On June 1, the Mormon church will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the “revelation” that black men should be allowed to be full members of the church. In anticipation of the event, top leaders of the Mormon church, including president Russell Nelson, met this week in Salt Lake City with national leaders of the NAACP. The meeting was significant, given the history of tension and enmity between the groups; the NAACP led a march in the city against the church’s racial policies in the 1960s, for example. But the substance of the meeting—education initiatives, humanitarian work, and a shared commitment to civility—was hardly revolutionary.
Hours earlier, however, a forceful statement appeared online, labeled as an official church release and looking every bit the real thing.
“President Nelson Meets With NAACP; Offers Apology for History of Racism,” the headline announced. The statement included what was described as a statement Nelson would deliver at the meeting with the NAACP. “I offer a full unqualified apology for the error of racism which was taught from this office and in the tabernacle and over the pulpits of our churches the world over,” the statement read, before a detailed repentance of the church’s wrongs toward black members. “Our souls are harrowed up by the memory of this sin.”