LDS leaders address religious freedom

Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke at conferences in Texas and the United Kingdom to promote understanding and support for religious liberty on Sept. 10 – 11.

Elder Oaks encouraged church members at the Religious Freedom Conference in Texas to learn more about religious liberty and to become kind and effective advocates, according to

The Church released a website focused on religious freedom, called, according to The new website is meant to help people better understand what religious freedom is.

“Everyone, from kindergarten children, through the ranks of professionals and mothers and fathers and friends and neighbors, can and should understand what religious freedom is and why it is important,” Elder Oaks said, according to

Elder Holland said at the humanitarian conference in the United Kingdom that he identified religious persecution as the main driving force behind the forced immigration, according to Mormon Newsroom.

Elder Holland said religious restrictions lead to more social hostility and violence, which in turn leads to more restrictions and causes some to migrate to escape. He said that when more religious freedom is allowed, there is an increase in participation which increases the positive contributions of religious values, according to Mormon Newsroom.

“A religious right is a human right,” Elder Holland said, according to Mormon Newsroom. “A human being must be permitted to find meaning in their life and for their life.”

Ron Weekes, a faculty member in the communication departmentat BYU-Idaho, said Church members could relate to those who are persecuted since members of the early church experienced similar persecution.

“We as members should be more sensitive to the Middle Eastern migration or any such migration since some of our very own ancestors suffered persecution and acts of violence to such an extent that they had to leave their comfortable homes in Nauvoo,” Weekes said.

The leadership of the Church advised members to be involved in the religious freedom debate, according to

BYU-I offers courses students can take to be more educated about religious liberty. Recently, John Thomas and Casey Hurley helped create a new religious liberty course to help students better understand the importance of religious freedom and resources they can use.

“We hope that our new foundations class on the social science of religious freedom will help,” said John Thomas, one of the creators and instructors for the new course and a religion department instructor. “We anticipate three sections of that class next semester. There are other helpful resources online provided by groups like Pew Research Center and the Newseum, among     many others.”

Robert Eaton, a faculty member in the religion department, said most members and BYU-I students will make a difference in classrooms, at the workplace and in their communities by sharing openly and positively with friends and colleagues — something the new website aims at teaching.

“The best way to win the legal and legislative battles that lie ahead is to win the battle today for the hearts and minds of this country,” Eaton said. “And that’s something that BYU-I students are especially well equipped to do.”

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