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In our opinion: Lean in and root out racism — arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder

SHARE In our opinion: Lean in and root out racism — arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder

President Russell M. Nelson speaks during the Sunday afternoon session of the 190th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Oct. 4, 2020.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Social tension and racial unrest continue in America, leaving too many issues surrounding prejudice and discrimination unresolved. Some choose to ignore these crucial conversations. Some cravenly use injustice and bigotry to stoke the fires of frustration and anger for political purposes. Others are so consumed by past division and current contempt that they are unwilling or unable to engage in forward-moving conversations and solutions.

Yet, there are many who, far from cameras and spotlights, lean in to listen and learn, then link and lock arms with fellow citizens to step forward into a better, brighter future.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were instructed last weekend by many of the faith’s leaders to lead out in eliminating both the attitudes and the actions of racism and prejudice. The semiannual worldwide conference was broadcast globally in 100 languages.

Addressing the 16 million members of the faith around the world, Russell M. Nelson, the 17th president of the church, issued this challenge: “Today, I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice. … I plead with you to promote respect for all of God’s children.” 

President Dallin H. Oaks of the church’s First Presidency echoed the call: “We must do better to help root out racism.”

Speaking specifically of what citizens in the United States of America should be doing, President Oaks said we, “should be better in eliminating racism, not only against Black Americans, who were most visible in the recent protests, but also against Latinos, Asians, and other groups. This nation’s history of racism is not a happy one and we must do better.”

Earlier this year, President Nelson responded to riots and racial unrest, saying, “We need to foster our faith in the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. We need to foster a fundamental respect for the human dignity of every human soul, regardless of their color, creed, or cause. And we need to work tirelessly to build bridges of understanding rather than creating walls of segregation.”

Such bridges of understanding cannot be created with wedges of division. The Church of Jesus Christ and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have partnered to provide training programs designed to help inner-city families create self-reliance and upward economic opportunity. Leon Russell, chairman of the NAACP, in speaking of the growing partnership and forward movement of the two organizations, expressed that they aren’t interested in old conversations, only in new solutions. 

In his conference address, President Oaks referenced a powerful and persuasive personal essay, written by the Rev. Theresa A. Dear of the NAACP and published in the Deseret News. “Racism thrives on hatred, oppression, passivity, indifference and silence,” she wrote.

Another leader, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said at the conference, “We can be an oasis of unity and celebrate diversity. Unity and diversity are not opposites. We can achieve greater unity as we foster an atmosphere of inclusion and respect for diversity.”

Sharon Eubank, a member of the Relief Society general presidency, added, “Unity doesn’t magically happen; it takes work. It’s messy, sometimes it’s uncomfortable, and it happens gradually.” She emphasized, “We are never alone in our efforts to create unity.”

And more than a year earlier, President Nelson spoke to members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “Arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder, may we strive to lift our brothers and sisters everywhere, in every way we can,” he said during the NAACP national convention in Detroit, Michigan. “This world will never be the same.” 

We agree. 

Arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder, the attitudes and actions of prejudice and discrimination can and must be rooted out. Recognizing and valuing diversity will foster friendship, build trust and provide a path toward progress.  

We invite everyone to lean in, listen, learn, and then link and lock arms with fellow citizens in our society’s march toward equality, unity, justice and peace.