Utah celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day; President Nelson issues call to 'abandon prejudice'

Notable figures and groups across Utah are remembering the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with events and tributes to the civil rights icon.

Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commemorated the life of King in social media posts Monday on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"The Book of Mormon teaches that 'black and white, bond and free, male and female … all are alike unto God,'" Nelson said on social media. "May God continue to bless us as we labor together to abandon attitudes and actions of prejudice."

Events took place throughout Utah on Monday to remember King, with marches in Ogden and Salt Lake City. The Ogden chapter of the NAACP held a march Monday morning that went from the Marshall White Center to the Ogden Amphitheater, followed by a service project of giving out coats and shoes to children.

"Dr. King said it's always the right time to do what's right," Betty Sawyer, president of the NAACP's Ogden chapter, told KSL-TV. "Dr. King talked about that great dream and so when we see people come out, it's reaffirming. We have work to do but I think we have a will to do the work."

Hundreds march from East High School to Kingsbury Hall in the MLK Day March, as part of the University of Utah’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Week, in Salt Lake City on Monday.
Hundreds march from East High School to Kingsbury Hall in the MLK Day March, as part of the University of Utah’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Week, in Salt Lake City on Monday. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The Salt Lake City branch of the NAACP held its 38th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Luncheon downtown. Speakers for the event included Reginald M. Turner, Jr., president of the American Bar Association, who gave a virtual talk.

S. Floyd Mori — born and raised in the Salt Lake area and a longstanding advocate for the advancement of Asian American communities — received the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award during the luncheon.

Participants pose for a photo after marching from East High School to Kingsbury Hall for the MLK Day Rally and March, as part of the University of Utah’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Week, in Salt Lake City on Monday.
Participants pose for a photo after marching from East High School to Kingsbury Hall for the MLK Day Rally and March, as part of the University of Utah’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Week, in Salt Lake City on Monday. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson received the Rosa Parks Award from the NAACP Salt Lake branch. On the group's website, the NAACP wrote that Wilson "has spent much of her time in office addressing the health, community, and economic impacts of COVID in Salt Lake County ... Additionally, Mayor Wilson has prioritized criminal justice reform, growth management, environmental concerns and has fought for justice and equality for all."

At 2 p.m. Monday afternoon, a rally began at East High School before a group was scheduled to march to Kingsbury Hall as part of the University of Utah's MLK Day celebration and its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Week, themed "Becoming the Beloved Community." Among those who were set to attend were Wilson and representatives from Gov. Spencer Cox's office.

Contributing: Matt Rascon