Mormon leaders' landmark speeches on religious freedom
The belief in and importance of religious freedom has long been a topic leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have addressed. It is stated in the 13 central beliefs of the LDS Church, and has played a large role in the religion's history.
This week, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve will be honored as a 2013 Canterbury Medalist presented by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The Canterbury Medal is the Becket Fund's highest honor, recognizing those who have demonstrated courage in the defense of religious liberty. The medal dinner will be held in New York City on Thursday, May 16.
In a video produced by The Becket Fund, Elder Oaks declares the importance of religious freedom and his concerns for limitations that exist today.
As discussed on the Mormon Newsroom, religious freedom is described as essential and valuable to all people — especially to those who have experienced intolerance in the past. Mormons, along with many other religions, have a history of faith-based persecution.
Yet, it was during this time that church leaders emphatically taught the importance of religious tolerance and liberation. Joseph Smith, the first president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often taught of such acceptance.
Recorded in "The History of the Church," Joseph Smith explained to the early members of the church just how deeply he felt about religious liberty:
"If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing before Heaven 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 Presbytarian (sic), a Baptist or a good man of any other denomination."
When composing a letter with the basic beliefs of the LDS Church — and what would later become known as the "Articles of Faith" — Joseph Smith wrote, "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."
While the LDS Church has since become a global and widely respected faith, leaders continue to discuss the importance and necessity of religious freedom.
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