University of Utah explores the status of black saints within the LDS churchTanner Humanities Center hosts conference featuring keynote address by historian Lester Bush Jr.

In December 2013, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published an essay regarding “Race and the Priesthood” on its Gospel Topics page at LDS.org. The statement was the strongest to date in distancing the church from its prior teachings on the status of black people within Mormon theology.

Oct. 8 and 9, the Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah will host a conference examing race and the LDS church featuring scholars, religious leaders, church members and media personalities at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, 410 Campus Center Drive. The conference is open to the public but seating is limited.

Historian Lester Bush Jr. will present the 2015 Sterling M. McMurrin Lecture on Religion and Culture to open the conference, Thursday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. His lecture, “Looking Back, Looking Forward: Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine Forty-two Years Later” will reflect on the years since “Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought” published his seminal article that undermined the standing historical narrative that the church’s priesthood ban began with Joseph Smith. He will discuss what has changed, what has stayed the same, what changes still need to occur and what steps will bring further change.

“Having Lester Bush reflect on the evolution of race and race thinking in the LDS church is a unique historical moment,” said Bob Goldberg, director of the Tanner Humanities Center. “His contribution to change is significant and deserves not only to be remembered but honored. We are proud to host Lester as our McMurrin lecturer under the banner of the Mormon Studies initiative at the U.”

On Oct. 9, the Tanner Humanities Center will present “Black, White, and Mormon: A Conference on the evolving Status of Black Saints within the Mormon Fold,” which will offer a multi-disciplinary assessment of the status of race across time and space in the LDS church. It will explore race based priesthood and temple bans, the historical roots of segregation in America and how it impacts Mormonism, the expansion of Mormonism into inner-city communities in the United States, as well as the impact of race on Mormonism’s international reach. It will also consider the intersections between race and Mormon women, notions of social justice within Mormonism, the implications of race upon educational opportunities at the church’s universities and a discussion of how race plays out at the ward level.

“Mormons tend to not talk about race in their communities and congregations,” said Paul Reeve, professor of history at the U. “With an eye on the past but primarily focused on the present and future, scholars and black Mormon leaders from across the nation will offer a forum for exploring and understanding what it means to be black and Mormon in contemporary society.”

Complete Schedule of Events

Thursday, Oct. 8
7 p.m.:
2015 Sterling M. McMurrin Lecture on Religion and Culture
“Looking Back, Looking Forward: Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine Forty-two Years Later” by Lester Bush Jr., historian

Friday, Oct. 9
8 a.m.:
Commemoration: A Tribute To Those Who Died
From Ferguson, Missouri to Saratoga Springs, Utah – and from Baltimore to Charleston. Racial violence has shaken the nation and continues to haunt us all. This commemoration will offer an opportunity to remember those who died and reflect on the power that race holds in our lives.

Presenters:
Bob Goldberg, director, Tanner Humanities Center, University of Utah
Tamu Smith, multimedia personality, co-founder of website and radio show “Sistas in Zion,” co-author of “Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons”

8:30 – 10 a.m.: Race and the Inner City
This panel will consider the historical connections between race and the American inner city in a secular sense and then explore Mormonism’s intersections with race and the urban environment now and in the future.

Moderator:
W. Paul Reeve, associate professor of history, University of Utah

Panelists:
Thomas Sugrue, professor of social and cultural analysis, New York University
Ram Cnaan, professor and director, Program for Religion and Social Policy Research, University of Pennsylvania
Jacob Rugh, associate professor of sociology, Brigham Young University

10:15 – 11:45 a.m.: Race and Mormon Women
This panel discussion considers the place of black women within the LDS tradition. What does it mean to be black, female and Mormon?

Moderator:
Paulette Payne, television host, “Life Notes” talk show, Atlanta, GA

Panelists:
Janan Graham-Russell, writer and graduate student in religious studies, Howard University
Catherine M. Stokes, retired deputy director in public health and community volunteer
LaShawn Willimas-Schultz, CSW
Tamu Smith, multimedia personality: co-founder of website and radio show “Sistas in Zion”, co-author of “Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons”

Noon – 1:30 p.m.: Lunch Plenary Session (closed session): Race and the International Church
Elder Joseph W. Sitati, LDS Church First Quorum of the Seventy

2:00  – 3:30 p.m.: Race at Brigham Young University
A panel discussion of alumni, faculty and students that explores the experiences of black students at BYU. The panel will consider what it is like for black students to talk about support, the experiences of black Americans vs. African students, isolation, recruiting and interactions with white students.

Moderator:
Dalyn Montgomery, campus director of graduate and professional studies, University of Redlands

Panelists:
Maybelline McCoy, activist, photo journalist, mentor
Margaret Young, author, African American history
Darius Gray, commentator
Leslie Hadfield, professor of African American history, Brigham Young University
Luis Belchior, student of International Relations and Economic Development, Brigham Young University

3:45 – 5:15 p.m.: Race at the Ward
This panel focuses on the ways that race effects how Latter-day Saints fellowship, proselytize and teach in the ward. Dalyn Montgomery will present, “Obstacles Specific to African Americans Joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Remaining Active,” followed by panel reaction and response.

Moderator:
Dalyn Montgomery, campus director of graduate and professional studies, University of Redlands

Panelists:
Jermaine Sullivan, eCore advisor, Clayton State University
Janan Graham-Russell, writer and graduate student in religious studies, Howard University
Peter Johnson, assistant professor of accounting, University of Alabama
Ingrid Shepherd, executive director, The One Less Foundation

Event Co-Sponsors
Tanner Humanities Center, Greg Prince, George S. & Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation, Jess Hurtado, Smith-Pettit Foundation, David Eccles School of Business Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative, Charles Redd Center (BYU), College of Humanities (BYU), Laurel Thatcher-Ulrich, Utah Valley University, Department of History (U), University of Utah Press.

About Sterling M. McMurrin Lecture on Religion and Culture
Founded in 1992, the McMurrin Lecture supports the serious and knowledgeable study of religion. The McMurrin Lecture honors beloved scholar and teacher Sterling M. McMurrin (1914-1996) who served as U.S. Commissioner of Education during the Kennedy Administration. 

About Mormon Studies Initiative
A Mormon Studies Initiative by the Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah was launched in 2010 and supports the study of Mormonism on campus and in the wider community. This initiative encourages vibrant, intellectual exploration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its people, values, history, culture and institutions.

About Tanner Humanities Center
Founded in 1988, the Tanner Humanities Center encourages research about the human condition in all of its aspects. It reaches beyond campus to share path-breaking research and engage community groups in dialogue. In these initiatives, the humanities offer perspectives that inform discussion and frame solutions to our common concerns.

###

Media Contacts

Jana Cunninghamcommunications director, College of Humanities
Office: 801-213-0866