Deseret News
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles

LONDON — Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told members of the British Parliament in London on Wednesday that religious freedom allows the LDS Church and other faiths to do good around the world.

Elder Oaks spoke in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster nearly a year to the day after Elder Jeffrey R. Holland became the first leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to address a gathering in the Houses of Parliament.

"We want the blessings of religious freedom to be claimed by all the inhabitants of this planet, and we are far short of that at present," Elder Oaks said during a panel discussion before the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief.

The group is an informal caucus of ministers of Parliament from multiple parties formed to stimulate discussion and ideas about how United Kingdom foreign policy impacts international religious freedom.

The LDS Church has made two donations of £4,200 to the group over the past 10 months, according to Parliament's website.

The group's co-chair, Baroness Elizabeth Berridge, a member of the Conservative Party in the British House of Lords, expressed gratitude for the contributions of Elder Oaks and another panelist, Princeton law professor and noted American Catholic Robbie George, a former chairman of the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom.

"With Professor George we have the academics, the academic input to what is happening here," Berridge said, "so it is essential that people like LDS and BYU are around the table, because otherwise Parliamentarians like myself, we don't have access to the best of thinking."

George said scholars, religious organizations and governments need to engage each other and work together to secure religious freedom at a time when religious persecution is fueling the global refugee crisis.

"There are limits to what can be done by governments and international organizations like the United Nations," George said. "An enormous amount of necessary work needs to be done by faith groups and other non-governmental organizations."

The panelists agreed that religious liberty protections benefit society as a whole.

Elder Oaks also issued a warning about the state of religious liberty and said the LDS Church has the right to a place in public discourse.

"We are at a time when religious freedom is under pressure," he said. "There is pressure to define religious freedom as something that takes place in church or a synagogue and is not entitled to a place in the public square.

"We demand as a matter of constitutional right a place in the public square and want to use our religious freedom to accomplish the goods that have been identified by the baroness and Professor George."

A year ago, Elder Holland spoke to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Foreign Affairs, which considers how U.K. foreign policy can prevent global conflict. He spoke extensively about the LDS Church's efforts to provide international aid and said humanitarian service can help ease religious conflict.