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The Genesis Group Gathers on Temple Square to Celebrate 50 Years Since Its Creation

The organization was formed in 1971 by three Apostles to serve Black Latter-day Saints in Utah

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Genesis Group on Saturday night in the Tabernacle on Temple Square.

Under the direction of the First Presidency in October 1971, Elders Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008), Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018) and Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) established the Genesis Group as a dependent branch of the Church. This move was a response to a request from three Black Latter-day Saints—Ruffin Bridgeforth, Darius Gray and Eugene Orr—to better serve the needs of African American Latter-day Saints in Utah.

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The Genesis Group is currently a multi-stake activities group in the Church’s Utah Area. It helps Black members of the faith and their families, friends and others build faith in Jesus Christ, foster unity and strengthen their membership in the Church. The group hosts meetings on the first Sunday of every month, as well as other activities.

Saturday evening’s program featured remarks from President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Genesis Group President Davis Stovall, Church Historian and Recorder Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., Darius Gray, Natalie Sheppard, Jerri Harwell (wife of former group president Don Harwell, who died earlier this year) and Eddie Gist (a counselor in Harwell’s presidency). The Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir provided the music.

“We are grateful for your example of inviting all to come unto the Savior,” President Ballard said in a prerecorded message. “You have been especially effective in including those who may feel marginalized in some way and in creating understanding among many not of our faith. You’ve helped others look forward in faith to a day when the people of the Lord truly will be of one heart and one mind. … The gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to unite us. We are ultimately more alike than we are different. As members of God’s family, we are truly brothers and sisters.”

When Elder Curtis served as an Area Seventy, he was an advisor to the Genesis Group. After his call to be a General Authority Seventy, he lived for five years in West Africa as a member of the Africa West Area Presidency.

“It has been one of the blessings of my life both to be with African Americans through my association with Genesis and to have the association with my African brothers and sisters,” Elder Curtis said. “I worship differently than I did before. My love for God has been enhanced and increased because of my association with the good people that I know through Genesis and through my experience in West Africa.”

President Stovall quoted from President Ballard’s message from the April 2021 general conference. President Ballard spoke of the important role that belonging plays in one’s physical, mental and spiritual health.

“That is so true,” President Stovall said. “And we’re here as Genesis tonight celebrating 50 years of belonging. What a wonderful blessing that has been in our lives.”

Quoting President Ballard’s April 2021 message, President Stovall said, “our spiritual identity is enhanced as we understand our many mortal identities, including ethnic, cultural, or national heritage. This sense of spiritual and cultural identity, love, and belonging can inspire hope and love for Jesus Christ.”

“Isn’t that the truth,” President Stovall said. “The reason why we do what we do, [why] we celebrate the way we celebrate, the reason why our culture is so important to us is because it is a part of our spiritual identity. And that is what Genesis is about. We celebrate our spiritual identity, which is our cultural identity. We put the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ first and all that we do.”

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