When Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson spoke on Thursday, June 13 at the Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit in London, England, it was the third time in as many years that a leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has spoken at the event.
In 2022, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, spoke at the same event in Rome, Italy. Elder Quentin L. Cook, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke at the summit in 2021 when it was held at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
Church leaders have spoken about the topic of religious freedom in many different settings over the years. Below are 10 videos featuring some of the instances when leaders spoke about the need to defend and preserve the right to organize and worship as both individuals and congregations.
1. President Oaks in Rome, Italy
While speaking in Rome, Italy during the Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit in July 2022, President Oaks talked about the need for a global effort to defend and advance religious freedom around the world.
“Fundamental to that doctrine is the right and the obligation of individuals to choose, to do what keeps the commandments of God and what furthers the purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ as He taught it. Without religious freedom, we are not free to do that,” he said.
2. Giulia Bonoldi at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center in Rome
Giulia Bonoldi from the center talked about what the Church’s support has meant to the refugees served there.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is contributing to our mission in a great way because they are allowing us to carry out the breakfast program, supply room program, which means providing material help to many thousands of refugees,” she said.
3. Dean G. Marcus Cole on ‘a global problem’
G. Marcus Cole is the dean of the University of Notre Dame Law School and also participated at the 2022 summit.
“Part of what I want to do is shine a light on the fact that religious freedom and threats to religious freedom are not just in the United States of America. It’s a global problem.”
4. President Oaks’ hope to ‘carve out the middle ground’
“It is short-sighted of religions and religious believers to believe that their particular values — as important and God-given as they are — should be dominant over every other concern of other children of God.”
5. Elder Cook models working together
While visiting New York City on March 3 and 4, 2022, Elder Cook met with religious leaders in the city, talking about the importance of religious freedom and continuing relationships with his friends of many faiths.
“I think that those who feel accountable to God have a responsibility to join efforts with others who have different faiths. But they need to work together in order to protect religious freedom — and particularly to protect it in the public square,” Elder Cook said.
6. Former Sen. Lieberman says religion has played ‘constructive role’
While meeting with Elder Cook and preparing to receive an award from the New York Latter-day Saint Professional Association, former United States Sen. Joe Lieberman said religious freedom has had an important role in the country’s development.
“The reality is that religion has played a very constructive role in the ongoing journey of making America a better country, and so that’s why I think religious liberty is one of our great strengths,” he said.
7. Religious freedom helps life have meaning
In June 2021, when Elder Cook participated in the inaugural Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit, he said “there are some threats to [religious freedom] today.”
He spoke with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic Archbishop of New York, and others about building bridges to protect religious freedom during the multi-day conference.
Dr. Jacqueline Rivers, a Pentecostal and director of The Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies, spoke about the need to defend the right for those of faith and those of no faith.
“At the base of human existence, for it to have meaning, we have to have the freedom to follow our conscience,” she said.
8. Freedoms not to be used as weapons
While on a ministry trip to England in fall 2021, Elder Cook spoke of what he sees as the real meaning of religious freedom and the benefits that freedom provides to all people.
“Freedom of religion isn’t just something that impacts certain people or can be used as a weapon. It isn’t that at all,” Elder Cook said. “Religious freedom is a protection for all people to promulgate the things that they believe in,” he said.
9. Discipline to fill life with what is most important
During an 11-day ministry to Chile, Uruguay and Argentina, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that people need to have God in their hearts. He defended religious freedom and decried relative truth while speaking at a religious congress in Buenos Aires.
“People are filling their lives with so many things — with money, with activities — that they do not allow themselves time for what is most important.”
10. Unique position of Latter-day Saints to ‘moderate and to unify’
Judge Thomas B. Griffith, a former federal judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was the guest on the 99th episode of the Church News podcast.
Judge Griffith served as Senate legal counsel and then as general counsel for Brigham Young University. A Latter-day Saint, he spoke about religious liberty, the powerful possibilities of the United States Constitution and Latter-day Saints civilly engaging in an increasingly polarized political climate.
“We know how to see somebody who’s different than us and learn to work with them and get along with them. Now, can we take that skill that we’ve developed in our wards in our stakes and can we take it out to our community? Can we be the ones in our community who are agents of reconciliation? I think we have, as Latter-day Saints, we have a distinctive and unique role to play at this moment,” he said.