The Rev. Al Sharpton apologized publicly to all Mormons and privately to two LDS Church apostles Thursday for a comment he made during a debate this week that suggested members of the church didn't believe in God.
Sharpton also said he plans to travel to Utah to meet with the apostles he spoke with, Elder Russell M. Nelson and Elder Henry B. Eyring of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Quorum of the Twelve.
No date has been set for the trip, described by Sharpton during an interview Wednesday with CNN's Glenn Beck as an attempt to "create a dialogue" after Sharpton raised questions about the LDS Church's treatment of African-Americans.
Beck, a Mormon, told Sharpton the meeting with the apostles would be "an amazing experience." However, there has been no confirmation from the LDS Church that a visit with Sharpton will take place.
"He did call and talk to Elder Nelson and Elder Eyring, and our statement right now is we appreciate it very much, Rev. Sharpton's call, and we consider the matter closed," said LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter.
Sharpton apologized on CNN to "regular Mormons" for having said during a debate on religion Monday, "as for the one Mormon running for office, those that really believe in God will defeat him anyway, so don't worry about that, that's a temporary situation."
But although he said he attempted to contact the candidate he was referring to, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, Sharpton offered no apology to the former leader of Salt Lake's 2002 Winter Olympics.
A spokeswoman for Romney, Gail Gitcho, said Sharpton never talked with Romney. "He didn't call. His representatives contacted the campaign," Gitcho said. Asked if the representatives offered any apology, she said, "I don't believe so."
Sharpton, a Pentecostal minister and a former Democratic candidate for president, told listeners on his syndicated radio program earlier Thursday that his comment was distorted for political gain.
"Any member of the Mormon church who was inadvertently harmed, bothered or in any way aggrieved because of the distortion of my words, or the lack of clarity of my words, they have my sincere apology," Sharpton said.
His comment made during the debate came after his opponent, atheist author Christopher Hitchens, claimed Mormons are an example of how religion promotes racism because blacks had been excluded. The LDS Church did not allow black males to hold the priesthood until 1978, when the ban was lifted.
After Romney labeled the comment "extraordinarily bigoted," Sharpton responded by calling on the former Massachusetts governor to explain his views on the LDS Church's views on blacks.Romney's campaign released a video of Romney's appearance last week on "The Tonight Show," where he told Jay Leno when he heard the LDS Church would allow blacks to hold the priesthood, "I literally broke down. ... I feel very strongly that discrimination is wrong."
E-mail: [email protected]