Happy National Religious Freedom Day!

By Debra Woods

The Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. Founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day SaintsThe very existence of the American experiment is based on a quest for religious freedom.  But do we, these many centuries later, have any concept of what that meant back then?  Do we ever stop to think of what drove the first colonists to the eastern seaboard of this continent?  Do we begin to understand the conditions that existed in the homelands of these first Americans?

On my father's side of the family, every line began in Great Britain before the revolution.  So this is an important question for me - it runs in my very veins.  Why did my ancestors leave Great Britain for America?  What circumstances did they live under before they emigrated?  I am not sure, but they didn't come here and form or join an Anglican Church.  They did not bring that imposed religion with them to America.  They sought the freedom to practice or not practice whatever their conscience dictated, without coercion or intimidation or threat or force.  And in my family, in every single paternal line, family members were willing to lay down their lives to defend that right, that freedom from religious tyranny imposed in their mother land.

Oh what a difference a few hundred years can make!  I see about me in America, a whole other idea of religious freedom - it is the freedom FROM religion all together.  And the enforcement of such by the government.  There are those who seek to marginalize, and eventually stamp out all religion.  Why?  Well, as I see it, religion implies a standard of right and wrong.  And this is what many want to abolish.  Then, they presume, they can do what ever they fancy without anyone telling them or implying or suggesting that there is anything whatsoever amiss with their choices.  It isn't enough that they personally do not espouse a set of morals with no answerability for it to anyone.  That is not enough by half!  No!  They demand that any expression of religious morality be completely silenced, and that is what is happening all around us.

What a party pooper it is to have someone setting an example of morality in an immoral society.  While the rhetoric sings a tune of tolerance - it is a tune to deceive - because the fact of the matter is they practice utter and complete IN-tolerence of anything veering at all from their own position.  Name calling, sneering, ridiculing, humiliating, legislating, fining to death, intimidation designed to silence all opposition - to destroy all opposition by force is their modus operandi.

I have a friend who wishes to expose religion for its falseness and delusionary influence over its adherents because he loves us!  Really?  Or might it be to make himself feel better about the choices he has made, the path he has followed, and the conflict all of that is with the religion of his youth?  If invalidating the very premise of religious worship and morality can evaporate his personal conflict - he makes it his life's mission to do so.

But I do not see him smiling.  I do not hear peace in his voice.  I do not see him blossoming.  The young man I knew who rarely could wipe a smile off his face, who was filled with love and generosity for everyone around him, who was constantly creating beauty with the immense gift of music he was born with - that is all a distant memory.  In its place is a bitter, desperate man with a vengeance for wiping out the idea of a God and still need to anesthetize himself with worldly pleasures that give but a poor imitation of happiness.

He may have innocently got caught up in a movement that was much more calculated than he had any idea about at the time, but now he is a leading advocate of that movement.

In days gone by, society tolerated no deviance from the law.  If thy left hand offend thee, cut it off!  If your oxen gores a neighbor, stone the ox and the owner!  WOW!  But to the far opposite extreme we have swung.  And neither is useful.  The law of the land was tied to the law of the church and individuals were not free to choose what church's law to accept, adopt and adhere to.  This country was formed to separate the government from one state sponsored church.  NOT to separate an individual from his God.  This country was formed that men could follow the dictates of their own conscience, not be forbidden from doing so.  One extreme is forced worship, and the other extreme we are approaching is forbidding any worship at all.

Oh for Joseph Smith!  What beauty is found in our articles of faith - which he wrote - 

"We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." Articles of Faith 1:11

This is the sanity so needed in our increasingly insane world.  God bless his memory.  Thank God I can even say that today in a public forum.


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