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Courtesy photo
Rabbi Meir Soloveichik

SALT LAKE CITY — In yet another display of their solidarity in defense of traditional marriage, three religious leaders representing Catholic, Jewish and Mormon faiths met Thursday in New York and called for people of faith to set an example of strong marriages.

"Everybody wants to be happy," said Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York. "That's one thing we have in common, and if married couples can show that the way God intends for us to be happy is when a man and woman give themselves to one another totally and selflessly in a love so fruitful that it becomes incarnate in a baby is the happiest way to live, if we can reclaim that luster, folks, that will show the world the sanctity of marriage as God defined it."

Cardinal Dolan was joined by Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Yeshiva University and Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The three spoke at a small, private marriage forum under the banner of the Vatican's 2014 Humanum event, when international leaders of 50 faith traditions, including Catholics, Jews and Mormons, found harmony in their doctrines of marriage between a man and a woman and built new relationships.

Thursday's event, like Humanum, was sponsored by the Witherspoon Institute, a conservative think tank in New Jersey with ties to Catholic and other conservative Christian groups. Witherspoon's mission is to increase public understanding of the moral foundations of free and democratic societies.

Rabbi Solveichik traveled to Israel in October to speak at the BYU Jerusalem Center, operated by the LDS Church, with two other Mormon leaders, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Quentin L. Cook.

"It's wonderful for people of one faith, facing challenges in this world, to both see old friends from another faith, and to make new friends from that faith," the rabbi said Thursday. "That's what makes moments like this so wonderful."

No recording of the event was available, and Cardinal Dolan and Rabbi Soloveichik spoke extemporaeously. The transcript of Elder Bednar's talk is available on mormonnewsroom.org, which produced a video with clips from the speeches by the cardinal and rabbi.

Rabbi Solveichik is the director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva and is the minister of Shearith Israel, the first Jewish congregation established in America.

"We're not alone in our battle to defend the sanctity of marriage, said Cardinal Dolan, who prayed at the inauguration of President Trump. "You and I believe, without any touch of arrogance at all, that God is on our side. We also are immensely confident that we have the clout of prayer when it comes to this cultural battle in which we are engaged."

Elder Bednar called traditional marriage a universal truth.

"One of the great tasks of our time — one on which our diverse faith communities should be united — is to help people understand the true meaning and purpose of marriage. All people, especially the rising generation, need a vision of the richness of family life and its potential for developing the highest and best in each of us. In an age of increasing selfishness, we must highlight marriage’s capacity to lift men and women beyond their narrow self-interests to the joys that come from dedicating one’s life to a higher and holy purpose."

LDS leaders have cultivated relationships built before, at and after the Humanum conference at the Vatican. Speeches from that 2014 event are available in a book, "Not Just Good, but Beautiful: The Complementary Relationship Between Man and Woman," including the talk given by President Henry B. Eyring of the LDS Church's First Presidency.

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Those relationships led to a presentation on the Mormon tradition of Family Home Evenings by Elder D. Todd Christofferson in Philadelphia in September 2015 at the World Meeting of Families, which included leaders of two dozen faiths.

Several leaders from both Humanum and the World Meeting of Families have visited LDS leaders in Utah and have spoken at Brigham Young University. For example, two black Pentecostal leaders counseled BYU students in 2015 to practice celibacy now to become better parents and marriage partners later.

Rabbi Soloveichik spoke at BYU in April 2016.