Martin Luther King III on Tuesday challenged Brigham Young University students to stand up and become citizens of the beloved community his father envisioned.
They responded with a rousing standing ovation.
âYour leadership is urgently needed to guide our world to a greater destiny,â King said, his voice strengthening near the end of a moving speech at the Marriott Center on the BYU campus in Provo, Utah.
âStand up and take a stand against poverty, racism, war and violence,â he said in front of a picture at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC âStand up with unwavering determination to reclaim our environment from the ravages of industrial pollution. Stand up and lead non-violent movements to feed the hungry. Stand up and use your economic power to support a culture of non-violence. Stand up and work for peace, dignity and human rights for all people of every nation. â
The ensuing standing ovation was repeated as King left BYU’s new circular speaker stage. About two dozen black college students stood near their seats at the foot of the stage with their right fists raised in the air.
âIt was a message of solidarity. There aren’t many black students at BYU, âsaid Nate Byrd, co-chair of the Black Student Union and a psychology graduate from Canton, Michigan. “It was also a tribute to him and his father, so it was a moment of respect and solidarity.”
King was the first speaker in BYU’s 2021-22 series of forums on “Building a Beloved Community” at a time when the university administration is tackling racism and building a new membership office.
An estimated 7,291 people attended the speech, according to staff at the Marriott Center Special Events.
âI call on you to adopt a bold and daring spirit of compassion and caring that tends to help the poor and the oppressed, the disadvantaged, the oppressed and the heartbroken in our communities,â King said.
He also called on them to become champions of civil rights and human rights.
Many of its themes were familiar to BYU students, most of whom are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
All men are children of God
He spoke a theme repeatedly emphasized by church leaders, namely that everyone is a child of God.
âTo begin building the beloved community, we must embrace the belief that ultimately we are all brothers and sisters in the great human family,â King said. âIt means working together to create communities that have no barriers between black, white, red, brown and yellow. We are all members of the same family because we are all children of the same God.
Students, faculty, staff, and members of the public applauded when King said that a higher kind of love is the essential foundation of beloved community.
âOur challenge today is to embrace unconditional love and declare ourselves citizens of the beloved community,â he said. âWe must affirm the brotherhood and brotherhood of all people – every race, every ethnic group, every religion, young and old, women and men, gays and lesbians, people with disabilities – every person. “
A shared vision of a greater love
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. began speaking 65 years ago of a beloved community, a place where all people live in peace and harmony and work to help others. For a dozen years, he used the Greek word agape to describe the type of love required for this community. Latter-day Saint leaders like President Russell M. Nelson at BYU in 1995 and others have taught the agape repeatedly.
âThose who learn to express love creatively are the healers and leaders who lead the way in the beloved community,â King III said at Tuesday’s forum.
In his father’s dream, this community does not tolerate poverty, hunger and homelessness “because the standards of human decency do not allow it,” he said. âRacism and all forms of discrimination, fanaticism and prejudice will be replaced by a global spirit of brotherhood and brotherhood. “
Citizens of the beloved community stand up against intimidation, corruption, exploitation and war and stand up for peace, justice and reconciliation. Such a community offers decent jobs, decent housing, quality education, justice and health care. It also requires interracial cooperation and creative altruism, creative activism, and creative leadership.
âLove and trust will triumph over fear and hate,â King said.
Tuesday was also National Voter Registration Day, and King’s call to support the right to vote was applauded.
Service as a healing force for reconciliation
He called service a spiritual obligation and the highest form of leadership.
âService is a powerful healing force that builds bridges of hope, trust, and kindness across the chasms of alienation and mistrust,â King said. âIt is a powerful force for transformation as it establishes a connection between the server and those being served. “
The audience applauded when he quoted from one of his father’s speeches on the service.
âAnyone can be great because anyone can serve,â said Reverend King. âYou don’t need to know Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t need to know the Second Theory of Thermodynamics in Physics to serve. You don’t need to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love and you can be that servant.
Reactions from black students at BYU
Byrd, the co-chair of the Black Student Union, sat in the front row on the arena floor with his big gray backpack, which wore a patch that read, “I can’t breathe.” He asked King in the post-forum question-and-answer session how to balance his desire to love with his anger at the slow pace of change.
âThe fact that you’re at BYU as a black man and most of the students are white shows that you already do,â King said. BYU is 81% white and 1% black.
King advised Byrd to strengthen himself through prayer, meditation, fasting, and uplifting readings. He validated Byrd’s anger and said his own father was often frustrated and angry, but always strove to speak and lead non-violently. He also encouraged Byrd to work with a group of other people and count their accomplishments, no matter how small.
King called his father’s philosophy of non-violence a powerful tool for leaders who wish to build a beloved community, noting that he has used it to “win all victories for the American civil rights movement.”
But he also said that nonviolence is “a powerful tool for revolutionary personal transformation” because it provides a greater sense of integrity and meaning and an advantage in the management of conflicts and disputes. It enables people to become leaders and âa force for justice, peace and human rightsâ.
Byrd said it was a special feeling to have King at BYU.
âI could definitely see a glimpse of his father in him,â Byrd said. “It was good to see someone like us on that stage.”
Other black students were also grateful.
âBeing in front was really special,â said Tendela Tellas, Byrd’s co-chair with the Black Student Union and a global studies and anthropology student from Indianapolis, Indiana. âWe could focus on him. For 50 minutes he was in charge and everyone listened, even white people. “
Tellas and other students also appreciated the opportunity to raise their fists.
âTo have this moment of solidarity, to be seen during these few seconds, it feels good,â she said.
They also left with a desire to act, said Joshua Beecham, an experienced design and management specialist from Tomball, Texas.
âWe are ready to take on the task of becoming the new leaders he spoke of. “
King’s forum address can be found at BYUtv.org.