On behalf of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I extend a warm welcome to all who are participating in the 27th Annual International Law and Religion Symposium sponsored by the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at BYU Law School. This symposium is the world’s premier conference where religious leaders and leading scholars and government authorities come together to discuss global religious freedom issues. Deeper appreciation and understanding of the values of religious freedom for the peoples of the world will be the fruits of this symposium. This year’s topic, Religious Freedom: Rights and Responsibilities, reflects well our faith’s beliefs in the importance of both religious freedom and responsibility in respecting the rights and needs of everyone.
Freedom of religion and conscience and the right to public worship are essential elements of our faith. We have a deep commitment to the brotherhood and sisterhood of all and feel an obligation as followers of Jesus Christ to serve and bless those in all countries, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. In the spirit of our Master, who went about doing good, we seek to help lift the burdens of those in need in any faith throughout the world. We pray that the peoples of the world will be united in solving the health and economic challenges rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, and in so doing, mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. We also hope that ways to minister and serve those who have great needs will be found. President Russell M. Nelson, the President of our Church, has said, “We pray for those who are suffering and for those who have lost loved ones.”
The Church through its humanitarian organization, Latter-day Saint Charities, is actively engaged throughout the world in alleviating suffering resulting from the pandemic. We are currently involved in over 750 pandemic related relief projects in 141 countries and are grateful for wonderful partners and opportunities to serve. We support the efforts of governments and medical and public health leaders to make wise decisions about how best to address the spread and impact of COVID-19. Our Church is committed to obey, honor, and sustain the laws and regulations adopted to control the pandemic. At the same time, we encourage government leaders not to unnecessarily restrict the rights of believers to engage in public worship. With effort in prayer, we believe that governments can effectively balance the priorities of faith and public health. We are grateful to each of you for your commitment to promote and protect religious freedom and for your individual and collective efforts to assist those who have the greatest needs because of this pandemic. Thank you for the purity and goodness of your hearts. I pray that this symposium will be successful in the discussion of religious freedom. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.