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At BYU-Idaho, Elder Oaks calls LDS members, 'believers everywhere' to action as 'witnesses of God'

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 25 2014 4:00 p.m. MST

"Whatever the designated pray-er’s concept of God and whatever his or her religious persuasion or language of prayer," Elder Oaks said, "I hope the citizens of this nation can continue to witness their belief in God by the symbol of prayer, wisely and tolerantly administered. That is worth contending for."

Second, believers "should be alert to oppose the potential significance of the fact that some government officials and public policy advocates are describing the First Amendment guarantee of the 'free exercise' of religion as merely 'freedom of worship.'

"The guarantee of 'free exercise,'" he said, "protects the right to come out of our private settings, including churches, synagogues and mosques, to act upon our beliefs, subject only to the legitimate government powers necessary to protect public health, safety and welfare. Free exercise surely protects religious citizens in acting upon their beliefs in public policy debates and in votes cast as citizens or as lawmakers."

Elder Oaks spoke about a third area, as well.

Believers, he said, also "should use our political influence to resist current moves to banish from legislative and judicial lawmaking all actions based on religious convictions and motivations."

He described the federal judge's ruling in California's Proposition 8 case as a "dangerous example" of such a move.

"The precedent of his decision on the inappropriateness of presumed religious or moral motivations as a basis for lawmaking was used by the lawyers who persuaded another federal district judge to invalidate the Utah constitutional provision and laws affirming the traditional limitation on marriages to one man and one woman," Elder Oaks said. "Then, when an eminent lawyer was hired to take the appeal, he was criticized by the Human Rights Campaign for having religious motivations for his decision to defend traditional marriage. Where will this illogical attack on religious motivations end?"

Elder Oaks said atheism, moral relativism and secular humanism have contributed to the broadening denial of God's existence and his role in human affairs.

He expressed concern for the way some non-believers criticize the faithful.

"Some," he said, "... ridicule the faith of those who believe in what cannot be proven, even as they aggressively deny a godly existence they cannot disprove."

Email: twalch@deseretnews.com

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