Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Apostle Says Religious Freedom Is Being Threatened

This was posted at the newsroom of the official church website. Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave this groundbreaking and thoughtful address at a fireside at BYU-I on Tuesday. It has been picked up by the Associated Press. In connection with his speech, he also gave the following interview.

SALT LAKE CITY - An apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said religious freedom is being threatened by societal forces intimidating those with religious points of view from having a voice in the public square. (See the full text of the speech here)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks made the comments today (Oct. 13) in a major address to Brigham Young University-Idaho students on the importance of preserving the religious freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

Elder Oaks has had a front-row seat in observing what he calls the “significant deterioration in the respect accorded to religion” in public life. Prior to his appointment to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Oaks had an illustrious law career. He served as a justice on the Utah Supreme Court, was a professor at the University of Chicago Law School and Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School and clerked for Chief Justice Earl Warren of the United States Supreme Court.

Although his address on religious freedom was not written in response to the Proposition 8 battle over same- sex marriage in California, Elder Oaks likened the incidents of outrage against those who prevailed in establishing marriage between a man and a woman to the “widely condemned voter-intimidation of blacks in the South.”

He said members of the Church should not be deterred or coerced into silence by threats. “We must insist on our constitutional right and duty to exercise our religion, to vote our consciences on public issues, and to participate in elections and debates in the public square and the halls of justice.”

Elder Oaks also said religious freedom is being jeopardized by claims of newly alleged human rights. As an example, he referred to a set of principles published by an international human rights group which calls for governments to assure that all persons have the right to practice their religious beliefs regardless of sexual orientation or identity. Elder Oaks said, “This apparently proposes that governments require church practices to ignore gender differences. Any such effort to have governments invade religion to override religious doctrines should be resisted by all believers.”

Noting that the students he was addressing were among the generation that would face continuing challenges to religious freedom, Elder Oaks offered five points of counsel:

* Speak with love and show patience, understanding and compassion to those with differing viewpoints.
* Do not be deterred or coerced into silence by intimidation from opponents, insisting that churches and their members be able to speak out on issues without retaliation.
* Insist on the freedom to preach the doctrines of their faith.
* Be wise in political participation, remaining respectful of those who do not share their religious beliefs and contributing to reasonable discussion.
* Be careful to never support or act on the idea that a person must subscribe to a specific set of religious beliefs in order to qualify for public office.

“Religious values and political realities are so interlinked in the origin and perpetuation of this nation that we cannot lose the influence of Christianity in the public square without seriously jeopardizing our freedoms,” Elder Oaks concluded. “I maintain that this is a political fact, well qualified for argument in the public square by religious people whose freedom to believe and act must always be protected by what is properly called our ‘First Freedom,’ the free exercise of religion.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Ten Virgins, the 99 and the one and the Prodical Son: Waiting with a fatted cow

Growing up I have always wondered how the parable of the Ten Virgins fits with what Christ taught about the 99 and the one.

I used to wonder why if Christ would leave the 99, whom I assumed are those who are faithful, to go after the one who wasn't, then certainly He would also leave the wedding feast and the five wise and prepared Virgins to go after the five who weren't.

I also wondered about how in the the story of the Prodigal Son, the father killed the fatted cow when his wayward son returned.

I used to think of these as conflicting tales. But over time I've come to see them in perspective. They all talk about various places we may find ourselves in the repentance process or even just in life.

When I hear of dear friends who have been brought up in the gospel, much like in the story of the Ten Virgins wherein the five foolish virgins who have been warned to have their oil ready when the bridegroom arrives "throwing in the towel" and choosing to engage in aspects of the homosexual lifestyle such as dating men and getting into relationships that convinces them that they are being true to themselves and whatnot and then leaving the church - I find it a real tragedy.

I think about what the father of the Prodigal must have felt. He had given him the means in which to be able to do what he did which led to him finally "dwelling with the pigs." I think about how God has given us things that are great blessings like sexuality and how some have misused this great blessing for selfish fulfillment.

I've also had friends who have told me that they have a testimony, that they know the church is true BUT they just don't want to or aren't ready to be strong.

Thinking back to the coming of the bridegroom, we don't know when that time will be. We have all been invited to that wedding. And yes, we are the ones who decide to RSVP by being ready for it. Unfortunately the invitation doesn't give the when, it just gives the how and that it's soon.

When the bridegroom does arrive there will be no time to argue or debate his arrival, the fact of the matter will be that he has arrived, HE is here and those without oil after having been given sufficient time to gather it will be left behind, I do mourn for them because these are my brothers and sisters. I feel sorry for them and yes until then I will do everything within my power to support them in getting them to gather oil. But I can't make them. You can't give oil to them. It doesn't work that way. I think until the day does come I will be out searching for them.

We all know his is not an easy life, its not easy to keep our lamps full of oil all the time, our wicks trimmed and ready for the time of the wedding feast. I think we all look for things that provide us comfort and that help us feel like we are normal. But I believe we are all challenged in some way or the other. It's part of the oil gathering process. It's not easy.

But there is a time when we will have to be judged with the oil we do have, the oil we did gather. Until then we should be willing to share, to help other gather their oil. And I think those people who do advocate for the gospel are trying to do that, but its up to the individual to listen and to gather their own oil so to speak.

There are lots of voices out there that would tell us not to bother gathering oil, or that if they didn't gather it that it's okay someone will give them some at the last minute, not to worry because it will be easy to get when its needed. Or that perhaps there is no wedding after all or that those who stock up are the foolish ones. Some would say there is probably no reason to even have a lamp.

But if the gospel is true then one day when the bridegroom or in this case the Savior arrives, it will be too late to barrow and we will need to stand on our own. This is that time, this is the time for us to prepare to meet God, this is our preparatory state. This is mortality. That is why we are here. To make choices on temporal desires when we have a grasp of the eternal perspective is short sighted and much like choosing to put off gathering our oil until its too late.

And this isn't to say that I know that when that day comes Christ will wonder were those Five Foolish Virgins are and where "the One" is. Hopefully they will realize that before the Savior returns that they must also return like the Prodigal Son. And yes when and hopefully they do, we need to be willing to greet them with our fatted cows.