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50 years later: Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'Letter from Birmingham Jail' still resonates

Published: Sunday, April 14 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

"His references of love. The justifications he provided for breaking the law as a religious person. The positions he took about one person hurting, then everyone is hurting. I became a King follower at that point," said Davis, seated in a conference room where a painting of King and photos documenting the civil rights movement hang on the walls.

Davis said the letter has served him and his congregation well as a guide for how to practice and live out one's faith. "The letter gives us rules, ways and methods for the application of our teachings, like love your neighbor and look out for the underdog," Davis said. "So it is a how-to guide for much of what I believe, teach and practice."

Bass said King's influence goes beyond the black church. "He should be understood in context of American religious traditions and that he is to civil rights movement what Jonathan Edwards was to first great American awakening and Charles Finney to second great awakening."

And the letter in which King eloquently lays out how religion can be a catalyst for change can also be a primer on how America evolves, explained Best.

"Read it and you will get some very clear ideas of what this country has been about, what this country has suggested itself to be, where it has fallen short and some strategies of how to get to a place that we would all like to be," he said. "For anybody who wants to understand America, an entry to doing that would be the Letter From Birmingham Jail."

mbrown@deseretnews.com

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