Elder Dallin H. Oaks' ongoing tour of Argentina has included a call for religious freedom at a time of rising secularism across the globe.
A member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Oaks delivered a lecture Thursday advocating religious freedom and religious teaching at the Argentine Council for International Relations.
His South American visit has also included meetings with civic and educational leaders in Argentina and Uruguay, along with a variety of ecclesiastical assignments.
Prior to Thursday's lecture, Elder Oaks spoke with the Deseret News/LDS Church News about why protecting religious freedoms is essential amidst a secularism spike.
DN: Why should protecting religious freedom matter to people who identify themselves as non-believers or non-religious?
Elder Oaks: “The equality of life in a society is enhanced with religious freedom and the teaching of religious principles. Whether a person is a believer or not, they enjoy the value of people believing in and practicing their religion."
DN: You advocate civility. How can one show civility with those of opposing religious ideas?
Elder Oaks: “Be tolerant and kind and understanding toward people of different faiths. We should stand up for the freedom of people to practice their religious faith — subject only to the power that a government has to protect the health and safety of its citizens. We believe that people ought to be able to protect their religious faith, whatever it is, and we want to stand up for others, whether we agree with their faith or not.”
DN: What can a person do, in any part of the world, to protect his or her religious freedom?
Elder Oaks: “He or she needs to practice their religion and also look for opportunities to speak for the freedom of religion for all people — not just for Mormons, but for all people.”
DN: As an apostle serving a global religion, religious freedom in Latin America (home to several million Mormons) is obviously very important to you.
Elder Oaks: “It’s our desire to deliver our [gospel] message to people with minimum interference on our missionaries, and on our members, as they practice the commandments of their faith.
“We are trying to maintain, encourage and defend the principles of religious freedom anywhere in the world. The message that I’m giving in Buenos Aries would (apply) anywhere in the world.”
DN: As in many nations, Argentina is becoming increasingly secular. Why is a discussion there of religious freedom so essential?
Elder Oaks: “As the world becomes increasingly secular, the value of religious freedom is reduced in the minds of many people. When people believe in God and right and wrong, they value religious principles and religious teachings. But as the value of those things decline with increased secularism, it’s necessary to be more overt and more effective in explaining the reasons for religious freedoms.”
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