Religious Freedom Matters: What’s at Risk

We believe in creating a space for everyone to live their conscience without infringing on the rights and safety of others. Elder Ronald A. Rasband

I have decided to share an article today that I recently re-read from an LDS magazine called the Ensign. I share it because I am concerned with the lack of understanding that so many individuals seem to have in regards to the importance of freedom – particularly religious freedom.

During my near-death experience, I witnessed that I was a part of what this article refers to as the War in Heaven. The war in heaven took place prior to this world being created and was a momentous occasion/event in heaven that we all were affected by. Some may think of this as a physical battle. Instead, what I witnessed was an incredibly important and pivotal debate that most of God’s children were a part of.  It was this debate, and our choices in regard to it, that determined our opportunity to be a part of this world.

In the United States, we are blessed to mostly take our freedoms for granted. However, our freedoms should be cherished and need protecting. We may not always agree with the beliefs of another individual or group but as long as forced coercion and physical harm are not utilized, we need to respect their ability to believe and worship as they desire.

It is because of what I witnessed in heaven and my concerns about what I now witness going on in this country and our world that I share today’s article. It includes references to scriptures and materials/individuals who are LDS (Church of  Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). However, I believe it is relevant regardless of your religious persuasion.

I hope you will read it and support efforts to protect religious freedom and freedom in general. Great sacrifices have been made by our military and their families throughout our nation’s history. I am grateful to be a beneficiary of their efforts and sacrifices. I believe that our freedom deserves their continued efforts but it also needs our efforts. If every family in America taught and practiced respect for a diversity of beliefs, not only would the freedoms of this nation continue to be uplifted and preserved, the ability for the world, as a whole, to live according to their conscience and beliefs would likewise spread and blossom.

I believe that every member of mankind inherently knows that they are meant to be free and to live according to the dictates of their conscience. If you are aligned with me in those beliefs, I hope that you will stand for and defend our right to practice freedom of religion and to live according to our beliefs and conscience. Silence will not preserve our freedoms, it will only encourage those who are intent on silencing the voices of religion and conscience.

I hope you enjoy today’s article:

Freedom to choose. That’s what the War in Heaven was all about. We couldn’t afford to lose agency then, and we can’t afford to lose it now. And that includes the freedom to “worship how, where, or what [we] may” (Articles of Faith 1:11). That’s why the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “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 other denomination [as for a Mormon]; 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” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 345).

In addition to maintaining religious freedom as an eternal principle (even God will not remove the agency of any of His children), there are some potentially severe consequences if we lose the freedom to worship, speak, and live according to our beliefs.

  • You could lose your job or leadership positions for expressing religious beliefs—even outside of work. For instance, CEOs, newscasters, judges, teachers, doctors, professors, firefighters, Olympians, graduate students, and many others have been fired, pressured to resign, or intimidated for donating money or simply saying that they support the traditional view of marriage.

  • You might be required to hide your religion or perform tasks at work that go against your beliefs. Does it seem fair, for example, that a doctor who opposes abortion on a religious or moral basis be required to perform one even though numerous other doctors nearby are willing? Should you be forced to wear an immodest uniform when it’s not necessary for your job function?

  • You may be required to work on the Sabbath or religious holidays even when others are willing to take your shift and your employer accommodates other nonreligious interests.

  • Your children in public schools may be required to learn about sexual and gender theories that contradict basic Church teachings. Many public schools already teach sex education in a way that’s fundamentally contrary to Church teachings, and some have required reading lists with explicit content.

  • You may not be able to adopt children or become a foster parent because of your religious beliefs or views on the family.

  • As a business owner or professional, you might lose your license or be fined if you refuse to perform services that are contrary to your religious beliefs. You might even lose professional credentials if you don’t participate in certain activities, even if other co-workers are willing to perform them in your place.

  • You might not be able to create faith-based clubs on college campuses without being required to let people become club members—or even officers—who oppose the club’s religious beliefs.

  • Churches may be forced to employ people who disagree with or refuse to live core values of their faith, threatening their ability to carry out their religious missions.

  • Churches could lose their tax-exempt status by maintaining doctrines, policies, and standards that conflict with secular beliefs regarding marriage, family, gender, and sexuality, resulting in a huge increase in costs to build houses of worship or to purchase and provide goods for humanitarian aid.

  • You might lose tax exemptions for charitable donations like tithes and offerings if the Church loses its status as a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization.

  • Churches may not be able to access government lands for camps on equal terms with other groups, limiting youth conferences and camps.

  • Housing units, such as dorms, at religious colleges could be forced to abandon moral standards that protect privacy, modesty, and morality, denying people the right to room with those who uphold the same standards.

  • Religious schools that maintain honor codes may lose their accreditation and be denied research funds and even federal student loans and grants, diminishing the value of their degrees, undermining the quality of their education, and making it financially impossible for many students to attend.

There’s a lot at stake, and this is just a sampling. As society continues to move away from eternal truths and God-given commandments, we can’t predict all the consequences that may result if religious freedom and the right to act on our beliefs are taken away.

So we need to raise our voices to defend religious freedom. If we don’t raise them for the protection of religion now, vital religious freedoms will be lost.

When we join the cause together, we can make a difference that will protect religious freedom not just for Latter-day Saints but also for followers of all religions.

Today’s article is shared from the following website: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2017/07/religious-freedom-matters-whats-at-risk?lang=eng

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Do Small Things with Great Love…Giving Love and Service

Do Small things with Great love - Mother Teresa

Giving Love and Service – it is rarely easy and virtually never convenient. Yet, it can make all the difference to those we love and to the strangers around us.

I believe we all have a story to tell of someone who has done something small for us – an act of service that did not require great sacrifice. Yet, those acts born of thoughtfulness and concern are some of our most meaningful and cherished moments.

I remember a time in my life shortly after I had graduated from high school. I was working in a pizza store. I wasn’t happy with where my life was and was feeling like nobody cared. One night a couple that I knew casually from my church came in. I was working the counter that night and did not wait on the couple but I said hi as I saw them walk in. After their meal, the man deliberately walked up to the counter and gave me a silver dollar. I don’t remember his exact words but he conveyed to me that he believed in me and that I was important. This man did not know me well but he had taken the time to notice me, think about me and then give me words of encouragement. He gave me a priceless gift that night. He gave me hope in myself and he helped me to believe in my worth. The silver dollar was a sweet gesture on his part but it was his words of encouragement that made all the difference. His kind act still impacts my life today.

Remembering moments like these in my life helps me to understand the profound difference small acts of service and kindness can make in the lives of those we come in contact with. I think today’s story shares perfectly the concept that we all need help from time to time. It is through the kindness of strangers that God most often answers our prayers. Are you meant to answer a prayer for God today?

I hope you enjoy today’s story!:

Pickup in the Rain

One night, at 11:30 PM, an older African-American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm. Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride. Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.

A young white man stopped to help her – generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960s. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance and put her into a taxicab. She seemed to be in a big hurry! She wrote down his address, thanked him and drove away.

Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached. It read:

“Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away. God bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.”
Sincerely,
Mrs. Nat King Cole

Story shared from the following website: http://www.motivateus.com/stories/five.htm

 

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Friendship and Love…

The greatest healing therapy is friendship and love Hubert H. Humphrey

I have been touched recently by the importance of friendship. I am very blessed to share my life with my best friend. He is my husband and sweetheart 🙂  Because I am blessed with that constant arrangement, I have often been more lax about developing and maintaining other friendships in my life.

It’s not that I don’t value friendship – I do. It’s more like I put those relationships on the back burner more than I should have because my needs were already being so well met by my husband and family.

I don’t know what exactly penetrated my heart recently, but I have become more intimately aware of the great family, we as a human family, are. We need each other and we need to support each other.

We all have a profound impact on each other – both small and large.

Friendship, in whatever forms it presents itself in our lives should never be taken for granted. It is a gift that once given, must be guarded like a rare jewel and nurtured like a priceless garden. I am making it a goal in my life to be more friendly to strangers and to reach out more often to my friends that I am blessed to have.

What about you? Has it been too long since you have talked to your best friend? …or have you been in contact recently, but have not taken the time to let them know how important they are to you? Are your best friends your spouse and children? Are they halfway around the world and in harms way? I hope you will take just a brief moment and reach out to a friend today!

Today’s story shares the importance of unselfish friendship. I hope you will enjoy!

A Touching Story about Friendship

A voyaging ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men on it were able to swim to a small, desert like island.

The two survivors who have been a good friends, not knowing what else to do, agreed that they had no other recourse but to pray to God. However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.

The first thing they prayed for was food. The next morning, the first man saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the land, and he was able to eat its fruit. The other man’s parcel of land remained barren.

After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a wife. The next day, another ship was wrecked, and the only survivor was a woman who swam to his side of the land. On the other side of the island, there was nothing.

Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes, more food. The next day, like magic, all of these were given to him. However, the second man still had nothing.

Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that he and his wife could leave the island. In the morning, he found a ship docked at his side of the island. The first man boarded the ship with his wife and decided to leave the second man on the island.

He considered the other man unworthy to receive God’s blessings, since none of his prayers had been answered.
As the ship was about to leave, the first man heard a voice from heaven booming, “Why are you leaving your companion on the island?”

“My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them,” the first man answered. “His prayers were all unanswered and so he does not deserve anything.”

“You are mistaken!” the voice rebuked him. “He had only one prayer, which I answered. If not for that, you would not have received any of my blessings.”

“Tell me,” the first man asked the voice, “What did he pray for that I should owe him anything?”

“He prayed that all your prayers be answered “

Moral: For all we know, our blessings are not the fruits of our prayers alone, but those of another praying for us (Congregational Prayer). Value your friends, don’t leave your loved ones behind.

Today’s story is shared from the following website: http://www.videoinspiration.net/blog/short-stories-about-friendship/

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Our Savior Knows our Pains

I belong to a special Facebook group for mothers of adopted and foster children. The children of these mothers come from traumatized backgrounds. As a result, these mothers experience more than their fair share of pain and agony – it very difficult to raise angry, traumatized children. On an almost daily basis, they seek to deliberately hurt (both physically and emotionally) their mothers or primary caregivers. One of these mother’s, in an attempt to help those in our group, shared this recently. It is a quote by Chieko N. Okazaki and it is profound! We all have our burdens to bear and our difficulties to endure. I hope it will provide you with comfort as it has me!:

“It’s our faith that He experienced everything- absolutely everything. Sometimes we don’t think through the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don’t experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually.

That means He knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer — how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced Napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism.

Let me go further. There is nothing you have experienced … that He does not also know and recognize. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. His last recorded words to his disciples were, “And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten when a bully picks on your fifth-grader when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down Syndrome. He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only children are visitors when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years. He knows all that. He’s been there. He’s been lower than all that. He’s not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief.” Chieko N. Okazaki

Today’s image was shared from the gospel library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (lds.org)

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The Gift of Prayer…

I believe that prayer is a critical and irreplaceable tool in our "life toolbox". The more I have utilized prayer in my life, the more amazed I have become by its profound power. I am truly humbled to be a recipient of such an amazing gift from God.

I believe that prayer is a critical and irreplaceable tool in our “life toolbox”. The more I have utilized prayer in my life, the more amazed I have become by its profound power. I am truly humbled to be a recipient of such an amazing gift from God.

In my life, prayer has turned into a personal conversation with my father. I know the Father of my soul – I have seen him. I think it is because of my near-death experience that prayer has become so personal to me.

I know of no mortal that is as loving and merciful as the God of my soul. However, I also know my creator to be a being of law.

I understand that in order for my prayers to be heard – I must make my pleas. In order for my prayers to be answered – I must do my part. Nothing will be done for me that I can (and should) do for myself.

I have experienced more miracles, as a result of prayer, than I can count.

Truly, the Lord has given us a priceless gift! No high-tech device, no mortal, and no earthly means can be devised that provides the comfort, instruction, or blessings of prayer!

 

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