In 1971 Ruffin Bridgeforth, Darius Gray, and Eugene Orr, all African American Mormons, met at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to create a strategy for receiving greater support for the black members of the Latter Day Saints. In that year, there were only three or four hundred Latter-day Saints of African descent throughout the world, although some of them traced their family lineage to the earliest black LDS members in the 1830s and 1840s.
In 1971 the church continued its ban of all blacks from its priesthood and significant temple rites that was handed down in 1852, regardless of the length of their family membership as Mormons. Ultimately, Darius Gray approached Church President Joseph Fielding Smith with their concerns. President Smith assigned three junior apostles, Elders Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, and Boyd K. Packer, to meet with the three black Mormons. Their meetings began on the morning of June 8, 1971, a date which would take on greater significance in 1978, when the priesthood restriction was abandoned. From June until October, meetings were scheduled twice a month. In early October, an unscheduled meeting was called. Gordon B. Hinckley told Bridgeforth, Gray, and Orr that he and his associates were establishing a support organization for black members of the LDS Church and wished to have Ruffin Bridgeforth serve as president. Bridgeforth asked both Gene Orr and Darius Gray to serve as his counselors, and the three selected a name for the group: Genesis. On October 19, the Genesis Group of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized. Mary Lucile Bankhead, a descendant of vanguard pioneer and “colored servant” Green Flake, was named president of the Relief Society, the women’s auxiliary.
The Genesis Group conducted activities to promote unity and understanding between black and white Mormons. Group members performed plays, put on soul food dinners, and brought many inactive black Mormons and other Mormons of color back to the church. Their summer picnics also