Posted by: 2thdocbob | 10 July 2022

To Heal the World, or Defending Our Religious Freedoms

I was privileged to speak today, and was assigned to speak to Elder Ronald A. Rasband’s talk on religious freedom from April 2022 General Conference. I was blessed by the influence of the Spirit as I prepared the talk. I have studied the addresses of our leaders as they have spoken to numerous groups throughout the world on this critical topic; it is one I also feel strongly about. And think I am in tune with them. I hope it motivates you to become more aware and more involved in protecting this sacred right.

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Elder Rasband’s most recent conference talk on religious freedom resonated with me. I hope you have experienced something similar when listening to General Conference, when a particular message speaks to you. As I have studied it further, I have gained additional insights into this important topic. I would like to share some of these insights with you this morning, as well as some personal examples, if time permits.

I pray for the Spirit to be with us so that we may be taught the things that the Lord desires each of us to learn. Please understand that I will speak as a child of God, and as an Elder in Israel, not as an adherent of any political party.

I will try to address three important questions as I discuss religious freedom:

What is it?

Why is it important?

What can we do to protect it?

What is religious freedom?

“It is freedom of worship in all its configurations: freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom to act on personal beliefs, and freedom for others to do the same. Religious freedom allows each of us to decide for ourselves what we believe, how we live and act according to our faith, and what God expects of us.”[1]

Religious freedom allows us to meet here each week to worship our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ and to feel the presence and comforting influence of the Holy Ghost. It allows us to renew our covenants, and to draw closer to Christ and to one another.

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, a prominent defender of religious liberty, and a friend of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has said “A just society allows people to not amputate their covenantal identity in the public square.”[2]

Take a minute to consider the significance of that statement. As Latter-day Saints and followers of our Lord, Jesus Christ, we strive to walk on the covenant path. Through baptism and confirmation, we become God’s covenant people, and have been instructed by the Savior to let our lights shine before this people.[3] Religious freedom allows us to share and enjoy all the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

More importantly, religious freedom makes possible the gathering of Israel on both sides of the veil.

In Primary we learned the Eleventh Article of Faith:

“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.”[4]

This right was defined in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”[5] This has been interpreted in various ways over the years, sometimes to our detriment.

In an early draft of the First Amendment, Madison wrote:

“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.”[6]

This provides an interesting insight into the original intent of the Founders, and guides us in our effort to defend religious freedom.

Sister Sharon Eubank stated, “People have inherent rights and privileges just by being children of God and we’ll protect those.”[7]

Why is religious freedom important to us?

Elder Robert D. Hales said:

“The faithful use of our agency depends upon our having religious freedom. We already know that Satan does not want this freedom to be ours. He attempted to destroy moral agency in heaven, and now on earth he is fiercely undermining, opposing, and spreading confusion about religious freedom—what it is and why it is essential to our spiritual life and our very salvation.”[8]

Let me quote from Elder Maxwell, in 1978. I heard him speak these words.

“In the months and years ahead, events will require of each member that he or she decide whether or not he or she will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions (see 1 Kings 18:21).”[9]

Will we use our agency to follow the Prophets, Seers and Revelators, or will we follow the calls of the world that come from the great and spacious building?

Elder Maxwell continued prophetically:

“We shall see in our time a maximum if indirect effort made to establish irreligion as the state religion. It is actually a new form of paganism that uses the carefully preserved and cultivated freedoms of Western civilization to shrink freedom even as it rejects the value essence of our rich Judeo-Christian heritage.”[10]

Remember, Elder Maxwell said this 44 years ago!

Since then, acting on religion has been equated with establishing religion in the courts and in public discourse, and our religious rights have become endangered. That is just in the United States. Conditions tend to be worse in the rest of the world, which is why the General Leadership of the Church has been so involved in defending religious freedom on the world stage.

A wise observer said: “A religious conviction is now a second-class conviction, expected to step deferentially to the back of the secular bus, and not to get uppity about it.”[11] I have experienced this on occasion, and you may have as well.

The Book of Mosiah offers instructive lessons in the challenges of living in an oppressive society without freedom to worship openly, or even to pray aloud.

Elder Rasband noted four ways that society benefits from religious freedom.[12]

First, religious freedom allows us to place God at the center of our lives through our devotion to him and through serving His children.

Second, religious freedom fosters expressions of belief, hope and peace that we could not share openly without these freedoms.

Third, religion inspires people to help others. Look at the good the Church has done for individuals of all faiths through partnerships with many other faith groups in response to urgent needs throughout the world. Even within Waterman Ward, we have individuals who serve with other faith groups in helping the needy. There is strength in numbers as we strive to bless Heavenly Father’s children.

Fourth, religion becomes a unifying force for shaping values and morality in society. I teach ethics, and cannot separate my religious beliefs from my professional and ethical convictions. I find it gratifying when individuals comment to me that it is obvious that I am a believer.

One of my co-workers is a devout Christian. Years ago, he saw a copy of the Book of Mormon in my truck, and exclaimed “I knew you were a brother in Christ!” He could have responded very differently, for example “Oh, so you’re one of those!” but he chose a unifying comment. And he continues to refer to me as a Brother in Christ. That was high praise, and he gave me a lot to live up to. We have strong mutual respect built on the foundation of our faith in Christ, which we have the freedom to express openly.

What can we do to defend religious freedom?

Discipleship includes good citizenship. Our Church leaders have encouraged us for years to read and understand our governing documents.

As good disciples of Jesus Christ, we can learn from the example of Captain Moroni when he raised the title of liberty. We should also remember what Moroni inscribed on the title of liberty:

“In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children …”

Then we read,

“And he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land …

“Moroni prayed that the cause of the Christians, and the freedom of the land might be favored.”[13]

We learn from the Jaredites that when they did not repent of their iniquity,

“The Spirit of the Lord had ceased striving with them, and Satan had full power over the hearts of the people; for they were given up unto the hardness of their hearts, and the blindness of their minds that they might be destroyed;”[14]

Returning to Moroni,

“It came to pass that when he had poured out his soul to God, he named all the land … both on the north and on the south—A chosen land, and the land of liberty.

“And he said: Surely God shall not suffer that we, who are despised because we take upon us the name of Christ, shall be trodden down and destroyed, until we bring it upon us by our own transgressions.”[15]

The Book of Mormon teaches us that we can avoid the fate of the Jaredites and the Nephites if we repent and seek and follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost. I testify to you that this blessing remains in force today.

We can each raise our own Title of Liberty.

In the Religious Freedom section of Gospel Library,[16] the Church offers us suggestions on ways we can act to protect religious freedom. Let me share some of them.

First, become informed on the issues. Each of us will choose to do that at different levels, but it is important that we know how our rights are outlined. Begin with Section 134 in the Doctrine & Covenants, then read the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and other significant documents. It isn’t necessary to become a legal scholar to appreciate the blessing we enjoy.

Second, commit to be civil in your interactions with those who do not hold similar beliefs. Find common ground and build on that.

Third, (my addition) learn to see each person as a child of God who is deserving of your love and respect. And seek the gift of charity, the pure love of Christ, and demonstrate it in your interactions with others. Pray fervently for these gifts.

Fourth, volunteer for a local charity. When we work arm in arm with members of other faiths, we develop feelings of brotherhood and sisterhood that go a long way to promoting the respect that is at the heart of promoting religious freedom.

Fifth, be a force for good in the world. Quit complaining on social media and share the goodness that you see in the world. Freely express gratitude for the good you see around you. Be examples of good discipleship and be a light to the world.

What is my take-home message?

In order to promote and defend religious freedom, we must choose to follow Jesus Christ in the covenant path. As we follow in his footsteps, we will become a light unto the world. Don’t settle for being a 5-watt tungsten bulb; strive to become a xenon lamp. And as we combine our lights, we will make the world brighter as we prepare for the return of the Light of the World, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I pay close attention when I hear the word “invite” in General Conference. Near the end of his talk, Elder Rasband said “I invite you to champion the cause of religious freedom. It is an expression of the God-given principle of agency.”[17]

I pray that we will work together to champion the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I testify that Heavenly Father will bless us as we do our best to be good disciples of Christ and good citizens of our communities, our nation, and the world. All things are possible through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, through the power of faith in Him, and through the power and authority of his priesthood, which has been restored to the earth in this dispensation. I pray that we will actively defend our right to enjoy the blessings of the priesthood, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


[1] Rasband, To Heal the World. April 2022 General Conference. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2022/04/45rasband?lang=eng.

[2] Quoted in Religious liberty advocates call for faiths to join forces. Deseret News, June 1, 2013. https://www.deseret.com/2013/6/2/20520548/religious-liberty-advocates-call-for-faiths-to-join-forces.

[3] See The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. 3 Nephi 12:16; cf. Matthew 5:16.

[4] Articles of Faith 1:11.

[5] Constitution of the United States. https://constitution.congress.gov/constitution/amendment-1/.

[6] What does ‘a wall of separation between Church and State’ mean exactly? Deseret News, Oct. 8, 2020. https://www.deseret.com/faith/2020/10/8/21500370/daniel-peterson-separation-between-church-state-first-amendment-bill-rights-constitution-jefferson.

[7] Church History Symposium panel: Defending religious liberty as both a Church member and citizen, and in societies around the world. Church News, Mar. 12, 2022. https://www.thechurchnews.com/members/2022-03-12/church-history-symposium-panel-religious-freedom-politics-ukraine-leavitt-eubank-durham-clark-245980.

[8] Hales, Preserving Agency, Protecting Religious Freedom. April 2015 General Conference. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2015/04/preserving-agency-protecting-religious-freedom?lang=eng.

[9] Maxwell, Meeting the Challenges of Today. Oct. 10, 1978. https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/neal-a-maxwell/meeting-challenges-today/.

[10] Maxwell, op. cit.

[11] Sobran, The Established Irreligion. Human Life Review, Summer 1978, p. 58. https://humanlifereview.com/issue/summer-1978/.

[12] Rasband, op. cit.

[13] The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Alma 46:12, 13, 16.

[14] The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Ether 15:6, 19.

[15] The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Alma 46:17-18.

[16] https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/books-and-lessons/religious-freedom?lang=eng.

[17] Rasband, op. cit.


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