The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns the importance of religious freedom. Every mortal that has ever lived on earth or will yet live on earth fought a battle in heaven over the freedom to choose. We know that we were on the winning side because we are here on earth with physical bodies. The spirits fighting on the losing side will never receive physical bodies. The battle for agency was – and still is – critical to our eternal happiness.
History is full of examples where the religious freedom of certain groups was threatened. The early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were persecuted and forced to move from New York to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois and finally to the Utah Territory in order to worship God as they chose. When asked about his beliefs, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote a list of thirteen statements later known as the Articles of Faith. The eleventh belief is about the freedom to worship.
We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may (Pearl of Great Price, Article of Faith 1:11).
Members of the LDS Church have to defend their right to worship on a regular basis; therefore, the Church is usually in the forefront in defending the freedoms of other religions. This was true in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and it is true in our day. Joseph Smith explained why he felt it was important to defend the rights of others.
The Saints can testify whether I am willing to lay down my life for my brethren. If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a “Mormon,” I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination [as for a Mormon]; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves. (See Teaching of the Church: Joseph Smith ,345.)
An article titled “Religious Freedom Matters” was recently published by the LDS Church in its July 2017 issue of the Ensign. This article lists and explains numerous “potentially severe consequences if we lose the freedom to worship, speak, and live according to our beliefs.” This list includes the following.
You could lose your job or leadership positions for expressing religious beliefs even outside of work….
You might be required to hide your religion or perform tasks at work that go against your beliefs….
You may not be able to adopt children or become a foster parent….
As a business owner or professional, you might lose your license or be fined if you refuse to perform services that are contrary to your religious beliefs….
Churches may be forced to employ people who disagree with or refuse to live core values of their faith….
Religious schools that maintain honor codes may lose their accreditation and be denied research funds and even federal student loans and grants….
The above is a partial list without any explanations. I encourage you to go to the article to read the entire list and explanation as well as to this Church website for more information. “There’s a lot at stake, and this is just a sampling.”
We do not know all the consequences that could result from a loss of liberty to worship, speak and live according to our own beliefs. We do know that the world continues to move further from Christian beliefs and teachings. We defend religious freedom before we lose these privileges. We can do so by joining like-minded groups and by raising our voices to protect religious freedom for ourselves and all other Americans.