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13 times Church leaders have spoken about the importance of religious liberty in the past year


From Italy to Brazil to Iowa, with global leaders and to college students, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have spoken about different facets of religious freedom during the past year. 

President Dallin H. Oaks, the first counselor in the First Presidency, spoke at the Joseph Smith Lecture at the University of Virginia on Nov. 12, 2021, on “Going Forward With Religious Freedom and Nondiscrimination,” and in December, he spoke at La Sapienza University, in Rome, Italy.

“Freedom of choice is, therefore, fundamental to God’s plan,” he told the group in Rome.

Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speak at the final session of the two-day BYU conference “The Islamic World Today: Issues and Perspectives” on Oct. 19, 2021. The session was held in the auditorium of the Joseph Smith Building.

Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speak at the final session of the two-day BYU conference “The Islamic World Today: Issues and Perspectives” on Oct. 19, 2021. The session was held in the auditorium of the Joseph Smith Building.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Gerrit W. Gong, both of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, were the speakers of the final session of the free two-day conference “The Islamic World Today: Issues and Perspectives” at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and the conference included themes of religious liberty. Elder Gong was also one of the keynote speakers at the 2022 Church History Symposium in March, which was about “Latter-day Saints and Religious Liberty: Historical and Global Perspectives,” and Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and Latter-day Saint Charities director, was part of a panel discussion.

While ministering in the United Kingdom in October 2021, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited Oxford and talked about the “precious precursors” to documents that ensure religious liberty. In June, Elder Cook and interfaith leaders from New York City’s Commission of Religious Leaders participated in the 2022 Religious Freedom Annual Review at BYU.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, in separate sessions virtually addressed the Forum on Religious Freedom in the Southern Cone in October 2021. “Southern Cone” refers to the area that comprises the countries of Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaks at the “Freedom of Religion and Belief: Protecting Minorities” session during the G20 Interfaith Forum in Bologna, Italy, on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaks at the “Freedom of Religion and Belief: Protecting Minorities” session during the G20 Interfaith Forum in Bologna, Italy, on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021.

Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

For the fourth year in a row, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at the G20 Interfaith Forum. Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at the forum, this time in Bologna, Italy, in September 2021.

In Brazil, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles joined representatives of other faiths as well as government, civic, education, media and other speakers during a panel discussion during the March 23-25 symposium in Rio de Janeiro on “Religious Liberty: Foundational to Coexistence, Justice and Peace.”

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“My message is founded on this principle, that as we respect each other and live in peace with each other, at the same time we have the right to live what we believe and have other people respecting us. That is the foundation of a good society, a good ‘family,’ so we all can enjoy the beauty that Heavenly Father created for us, the world living in peace and to be able to worship our Heavenly Father the way we believe is right,” Elder Soares said.

Primary General President Camille N. Johnson presented on “Freedom To Serve Our Neighbor: The Role of Religious Charities and Volunteers” during the Freedom To Serve Symposium at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 19, in conjunction with Iowa Religious Freedom Day. 

Here are quotes from each leader:

President Dallin H. Oaks

President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency delivers the 2021 Joseph Smith Lecture in the Dome Room of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021.

President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency delivers the 2021 Joseph Smith Lecture in the Dome Room of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“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.”

President Dallin H. Oaks, the first counselor in the First Presidency, during the Joseph Smith Lecture at the University of Virginia on Nov. 12, 2021, speaking on “Going Forward With Religious Freedom and Nondiscrimination.”

President Dallin H. Oaks, center, speaks on religious freedom at Sapienza University in Rome on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021.

President Dallin H. Oaks, center, speaks on religious freedom at Sapienza University in Rome on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“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.”

President Dallin H. Oaks, the first counselor in the First Presidency, on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, at La Sapienza University, in Rome, Italy

Elder David A. Bednar

Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speak at the final session of the two-day BYU conference “The Islamic World Today: Issues and Perspectives” on Oct. 19, 2021. The session was held in the auditorium of the Joseph Smith Building.

Elder David A. Bednar and Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speak at the final session of the two-day BYU conference “The Islamic World Today: Issues and Perspectives” on Oct. 19, 2021. The session was held in the auditorium of the Joseph Smith Building.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“[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 of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, On Oct. 19, 2021, during the final session of the free two-day conference “The Islamic World Today: Issues and Perspectives.”

President Camille N. Johnson

Primary General President Camille N. Johnson presents at the Freedom to Serve Symposium at Drake University on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, in conjunction with Iowa Religious Freedom Day.

Primary General President Camille N. Johnson presents at the Freedom to Serve Symposium at Drake University on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, in conjunction with Iowa Religious Freedom Day.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“Religious groups and individuals play an indispensable role in our communities and are uniquely positioned to alleviate suffering and help those on the margins of society. … It will take all of us serving, contributing whatever we have available in time, talents and money to address the suffering we see around us.”

— Primary General President Camille N. Johnson speaking on “Freedom To Serve Our Neighbor: The Role of Religious Charities and Volunteers” during the Freedom To Serve Symposium at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, in conjunction with Iowa Religious Freedom Day.

Elder Quentin L. Cook

Elder Quentin L. Cook, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, moderates a panel of religious leaders at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, June 16, 2022.

Elder Quentin L. Cook, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, moderates a panel of religious leaders at Brigham Young University in Provo on Thursday, June 16, 2022.

Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“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 of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles 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 of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles when 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.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks from the Church Office Building on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks from the Church Office Building on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021.

Credit: Jon Ryan Jensen, Church News

“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 Oct. 29, 2021, during the Forum on Religious Freedom in the Southern Cone based in Chile. The term “Southern Cone” refers to the area that comprises the countries of Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. He spoke from Salt Lake City.

Sister Reyna I. Aburto

Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, speaks via Zoom from Puerto Rico on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021.

Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, speaks via Zoom from Puerto Rico on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021.

Credit: screenshot

On the social role of religion and faith communities and sharing about the Church’s humanitarian outreach: 

“All of this is possible thanks to our close collaboration with governments and with religious and charitable organizations. … We constantly set aside our differences about religious doctrines and practices and unite our forces to serve the needy.”

Sister Reyna I. Aburto participated in a panel discussion about the social role of religion and faith communities on Oct. 29, 2021, during the first Forum on Religious Freedom in the Southern Cone based in Chile. She spoke from Puerto Rico.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband

Elder Ronald A. Rasband, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, second from right, poses for a photo with other religious leaders during the G20 Interfaith Forum in Bologna, Italy, on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021.

Elder Ronald A. Rasband, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, second from right, poses for a photo with other religious leaders during the G20 Interfaith Forum in Bologna, Italy, on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021.

Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“We believe that to the degree that we can now be more than a single voice and the Catholics can be more than a single voice and the Greek Orthodox can be more than a single voice, that we can be a choir now,” he said. “Instead of being soloists in different parts of the world, we can be a choir, and we can put aside the differences in our tenets. We have differences, of course, but there are some things that we’re completely in agreement on, and that’s what we’re going to focus on together with others.”

— Elder Ronald A. Rasband during the G20 Interfaith Forum, in Bologna, Italy, on Sept. 13, 2021. 

Elder Gerrit W. Gong

Elder Gerrit W. Gong speaks during the Church History Symposium at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 11, 2022.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong speaks during the Church History Symposium at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 11, 2022.

Credit: Mengshin Lin, Deseret News

“Religious liberty is a natural global desire as Latter-day Saint members seek to honor, obey and sustain the law and contribute to our societies and communities in nations, kindreds, tongues and peoples across the world.” 

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the March 11, 2022, concluding keynote address of the 2022 Church History Symposium in Salt Lake City on “Latter-day Saints and Religious Liberty: Historical and Global Perspectives.”

“As we meet with Muslim leaders across the world,” Elder Gong said, “we talk about defending religious freedom. People of faith need to stand together for tolerance and dignity of people of all religious beliefs.”

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, during the final session of the free two-day conference “The Islamic World Today: Issues and Perspectives,” on Oct. 19, 2021.

Sister Sharon Eubank

People listen to the panel during the Church History Symposium at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 11, 2022.

People listen to the panel during the Church History Symposium at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 11, 2022.

Credit: Mengshin Lin, Deseret News

“People have inherent rights and privileges just by being children of God and we’ll protect those.”

Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and president of Latter-day Saint Charities, during a Church History Symposium panel discussion on March 11, 2022, in Salt Lake City. The symposium’s theme was “Latter-day Saints and Religious Liberty: Historical and Global Perspectives.”

Elder Ulisses Soares

Elder Ulisses Soares, second from left, speaks at the “Religious Liberty: Foundational to Coexistence, Justice and Peace” symposium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

Elder Ulisses Soares, second from left, speaks at the “Religious Liberty: Foundational to Coexistence, Justice and Peace” symposium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“When we all have a place to live, a space to think and the right to speak, the communities will be better. As long as individuals don’t harm or coerce anyone, our differences can enrich our coexistence.”

Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the “Religious Liberty: Foundational to Coexistence, Justice and Peace” symposium, March 23, 2022, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Read more about Church leaders who have spoken recently on religious freedom

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