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Church News viewpoint: Religious freedom

The scene is set. As part of a college classroom discussion, a student attacks her Latter-day Saint peer for the Church’s doctrine that marriage is between a man and a woman.

The LDS student becomes angry, then after some time to ponder she visits with her bishop. He counsels her to study the teachings of Church leaders, read her scriptures, keep her anger in check and try to see things from other’s points of view.

The young woman seeks out her classmate. Although they disagree on core beliefs, she expresses concern that they let a friendly conversation turn into religious conflict.

Then the LDS student finds her voice, speaks articulately about the Church’s doctrines and teaches her peer about the LDS belief that there should be “fairness for all.” The Mormon student helps her peer understand the Church is working to defend the rights of everyone to act on their beliefs.

This anecdote is included in a video featured on lds.org/religious-freedom.

The 11th Article of Faith articulates the Church’s belief in religious freedom. “We claim the privilege of worshiping 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.”

For members of the Church, religious liberty is important because agency is important. However, today in countries across the globe religious freedom is under attack.

The great conflict between “good and evil, right and wrong, the moral and the immoral — conflict which the world’s great faiths and devoted religious believers have historically tried to address — is being intensified in our time and is affecting an ever-wider segment of our culture,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during his 2016 BYU Education Week devotional address. “And let there be no doubt that the outcome of this conflict truly matters, not only in eternity but in everyday life as well.”

Elder Holland told members that only in the living of their religion will the preservation of it have true meaning.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said during the Freedom Festival Patriotic Service, held in the BYU Marriott Center on June 26, 2016, that although religious freedom lies at the core of what America is and what it stands for, critics now openly ask whether religion belongs in American public life at all. “Religious freedom is indeed under fire,” he said. “This is our moment to defend our fundamental freedoms.”

During a BYU devotional on Sept. 13, 2016, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressed the elections, hope and freedom. “In these distressing times our freedom and hope can best be fostered by five actions,” he said. “One, we must concentrate on what we have in common with our neighbors and fellow citizens. Two, we must strive for mutual understanding and treat all with goodwill. Three, we must exercise patience. Four, we should all speak out for religion and the importance of religious freedom. And five, we must, above all, trust in God and His promises.”

People of faith should raise their voices and “defend divinely inspired freedoms,” said Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during a symposium on Religious Liberty and the Law held in Los Angeles on Nov. 3.

“When allegations are made that are detrimental and often false to either faith or religious liberty, the members of that faith and their friends of other faiths, who feel accountable to God, need to defend them in a positive statesman-like manner.”

Elder Cook cited two examples — a published book and a political challenge — that put this concept into perspective. In the first example, claims against Christianity found in a recently published book were promoted by popular media, not challenged. In the second example, people of faith raised their voice, objecting to the inappropriate religious characterization of a nominee in a Senate hearing. “The result was that a pause was created in the discourse and those who denigrated faith were suddenly on the defense,” said Elder Cook.

Too many “do not make their positive views known when their engagement is sorely needed,” he added.

Members don’t have to defend religious freedom alone. This year, Church leaders hosted regional meetings on this important topic to help educate members. Additional resources can be found at LDS.org/religious-freedom. On this site members can learn how religious freedom is defined, see why religious freedom matters, and learn what we can to protect it.

The site asks members to do two things: First, become informed about the basics of religious freedom and understand their rights. Second, live and respectfully share their beliefs.

Elder Ronald R. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said during a Sept. 15, 2015, BYU devotional address that the opportunity to be involved in the ­political process is a privilege given to every citizen: “Our laws and legislation play an important teaching role in shaping our social and moral culture. We need every individual in society to take an active role in engaging in civic dialogue that helps frame laws and legislation that are fair for everyone.”

Elder Christofferson said, “With courage, conviction, and civility … each one of us can make a profound difference.”

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