Today in Rome, Italy, President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which owns this paper), dedicates a light-filled temple in a world often filled with darkness and despair. Unfortunately, the light of faith continues to be banished from the public square and exiled from community conversations, but faith is a unique and powerful dimension of diversity and should be treated as an integral part of local and national conversations.
In November of 1985, then President Ezra Taft Benson commissioned Russell Nelson, a newly called apostle, to open the countries of Eastern Europe for the preaching of the gospel.
Elder Nelson reflected, “During that period of the Cold War, not only was the city of Berlin divided by a wall, but all of Eastern Europe was under the oppressive yoke of communism. Many churches were closed and religious worship was strictly limited.” Without belief in churches and faith in the public square, the nations were gray, gloomy and without hope.
In Eastern Europe, a longing for liberty ignited the flame of religious freedom in countries and communities where the light of faith flickered low and was nearly extinguished. Slowly, faith-based institutions re-emerged.
Sadly, one can look across Europe and throughout North America today and once again see churches abandoned, buildings left dilapidated and chapels cold and shuttered. It isn’t just that religious organizations are in retreat, it is that faith in general is too often shamed and pushed out of the way.
At the 2018 Canterbury Medal Gala hosted by Becket Fund, a religious liberty advocacy nonprofit, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik spoke of the need for faith in the public square. He said, “Every menorah … embodies an American idea. Unlike Sabbath candles, which are intended to illumine the Jewish home, the Hanukkah lamps are placed in the window to be seen by the public, Jew and non-Jew alike. And originally until recent times and in Jerusalem today, Hanukkah lights were kindled not inside but outside the door of Jewish homes, right outside the door. And the verse in Proverbs allows us to understand the lesson of this ritual. ‘The soul of man is the candle of God.’ Lighting candles outside the doors of our homes expresses that when people of faith leave their homes and enter the world, they take their beliefs and their religious identity with them. They do not check their beliefs at the door when they enter the public square. Their souls, the candle within each person, illuminates their path wherever they may lead.”8 comments on this story
Light shines through the stained glass windows of the Rome temple by day. The light emanates and glows from within while projecting precious light out into the darkness by night. Those individuals who enter come seeking light along with a connection to Christ and access to God. They leave with the glow that is always lit from within the soul. In a pluralistic nation, the light of hope and the candle of faith are central to strengthening civil society and must be allowed to shine to and from every citizen.