“My purpose today is to challenge you to work with people of other faiths to improve the moral fabric of this nation and the world and to protect religious freedom,” Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said to students graduating from Brigham Young University-Idaho.
“In order to do this, you need to understand and comprehend ‘things which have been’ with particular emphasis on certain knowledge and events which were precursors to the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and still need to be protected,” Elder Cook continued.
He explained that understanding events leading up to the Restoration would help students protect, defend, and, with their own unique abilities, share those elements of knowledge, mostly within their families and communities, in a way that will bless mankind and prepare the world for the kingdom of God. Elder Cook issued his challenge during a commencement address at BYU-Idaho on December 16, 2011.
Precursors to the Restoration
Elder Cook reviewed four major “things which have been” that paved the way for the restoration of the gospel and suggested an additional three courses of action, relevant today, that will “build on the great heritage that has been bestowed on each of us.”
The four major precursory events he spoke of were:
- The King James Version of the Bible.
- English Common Law and the United States Constitution.
- The Industrial Revolution, Communication Revolution, and advancements in medicine.
- Most essential, the return to Judeo-Christian moral principles.
Concerning the Bible, Elder Cook said, “This great book of scripture, the King James Bible, is as important to us today as it was 400 years ago. Significantly, we share with the vast majority of citizens a love and appreciation for the Judeo-Christian values set forth in the King James Bible.”
With regard to the Constitution, Elder Cook quoted Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who was a prominent attorney and judge prior to his calling as an Apostle, and President J. Reuben Clark (1871-1961), who served as First Counselor and Second Counselor in the First Presidency and who also had an extensive legal career prior to his calling. Elder Cook said Elder Oaks and President Clark identify five elements of the Constitution as being particularly inspired:
- The separation of powers into three independent branches of government.
- The Bill of Rights guarantee of freedom of speech, press, and religion.
- The equality of all men and women before the law.
- The Federal System with division of powers between the nation as a whole and various states.
- The principle of popular sovereignty.
“It does not require detailed analysis of the Constitution to see that these five basic fundamentals have been a great blessing to the United States and were necessary to the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Elder Cook said.
Elder Cook briefly described advancements in communication and medicine by quoting Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Seventy, saying that heaven’s hand could be seen in the affairs of men.
Finally, Elder Cook spoke of the return to Judeo-Christian moral principles that was especially necessary for the restoration of the gospel.
Then Elder Cook asked the graduates, “How can you help bring about this restoration of morality in our day and help preserve religious freedom?” He answered his own question by offering several suggestions.
Restoration of Morality
- First, be a righteous example. You must not be in camouflage as to who you are and what you believe.
- We need to be civil in our discourse and respectful in our interactions with our fellow citizens. Our faith requires that we treat our neighbors with respect. It is appropriate to disagree, but it is not appropriate to be disagreeable.
- Be an advocate for religious freedom and morality. “This is a time when those who feel accountable to God for their conduct feel under siege by a secular world. You understand the moral principles that are under attack and need to defend morality. … It is important for your generation to become well educated [in religious freedom] and assume responsibility for ensuring that the religious freedom you have inherited is passed on to future generations.”
- We must work together to both protect religious freedom and restore morality. “Please understand this is not an effort to coerce religious belief. As John Locke asserted, religious worship does not have value unless it is voluntary.”
Presidents of the Church have made it clear that all religions should work together for the common good.
“Our challenge is to help people without religious faith understand that the protection of moral principles grounded in religion is a great benefit to society and that religious devotion is critical to public virtue,” Elder Cook said.
“One of the reasons the attack on the moral and religious principles has been so successful is the reluctance of people of faith to express their views.”
Elder Cook closed by challenging again that “you join with people of all faiths who feel accountable to God in defending religious freedom so it can be a beacon for morality. … We ask you to do this on the Internet and in your personal interactions in the neighborhoods and communities where you live. Be an active participant, not a silent observer.”