Religion helps families, communities, nations, says Elder Christofferson

SALT LAKE CITY — International service builds world peace and is an example of the good that spirituality and religion can do for families, communities and nations, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said Nov. 29 at Westminster College in Salt Lake City.

Drawing on his experience in India over the summer when he received the 2017 Philosopher Saint Shri Dnyaneshwara World Peace Prize on behalf of the Church, Elder Christofferson said that spirituality is manifest and nurtured in service.

He recalled visiting young, differently abled students at Indian schools where Westminster College and Salt Lake Community College collaborate on service learning projects for their students. He provided a donation to the projects, giving them the $8,000 award that came with the peace prize from the Maharashtra Institute of Technology World Peace University.

“Looking into the students’ beautiful and bright, eager faces really made me emotional, and I felt impressed to leave them an apostolic blessing,” he said. “It was a special experience. If any of you have an opportunity to visit there and help these students, you can affect them in a very positive way.”

The event at Westminster College was sponsored by the college’s Office of Spiritual Life and Westminster’s LDS Student Association and LDS Institute. More than 150 people gathered as part of Westminster’s Global Peace and Spiritual Life lecture series.

“I applaud your service here and in India and elsewhere,” Elder Christofferson said, adding, “I congratulate each of you who are seeking to develop the capacity and resources in your own life to serve.”

He noted three ways that religion does good in the world.

First, he said, religion enriches an entire nation. Studies show that religion fosters trust — a necessary ingredient for social cohesion and economic growth.

Second, religion enriches local communities.

“Religious people and institutions are a powerful source of humanitarian assistance,” he said. “Where they are free to worship and to exercise their faith, religious people give volunteer community service at much higher rates than others. By one estimate, people of faith are 40 percent more likely than nonreligious people to give money to charities and more than twice as likely to volunteer their service to community organizations. Highly religious people are more likely to volunteer not only for religious causes but also for secular ones.

“This willingness of religious believers to give and to serve arises from the sense of compassion that religion teaches us to have for our neighbors,” Elder Christofferson added, “especially those who are poor or otherwise in need.”

Studies show that more than 90 percent of those who attend weekly worship services donate to charity.

“Because these welfare services are generally provided without cost or charge, they reduce the financial burden on government,” he noted.

Third, Elder Christofferson said, religion enriches the lives of families and individuals. He quoted studies that show marriages are more stable and enjoy higher levels of marital satisfaction because of the influence of religion. Families also are more self-sufficient.

“Additionally, children are safer and thrive better in families led by a religious mother and father whose faith inspires them to make personal sacrifices for the strength and happiness of their marriage and children,” he said. “Children raised in religious homes are less likely to experience anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, and sadness.

“Simply put, children are happier when mother and father are religious.”

Outgoing Westminster College President Stephen Morgan, a member of the Church, attended the event, as did Salt Lake Community College President Deneece Huftalin. Morgan and Huftalin attended the award ceremony for Elder Christofferson in India in August and hosted him on a tour of the Indian schools where their students serve.

Westminster LDSSA President Gabi Sanchez was grateful for Elder Christofferson’s visit to campus.

“It’s hard to convey what this means to the LDS population here at Westminster,” she said. “It’s almost like a dream come true, a dream I never knew I had because I never dreamed it could happen.”