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‘Elevate the common good,’ Elder Soares tells world religious leaders

Sharing the stage with Pope Francis and others, Elder Soares encourages social engagement over surrender of trust

Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addresses the Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions on Sept. 14, 2022, in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addresses the Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions on Sept. 14, 2022, in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan — Speaking at the seventh Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 14, Elder Ulisses Soares asked faith leaders to “celebrate the dignity of all God’s children and help create a more peaceful world.”

“What an audacious task we undertake — to elevate the common good above our own interests, to open our eyes beyond our own experience,” said Elder Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“We all belong to the same human race, share the same human nature and reach for the potential that God gave us.”

In addition to Elder Soares, other speakers at the congress — which convenes every three years in Kazakhstan — addressed peace and the relief of suffering.

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From right, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Alexey V. Samaykin, Area Seventy and president of the Europe East Area; and Elder Carl B. Cook of the Presidency of the Seventy meet with Haji Allahshükür Hummat Pashazade, sheik ul-Islam and grand mufti of the Caucasus, far left, at the Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 14.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This year’s gathering was the largest in the history of the event, with thousands of participants from around the world. Speakers from 30 religions — including Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church — addressed a variety of topics on the first day of this year’s event.

The pope encouraged those representing different religions to remember that everyone is “journeying toward the same heavenly goal.”

Elder Soares also talked about overcoming the differences that can separate individuals and groups for a variety of reasons.

“On the surface we all stand apart — we come from different countries, hold different beliefs, observe different rituals and pray to our own deities,” he said.

Elder Soares said he knew he was asking something hard of those in attendance.

Participants in the Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions gather for a photo on Sept. 14, 2022, in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

Participants in the Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions gather for a photo on Sept. 14, 2022, in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder Soares harkened back to the 19th century words of Kazakh poet Abai Qunanbaiuly, who wrote: “What a wonderful world the Creator has given us! He magnanimously and generously gave us His light.”

The words of encouragement were a welcome message after many mentions of the difficulties endured because of COVID-19 over the past two years. And even on that topic, Elder Soares saw a lesson learned and an opportunity for progress.

“COVID helped us understand the emotional necessity of personal connection,” he said. And because of that increased understanding of the need for connection, he suggested ecclesiastical leaders need to embrace this chance to build the faith of their congregants.

“Let us not surrender to hardship. We must engage instead,” he said.

Elder Soares also quoted Nazi concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl, who said, “Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire.”

Quoting from Mosiah 18:9 in the Book of Mormon, he spoke of the importance of manifesting Christlike love.

“It is part of the covenant of my faith to ‘mourn with those that mourn’ and ‘comfort those who stand in need of comfort,’” he said.

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Elder Ulisses Soares, center, is accompanied by Elder Alexey V. Samaykin, Area Seventy and president of the Europe East Area, as the two meet with Professor Azza Karam, secretary general of Religions for Peace, at the Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan on Sept. 14, 2022.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Elder Soares said service, including mourning with and comforting others, is part of a life committed to the Savior.

“Suffering is a school of compassion, a doorway to empathy, and invitation to relate,” he said.

He later continued, “Other-mindedness instills social responsibility in our lives, based not on self-interest but as a promise to God.”

The verse from Mosiah was one of two Book of Mormon references Elder Soares made during his remarks. In the other, he said COVID-19 was a challenge that can help strengthen churches, families and individuals.

“If we embrace the trial of faith, God will ‘make weak things become strong’ (Ether 12:27).”

Holding stronger to collective beliefs also brings strength, Elder Soares said.

“A culture is only as strong as the values of its members.”

As he concluded, Elder Soares invited the Congress to push forward in building stronger bonds to help overcome challenges.

“May we all reflect a little deeper, love a little stronger, communicate a little clearer and build the kinds of connections that help our societies weather the storms of life.”

As a part of the first day’s ceremonies at this year’s congress, Elder Soares was awarded the Medal of Honour by the congress.

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Elder Ulisses Soares receives the Medal of Honour from Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev at the Congress of the Leaders of the World and Traditional Religions in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, on Sept. 14, 2022.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Pope Francis’ counsels on compassion

The visit to the congress by Pope Francis was met with excitement by many of the congress’s attendees. Having the leader of the world’s largest Christian denomination attend and speak brought increased attention to the congress and its purpose by hundreds of members of the global media.

The pope was among many who talked about love and service, but he was one of the few to call out educational opportunities as being part of the churches’ responsibilities in their communities.

He also called the religious leaders of the congress to be examples of the peace they preach about.

“Spiritual leaders are the guardians of the conscience of humanity. Therefore, who better than you to show the way to mutual trust, goodness and peace?” he said.

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Pope Francis addresses the Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 14.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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