Although it has been described as such, the following document is not an official declaration by the First Presidency supporting civil rights. It wasn’t even written by the First Presidency, but rather by Sterling M. McMurrin. However, President Hugh B. Brown read the statement as part of his October 1963 General Conference address with the approval of Pres. McKay and it was later reprinted in the Deseret News as a quasi-official statement of the Church’s position on civil rights. The statement was drafted in an attempt (that proved to be successful) to avoid protests at conference by the NAACP, which had requested and was denied a meeting with the First Presidency to discuss the Church’s position on civil rights legislation in Utah. Despite its semi-official status, the document is an anomaly, a lone representation of racial liberalism in a sea of conservatism. Aside from Brown, Church leaders had little good to say about civil rights or the plight of Blacks in America during the height of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, with Apostle Mark E. Peterson calling racial segregation the plan of heaven and Apostle Ezra Taft Benson arguing that the civil rights movement was a puppet of Soviet Communism.
During recent months, both in Salt Lake City and across the nation, considerable interest has been expressed in the position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the matter of civil rights. We would like it to be known that there is in this Church no doctrine, belief, or practice that is intended to deny the enjoyment of full civil rights by any person regardless of race, color, or creed.
We say again, as we have said many times before, that we believe that all men are the children of the same God, and that it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny any human being the right to gainful employment, to full educational opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship, just as it is a moral evil to deny him the right to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience.
We have consistently and persistently upheld the Constitution of the United States, and as far as we are concerned this means upholding the constitutional rights of every citizen of the United States.
We call upon all men, everywhere, both within and outside the Church, to commit themselves to the establishment of full civil equality for all of God’s children. Anything less than this defeats our high ideal of the brotherhood of man.