News Story

Supporting Religious Freedom Strengthens Our Communities

Religious freedom is one of the first and most fundamental of the rights extended to us as citizens. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has supported religious freedom since its earliest days.

In 1843, Church president Joseph Smith Jr. said, “If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a ‘Mormon,’ I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves. It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul — civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race.”

As 25,000 refugees from Syria come to Canada over the next year, we have a tremendous opportunity to open our hearts to those who need shelter from religious persecution and show Christlike love to those who need protection.

Elder G. Lawrence Spackman of the Seventy says, “Most of the religions in the world teach love and respect. I believe religion can lift individuals and even an entire society to a higher plane, especially when the people have the freedom to choose.”

An example of people of faith working together to help society was seen in 2014. Over 300 religious leaders and scholars representing 14 faith traditions from 23 countries met at the Vatican for a summit on strengthening marriage. President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency of the Church was invited to speak at the gathering. He said, “We must find ways to lead people to a faith that they can replace their natural self-interest with deep and lasting feelings of charity and benevolence” (“President Eyring Addresses the Vatican Summit on Marriage,” November 2014).

Faith can strengthen a person and, on a larger scale, strengthen communities by instilling values of charity and benevolence. Allowing others to worship — or even not worship — as they wish creates a more benevolent society.

For nearly 200 years Mormon leaders have taught the importance of religious freedom for everyone, as stated in the Church’s 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.”

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