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To many Mormons, the "race problem" means the Utah-based faith's former ban on black men being ordained to the church's all-male priesthood.

Since that prohibition ended in 1978, most of the LDS faithful now presume no such problem exists in the 15 million-member, multi-ethnic Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

To some, however, the race issue is far from over — and not just for blacks.

Though LDS leaders have disavowed any purported doctrinal defenses of the ban, for example, some members say such false ideas continue to harm them and undermine their relationships with the white majority.

"As the biracial product of an interracial marriage," says Kalani Tonga, "some of the racist doctrines or former doctrines of the church deeply affected me, though I didn't realize how deeply until fairly recently."

Tonga is among a handful of speakers at a half-day conference on Saturday titled "Theology from the Margins: Thoughts and Experiences from Mormons of Color."

The gathering is sponsored by the Sunstone Foundation and will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Community of Christ church on the east side of Salt Lake City.

"This conference aims to explore different forms of racism," says Sunstone organizer Lindsay Hansen Park, "so that hearts can be changed and all God's children can feel welcome in the church."

Many Latter-day Saints don't realize that something they say or do makes other members uncomfortable, "especially in a gospel setting," Park says in a release. "We are having this conference to be able to dialogue about these hard issues in a loving way."

Tonga applauds Sunstone organizers, saying this conference will explore "an area of Mormonism that has been either overlooked or too uncomfortable to discuss widely in the church."

Mica McGriggs, also biracial and another conference speaker, echoes Tonga's enthusiasm.

"The beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it can touch the lives of people from all cultural backgrounds," McGriggs says. "However, in practice the church has struggled with race relations."

The Saturday event will "provide a forum for myself and other people of color to share our stories and struggles," she says. "It will also provide an opportunity for our white brothers and sisters to listen and learn."

McGriggs hopes that in the future, the LDS Church will become "a leader in creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all of God's children."

Saturday's conference, she says, "seems like a step in the right direction." —

If you go

What • "Theology from the Margins: Thoughts and Experiences from Mormons of Color"

When • Sat., March 14, from 1-5 p.m.

Where • 2747 E. 3640 S., Salt Lake City

Cost • $15 online ($5 extra day of)

To register • go to or