President Uchtdorf Speaks to Delegates on Religious Freedom, Rule of Law
Contributed By Gerry Avant, Church News editor
- Delegates from 40 countries participated in BYU’s 21st Annual International Law and Religion Symposium.
- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf told delegates that religious freedom and the rule of law have been central messages from the very beginning of the Church.
Religious freedom and the rule of law have been central messages from the very beginning of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf told delegates from 40 countries who participated in BYU’s 21st Annual International Law and Religion Symposium.
Some 80 delegates attended the symposium held October 5–7 on BYU’s campus in Provo, Utah. It was sponsored by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School. The theme of this year’s symposium was “Varieties of Secularism, Religion, and the Law.”
After the symposium concluded, most of the delegates traveled to Salt Lake City on Wednesday, October 8. They visited Temple Square, Welfare Square, and the LDS Humanitarian Center and were guests at a luncheon in the Church Office Building hosted by the Church’s Office of General Counsel.
President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and several members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Quorums of the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric also attended the luncheon.
“I can sense a vibrant atmosphere of brother- and sisterhood in this impressive international gathering,” said President Uchtdorf, who conveyed to the delegates President Thomas S. Monson’s love and greetings. “Since he is a man with great international experience, he really appreciates your efforts to strengthen religious freedom and the rule of law in the nations of the world,” President Uchtdorf said. “Please know that we pray for you and the noble cause in which you are engaged.“
He told the delegates that religious freedom and the rule of law are values clearly reflected in the Church’s Articles of Faith. “These Articles of Faith were written by Joseph Smith Jr., the first President of this Church and a modern-day prophet of God.
“He and the early members of our Church had to endure and suffer serious persecution and hate crimes during the 19th century because of their beliefs. The merciless persecution of our people was one of the reasons these early pioneers came to Utah in 1847—a barren place far in the West—so they could practice their religion in peace and freedom.
“In 1842, 13 articles were published, reflecting the core principles of our faith in a nutshell. Among others they state:
“‘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.’ And, ‘We believe … in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law’ (Articles of Faith 1:11-12).”
Copies of the Articles of Faith and the Book of Mormon, published in a wide assortment of languages, were made available to the delegates.
President Uchtdorf assured the delegates of the Church’s continued friendship. He quoted Plautus, an ancient Roman playwright, who said, “Nothing but heaven itself is better than a friend who is really a friend.” He also quoted Helen Keller, a deaf and blind author, activist, and lecturer, who remarked, “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark than alone in the light.”
President Uchtdorf thanked the delegates for their efforts to strengthen religious freedom and the rule of law in their countries.
One of the delegates with whom President Uchtdorf visited at the luncheon was Dr. Tamás Lukás, a former member of Hungary’s Parliament. “We feel we are among friends,” Dr. Lukás said of attending the symposium and luncheon. “We can be honest with each other. We come from different nations and religions. Praying together is the most meaningful conversation of all time.”
Oleg Yurevich Gondharov, a member of the Council for Cooperation with Religious Organizations under the president of the Russian Federation and a former public affairs director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, was also among the delegates.
“I feel very privileged to be here at this symposium,” he said after the luncheon. “Religion and secular associations cooperating together are very important for us in Russia.”