Mormons Grapple With Church's History Of Discrimination Amid Wider Racial Reckoning

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, popularly known as the Mormon church, has a troubled history with racial discrimination.
A statue of Brigham Young, second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints stands in the center of Salt Lake City with the Mormon Temple spires in the background 19 July 2001. (George Frey/AFP via Getty Images)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are also known as Mormons, has a troubled history with racial discrimination.

Black Americans were among its earliest converts and even served in leadership roles — but for over a century, they were barred from being ordained to the priesthood or from entering Mormon temples, where the faith’s holiest rituals are performed.

That position wasn’t reversed until 1978.

Now that recent protests have forced a racial reckoning throughout American society, many Mormons are taking a renewed look at racism in their own faith.

The LDS Church announced an official partnership with the NAACP in 2018, but it may not be putting words into action, says LaShawn Williams, a licensed clinical social worker and an assistant professor of social work at Utah Valley University.

“I think that one of the best ways to show leadership is to do what you ask your members to do,” says Williams, who co-founded the Black LDS Legacy Committee, which puts on a yearly conference about

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