Religious freedom is fundamental to societal well-being, and protecting all faiths is critical, wrote Elder Quentin L. Cook, Elder D. Todd Christofferson and Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in separate social media posts commemorating National Religious Freedom Day.
Elder Cook said his plea is that all religions work together to defend faith and religious freedom — to protect 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,” he wrote.
Elder Cook outlined how religious accountability benefits secular society, because people of faith are inspired to perform good works on behalf of others: “The humanitarian efforts of religious-based organizations can do things beyond what others can do,” he said.
Elder Christofferson explained that religious conscience leads to good citizenship, by encouraging virtues and habits such as honesty, duty, service, sacrifice and civic engagement.
“The freedom of religious people and institutions to function according to their faith and beliefs is fundamental to societal well-being,” Elder Christofferson wrote. “Religion benefits not only believers but all of society, including nonbelievers.”
Elder Rasband posted that after recognizing National Religious Freedom Day on Sunday, Jan. 16, he was again reminded that loving one’s neighbor is the second great commandment.
“True religion prompts us to help those in need, which is one reason why protecting all faiths is critical,” Elder Rasband posted. “When religion is given the freedom to flourish, the good of religion, the reach of religion, and the heroic acts of love which religion inspires only multiply.”
Proclaiming religious freedom around the world
Their words add to the chorus of times in the past year that Church leaders have emphasized the importance of religious freedom around the world. In December 2021, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, told an audience in Rome that the right to freely practice one’s religious faith can be seen “as the grandparent of all the other rights.” And on Nov 12, 2021, President Oaks gave a historic address at the University of Virginia.
“Let us unite with those who advocate nondiscrimination to seek a culture and laws that respect the rights of all to the equal protection of the law and the right to the free exercise of religion,” said President Oaks that day.
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Elder Cook attended the inaugural Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, and other national religious leaders on June 28, 2021. He made a plea for all religions to work together to defend faith and religious freedom in a manner that protects everyone, even those of no faith. Elder Cook also spoke of the Magna Carta and other precursors to religious liberty in a visit to Oxford last year.
Elder Christofferson and Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, both participated in a Forum on Religious Freedom in South America in October 2021. Elder Christofferson spoke about how religious liberty “is the taproot that sustains and nourishes many other fundamental freedoms, values and social goods.” And Sister Aburto participated in an earlier panel discussion during the conference about the social role of religion and faith communities.
Elder Rasband addressed the G20 Interfaith Forum in September, 2021, marking the fourth consecutive year an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has done so. He declared that the world’s 5 billion people of faith need to unite against religious persecution and for religious freedom.
On June 15, 2021, Elder Dale G. Renlund and his wife Sister Ruth L. Renlund gave a joint keynote address at the Brigham Young University Law School’s 2021 Religious Freedom Annual Review, where they explained how the Prophet Joseph Smith was an indefatigable advocate and champion of religious freedom.
“Then, as now, Latter-day Saints wanted American democratic rights promised in the Constitution to be more than a myth,” said Elder Renlund. “Joseph’s run for the American presidency and his subsequent death highlights the need for the vigorous protection of democratic rights in the nation.”
White House proclamation on religious freedom
The President of the United States has officially proclaimed Religious Freedom Day on Jan. 16 each year since 1993. This year, the proclamation from the White House reads in part:
“Our Founders enshrined the principle of religious freedom in the First Amendment to our Constitution, establishing it as a cornerstone of who we are as a Nation. Today, America remains a religiously diverse Nation — a land uniquely strengthened by the routine and extraordinary commingling of faiths and belief systems.”
The White House proclamation also declares that “everyone should feel safe when attending a religious service, school, a community center event or while walking down the street wearing the symbols of their faith.”