There is one area to which we as Latter-day Saints must pay greater attention – protecting religious freedom. Did you know the Church has a website (https://www.lds.org/religious-freedom) dedicated to teaching how we can stand for religious freedom? Did you know that members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speak multiple times per year all over the world on this critical topic? Why is this such a vitally important issue?
Let’s go straight to the Savior’s own words to find out more. He said that He established the Constitution and raised up wise men – the Founding Fathers – for that very purpose (see D&C 101:80). That alone shows us that we should revere the Constitution and the Founding Fathers because they were given to us by the Savior himself! Joseph Smith set an example for us all to follow when he said, “I am the greatest advocate of the Constitution of the United States there is on the earth” (Documentary History of the Church, 6:56).
We also learn in Doctrine and Covenants 101 why the Constitution was established. In verses 77-78, the Lord says that He suffered the Constitution to be established and maintained “for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles; That every man may act . . . according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.”
Agency is one of the greatest gifts we have from our Father in Heaven. We are here on Earth to prove our worthiness and character and we need our agency to do that. Oppressive governments have the power to severely limit our agency and our ability to practice our religion. When that happens, we lose the capacity to be fully responsible for our actions at the day of judgment. That is not what our Father wants for us! As Latter-day Saints, we understand the essential role of agency in the Plan of Salvation. Knowing that, why do we hesitate to become involved in governmental affairs in order to preserve maximum agency? Why do we let apathy get the best of us?
Let’s face it – in our world today, everything is a hot-button issue. Various political parties battle nonstop and it can be completely exhausting. Anyone who dares to speak up is immediately written off as being ‘political’. When did that label become a bad thing? Being involved in politics means being informed and involved in government. That should describe every one of us. The fact that we keep electing dishonest, corrupt officials that give politics a bad name is really our own fault. If we were more involved and sought for honorable men and women to fill public offices, we could be proud of our government instead of being largely ashamed of it and reluctant to be associated with it. Informed voting is key.
Since so many issues today are controversial, perhaps we are afraid to voice an opinion outside of the mainstream. Once you do, after all, the labels come fast and furious. Hater. Bigot. Out of touch. Religious zealot. Old-fashioned. Intolerant. When we are willing to stand up for our religious values – and our freedom to practice what we preach – in the public square, ridicule is a distinct possibility and no one would take pleasure in joining that firestorm. The good news is that we have comforting words from the Savior: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19).
My goal is to be strong enough to choose the Savior’s side over the world’s side each and every chance I get.
Religion and freedom go hand in hand. We can’t expect to have full use of one without the other. Therefore, if religion is something we value, it is incumbent upon us to take an active role in defending our freedom. The first step is to understand the principles upon which our country is based. We are based on Judeo-Christian values! We need only read the Declaration of Independence to understand that. It talks about what we are entitled to by the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God. It affirms that we are given rights by our Creator which no earthly government can take away. Freedom is not given to us by man. It is given to us by God, and man, in turn, creates government to safeguard their freedom. How far removed we are from that principle!
In the coming weeks and months we will have posts on our Gathering Families Facebook page to teach about principles of religious freedom and actions we can take to be involved.
Ezra Taft Benson once said, “If America is destroyed, it may be by Americans who salute the flag, sing the national anthem, march in patriotic parades, cheer Fourth of July speakers. Normally good Americans, but Americans who fail to comprehend what is required to keep our country strong and free. Americans who have been lulled away into a false security.” May we be counted among the number who refuse to be lulled away into a false security! May we rise to the challenge of defending our freedom as we have been urged by leaders of the Church. May we worry less about being labeled ‘political’ or ‘controversial’ and worry more about being obedient. By doing the small and simple things of learning and working together, we can make great things come to pass in defending our religious freedom.