The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today released a statement on religious freedom and pluralism. This came just a day after presidential hopeful Donald Trump asked for all Muslims to be barred from entering the United States.
Many Americans have expressed outrage over Trump’s statements concerning immigration and people of the Muslim faith, calling his ideas bigoted and ignorant. Civic, religious, and other groups have denounced his proposals, and public figures across the political spectrum have distanced themselves from Trump, calling his ideas “grotesque”, “xenophobic” and “fascist”. News analysts have compared his proposals with the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and the Nazi regime’s marginalization of Germans Jews.
The LDS Church statement reaffirmed the church’s neutrality in party politics, but asserted the importance of religious liberty to all Americans. The LDS statement did not mention Trump by name.
The Church’s statement quoted the founding prophet of Mormonism, Joseph Smith Jr., who famously stated that he was just as willing to die defending the rights of Presbyterians, Baptists, or any denomination that was unpopular or “too weak to defend themselves” as he was to defend his own faith.
If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a ‘Mormon,’ I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or 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.
— Joseph Smith Jr.
The statement also cited a city ordinance of Nauvoo, Illinois – the LDS Church’s headquarters in the early 1840’s – which specifically guaranteed equality of rights to Catholics, Quakers, “Mohammedans”, and people of all religious persuasions.
An article in today’s Deseret News made the following informative points of special relevance to Latter-day Saints:
- Moderate Muslim leaders regularly condemn violence committed by radicalized Islamic groups, which Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles pointed out in a religious freedom address this year in Argentina. Muslim leaders again have condemned such violence again after San Bernardino.
- Mormons and Muslims regularly work together to support marriage, family and religious freedom issues. Several LDS apostles joined Muslim leaders and spoke at U.S. and international interfaith gatherings this year. The LDS Church also is a long-time partner with Muslim charitable organizations like International Islamic Relief Organization.
- In October, a Jordanian Muslim leader visited LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University in Utah and met with senior Mormon leaders in Salt Lake City. During his visit, the grand mufti of the Jordanian Armed Forces promoted the pluralistic Amman Message, a landmark document that promotes moderate Islam and seeks to counter the roots of terrorism and encourage interfaith relations.