BlackFacts Details

Bridgeforth, Ruffin (1923–1997)

Bridgeforth moved from Louisiana to Utah in 1944. He worked for the US Army and later became a conductor with the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1946 he married his first wife, Helena Marie Romero. Nine years after his migration to Utah, Bridgeforth converted to the Mormon faith in 1953. At the time, the official LDS ban on black priesthood was in place, and Bridgeforth was one of a few hundred black Mormons in the church worldwide.

Bridgeforth formed a partnership with two other black Mormons, Darius Gray and Eugene Orr, in Salt Lake City. They discussed the LDS Church’s position on blacks in their religion. In 1971 they communicated with LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith their concerns about the ban on priesthood for black males and other rites (ordinances) that were reserved for white Mormons. President Smith sent three white high-ranking church officials (two of whom were future LDS presidents, Gordon B. Hinckley and Thomas S. Monson) to begin a dialogue with black Mormons in June of 1971. Later in October, President Smith authorized the establishment of the Genesis Group, an auxiliary body within the Church that focused on black Mormons.

Bridgeforth was selected president of the Genesis Group. Darius Gray and Eugene Orr were nominated to be first and second counselor, respectively. Early on in the group’s history, there were conflicting visions about the mission of the Genesis Group. While Eugene Orr sought immediate granting of black priesthood, Bridgeforth argued for more gradual inclusion. Bridgeforth envisioned Genesis not only to retain black members, but also to preach the LDS faith to non-Mormon blacks.