Additional Resource

Transcript of Elder Gerard at the 2018 NAACP Annual Convention 

Prepared remarks given by Elder Jack N. Gerard, a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at the NAACP’s 109th annual national meetings held at the Henry B. González Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas, Sunday evening, July 15, 2018.

Mr. Chairman, President Johnson, members of the boards, my dear friends, one and all, it is a distinct honor and privilege to stand before you, and to do so as a friend of the NAACP and its leaders. I express the greetings, admiration, and love of President Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with the other senior leaders of our Church.  

As Vice Chairman Karen Boykin-Towns mentioned, most of you know that just two months ago, on the 64th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, Chairman Russell, President Johnson, Special Counsel Wilbur Colom, Dr. Amos C. Brown, Rev. Theresa A. Dear, and others met with President Nelson and the most senior leaders of our Church while in Salt Lake City, Utah, for NAACP quarterly meetings. Side by side, they made powerful statements from Church headquarters that reflect our Church’s values and sense of priority on matters of equality. Let me share several of these quotes with you. President Nelson addressed the media and stated:

“Today, in unity with such capable and impressive leaders as the national officials of the NAACP, we are impressed to call on people of this nation and, indeed, the entire world to demonstrate greater civility, racial and ethnic harmony, and mutual respect. …             

 “Together we invite all people, organizations, and governmental units to work with greater civility, eliminating prejudice of all kinds and focusing more on the many areas and interests that we all have in common. As we lead our people to work cooperatively, we will all achieve the respect, regard, and blessings that God seeks for all of His children.”

President Johnson then stated:

“As the NAACP celebrates this 64th anniversary of the landmark decision Brown vs. Board of Education, like the Latter-day Saints, we believe all people, organizations, and government representatives should come together to work to secure peace and happiness for all God’s children. Unitedly, we call on all people to work in greater harmony, civility, and respect for the beliefs of others to achieve this supreme and universal goal.”

After complimenting the Church for its service to people throughout the country and the world, President Johnson graciously called the Church “a partner who seeks to pursue harmony and civility within our community … [with whom] I am proud to stand here today to open up a dialog to seek ways of common interest to work towards a higher purpose. This is a great opportunity.”

This was truly a moment of unity, brotherhood, and sisterhood. But President Johnson opened his statement with a key point that I would like to emphasize. He told the Church President that the statement he made “expresses the very core of our beliefs and mission at the NAACP,” which is “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. This inspired and achievable mission needs to be supported across organizations of all types and by everyone. 

Prior to accepting a call to full-time service in our Church, I worked in the energy industry representing some of the largest companies in the world. A few years ago, I led a team to tour and speak at several historically black colleges and universities, including Texas Southern University, Morehouse College, Chicago State University, Spelman College, and Norfolk State University, in an effort to expand our workforce and provide equal opportunity to participate in the American energy renaissance. After each speech I was encouraged by the number of students of the rising generation who approached me seeking an opportunity to work in the industry, but surprised and saddened by the number who felt these well-paying careers were beyond their reach. These experiences remind us that, as President Nelson said, we need “to explore ways—such as education and humanitarian service—in which our respective members and others can serve and move forward together, lifting our brothers and sisters who need our help, just as the Savior, Jesus Christ, would do.”

Our Church has a vigorous program of volunteer service. It is an integral part of our faith that one be of service to others. This is something we have in common with the NAACP. Both parties have significant and sincere goals for our relationship, staking out new ways of cooperation. We’re starting small, but we will start immediately, as quickly as September of this year. We will initially focus our joint efforts with branches in the cities of Baltimore, Maryland; Atlanta, Georgia; and Camden, New Jersey. We will together launch an education and employment initiative with an eye toward national impact. What we do with branches in these cities we hope to offer others next year. If the chairman is generous enough to invite us next year, we envision joint NAACP and LDS activities and projects, including through our national JustServe program, all over the nation. We do not intend to be a flash in the pan. That is not our style, and we know it’s not yours.

We anticipate focusing in the areas of "Starting and Growing My Own Business” (entrepreneurship, mentioning minority opportunities in the energy sector) and “Effectively Handling Personal Finances” (using money to grow money). Local branch members and LDS members will work together to train others in these fields. For those at a more basic level we will jointly train on getting “Better Education for Better Income” and “Finding Better Work.” This is the very same training our Church has used for years for our own members with good results. We understand these tools; we know they work. We will work in harmony and learn from each other to significantly increase opportunity among our brothers and sisters whom we identify together at the local level. As you can see, our unified vision is not only equality of education and income but, perhaps more importantly, equality of influence. This measured approach will give our combined team the opportunity to learn and improve processes and results before replicating and scaling.

This will only be the beginning. As has been said, we can do great things for humankind by faithfully working together. Again, we intend to work with and learn from each other and other faith-based and community organizations as we all seek to make this effort successful. Then we can together multiply this opportunity and bless increasingly more of our Heavenly Father’s children in more and more communities.

My friends, I am thrilled to be part of this annual convention whose wise purpose is to “establish policies and programs of action” just as God would have us do. For us, as also for many of you, “God is love,” and loving God means loving and serving each other. A great prophet reminds us “that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” 

And so I close with one more quote from President Nelson that he shared last month as he concluded a Church-sponsored worldwide event that honored black heritage:

“Only the comprehension of the true fatherhood of God can bring full appreciation of the true brotherhood of man and the true sisterhood of woman. That understanding inspires passionate desire to build bridges of cooperation instead of walls of segregation.”

It is our hope and prayer that this is just the beginning of building bridges of cooperation and understanding and that together we will bless the lives of many of God’s children. 

Thank you.

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