The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that we must have religious freedom in order for us to use our moral agency. Agency is one of the greatest gifts given to us by our Heavenly Father; it makes us responsible for our words and actions. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantee freedom of religion.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” (First Amendment).
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 10, 1948, Article 18).
In an address entitled “Preserving Agency, Protecting Religious Freedom” given at the April 2015 General Conference, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the following: “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.
“There are four cornerstones of religious freedom that we as Latter-day Saints must rely upon and protect.
“The first is freedom to believe. No one should be criticized, persecuted, or attacked by individuals, or governments either, for what he or she believes about God….
“The second … is the freedom to share our faith and our beliefs with others….
“The third … is the freedom to form a religious organization, a church, to worship peacefully with others….
“The fourth … is the freedom to live our faith – free exercise of faith not just in the home and chapel but also in public places.”
The Prophet Joseph Smith and early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints experienced great persecution because of their religious beliefs. Members of the LDS Church continue to experience prejudice because of our beliefs; an example of this prejudice is the refusal of many so-called “Christians” refusing to vote for Mitt Romney simply because he is a Mormon. Christians in the Middle East are currently experiencing terror and death because of their religious beliefs. Radical Islamists are actually killing people for not converting to Islam!
Elder Hales quoted the Prophet Joseph Smith: “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.
“It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul – civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 345).
Elder Hales explained that “we are responsible to safeguard these sacred freedoms and rights for ourselves and our posterity.” Then he gave several ways we can do this: (1) Become informed, particularly about issues in our own communities that “could impact our religious liberty”; (2) Join “others who share our commitment to religious freedom” and “work side by side to protect religious freedom”; (3) “Live [our lives by being] good example[s] of what [we] believe – in word and deed. How we live our religion is far more important than what we may say about our religion.”
Reminding us of that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is getting closer, Elder Hales suggested that we remember and follow the example of Captain Moroni with his title of liberty inscribed with the words “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 46:12). The people “came running together” to join Captain Moroni and covenant to defend their freedom (Alma 46:21). Elder Hales then exhorts us to “Run to receive the blessings of agency by following the Holy Ghost and exercising the freedoms God has given us to do His will.”