REXBURG, Idaho — In order to protect religious freedom, individuals must work with people of other faiths to improve the moral fabric of this nation, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said during commencement exercises at BYU-Idaho on Friday night.
The ceremony, held in the BYU-Idaho Center on the university's Rexburg campus, honored 1,533 graduates — the largest Fall graduating class BYU-I has had to date.
"My challenge today is that you join with people of all faiths who feel accountable to God in defending religious freedom so it can be a beacon for morality," Elder Cook said. "We caution you to be civil and responsible as you defend religious liberty and moral values."
As individuals are civil in their discourse with others and an advocate for religious freedom they are able to serve mankind and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, he said.
"In order to do this, you need to understand and comprehend 'things which have been' … (that) still need to be protected," he said. "These are the underpinnings of our Judeo-Christian heritage and bless people worldwide."
Elder Cook shared four major "things which have been" that are crucial to the current climate individuals experience today — the first three being the King James Version of the Bible, the U.S. Constitution, and scientific achievements and advancements in medicine and modern communication.
"The fourth and most essential achievement on my list was and is again for our own day a return to Judeo-Christian moral principles," he said.
Referencing a recent op-ed piece in The New York Times, Elder Cook spoke of the essential task individuals have to repair the current economic moral fabric of the world.
"How can you help bring about this restoration of morality in our day and help preserve religious freedom?" he asked.
Whether it is in interviews for future employment, or during post-graduate work, Elder Cook encouraged graduates to be respectful in their interactions with others, and an example of good.
"You must not be in camouflage as to who you are and what you believe," he said. "I think in this so-called 'Mormon moment' where there is more attention being paid to the church and its members, we will need to be the best examples we can possibly be. Collectively our example will be more important than what any single member of leader proposes."
Church research shows that those who know faithful Latter-day Saints appreciate the honesty, integrity, morality and desire to be of service to their fellowmen of church members, said Elder Cook. It is through living the "Golden Rule" and civilly working together with others that religious freedom and a restoration of morality can occur.
"It is important for your generation to become well-educated on this issue and assume responsibility for insuring that the religious freedom you have inherited is passed on to future generations," he said. "If we fail to diligently protect religious freedom we risk diminishing other important freedoms that are important both to us and to society."
The challenge, Elder Cook said, is to help people without religious faith to understand that the protection of moral principles — grounded in religion — is a great benefit to society, and that religious devotion is critical to public virtue.
"Many Founding Fathers … pointed out that shared moral values espoused by different religions with competing doctrines allowed societies to be bound together," Elder Cook said.
Unfortunately religious influence has often been replaced by so-called secular religions with many philosophers at the forefront in promoting secularism and rejecting a moral view of the world based on Judeo-Christian values, Elder Cook said.
"In their view, there is no 'objective moral order' and no reason to choose one goal over another," he said. "They believe no preference should be given to moral goals."
Because of this, it is essential for individuals to join with people of all faiths to defend religious freedom and speak up, he said.
"Extraordinary effort will be required to protect religious liberty. … We ask that you do this on the Internet and in your personal interactions in the neighborhoods and communities where you live," said Elder Cook. "Be an active participant, not a silent observer."
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