Timeline: Church Actions, Statements about Religious Freedom

  • 27 January 2015

Following is a timeline of statements and actions from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding religious freedom and nondiscrimination:

1835: A general assembly of the Church held in Kirtland, Ohio, on August 17 unanimously adopts a declaration of belief regarding governments and laws: “We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul” (D&C 134:4).

1841: The city council of Nauvoo passes an ordinance stating that “Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Latter-day Saints, Quakers, Episcopals, Universalists, Unitarians, Mohammedans, and all other religious sects and denominations whatever, shall have free toleration, and equal privileges, in this city.”

1842: The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote a letter to John Wentworth, a newspaper editor, giving information about the Church. Part of that letter became the Church’s eleventh article of faith: “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.”

1899: James E. Talmage publishes The Articles of Faith: A Series of Lectures on the Principal Doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “The Latter-day Saints proclaim their unqualified allegiance to the principles of religious liberty and toleration. Freedom to worship Almighty God as the conscience may dictate, they affirm to be one of the inherent and inalienable rights of humanity.”

1935: J. Reuben Clark Jr. said in his April 1935 general conference address, “Nothing else in the great document, the Constitution [of the United States], is so important to this people as is this guarantee of religious freedom, because underneath and behind all that lies in our lives, all that we do in our lives, is our religion, our worship, our belief and faith in God.”

1979: The First Presidency issues a statement: “As the ruling principle of conduct in the lives of many millions of our citizens, religion should have an honorable place in the public life of our nation, and the name of Almighty God should have sacred use in its public expressions.”

2007: Regarding same-gender attraction, the Church issues the manual God Loveth His Children.

2008: Because of the importance of protecting the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, the Church’s First Presidency sent a letter to Church leaders in California to be read to all congregations on June 29. The letter asked members to support the Proposition 8 campaign in support of traditional marriage.

2009: The Church issues a statement in support of a nondiscrimination ordinance reviewed by the Salt Lake City Council on November 10. “The issues before you tonight are the right of people to have a roof over their heads and the right to work without being discriminated against. But, importantly, the ordinances also attempt to balance vital issues of religious freedom. … In drafting these ordinances, the city has granted common-sense rights that should be available to everyone, while safeguarding the crucial rights of religious organizations. … The Church supports these ordinances because they are fair and reasonable and do not do violence to the institution of marriage. They are also entirely consistent with the Church’s prior position on these matters. The Church remains unequivocally committed to defending the bedrock foundation of marriage between a man and a woman.”

2012: The Church launches www.mormonsandgays.org, a website that includes a collection of conversations between Church leaders and Church members on issues of same-gender attraction.

2013–2014: Elder Dallin H. Oaks speaks at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty Canterbury Medal Dinner in New York City on May 16, 2013, on “Strengthening the Free Exercise of Religion.” He also speaks on April 16, 2014, at Utah Valley University’s Constitutional Symposium on Religious Freedom and on February 25, 2014, at a BYU-Idaho devotional. “In so many relationships and circumstances in life, we must live with differences. Where vital, our side of these differences should not be denied or abandoned, but as followers of Christ we should live peacefully with others who do not share our values or accept the teachings upon which they are based,” he said during his October 2014 general conference address, “Loving Others and Living with Differences.”

(Sources: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/beliefs-statements-religious-freedom, Deseret News archives)