World News – US – Mormon leaders call for end to racism and protest violence


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Top leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints urged members on Saturday to end racism and make faith an « oasis of unity While denouncing the violence during the recent protests against racial injustice which amounted to « anarchy »

A church leader also offered advice ahead of next month’s presidential election: Peacefully accept the results

Election advice from Dallin H Oaks, the second faith leader, came after President Donald Trump refused to pledge to accept November’s results and tried to cast doubt on the voting process

Oaks did not mention Trump by name, but emphasized the advice of church founder Joseph Smith for members to follow the laws where they live

« It means we obey the current law and use peaceful means to change it. It also means we peacefully accept the election results, » Oaks said. « We will not participate in the violence threatened by those who are disappointed with the result In a democratic society, we always have the possibility and the duty to persevere peacefully until the next elections « 

In the same speech at the faith signing conference widely known as the Mormon Church, Oaks said peaceful protests are protected by the US constitution but has spoken out forcefully against actions in recent rallies which he says go beyond what is protected by law

« Protesters have no right to destroy, damage or steal property or undermine the government’s legitimate policing powers, » said Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice « The constitution and laws contain no invitation to revolution or anarchy »

Oaks added: « Reparation of grievances by crowds is redress by illegal means » He said anarchy undermines individual rights and does not protect them

The speech was delivered at a conference held in Salt Lake City without attendees due to the coronavirus and as many of the 166 million followers around the world are living through a toll of injustice racial, especially in the United States where the police murder of black George Floyd sparked massive protests

Oaks tried to strike a balance between preaching unity and obedience by calling on members to help eradicate racism against people of all cultures

« This country should do a better job of eliminating racism, not only against black Americans, who were most visible in recent protests, but also against Latinos, Asians and other groups, » Oaks said. this nation’s racism history is not happy and we have to do better « 

Another church leader Quentin L Cook, also a member of a high-level steering committee called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, made a similar call for religion to become a big tent for people of all racial backgrounds and cultural

“At this pivotal 200-year time in our church’s history, let us commit as members of the Lord’s Church to live righteously and be united like never before,” said Cook. With our global doctrine, we can be an oasis of unity and celebrate diversity « 

Neither Oaks nor Cooks mentioned the church’s past ban on black men in the secular priesthood, a ban rooted in the belief that black skin was a curse.The ban lasted until 1978 and remains one of the most sensitive subjects in the history of the faith

The Church disowned the ban and the reasons behind it in a 2013 essay – explaining that it was put in place at a time of great racial division that influenced the early teachings of the Church But the church has never offered a formal apology for the ban, a sore point for some of its members

The Utah-based religion does not provide an ethnic or racial breakdown of its membership, but academics say black members are a small part of the world’s faith

Members of African descent likely make up at least 8% of church membership globally, while African Americans likely make up 3-5% of membership in the United States, according to Matt Martinich, a member of the church which analyzes the number of members with the Cumorah Nonprofit Foundation

Estimating the number of Latino or Asian members is much more difficult, said Martinich, who characterized the overall membership of the US church as increasingly diverse while the majority of members are still white.

Calls for unity echoed a message from church president Russell M Nelson who since taking office in 2018 has preached for more racial harmony and mutual respect Nelson has launched a formal partnership with the NAACP

This is the second consecutive conference held without an audience after the April event that marked the first time in over 70 years The only time the church conference was held without people present was during WWII due to wartime travel restrictions

The top 15 leaders of the faith sat six feet apart on a stage alongside floral arrangements They wore masks when not speaking, each seated in elegant red chairs dark Many leaders are over 70, including Nelson, 96

The conference normally brings 100,000 people to the Salt Lake City church conference center, but this time all church members are logging in from their homes to hear key leaders provide spiritual guidance as the members try to navigate a difficult year 2020

“We are here on earth to be tested, to see if we will choose to follow Jesus Christ, to repent regularly, to learn and to grow,” said Nelson “Our minds yearn to progress And we do best by remaining firmly on the path of alliance ”

In his comments on politics, Oaks preached civility without supporting any political party or candidate, as he followed a long-standing precedent for church leaders to remain politically neutral

“In a democratic government we will always have disagreements over the candidates and proposed policies,” said Oaks “However, as followers of Christ, we must renounce the anger and hatred with which the choices policies are debated or denounced in many contexts »

Although church leaders sometimes reflect on what they see as crucial moral issues and have called for an end to extreme positions, they are careful not to endorse candidates or parties Church members have historically leaned heavily Republican, but the GOP’s grip on Faith voters has slipped slightly with President Donald Trump in office, according to the Pew Research Center

In the 2016 presidential election, the church defended religious freedom after Trump suggested banning Muslims from entering the US

Church Head Patrick Kearon briefly touched on the current political climate in the conference’s opening prayer when he said, “We yearn for a return to grace, dignity and courtesy in public life »

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS General Conference, Russell M Nelson, Dallin H Oaks, Quentin L Cook

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