“Our world has seemingly been filled recently with strong wake-up calls,” said Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“From natural disasters to a deadly pandemic sweeping the globe to a most pernicious social plague of racism, we are daily reminded that we need to awaken to the perilous times that surround us, come to ourselves and arise and turn to our Divine Father, who desires to instruct and edify us through our trials,” said Elder Bednar.
The apostle’s remarks were streamed live Wednesday morning during the Religious Freedom Annual Review, hosted by the Brigham Young University Law School. This year’s conference is being held online due to the pandemic.
Elder Bednar said the pandemic has alerted us to the limitations in the food supply chain; our dependence on other nations for essential medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, and other products; constraints in inventory and delivery systems for manufacturing plants and retail businesses; deficiencies in our national and local health care systems; the importance of defending the borders between personal liberty, constitutional rights, and governmental authority; and attacks on the freedoms of religion, speech, and assembly.
“The buzzer on the COVID-19 alarm clock just continues to ring and ring and ring,” he stressed while speaking from his office on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
Impacts on Religious Freedom
Elder Bednar warned there is a danger in limiting a religious organization’s right to gather. “Gathering, in short, is at the core of faith and religion. Indeed, if the faithful are not gathering, sooner or later they will begin to scatter. And because gathering lies at the very heart of religion, the right to gather lies at the very heart of religious freedom.”
When the pandemic hit, congregations of many faiths around the world canceled worship services and other activities to abide by government restrictions for large group gatherings to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“I believe it is vital for us to recognize that the sweeping governmental restrictions that were placed on religious gatherings at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis truly were extraordinary,” Elder Bednar explained. “No other event in our lifetime—and perhaps no other event since the founding of this nation—has caused quite this kind of widespread disruption of religious gatherings and worship.”
Four Personal Reflections
Elder Bednar offered four personal reflections on the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic:
- Government power can never be unlimited.
- Religious freedom is paramount among our fundamental rights.
- Religious freedom is fragile.
- In a time of crisis, sensitive tools are necessary to balance the demands of religious liberty with the just interests of society.