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For week ended May 23, 1999 Posted 4 Jun 1999

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LDS approach to '60s issues still leaving its mark

Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS approach to '60s issues still leaving its mark
Deseret News 22May99 C7
By Carrie A. Moore: Deseret News religion editor

Mormon legislators in Utah learned how to handle controversial political issues from the way that LDS leades handled the issues of the 1960s, says Utah State Archivist Jeffrey Johnson. Johnson presented this thesis to a near-capacity crowd at the While Memorial Chapel on Thursday, May 20th, delivering an address entitled, "Conflict, Change and Growth: Utah, the Mormon Church and the 1960s."

Johnson explained that a civil rights demonstration on March 7, 1965 in front of the LDS Church Administra building was "The first time such pressure had been put on the LDS Church." The NAACP protest directly challenged the LDS Church, claiming that its influence over Utah legislators was keeping civil rights legision from becoming law in Utah.

However, LDS Church authorities perceived the demonstration as a challenge to doctrine, specifically to the then doctrine that blacks could not hold the priesthood. {This doctrine was changed in a 1978 revelation). The protest ended when the Deseret News ran an editorial re-iterating a 1963 pro-civil-rights statement in General Conference by President Hugh B. Brown of the First Presidency. Soon after the protest, the Utah leglislature passed the civil rights legislation.

"You can see the same thing today with the church's support for gun legislation," said Johnson. He claims that in the 1960s, LDS Church authorities reacted to the protests on issues such as civil rights, Vietnam and the counter-culture movement by calling on members to be more obedient and to see these issues as challenges to obedience. Johnson says that current Utah political leaders, "view problems in the 1990s through the lenses developed during that time . . . That helps us understand the struggle we're having today."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information