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50th anniversary celebration held for The Genesis Group

SALT LAKE CITY – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Genesis Group, an organization dedicated to serving Black members of the Church.

Through several voices – including well-known members of the Church, like Alex Boyé and the Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir – the Tabernacle at Temple Square came to life Saturday evening.

“Often times, we find ourselves in communities where there’s not a lot of us, not a lot of African Americans. It’s important that we have the opportunities to get together and celebrate with each other and enjoy our culture together,” said Davis Stovall, president of the Genesis Group.

Saturday’s event also paid tribute to the Genesis Group’s rich history, including the significance of its inception seven years before President Spencer W. Kimball announced the revelation giving the priesthood to all men of the faith.

Until 1978, Black male members were excluded from holding the priesthood.

The Genesis Group was started in 1971.

Three apostles were tasked to oversee its creation – Elders Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson and Boyd K. Packer.

“We are the ones that did not have the priesthood, and so Genesis was started as a result of that, and to know the origin story and to know that it was something that weighed so heavily on the hearts of our leaders that they started this group and that we continue to have it today, it’s beautiful,” said Tamu Smith, who participated in Saturday’s program.

Saturday’s event was not just for Black members.

Kenny Burt, who was invited by a member of the Choir, said it gave him an opportunity to learn more about the sacrifices of the Church’s Black Pioneers.

“It just warmed my heart and touched my soul deeply,” said Burt.

Izabele Corbin, a Church member from Brazil, said Black members outside of the United States can also relate to the stories of early African-American Pioneers.

“I loved the music, it touched my heart,” Corbin said. “Also hear[ing] the stories about the Black people in the beginning of the Church — the Pioneers — was really nice.”

Smith hopes Church members of all races will walk away with a greater sense of understanding and appreciation.

“It frees them up to be able to tell the hard stories without shame, and it frees us up to listen to the hard things without feeling guilt,” she said.

Over the years, the Genesis Group has functioned in various formats and currently operates as a multi-stake activities group in Utah. The group hosts meetings on the first Sunday of every month.

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