The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that religious freedom is essential for us to use our moral agency and both are under assault in our day. We must be proactive in protecting our religious freedom in order to preserve our moral agency.
Last weekend Elder Robert D. Hales spoke to the topic of “Preserving Agency, Protecting Religious Freedom.” I was already listening intently to the counsel given in General Conference, but I perked my ears up a little more as Elder Hales began to speak. I hear a lot about moral agency in the meetings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I have never heard someone state the connection between preserving agency and protecting religious freedom. I share with you a few of the words of Elder Hales and encourage you to read his entire talk.
“As those around us make choices about how to respond to our beliefs, we must not forget that moral agency is an essential part of God’s plan for all His children. That eternal plan, presented to us in the premortal Council in Heaven, included the gift of agency….
“To keep the commandments, we need to know the official doctrine of the Church so we are not diverted from Christ’s leadership by the ever-changing whims of individuals.
“The blessings we enjoy now are because we made the choice to follow the Savior before this life. To everyone hearing or reading these words, whoever you are and whatever your past may be, remember this: it is not too late to make that same choice again and follow Him….
“As we walk the path of spiritual liberty in these last days, we must understand that the faithful use of our agency depends upon our having religious freedom. We already know that Satan does not want this freedom to be ours. He attempted to destroy moral agency in heaven, and now on earth he is fiercely undermining, opposing, and spreading confusion about religious freedom – what it is and why it is essential to our spiritual life and our very salvation.”
According to Elder Hales, “there are four cornerstones of religious freedom that we … must rely upon and protect….  Freedom to believe. No one should be criticized, persecuted, or attacked by individuals, or governments either, for what he or she believes about God….
 Freedom to share our faith and our beliefs with others. … As parents, full-time missionaries, and member missionaries, we rely on religious freedom in order to teach the Lord’s doctrine in our families and throughout the world….  Freedom to form a religious organization, a church, to worship peacefully with others….  Freedom to live our faith – free exercise of faith not just in the home and chapel but also in public places….
“Some are offended when we bring our religious into the public square, yet the same people who insist that their viewpoints and actions be tolerated in society are often very slow to give that same tolerance to religious believers who also wish their viewpoints and actions to be tolerated. The general lack of respect for religious viewpoints is quickly devolving into social and political intolerance for religious people and institutions.”
There is increasing “pressure to bow to secular standards, forfeit our religious liberties, and compromise our agency,” but this is not the first time religious people have faced such pressure. Followers of Satan always try to destroy religious people.
“As disciples of Jesus Christ we have a responsibility to work together with like-minded believers, to raise our voices for what is right. While members should never claim or even imply that they are speaking for the Church, we are all invited, in our capacity as citizens, to share our personal witness with conviction and love -- `every man [and woman] according to his [or her] own mind…”
Elder Hales said, “we are responsible to safeguard these sacred freedoms and rights for ourselves and our posterity.” He then suggested the following things we can do: “ … Become informed. Be aware of issues in your community that could have an impact on religious liberty….  Join with others who share our commitment to religious freedom. Work side by side to protect religious freedom….
 Live your life to be a good example of what you believe – in word and deed. How we live our religion is far more important than what we may say about our religion.”