Aug 2, 2015

Preserving Agency, Protecting Religious Freedom

Elder Robert D. Hales

Last week we discussed marriage and family.  We know what we believe, however, not everyone believes the same.  There have been many times when my beliefs have differed from someone else's.  Sometimes as we've discussed these difference there has been a mutual respect for each other, but other times, there has not.  

Elder Hales said, "As those around us make choices about how to respond to our beliefs (and might I add, how we respond to other's), we must not forget that moral agency is an essential part of God's plan for all His children. . ."

God gave us the opportunity to choose and to act for ourselves. 
"Our exercise of agency to keep the commandments enables us to fully understand who we are and receive all the blessings our Heavenly Father has - including the opportunity to have a body, to progress, to experience joy, to have a family, and to inherit eternal life." 

"To keep the commandments, we need to know the official doctrine of the Church so we are not diverted from Christ's leadership by the ever-changing whims of individuals."

If we are living righteously and keeping the commandments of God, we are able to have access to the gift of the Holy Ghost.  "This gift provides knowledge and understanding, guidance and strength to learn and gain a testimony, power, cleansing to overcome sin, and comfort and encouragement to be faithful in tribulation.  These incomparable blessings of the Spirit increase of freedom and power to do what is right, for "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
(2 Corinthians 3:17)

This is the key to preserving our agency and protecting our freedom.  If we want to remain free, having the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint, we need to be living righteously and keeping the commandments.
We are given agency. but we are not given power over the consequences of our choices.
We all know that if you break the law, you lose your freedom by going to jail.  The same principle is true with everything else as well.  If we want to continue having religious freedom, we need to use our agency righteously.

"As we walk the path of spiritual liberty in these last days, we must understand that the faithful use of our agency depends upon our having religious freedom.  We already know that Satan does not want this freedom to be ours.  He attempted to destroy moral agency in heaven, and now on earth he is fiercely undermining, opposing, and spreading confusion about religious freedom - what it is and why it is essential to our spiritual life and our very salvation."

Elder Hales then goes on to list 4 Cornerstones of Religious Freedom we must rely upon and protect:

1.  Freedom to Believe - "No one should be criticized, persecuted, or attacked by individuals, or governments either, for what he or she believes about God.  It is very personal and very important."
Many, many times on social media posts, I see individuals attacked, and criticized for posting something they believe in.  Honestly this bothers me. Some of these people are so mean.  If you don't agree with what someone is posting stop following them or being their friend. No one should be criticized, persecuted, or attacked for what he or she believes.

2. Freedom to Share our Faith and Beliefs with Others - "As parents, full-time missionaries, and member missionaries, we rely on religious freedom in order to teach the Lord’s doctrine in our families and throughout the world."

3. Freedom to Form a Religious Organization, a Church, to Worship peacefully with others.

4. Freedom to Live our Faith - free exercise of faith not just in the home and chapel but also in public places.
"Some are offended when we bring our religion into the public square, yet the same people who insist that their viewpoints and actions be tolerated in society are often very slow to give that same tolerance to religious believers who also wish their viewpoints and actions to be tolerated. The general lack of respect for religious viewpoints is quickly devolving into social and political intolerance for religious people and institutions."
The keyword here being RESPECT.  Respect others beliefs. See #1 above.

How can we safeguard these sacred freedoms and rights for ourselves and our posterity?
What You and I Can Do
1.  We can become informed. "Be aware of issues in your community that could have an impact on religious liberty."

2. Join with others who share our commitment to religious freedom. A great example of this is the Vatican Summit that happened just this past November.  There were 14 different faiths from 23 countries who all assembled to discuss marriage and family.  (Read more about the Colloquium on Marriage and Family HERE.)

3. Live your life to be a good example of what you believe - in word and deed.
"How we live our religion is far more important than what we say about our religion."
Don't be a hypocrite.  Live what you preach, and preach what you live.