In an address to young adults on 11 September titled “Truth and Tolerance,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke of four key principles that should govern religious participation in the public square.

oaks_Dallin2Knowing how to communicate respectively and truthfully in the public square is critical, Elder Oaks said, because “living together with mutual respect for one another’s differences is a challenge in today’s world.” Elder Oaks emphasized that in religious and public life truth and tolerance go hand in hand. “We must stand up for truth, even while we practice tolerance and respect for beliefs and ideas different from our own and for the people who hold them.”

To promote better understanding of how participation in the public square should be “informed by the balance between truth and tolerance,” Elder Oaks provided the following principles as a guide:

  1. “When believers in Jesus Christ take their views of truth into the public square they must seek the inspiration of the Lord to be selective and wise in choosing which true principles they seek to promote by law or executive action. Generally, they should refrain from seeking laws or administrative action to facilitate beliefs that are distinctive to believers, such as the enforcement of acts of worship, even by implication. Believers can be less cautious in seeking government action that would serve principles broader than merely facilitating the practice of their beliefs, such as laws concerning public health, safety and morals.”
  2. “When believers seek to promote their positions in the public square, their methods and their advocacy should always be tolerant of the opinions and positions of those who do not share their beliefs. We should not add to the extremism that divides our society. As believers we must always speak with love and show patience, understanding, and compassion toward our adversaries. Christian believers are under command to love their neighbors, to forgive, and to do good to those who despitefully use them. … As believers we should also frame our arguments and positions in ways that contribute to the reasoned discussion and accommodation that are essential to democratic government in a pluralistic society. By this means we will contribute to the civility that is essential to preserve our civilization.”
  3. “Believers should not be deterred by the familiar charge that they are trying to legislate morality. Many areas of the law are based on Judeo/Christian morality and have been for centuries. Our civilization is based on morality and cannot exist without it.”
  4. “Believers should not shrink from seeking laws to maintain public conditions or policies that assist them in practicing the requirements of their faith where those conditions or policies are also favorable to the public health, safety or morals. … But where believers are in the majority they should always be sensitive to the views of the minority.”

In closing, Elder Oaks urged Latter-day Saints to be “more wise and skillful in explaining and pursuing our views and in exercising our influence when we have it.”

Read the entire transcript of Elder Oaks’ address, “Truth and Tolerance.”