In October 1971, under the direction of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then-Elders Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008), Thomas S. Monson (1927-2018), and Boyd K. Packer (1924 -2015) established the Genesis Group. The group was established as a dependent branch of the Church in response to a request from three Black Latter-day Saints — Ruffin Bridgeforth, Darius Gray, and Eugene Orr. The express purpose of the group is to better serve the needs of the African American Latter-day Saints in Utah.
Now, a half of a century later, the Genesis Group is still going strong. The group is currently a multi-stake activities group in the Church’s Utah area, which according to LDS Daily, “helps Black members of the faith, and their families, friends, and others build faith in Jesus Christ, foster unity and strengthen their membership in the Church.” The group hosts meetings on the first Sunday of every month, as well as other activities.
To celebrate reaching such a momentous milestone, on Saturday evening, 23 October 2021, the Church held a special devotional in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. Music for the devotional was provided by The Debra Bonner Unity Gospel Choir. Remarks were given by President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Genesis Group President Davis Stovall, Church Historian and Recorder Elder LeGrand R. Curtis Jr., Darius Gray, Natalie Sheppard, Jerri Harwell (wife of former group president Donald Lyle Harwell (19 January 1946 – 8 May 2021)), and Eddie Gist (a counselor in Harwell’s presidency).
In a prerecorded message, Elder Ballard said:
We are grateful for your example of inviting all to come unto the Savior. You have been especially effective in including those who may feel marginalized in some way and in creating understanding among many not of our faith. You’ve helped others look forward in faith to a day when the people of the Lord truly will be of one heart and one mind. … The gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to unite us. We are ultimately more alike than we are different. As members of God’s family, we are truly brothers and sisters.
Elder Curtis was an advisor to the Genesis Group when he served as an Area Seventy. He was later called to serve as a General Authority Seventy and lived in West Africa for five years, serving as a member of the Africa West Area Presidency. In his brief remarks, he said, “I worship differently than I did before. My love for God has been enhanced and increased because of my association with the good people that I know through Genesis and through my experience in West Africa.”
President Stovall commented, “The reason why we do what we do, [why] we celebrate the way we celebrate, the reason why our culture is so important to us is because it is a part of our spiritual identity. And that is what Genesis is about. We celebrate our spiritual identity, which is our cultural identity. We put the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ first and all that we do.”
Click here to watch the entire devotional.