Joy D. Jones, the Primary General President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said on Sunday, September 22, 2019 that a believer’s best response to living in a world that often misunderstands faith is simple: Engage society in sincere, civil ways. People of faith should participate in their communities, benefit from the world’s goodness, and do everything possible to promote the common good.
Sister Jones stated: “The public life of our country seems to be getting more and more secular. …And yet, we’ve never lived in a time when so many fascinating and unique religious practices live side by side. This pluralism of religious experience is simply a fact of our changing society, and we have the pleasure of learning how to navigate it.”
She spoke at a devotional address to a small group of Latter-day Saints in Holladay, Utah that was organized by Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law Society.
Learning from the Prophet
Sister Jones pointed to precepts taught by Joseph Smith in the 1830s that are still relevant nearly two centuries later and can help Latter-day Saints navigate a complex world in civilized and respectful ways. For example, “Let’s follow the counsel of revealed scripture, learn of ‘the perplexities of the nations’ and gain a knowledge of ‘countries and of kingdoms’ (Doctrine and Covenants 88:79).”
She noted: “A major part of any nation or country is its religious history, beliefs, and practices. To really understand a people, a nation or a neighbour, you have to understand their religion. We call this religious literacy. This greater understanding and appreciation will broaden our perspective and equip us to handle societal dialogue much more deeply. It will also inspire people to have more respect for us.”
Standing Up for Beliefs
Sister Jones also spoke about the importance of speaking up for one’s beliefs, especially when doing so is uncomfortable. Years ago, at a health education class preview for parents at her son’s junior high school in California, her husband politely asked a teacher to excuse their son from class when a video they felt inappropriate for his age group was shown. Their request sparked courage in other parents who felt the same way but were, perhaps, too afraid to say something. The teacher agreed not to show the video.
“When you do venture out to connect and create goodwill, you will find kindred spirits—both those who disagree and those who agree with you,” she explained. “They may be hiding, but they will emerge. And those who don’t agree with you will find respect for you and perhaps soften their disagreement because of your civility. In this process, both sides gain faith in humanity and feel a greater sense of belonging to each other.”
Acting as Disciples of Jesus Christ
Sister Jones also encouraged the audience of Latter-day Saints to be sensitive to the shifting dynamics between religious majorities and minorities. Latter-day Saints are often the majority in Utah and, as such, must be kind to less numerous brothers and sisters of other faiths.
She explained: “We, as Latter-day Saints, often view ourselves as being on the receiving end of mistreatment, but we can be on the offending end, too. Don’t let the power of being in a majority make you complacent, and don’t let the imbalance of being in a minority make you resentful. In either situation, we can act as disciples of Jesus Christ. We can connect with those who disagree, be firm in our rights, empathize with those around us, and develop a broader perspective.”
Guidelines for Speaking Up
Sister Jones concluded with seven simple guidelines for speaking up and speaking out:
Read the complete talk, “Conversation, Conviction, and Civility: Sharing Religious Values in Schools and the Public Square.”
You may also want to view a religious freedom video: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/religious-freedom/religion-in-public-schools-7-religious-things-you-can-still-do