The Scriptures on Religion

If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:26-27)

The Scriptures

And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. Therefore for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion. (Alma 43:47)

We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul. (Doctrine and Covenants 134:4)

Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, “Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist. (Joseph Smith — History 1:5)

Behold, we have not come out to battle against you that we might shed your blood for power; neither do we desire to bring any one to the yoke of bondage. But this is the very cause for which ye have come against us; yea, and ye are angry with us because of our religion.

But now, ye behold that the Lord is with us; and ye behold that he has delivered you into our hands. And now I would that ye should understand that this is done unto us because of our religion and our faith in Christ. And now ye see that ye cannot destroy this our faith.

Now ye see that this is the true faith of God; yea, ye see that God will support, and keep, and preserve us, so long as we are faithful unto him, and unto our faith, and our religion; and never will the Lord suffer that we shall be destroyed except we should fall into transgression and deny our faith. (Alma 44:2-4)

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Apostles on Religion

Elder Dallin H. OaksThe Williamsburg Charter reminds us that despite our constitutional prohibition against establishing a state religion, in many areas of the United States during the nineteenth century there was “a de facto semi-establishment of one religion in the United States: a generalized Protestantism given dominant status in national institutions, especially in the public schools.” In contrast, the Charter continues, “In more recent times, and partly in reaction, constitutional jurisprudence has tended, in the view of many, to move toward the de facto semi-establishment of a wholly secular understanding of the origin, nature, and destiny of humankind and of the American nation.”

Over time, these “wholly secular understandings” have attained “a dominant status,” until there is a “striking absence today of any national consensus about religious liberty as a positive good.” The Charter concludes: “The renewal of religious liberty is crucial to sustain a free people that would remain free.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Religion in Public Life,” Ensign, Jul 1990, 7)

Elder James E FaustThere seems to be developing a new civil religion. The civil religion I refer to is a secular religion. It has no moral absolutes. It is nondenominational. It is nontheistic. It is politically focused. It is antagonistic to religion. It rejects the historic religious traditions of America. It feels strange. If this trend continues, nonbelief will be more honored than belief. While all beliefs must be protected, are atheism, agnosticism, cynicism, and moral relativism to be more safeguarded and valued than Christianity, Judaism, and the tenets of Islam, which hold that there is a Supreme Being and that mortals are accountable to him? If so, this would, in my opinion, place America in great moral jeopardy.

For those who believe in God, this new civil religion fosters some of the same concerns as the state religions that prompted our forefathers to escape to the New World. Nonbelief is becoming more sponsored in the body politic than belief. History teaches well the lesson that there must be a unity in some moral absolutes in all societies for them to endure and progress. Indeed, without a national morality they disintegrate. In Proverbs, we are reminded that “righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov. 14:34.) The long history and tradition of America, which had its roots in petitions for divine guidance, is being challenged. (James E. Faust, “A New Civil Religion,” Ensign, Oct 1992, 69)

Elder M. Russell BallardIndeed, some people now claim that the Founding Fathers’ worst fear in connection with religion has been realized; that we have, in fact, a state-sponsored religion in America today. This new religion, adopted by many, does not have an identifiable name, but it operates just like a church. It exists in the form of doctrines and beliefs, where morality is whatever a person wants it to be, and where freedom is derived from the ideas of man and not the laws of God. Many people adhere to this concept of morality with religious zeal and fervor, and courts and legislatures tend to support it.

While you may think I am stretching the point a bit to say that amorality could be a new state-sponsored religion, I believe you would agree that we do not have to look far to find horrifying evidence of rampant immorality that is permitted if not encouraged by our laws. From the plague of pornography to the devastation caused by addiction to drugs, illicit sex, and gambling, wickedness rears its ugly head everywhere, often gaining its foothold in society by invoking the powers of constitutional privilege.

We see a sad reality of contemporary life when many of the same people who defend the right of a pornographer to distribute exploitive films and photos would deny freedom of expression to people of faith because of an alleged fear of what might happen from religious influence on government or public meetings. While much of society has allowed gambling to wash over its communities, leaving broken families and individuals in its soul-destroying wake, it reserves its harshest ridicule for those who advocate obedience to God’s commandments and uniform, inspired standards of right and wrong. (M. Russell Ballard, “Religion in a Free Society,” Ensign, Oct 1992, 64)

Elder Russell M. NelsonThe dismal dusk of today’s spiritual drift provides a rare opportunity for the radiance of religion to light the way to a new tomorrow. This can happen only as we proclaim eternal truths that have the power to engender spiritual strength. Human nature cannot be changed by reforming public policy; that kind of change comes by exposing the human mind and heart to the transforming teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have learned that when we teach His correct principles, people govern themselves appropriately.

We at this world parliament represent many religious persuasions. Because there is much that is praiseworthy in each of our faiths, it is important for us to maintain the integrity of our religious institutions and to preserve tolerance of each other’s sacred beliefs. These factors are essential to the strength of a pluralistic society. Tolerance and understanding are enhanced as we teach clearly and courteously the tenets of our religions. (Russell M. Nelson, “Combatting Spiritual Drift—Our Global Pandemic,” Ensign, Nov 1993, 102–8

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Hugh Nibley on Religion

Hugh Nibley

Science without religion, like philosophy without religion, has nothing to feed on. . . . It is my contention that any branch of human thought without religion soon withers and dies of anemia. (“Science Fiction and the Gospel,” The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 12:519)

The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism. (“What Is Zion?,” The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 9:54)

Religion becomes magic when the power by which things operate is transferred from God to the things themselves. . . . When men lack revelation they commonly come to think of power residing in things. . . .

In time the Bible became a magic book in men’s eyes, conveying all knowledge by its own power, without the aid of revelation. So also after a fierce controversy on the matter, priesthood itself acquired the status of a thing that automatically bestows power and grace, regardless of the spiritual or moral qualification of its possessor — it became a magic thing. (“Some Fairly Foolproof Tests,” The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 7:261)

Humanism is very ancient. It turns up regularly as an Ersatz for religion when religion goes sour. The settled tradition is that while humanism and science represent straight and honest thinking religion is a primitive, prerational, emotional, wishful type of thinking, essentially superstitious, that humanism and science represent bold new thought while religion represents traditional, hide-bound uncritical thinking. What this view overlooks is the fact that the bold original thinking of today inevitably becomes the hide-bound authoritarian tradition of tomorrow. So that the theory itself, the belief that we have a body of study that is fresh and forward looking and that we can easily spot it and give allegiance to it, is itself a hoary superstition. (“Humanism and the Gospel,” 1)

So universally is religious ritual today burdened with the defects of oddness, incongruity, quaintness, . . . mere traditionalism, obvious faking and filling in, contrived and artificial explanations including myths and allegories, frankly sensual appeal, and general haziness and confusion, that those regrettable traits have come to be regarded as the very essence of ritual itself.

In contrast we find the Latter-day Saint rites, though full, elaborate, and detailed, to be always lucid and meaningful, forming an organic whole that contains nothing incongruous, redundant, or mystifying, nothing purely ornamental, arbitrary, abtruse, or nearly picturesque. (“What is a Temple?,” The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 4:369)

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C. S. Lewis on Religion

C. S. Lewis

Now that I am a Christian I do not have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. (Mere Christianity)

Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys’ philosophies–these over simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either. (The Case for Christianity)

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (Mere Christianity)

The great difficulty is to get modern audiences to realize that you are preaching Christianity solely and simply because you happen to think it true; they always suppose you are preaching it because you like it or think it good for society or something of that sort. Now a clearly maintained distinction between what the Faith actually says and what you would like it to have said or what you understand or what you personally find helpful or think probable, forces your audience to realize that you are tied to your data just as the scientist is tied by the results of the experiments; that you are not just saying what you like. This immediately helps them realize that what is being discussed is a question about objective fact — not gas about ideals and points of view. (Mere Christianity)

All that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy. (Mere Christianity)

If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. (Mere Christianity)

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George W Bush on Religion

George W Bush

My main objective in my discussions on religious freedom is to remind this new generation of [Chinese] leadership that religion is not to be feared but to be welcomed in society. (Mon, 04 Aug 2008 Washington Post)

I don’t think witchcraft is a religion. I would hope the military officials would take a second look at the decision they made. (Mon, 23 Apr 2007 New York Times)

I will be your president regardless of your faith, and I don’t expect you to agree with me necessarily on religion. As a matter of fact, no president should ever try to impose religion on our society. (Fri, 05 Nov 2004 USA Today)

Prayer and religion sustain me. I receive calmness in the storms of the presidency. But when I make decisions, I stand on principle, and the principles are derived from who I am. (Thu, 14 Oct 2004 guardian.co.uk)

We also hear doubts that democracy is a realistic goal for the greater Middle East, where freedom is rare. Yet it is mistaken, and condescending, to assume that whole cultures and great religions are incompatible with liberty and self-government. I believe that God has planted in every human heart the desire to live in freedom. And even when that desire is crushed by tyranny for decades, it will rise again. (Tue, 20 Jan 2004 State of the Union Address)

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Mitt Romney on Religion

Mitt Romney

We separate church and state affairs in this country…. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. (Fri, 7 Dec 2007 National Public Radio)

I’m not sure that we fully appreciate the profound implications of our tradition of religious liberty. I have visited many of the magnificent cathedrals in Europe. They are so inspired … so grand … so empty. Raised up over generations, long ago, so many of the cathedrals now stand as the postcard backdrop to societies just too busy or too ‘enlightened’ to venture inside and kneel in prayer. The establishment of state religions in Europe did no favor to Europe’s churches. (Sun, 9 Dec 2007 American Rhetoric)

In recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America –- the religion of secularism. They are wrong. (Fri, 7 Dec 2007 WCVB TV Boston)

I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church’s beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. (Thu, 6 Dec 2007 MarketWatch)

I believe in my Mormon faith, and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers; I will be true to them and to my beliefs. (Thu, 6 Dec 2007 Austin American-Statesman)

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