“Recognizing and protecting faith is the path to peace,” said Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Pune, India, Monday, August 14, 2017. “True religion offers a stable foundation for a just and healthy society. It strengthens and ennobles nations, communities, and individuals.”
Elder Christofferson was in India to receive the Philosopher Saint Shri Dnyaneshwara World Peace Prize at MIT World Peace University on behalf of the Church and its nearly 16 million members around the world, including the more than 13,000 Latter-day Saints and 43 congregations in India.
“The relationship with this community under the guidance of Mr. Christofferson and others will be a unique future for following and showing the pathway of peace and harmony to mankind,” said Dr. Vishwanath D. Karad, founder and president of MIT World Peace University, who was impressed with his visit to “universities in the Mormon community” in Utah. “I just felt that this community has so much in common with the Indian culture.”
Since 1985, LDS Charities has provided nearly $2 billion in assistance to millions of people in 189 countries.
Nobel also praised the Church for its “extensive and practical work with refugees to ensure their livelihood and possible survival in a foreign country like the United States.”
“Religion defines and sustains us. For billions of believers, it is who we are and how we live,” said Elder Christofferson in his acceptance speech. “Failing to appreciate the good religion does society or the nation as a whole and to accommodate religion whenever possible results in social conflict.”
The Latter-day Saint apostle outlined how religion benefits nations and communities.
“Religion has a significant effect on national prosperity,” he told the university leaders and honored guests. “Trust is an essential element of any well-functioning economy, and scholars have found that religion is especially effective at instilling trust and that religious people are far more trusting than people with purely secular viewpoints.”
Elder Christofferson said those who are religious “are a powerful source of humanitarian assistance.” He explained that when people are free to worship, they will volunteer in their communities at a much higher rate that those without religion. “Highly religious people are more likely to volunteer not only for religious causes but also for secular ones.”
He said religion teaches people to have compassion for their neighbors, especially those who are needy. “Religious volunteers provide substantial assistance in areas that would otherwise fall to governmental agencies.”
Nobel noted the Church excels not only in its humanitarian efforts but also in its efforts to “assure peace and unity within its family structures” and its “honor code of clean living upon its members in which no drinking, gambling or smoking is allowed.”
In his remarks, Elder Christofferson said religion benefits families. “Marriages are more stable and families more self-sufficient because of the influence of religion.”
He said parents who practice their faith can have a positive influence on their kids. “Children raised in religious homes are less likely to experience anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, and sadness. Simply put, children are happier when mother and father are religious.”
Elder Christofferson said research also indicates religious families are safer. “Religious practice correlates with reduced rates of youth depression and suicide, while a lack of religious affiliation bears a tragic correlation with a higher risk of youth suicide. A strong family coupled with regular religious practice is the most effective defense against the pernicious evils of pornography, drug and alcohol abuse, and other addictive behaviors.”
But Elder Christofferson stressed that the benefits of religion can occur only in societies that protect religious freedom.
“Countries with strong traditions of religious freedom tend to be not only more stable and safe, but more prosperous,” said Elder Christofferson. “Imagine what changes would happen if more officials and policymakers recognized that protecting religious freedom is one of the three most significant things they could do to promote the economic growth and well-being of their country.”
The first Mormons came to India in the 1850s, and the Church has enjoyed an official presence since 1981.
“To have Elder Christofferson receive this award on behalf of the Church from the hand of an organization from India is pretty significant for us,” said Elder Robert K. William, a local Church leader in India.
“It is my hope that we will all recognize and appreciate the great good religion does and work together — as people of diverse faiths or no faith at all — to build more peaceful nations and ultimately a more peaceful world,” concluded Elder Christofferson.
A monetary award associated with the prize was donated to the Rivka Sahil Akshar Institute, a small special needs school in Wai, India. Elder Christofferson visited the school Monday afternoon to present the check to school leaders.