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Sharpton apologizes to LDS Church apostles

The Rev. Al Sharpton apologized Thursday to two apostles of the LDS Church for a comment he made during a recent debate that suggested members of the church didn't believe in God.

Sharpton also asked Elder Russell M. Nelson and Elder Henry B. Eyring, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Quorum of the Twelve, for a meeting in Salt Lake City within the next 30 days.

"He did call and talk to Elder Nelson and Elder Eyring and our statement right now is we appreciate it very much, Rev. Sharpton's call, and we consider the matter closed," said LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter.

Sharpton did not, however, apologize to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney even though the comment, made during a debate on religion held Monday in New York City, was directed at the former leader of Salt Lake's 2002 Winter Olympics.

"As for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyway, so don't worry about that, that's a temporary situation," Sharpton said, a comment that Romney later called, "extraordinarily bigoted."

A statement issued by Sharpton said he also telephoned Romney, the only Mormon candidate seeking the White House in 2008, "to call upon him to engage in a dialogue of reconciliation between African-Americans, conservatives and members of the Mormon church ... ."

The statement said that although Sharpton's "words were completely distorted and taken out of context, and that he feels that some of the distortion was politically motivated, he does feel for any member of the Mormon church that was inadvertently hurt or troubled by that distortion and apologized for any lack of clarity in his words that could have led to anyone feeling that he was disregarding their religious beliefs."

Sharpton, a Pentecostal minister and a former Democratic candidate for president, told listeners on his syndicated radio program that while "there are some that don't regard the Mormon church, I am not one of them."

His comment made during the debate came after his opponent, atheist author Christopher Hitchens, claimed Mormons are an example of how religion promotes racism because blacks had been excluded. The LDS Church did not allow black males to hold the priesthood until 1978, when the ban was lifted.