Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Why Is Freedom of Religion Essential to Independence?

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns freedom of religion. Religious freedom has been under attack for several years with increasing intensity. During the past year, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have spoken to global leaders and to college students from Italy to Brazil to Iowa about the different facets of religious freedom according to Christine Rappleye

            President Dallin H. Oaks, the first counselor in the First Presidency, spoke on religious freedom on two occasions and in two separate countries. On November 12, 2021, he spoke at the Joseph Smith Lecture at the University of Virginia. In December, he spoke at La Sapienza University in Rome, Italy. Here are some of his statements:

We have always had to work through serious political conflicts, but today too many approach that task as if their preferred outcome must entirely prevail over all others, even in our pluralistic society. We need to work for a better way – a way to resolve differences without compromising core values. We need to live together in peace and mutual respect, within our defined constitutional rights.

(The Joseph Smith Lecture at the University of Virginia on November 12, 2021, speaking on “Going Forward With Religious Freedom and Nondiscrimination.”)

Religious freedom is a fundamental feature of our religious doctrine. The restoration of the fullness of Christian doctrine teaches us that God created and put His children on earth to grow spiritually by making right choices between good and evil consistent with His commandments.

Freedom of choice is, therefore, fundamental to God’s plan.

(Tuesday, December 14, 2021, at La Sapienza University, in Rome, Italy)

            Several members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about religious freedom. Among them were Elders David A. Bednar, Quentin L. Cook, and D. Todd Christofferson.

[We feel] very strongly about religious freedom not just for ourselves, but for all. … Like some Muslims in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world, members of our Church have felt the effects of persecution and profiling and we join with good people everywhere in condemning such actions.

(Elder David A. Bednar at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, on October 19, 2021, during the final session of the free two-day conference “The Islamic World Today: Issues and Perspectives”)

My plea is that all religions work together to defend faith and religious freedom in a manner that protects people of diverse faith as well as those of no faith.

Catholics, Evangelicals, Jews, Muslims, Latter-day Saints and other faiths must be part of a coalition of faiths that succor, act as a sanctuary and promulgate religious freedom across the world. We must not only protect our ability to profess our own religion, but also protect the right of each religion to administer its own doctrines and laws.

(Elder Quentin L. Cook during a gathering in Salt Lake City with interfaith leaders from New York in advance of BYU’s religious freedom review on June 17, 2022)

One of the reasons I wanted to talk about Runnymede [where the Magna Carta was sealed in 1215] and to talk about these constitutional provisions is because they are crucial to us being able to go all over the world and be missionaries and they have been established so that people of faith can share the precious gospel truths that they feel.

(Elder Quentin L. Cook wen he examined a range of old books and commentaries on the Laws of England during a visit in October 2021 to the McGowin Library that houses Pembroke College’s Special Collections at the University of Oxford)

Religious liberty protects not just believers but everyone. It is the taproot that sustains and nourishes many other fundamental freedoms, values and social goods.

(Elder D. Todd Christofferson spoke from the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Friday, October 29, 2021, during the Forum on Religious Freedom in the Southern Cone based in Chili. The term “Southern Cone” refers to the area that comprises the countries of Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay)

            Rappelye’s article included several other quotes from other Church leaders. You can find those quotes here.  From the beginning of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, leaders have sought to protect freedom of religion for people of all religions or those with no religion.

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