Washington, DC

Mormon Church funds African-American research center, re-opens Washington D.C. Temple

Juliette Fairley

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) board member Rev. Amos C. Brown was a featured speaker at the re-opening of the Washington, D.C. Temple this week.

The temple, located in Kensington, Maryland, had been closed to refresh aesthetically and mechanically since 2018.

“What a great honor and gathering of peaceful warriors of God,” Rev. Brown told a roomful of national and international journalists. “I am black and I’m proud. I’m brown and I’m sound. I’m yellow and I’m mellow. I’m red but I’m not dead. I’m white and I’m alright.”

Although the renovation had been completed by 2020, the reopening was delayed due to COVID-19. Renovations included replacing shag carpeting.

“We had to renovate and remodel to make the temple more efficient,” said Kevin R. Duncan, general authority seventy for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “We had 1970s shag carpet in certain places.”

The Washington D.C. Temple is one among 282 worldwide and is the largest temple at 160,000 square feet, second only to a Salt Lake City temple that is more than 300,000 square feet.

“We make a series of promises in the temple called covenants that we will be selfless, virtuous, and chaste,” said David Bednar, an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Public tours for non-members of the church start on April 28 and can be reserved at www.DCTemple.org until the renovated temple is dedicated to its members in August.

Washington D.C. TempleChurch of Jesus Chris of Latter-Day Saints

Rev. Brown categorized the NAACP’s partnership with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an idea whose time had come.

“I believe that President Russell Nelson was used by God to be an instrument for interfaith relationships and for America to have a superlative example of spirituality,” he said. "What the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is doing is a redeeming effort for our existence because other spiritual communities have been judgmental, nationalistic, racist and, in some cases, downright bigots."

As previously reported, under the leadership of Russell Nelson, who is the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Church is contributing $9.25 million over three years to the NAACP to pay for scholarships and humanitarian services in American inner-city communities.

“Through the Family History Research Center that the church provides I discovered that my great, great grandfather going back five generations, Patrick Brown, was enslaved in Franklin County, Mississippi, and despite that experience, he purchased 150 acres of land in 1882 for $700,” Brown said in an interview. “What a great feeling I had to see that my great, great grandfather who was enslaved still succeed in spite of that.”

Rev. Brown worked alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

Rev. Amos Brown at the D.C. Temple reopeningJfairley

"Other faith communities have quiet and muted on the side of evil in this nation and many don’t understand that we are a constitutional democratic republic," Brown added. "That’s what's missing. The direction the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is going is rational, reasonable, and responsible particularly in reaching out to the NAACP in a focused way. No other faith community has been that intentional. If there has been, I'd like to see it. Historically, the Southern Baptists supported slavery, segregated schools, and opened Christian academies to avoid attending school with black children."

Beyond the $9.25 million donated to the NAACP, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has contributed $2 million to a Center for Family History being built adjacent to an African American history museum in South Carolina. The Church has also launched self-reliance centers in Oakland, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, according to a press release.

“For the members of our church all over the world, we have instruction on how they can become more self-reliant and through our relationship between the President of our church and Rev. Amos Brown, there was a collaboration to take those self-reliance classes, modify them and make them very appropriate for what is taking place in African American communities,” Bednar said.

The International African American Museum (IAAM), located in Charleston, South Carolina, is currently under construction.

"Slavery was a crime against humanity and now it's time for us to atone," Rev. Brown added. "Our partnership with the Church is about being agents to change the trajectory of this nation. This summer under the Amos C. Brown Fellows program we are taking young people to Ghana, West Africa to see ground zero of that evil Atlantic Slave Trade so that they will have a sense of history and know how not to treat other human beings."

When asked his thoughts about church members baptizing in the Temples their deceased ancestors who were enslaved in states like North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee, Rev. Brown said, "The church is embracing Joseph Smith's spirit. Your readers should come and see."

Joseph Smith was an abolitionist who campaigned for U.S. President before he was assassinated in 1844. He founded the Mormon religion in 1830.

Bednar said future contributions to the NAACP will be based on need.

"It's not just a lump sum of money," he said. "It's money dedicated to very specific purposes and we will evaluate those purposes. Has it met the need? Are there new needs that have arisen? We will just continue to evaluate and see how we move forward."

Church officials were unable to confirm the number of African American members who have joined the Mormon church since its partnership with the NAACP began in 2019 when Pres. Nelson first attended the NAACP’s annual national conference.

“We don't track our new members by racial category,” Bednar said. “I’m sure there has been some influence, but I can't quantify that in terms of an increase in terms of new members.”

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Juliette Fairley is a legal and financial investigative reporter who writes about politics, law, corruption, and many other topics. She is a graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Chicago City Wire, Legal Newsline, Southern California Record, St. Louis Record, New York Daily News, Dallas Express, Dallas City Wire, the Lone Star Standard, The Epoch Times, Newsmax, and many other publications.

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