Wednesday, March 9, 2011

We Believe: Religious Freedom

Article of Faith #11: 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.

We believe that central to the importance of man's existence is religion and faith.  Whether it be the Christian religions that dot the earth to the ancient beliefs originating in Asia to the tribal beliefs of those in Africa and Native American tribes, belief is a driving factor for living.  

We believe that governments have a duty to provide an atmosphere for religious freedom.  In a statement regarding the importance of government written in 1835 states, "We believe that rulers, states, and governments have a right, and are bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief (D&C 134:7)."  Freedom of religion grants all men to follow the dictates of their conscience and help them develop a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father and our Savior through their own means and faith.
The stoning of Stephen

We believe that all men have the freedom to believe what they want as long as it does not infringe upon the rights of others (see D&C 134:4).  Persecutions and bitterness towards our fellow brothers and sisters in the gospel push us farther and farther from God.  Christ organized a church that we may all "come in the unity of the faith (Ephesians 4:13)."  I once heard it said that Satan's battle plan is to divide and conquer, turn us on one another so that we do not have the unity needed to have faith, true joy, and lasting peace.  In the Book of Mormon we read that as persecutions were abounding Mosiah, the king of the time, issued a proclamation that "there should be no persecutions among them, that there should be an equality among all men; that they should let no pride nor haughtiness disturb their peace; that every man should esteem his neighbor as himself (Mosiah 27:3-4)."  Peace then followed as the people began to care about each other and allowed them to have their faith.

I know that religious freedom is absolutely important.  As we continue to strive and learn from our neighbor's and their beliefs, we can continue to grow in our own faith and draw nearer to God.  As we persecute and harass, we separate ourselves from the peace of God.  May we continue to allow men to worship the way they see fit and that we may continue to have that privilege in our own lives.

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