“We will sometimes need to challenge laws that would impair our freedom to practice our faiths, doing so in reliance on our constitutional rights to the free exercise of religion.”Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Raising a Title of Liberty in the 21st Century
Captain Moroni is a beloved scripture hero. In the familiar Arnold Friberg painting of Moroni raising the title of liberty, there’s power in his rallying cry. We admire his strength and courage.
Following his example, how many of us have created our own banners based on the title of liberty, whether in family home evenings, seminary, Sunday classes, or Church activities?
But how often have we remembered why that banner was raised? What did Captain Moroni want to protect? It wasn’t just the physical safety of his people and their families. Amalickiah, the leader of the opposing people, sought “to destroy the church of God, and to destroy the foundation of liberty which God had granted unto them, or which blessing God had sent upon the face of the land for the righteous’ sake” (Alma 46:10; italics added).
Captain Moroni was defending religious liberty. Just as he “rallie[d] the people to defend their religion” (Alma 46, chapter heading), today we also have prophets rallying us to defend religious freedom. And the rally isn’t for us to simply take a leisurely stroll.
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught, “As disciples of Jesus Christ we have a responsibility to work together with like-minded believers, to raise our voices for what is right” (“Preserving Agency, Protecting Religious Freedom,” April 2015 general conference). He explained how critically important our role is:
“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.”
That freedom, Elder Hales taught, is founded on four cornerstones of religious freedom that we must 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. …
2. “Freedom to share our faith and our 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. The eleventh article of faith declares, ‘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.’ …
4. “Freedom to live our faith—free exercise of faith not just in the home and chapel but also in public places.”
All of these freedoms are guaranteed in the United States through the First Amendment, which states in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” (italics added).
Protecting religious freedom is important for not only members of the Church but for everyone. Remember what Joseph Smith said:
“If … I have been willing to die for a ‘Mormon,’ … I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of … any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves.
“It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul—civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 345).
And in establishing the city of Nauvoo, Joseph also declared, “Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Nauvoo, that the Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Latter-day Saints, Quakers, Episcopals, Universalists, Unitarians, Mohammedans [Muslims], and all other religious sects and denominations whatever, shall have free toleration, and equal privileges in this city” (Ordinance in Relation to Religious Societies, City of Nauvoo, [Illinois] headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mar. 1, 1841).
Religious freedom protects everyone, and we each have a role to play in protecting it.
That’s why, in asking us to remember Captain Moroni, the title of liberty, and the need to claim our religious freedom, Elder Hales urged: “My beloved brothers and sisters, don’t walk! Run! Run to receive the blessings of agency by following the Holy Ghost and exercising the freedoms God has given us to do His will.” This is a call to protect religious freedom and the agency of all. “Let us not delay in this great cause,” he cautioned.
As members of the Church, we can—and must—stand with our leaders and others throughout the world to defend religious freedom. We can respond as the Nephites: “When Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together” (Alma 46:21).
Visit the complete Religious Freedom—Picture Quotes collection in the Media Library.