In a timely speech Friday, an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) stressed the importance of restoring the principles of morality and religious freedom to modern society (see full text of speech).
Elder Quentin L. Cook delivered the address, titled “The Restoration of Morality and Religious Freedom,” to graduates of Brigham Young University-Idaho during the school’s winter commencement exercises.
“My purpose today,” said Elder Cook, “is to challenge you to work with people of other faiths to improve the moral fabric of this nation and the world and to protect religious freedom.”
The apostle invoked Alexis de Tocqueville, the famous 19th-century observer of American democracy, to emphasize the important role religion plays in society. “The greatest advantage of religion is to inspire … principles,” said Elder Cook, quoting de Tocqueville. “There is no religion which does not place the object of man’s desires above and beyond the treasure of earth, and which does not naturally raise his soul to regions far above those of the senses. Nor is there any which does not impose.”
Though de Tocqueville and others freely acknowledged the role of religious-based morality, Elder Cook explained that today public morality and religious liberty are increasingly coming under attack.
“Many philosophers have been at the forefront in promoting secularism and rejecting a moral view of the world based on Judeo-Christian values,” said Elder Cook. “In their view there is no ‘objective moral order’ and no reason ‘to choose one goal over another.’ They believe no preference should be given to moral goals.”
While philosophers espousing such views are few, according to Elder Cook, their philosophies are influential in modern society. To emphasize the point, Elder Cook cited a recent British high court ruling that “denied a Christian family the right to foster children because children could be infected with Christian moral beliefs.” According to Elder Cook, the ruling shows “just how radically things have shifted” and marks the urgent need for a restoration of morality and religious freedom.
Elder Cook also recognized that secularists have impacted society in part because of “the reluctance of people of faith to express their views” — something that he said must change.
“Extraordinary effort will be required to protect religious liberty,” acknowledged Elder Cook. “My challenge todayis that you join with people of all faiths who feel accountable to God in defending religious freedom so it can be a beacon for morality. We caution you to be civil and responsible as you defend religious liberty and moral values. We ask that you do this on the Internet and in your personal interactions in the neighborhoods and communities where you live. Be an active participant, not a silent observer ... to be an example, to be civil in our discourse, and to be an advocate for religious freedom is to serve mankind and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.”