Is Mormon church turning the corner with blacks?

The Salt Lake Tribune/May 31, 2012

On June 9, 1978, the LDS Church made a momentous announcement ending a longtime ban on blacks being ordained to its all-male priesthood.

Mormons across the world celebrated the news, delighted to see their Utah-based church allow full participation by members of every color and race.

A 31-year-old Mitt Romney was among those who cheered the change.

"I was driving home [from law school], going through the Fresh Pond rotary in Cambridge, Mass.," Romney told NBC in 2007. "I heard it on the radio, and I pulled over and literally wept. Even to this day, it's emotional."

Romney's father, Michigan Gov. George Romney, had marched for civil rights alongside black activists and had walked out of the 1964 Republican convention to protest what he saw as Barry Goldwater's weak defense of blacks.

Mitt Romney told NBC he believed that "God is no respecter of persons."

Since that day, the LDS Church has sent missionaries across the nation and globe, converting thousands and thousands of blacks, even as it struggled with persistent racist ideas within the faith — mostly built on some unofficial doctrinal explanations used to buoy up the ban.

Now, according to a new survey, racism within Mormonism seems to be on the wane — or at least no worse than other faiths. That could be due, in part, to changing times and strong statements from LDS leaders.

In one of his last speeches, the late LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley said that "racial strife still lifts its ugly head."

"I cannot understand how it can be," Hinckley said in April 2006. "It seemed to me that we all rejoiced in the 1978 revelation given [LDS Church] President [Spencer W.] Kimball. … Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the church of Christ."

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