ARLINGTON, Virginia — Religious voices are increasingly being pushed out of the public square so there is no voice calling attention to the Lord’s commandments of decency, family duty, moral obligations, personal responsibility and integrity, said President M. Russell Ballard on June 2.
“Preserved religious liberty, shared values and a strong civil society are essential to providing a countervailing force and nudging people toward charity, compassion, cooperation, civility, duty and, ultimately, toward God,” said President Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“Without religious freedom and without an ability to express faith in the public square, our ability to influence the world to be better is diminished; it limits our opportunities to strengthen and nudge one another toward kindness, goodness, duty and civility.
“Fittingly, however, perhaps the best way to preserve our first freedom is to live our faith — let others know what we believe and be examples of that belief in word and deed.”
President Ballard’s remarks were part of a program during which he honored His Eminence Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, for his commitment to religious freedom and his devotion to Deity.
“Cardinal Wuerl, we thank you for your commitment to religious liberty and, more importantly, for your example of a life dedicated to our Lord Jesus Christ,” said President Ballard, who presented the Catholic prelate with the Brigham Young University Management Society's Distinguished Community Leader Award. “We are grateful for your example and friendship, Cardinal Wuerl. We admire your values amidst a culture that seems more hostile to religious faith.”
In his keynote speech at the evening gala hosted by the BYU Management Society at the Marriott Crystal Gateway Hotel in Arlington, Virginia, Cardinal Wuerl spoke of the importance of deepening interfaith relationships to strengthen religious liberty.
“We, Mormons and Catholics, stand together in our recognition [of] freedom of religion [and] freedom of worship — the focus of the 11th article of faith in the Mormon Church,” said Cardinal Wuerl, who was named to the College of Cardinals in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI. “It’s all about ensuring and guaranteeing the worship of God according to our conscience. This we call our first freedom. … What Mormons and Catholics espouse is the recognition that with religious faith comes a way of living, a set of standards, a set of rules for moral and civil behavior.”
Cardinal Wuerl, a vocal advocate of religious freedom for many years, said Latter-day Saints and Catholics need to act with a certain boldness or courage. “Out of our mutual experience we should look to the future and stand firm in our accomplishments and commitment to achieve even closer harmony.”
To Cardinal Wuerl, President Ballard said: “We will not lose our optimism for the future because of examples like you, dear friend.”
During his remarks, President Ballard said Latter-day Saints and Catholics have already joined together to lift society through combined humanitarian undertakings and efforts to protect and strengthen religious freedom, individual dignity, and marriage and family.
“Study after study has shown how religious-based groups and approaches are important and effective in solving problems in families, communities, nations, and the world,” he said. “Many academics have demonstrated how Western Christianity has been instrumental in bringing about changes in society that have made life better for the common men and women of the world, including providing a religious calendar with holy days, including the Sabbath Day — a gift from the Hebrew Bible to people who had previously toiled seven days a week from sunrise to sunset.
“Western Christianity ended slavery in Europe for the first time in any society. Finally, Christianity inspired individuals to realize their highest aspirations by helping to lay the foundation of a society dedicated to justice, liberty, freedom, and personal opportunities unequaled in history.”
President Ballard said much of how faith in God has improved life and society is based on the teachings found in the Holy Bible.
“It’s important to remember that the Bible was transmitted through the diligent efforts of Catholic scribes and monks who worked tirelessly to make copies of ancient manuscripts so the teachings of the prophets, apostles, and the Lord Jesus Christ were preserved so that you and I can read them and apply them in our own lives.”
Christians are not and have not been perfect, “but the teachings found in the Bible have made the world a much better place than a world without those precious words,” he said. “Today, more than ever, we need people and leaders who know and have been influenced by the Judeo-Christian ethics found in the Bible.”
The world needs more people who practice the Golden Rule in medicine, in law, in government, in the classroom, and in business.
“Our world yearns for women and men of conviction, of compassion, of kindness, of moral character, and of faith in God. This includes Jews, Muslims, and many other faith traditions who inspire people to do better and be better.
“We need these qualities in business, political, educational, and religious leaders — we need leaders who have a heightened responsibility to lift others; to inspire others; to help protect those most vulnerable in our society, including children, women, orphans, the aged, and those with challenges through situations beyond their control.”
In addition to being a positive force for good, today’s church leaders are responsible to impact families, neighborhoods, communities, nation, and beyond by helping them find the joy and peace that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings, said President Ballard.
He asked religious leaders in attendance how they can multiply their impact for good in their homes, communities, churches, and places of employment.
1. “We can be true to our core values.”
2. “We can encourage others to do the same.”
A person can live by his or her values of honesty and integrity and still succeed, he said. “In fact, I contend that it’s because you live by your values that you will succeed.”
A leader’s integrity must be without question, President Ballard said. “This means adhering to a higher standard than society requires. In his famous 1978 Harvard commencement address given before the fall of the Soviet Union, the distinguished Russian intellectual and Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, ‘I’ve lived my life in a society where there was no rule of law, and that’s a terrible existence. But a society where the rule of law is the only standard of ethical behavior is equally bad.’ ”
President Ballard said it is not enough for a person simply live his or her values in isolation. “We have an obligation to demonstrate our faith beyond the four walls of our homes and churches. We have a responsibility to set an example and to inspire others beyond our faith traditions. This is the mark of great leadership.”
President Ballard told the business and community leaders that they are in a position to influence those around them to trust God and seek to be better.
“If we act ethically in our homes with our families, in our church and business dealings, those we associate with will likely be more inclined to do the same,” he said. “We live in an age in which too much of the popular culture and too much of corporate culture nudge us away from genuine spirituality.”