to follow, and he has left a legacy that won't soon be forgotten.