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NorCal Regional Conf on Religious Freedom
« on: October 29, 2017, 02:51:55 am »
The 62 stakes of Northern California attended a regional conference tonight on religious freedom. It was in Sacramento, at the stake center next to the temple, & was broadcast to the rest of us. Local Church members attended & several speakers alluded to guests of other faiths or from government. I’m not sure if other regions will also get something like this.

Elder Rasband presided & spoke. We also heard from Elder Von Keetch of the Seventy, Elder Lance Wickman (the Church’s general counsel), & Sister Joy Jones of Primary. Elder Carl B. Cook of the Seventy was also present. (These leaders had also earlier visited wildfire victims in the North Bay & several alluded to it, & to lessons we can learn from disasters that may apply to life as a whole).

We saw a video with some history & context about religious liberty, & presentation by two constitutional law attorneys with California roots (both LDS) about how ordinary people can find ways to be involved in protecting religious freedom & answer tough questions in a gospel-friendly way.

I’m about to go toes up, but I’ll come back & tell more about it later (tomorrow or early in the week). I posted this now mainly to commit myself, so I’ll have to come back & finish what I started. ;)
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Re: NorCal Regional Conf on Religious Freedom
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2017, 02:49:55 pm »
My wife, one of my sons and I attended in person at the Mormon Center.  It was very well done, and a lot of good information was provided for those that don't follow issues like this closely.  I particularly liked the talk by Elder Wickman as he elaborated on the spectrum of religious rights, noting that compromise is necessary when rights conflict.  I was also pleased that several speakers emphasized the importance of becoming friends of people of other faiths and to stand up for their rights as strongly as our own.

There were several non lds faith leaders in attendance, and I noted that well known non lds specific hymns were selected. 

Maintaining religious freedom has always been a struggle, but the challenge now is that it is being attacked on two sides.  On one side are the radical athiests aligned with the extreme wings of the Democratic party, who want to eradicate religion.  On the other end are the religious extremists, such as the Wahhabis and Roy Moore evangelical Republicans, who want to privilege their religion above all others.

I'm pleased the church has been distancing itself from the evangelicals and is working more closely with mainline protestants, catholics, mainstream Muslims and other minority religions.   I'm also hopeful the rank and file saints step up and start being more respectful of others faiths.
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Re: NorCal Regional Conf on Religious Freedom
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2017, 02:51:26 am »
Thanks for chiming in, JLM. I've been meaning to come back & add more, but haven't gotten to it yet. I also appreciated the emphasis on building relationships with good people of all religions, or none, who believe that religious & secular rights can coexist.

The congregational hymns were "How Firm a Foundation" & "America the Beautiful."

Several of the presenters have some connection with California, & keep tabs on things going on here. So they know what the arena is like, where the controversies about religious rights & secular rights play out. 

I'll try to get back here again before too long & add a few more impressions.
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Re: NorCal Regional Conf on Religious Freedom
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2017, 10:12:50 pm »
OK, it’s time I got this done - notes on the Regional Conference on Religious Freedom, held last Saturday in Sacramento & broadcast to 62 NorCal stakes. Some of the speakers mentioned that guests of other religions & leaders of government were present.

Elder Rasband presided. Also attending were Elders Von G. Keetch & Carl B. Cook of the Seventy, Elder Lance B. Wickman, emeritus Seventy & Church general counsel, Sister Joy D. Jones of Primary, & their spouses. (Aside: I’ve always noticed that leaders who travel on Church assignments are accompanied by their spouses. That might not always be practical for businesses, other entities, or working couples, but how much general trouble in society do you think could be avoided if most business travelers usually had their spouses join them?)

Elder Keetch told of a rookie firefighter who was trained to stay where he was assigned no matter what was going on elsewhere at an incident, to man a hose, blast any flame he saw, & protect nearby buildings from catching fire. On his first call, he got bored standing there waiting for trouble to come to him, so he left his post to see if anyone needed help in different areas. By the time he returned to his assigned spot, the adjacent building was on fire & his chief had taken his place on the abandoned hoseline. The chief taught the young man a lesson that day: always stand where you are assigned, blast any fire that appears, & you don’t need to know everything to function competently.

Similarly, our duty is to be good upstanding community members in whatever roles we might have, & respond to situations in our own spheres.

Video on religious freedom gave us context with history & constitutional issues, emphasized that people must work together to protect religious freedom whether or not they are religious.

Elder Wickman alluded to recent wildfires in the area they were visiting (all of these leaders had been to the fire areas & met with victims, including non-LDS people sheltered in Church buildings). The upheaval in 13 original colonies was like a firestorm of change. Founders of the Revolution & founders of the Constitution were almost entirely different groups. Key words in the Constitution are “We the People”; the Constitution was the product of hard human labor by those inspired to “form a more perfect Union” & it is up to us to do the hard work of citizenship. We have become too accustomed to rely on the courts to define what religious liberty is. We are called to be protectors of religious freedom in whatever ways fit our personal situations.

Some liberties are inherent rights of citizenship & are not negotiable, e.g. belief, family worship, building of religious edifices. Some freedoms are tempered where there is overlap with other civil rights. Pragmatism & compromise are sometimes needed.

Sister Jones, former Santa Rosa resident returning to see areas she knew gone or changed by the wildfires, & scarred hillsides that had been green, thought of the threat of erosion from water once the land is defoliated. Likened it to the threats to our liberties & called it insidious. We need to engage our children in discussions that prepare them to be good citizens. “One voice can give courage to many” – recalled once being in a group of parents at a briefing on school sex education, & they spoke up & said some material wasn’t what they wanted their kids to get in school & asked that the kids be excused. After a pause, one & then another & another parent got up to agree, & eventually a majority disapproved & the school agreed to omit that material. In speaking for religious liberty, one voice may also encourage others.

Presentation by attorneys Alexander Dushku & Hannah Smith, both LDS, have California ties, & specialize in constitutional law. They hoped to help us with practical ways to find more info, specific ways to be involved, & how to answer tough questions. One source is a new Church website: religiousfreedom.lds.org

We need not be specialized professionals – just need to act in our own sphere of influence. Start with what we already do, & pray & make time to include something related to religious freedom. How do our work life, schools, or community connections provide opportunities to be involved? Students can also act. Ensign articles can start discussions at home & help us understand other people & cultures.
Is religious freedom (as many suspect) a code word for anti-LGBT discrimination?
-   Religious people & institutions have a constitutional right to worship & practice faith. It was not created to harm anyone.
-   “Love your neighbor” is still God’s commandment. We are not “against” anyone.
-   No one should be shocked that there can be conflicts between rights. There are areas where compromise is possible.

 Elder Rasband: We need to approach this as a choir, not as soloists. Asked for show of hands of those under age 20, & was amazed; said, “We are doing this for you.”

Why are “war chapters” in the book of Alma? There are lessons for us all about putting on armor & taking up the Title of Liberty. Nephites strategized how to defend religious liberty. The Twelve give presentations all over the world about this, an issue that needs defending everywhere. Religious liberty goes to the heart of moral agency, the privilege to choose right or wrong. Quoted Joseph Smith about all humans being created equal & having the ability to use agency, & his duty to defend the rights of all to worship freely because trampling on one is trampling on all.

We need to:
-   View others with fairness, acknowledge God’s love for all, & love our neighbor.
-   Let fairness guide our treatment of others, do not judge based on differences.
-   Stand up for others whose rights are being violated, even when their views differ from ours.
-   Be an example of a believer.

Blessed us all with “courage, conviction, & desire to lift where we stand; the Lord is in this work.”
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Re: NorCal Regional Conf on Religious Freedom
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2017, 02:23:50 pm »
Curelom, thank you for taking the time and effort to write that out.
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