RACE AND THE LDS CHURCH

By Jana Cunningham, communications specialist, University of Utah Communications

On June 8, 1978, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced President Spencer W. Kimball’s revelation extending the lay priesthood to “all worthy male members…without regard for race or color.” To mark this event and analyze the LDS church’s ongoing efforts to achieve racial equality, the Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah will host “Black, White, and Mormon II: A Conference on Race in the LDS Church Since The 1978 Revelation” in the Salt Lake City Main Public Library, June 29-30.

In collaboration with the College of Humanities’ Simmons Mormon Studies professor of history Paul Reeve, the multidisciplinary conference continues the discussion of race and the LDS church following the 2015 conference by the same name.

The conference begins on June 29, 2018, with the Sterling M. McMurrin Lecture on Religion and Culture delivered by African-American writer, historian, activist and member of the LDS church, Darius Gray. Gray joined the Mormon church in 1964 and has been a central figure in pressing for racial change and serving as a voice for African-American Mormons.

On June 30, 2018, scholarly and community panels will explore how African American Mormons understand America’s current racial and religious climate, examine the Mormon church’s racial policies and practices, and survey the impact of the 1978 revelation.

“This conference continues our focus on race and the LDS church,” said Bob Goldberg, director of the center. “Timed to this special anniversary, it considers how far black saints have come and how far they may still have to travel toward equality. These questions, in fact, must be raised in regard to all aspects of American society.”

Complete schedule of events at the Downtown Salt Lake Public Library:

Friday, June 29, 7 p.m.:

2018 Sterling M. McMurrin Lecture on Religion and Culture

“A 54-Year Journey Toward Racial Equality in the Mormon Church” by Darius Gray

Saturday, June 30

  • 9-10:30 a.m.: “The Burden of Blackness in America and the LDS Church: Racial Battle Fatigue and Racial Violence”
  • 10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: “Getting Past the Racial Past”
  • 12:30-1:45 p.m.: Lunch Plenary Session (closed session): “Forty Years after 126 Years: Reflections from an Aging Black Man in Zion,” Marcus Martins, associate dean, religious education, BYU-Hawaii
  • 2-3:30 p.m.: “Coming of Age Under the Revelation”
  • 3:45-5:15 p.m.: “Race, Religion, and the Utah Community”

About Sterling M. McMurrin Lecture on Religion and Culture

Founded in 1992, the McMurrin Lecture supports the serious and knowledgeable study of religion. The McMurrin Lecture honors beloved scholar and teacher Sterling M. McMurrin (1914-1996) who served as U.S. commissioner of education during the Kennedy Administration.

About Mormon Studies Initiative

A Mormon Studies Initiative by the Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah was launched in 2010 and supports the study of Mormonism on campus and in the wider community. This initiative encourages vibrant, intellectual exploration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its people, values, history, culture and institutions.

About Tanner Humanities Center

Founded in 1988, the Tanner Humanities Center encourages research about the human condition in all of its aspects. It reaches beyond campus to share path-breaking research and engage community groups in dialogue. In these initiatives, the humanities offer perspectives that inform discussion and frame solutions to our common concerns.