Saturday, September 29, 2012

Adding Two Plus Two: Religious Freedom

When you teach eighth grade, you constantly are being reminded about the effect that attitudes and decisions now can and will have on the future.

Sometimes the attitudes and decisions will be reflected in your students' own lives: perhaps they may only lose points on a test in the future, or perhaps they will struggle with problem-solving for the rest of their lives as they are unsure of their capabilities. 

But sometimes you realize that it may not be just an attitude about understanding math, but an attitude about understanding people and life, and then you realize that their decisions are going to affect much, much more.

I'm addicted to talk radio.  It all started when I was younger--my mom would play talk radio as she drove me to and from piano lessons. I thought it was relaxing to listen to the voices of Dr. Laura, or other show hosts.  Most of the time, I prefer to switch from a song I don't like to commercials on another station. I'd rather listen to the talking.  Occasionally as I get into the car I have to remind myself that it would not be smart to take the bumper-to-bumper-traffic-and-construction-zone-highway just to have more car time for talk radio.

But what I've been hearing on talk radio lately has been upsetting me. And it's not just on the radio stations, but across the internet in articles like this and this.

Let me explain something.

Three-hundred ninety-two years (and three or so weeks) ago a group of passengers left their homes, family members, and life as they knew it in a quest for religious freedom. The journey was not easy-- they suffered from treacherous winds and seas, as well as outbreaks of tuberculosis and other sicknesses. As they landed at their destination, I believe the Mayflower pilgrims saw the American soil as Freedom. 

And they weren't alone. My own ancestors traveled to the United States for religious purposes. Many more travelers for hundreds of years have sought the same freedoms here. All of their stories are unique, but had a common theme: religious freedom.

When I start to consider times when religious freedoms were restricted, I'm reminded of biblical times: Daniel was thrown in the lion's den for praying. When I start to consider these times, I'm reminded of the history of people of my faith, who were chased from their homes into an untamed and unwelcoming desert. When I start to consider these times, I'm reminded of World War II and the Holocaust. 
My religion means everything to me. 

Because of my religious freedoms, I have been able to be born to parents who are sealed to each other for eternity, and as a consequence I'm sealed to all of my siblings that I love so much. Because of my religious freedoms, I have been sealed to the love of my life for longer than I will ever live. I am allowed to pray to my Father in Heaven and have seen miracles happen. I can read through the teachings of prophets of old and of prophets of today, to enrich my mind and my character. I find joy, knowledge, peace, comfort, satisfaction, and knowledge daily. 

Religious freedom is apparently losing popularity across the world. This attitude is not just about "Mormonism" (which has never been really popular). It affects Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, and any one else who wants to worship. 

This is an attitude that I see as having a darkening effect on the future. The decisions that are being made to deny anyone of their religious freedom -- even more so.

I stand by the Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
11 We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
I hope that attitudes can change.

If not, the consequences will be much larger than any junior high test.