“One of the focuses of the Utah area plan, and indeed of our individual lives, is to become true disciples of Jesus Christ. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples if ye have love one to another.” We are grateful for the many who are deepening their discipleship, and whose efforts help those around us feel welcomed and loved. Unfortunately, love is not always spoken here. We remain deeply concerned about too many lingering instances of racist attitudes and behaviors taking place in our schools and communities and sometimes even in our own neighborhoods and places of worship, such as seminaries, churches and temples.
In Christ-like communities of faith, love, unity and covenant belonging this cannot be. Racism is a violation of the first two great commandments to love God, and to love his children. It is sufficiently serious that it may actually impact our opportunity of worshiping in the house of the Lord. One of the temple recommend interview questions indeed asks, “Do you support or promote any teachings, practices or doctrine contrary to those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” The Church’s position on racism is unequivocal. “All individuals are children of God and part of his divine family. He does not love one race or culture more than any other. Our standing with God depends on our devotion to him and his commandments not on the color of our skin or ethnicity or other attributes. The commandment to love our neighbor transcends, ethnic, cultural, and religious differences.” Striving to follow the Savior’s teachings and example, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints condemns racial and cultural prejudice in any form.
President Russell Nelson has further said that “The Creator of us all calls on each of us to abandon attitudes of prejudice against any group of God’s children. Any of us who has prejudice towards another race needs to repent.” Racism has no place in the Lord’s kingdom. It must stop and it must stop now.
Racism is manifested in many ways, some quite obvious like bullying, discrimination, ostracizing, and demeaning. Others are more insidious such as comparing, thinking less of, neglecting, or overlooking others. If we intend to build Zion, which we do, such behaviors and thought patterns must be completely eradicated. They can have no place among us. As Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught, “We should be diligent in rooting prejudice and discrimination out of the Church, out of our home, and most of all out of our hearts.”
No loving mother should ever have to hear a child say, “Mom are you sad that you adopted us? I hate being Black.” No army officer should ever have to ask for an emergency transfer or family move out of our neighborhood because their children are being mistreated in our schools and communities. Such things cannot be. It is high time we once and for all put aside our prejudices and enmity towards any others. It is high time we stop excluding anyone and start including everyone. Standing by without saying or doing anything is not an option either for true disciples of the Lord. We can respond with kindness, but we must respond as we protect those who are being unfairly.
A few weeks ago in the October General Conference, Elder Ulisses Soares issued the following invitation, “As disciples of Christ we are invited to increase our faith in and love for our spiritual brother- and sisterhood by genuinely knitting our hearts together in unity and love regardless of our differences. The scriptures further affirm that, “For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body. Now there are many members yet, but one body, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care one for another.” Christ’s plea is for us to be one and avoid contention. Becoming one requires deliberate action.
Our dear prophet, President Nelson, has been pleading with us, “Today I invite you to examine your discipleship within the context of the way you treat others. I bless you to make any adjustments that may be needed so that your behavior is ennobling, respectful, and representative of a true follower of Jesus Christ. I bless you to replace belligerence with beseeching, animosity with understanding, and contention with peace.”
In that spirit we invite families to:
-Counsel together in family council and home evenings about the importance of being one in Christ, of treating all people around us with kindness and the blessings of doing so.
-Teach your children not to exclude anyone.
-Make specific family plans about ending bullying over race or differences of appearance, language or ability.
-Discuss how to stand for truth and right, exhibit charity, and speak out for those who are bullied or treated unkindly.
-Invite your children to embrace the commitment of “It stops here. It stops now. It stops with me.”
We invite our organizations, classes, quorums, ward and stake councils to:
-Study the prophetic calls to love God and our neighbor better, aimed explicitly at welcoming all into our congregations, classes, schools and communities.
-Teach members and leaders not to exclude nor overlook anyone.
-Discuss specific actions to end all forms of racism at school, church, or wherever we may be.
-Invite members to embrace the same commitment of “It stops here. It stops now. It stops with me.”
I testify that we are all children of our loving Heavenly Father, literally and eternally brothers and sisters. I testify again that the way we treat each other is a direct reflection of our understanding of and appreciation for the ultimate sacrifice and atonement of his Son our Savior Jesus Christ. May we eradicate contention, discrimination, bullying, and racism once and for all from our midst. It stops here. It stops now. It stops with me. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”