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Mormon church backs religious liberty after Trump comments

Published December 25, 2015 8:15 pm

Protecting freedom • In his 19th-century statement, Mormon founder said he would "die in defending the rights" of any faith.
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Responding to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, the LDS Church published a 19th-century statement by Mormon founder Joseph Smith, defending the religious rights of faiths outside his own.

"If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a 'Mormon,' 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 denomination;" Smith said in 1843. "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."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pointed out similar support for religious freedom in an 1841 ordinance from Nauvoo, Ill., which was then the faith's headquarters.

It declared that "the Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Latter-day Saints, Quakers, Episcopals, Universalists, Unitarians, Mohammedans [Muslims], and all other religious sects and denominations whatever, shall have free toleration, and equal privileges in this city."

The two excerpts were posted Tuesday on the church's official website. A church spokesman said the statements reflect the Utah-based faith's position on "the national conversation about protecting the rights of people to be here and worship as they choose."

The church is "neutral in regard to party politics and election campaigns," it said on its website, but "it is not neutral in relation to religious freedom."

Utah Muslims "appreciate their [Mormons'] understanding," said Shuaib Din, imam at the Utah Islamic Center in Sandy. "A lot of Muslims are feeling anxious and tense right now and this helps."

The LDS Church's statements are "nothing new," said Brigham Young University political scientist Quin Monson, but "it is a nice opportunity to remind everyone, Mormons in particular, where the church stands on this and where it has always stood."

He said it is especially important for a minority religion, whose members have been the victims of religious intolerance, to speak out on such issues — though Monson noted that the LDS Church often has made the same point.

It becomes news, he said, "because Trump has made some outrageous proposals and everyone from [House Speaker] Paul Ryan to the LDS Church are pushing back."

Earlier this year, the Utah Legislature — with the blessing and encouragement of top Mormon leaders — adopted a landmark nondiscrimination statute that safeguards religious freedoms while also extending housing and workplace protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

Tribune reporter Matt Canham contributed to this report.


Twitter: @religiongal






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