Continuing our General Conference Review Lessons, we took on Elder Hales' talk "Preserving Agency, Protecting Religious Freedom."
When I pondered how to teach this talk to my children I decided that if they are to protect and stand up for religious freedom in their lives, it's important that they know and understand what Elder Hales calls the "four cornerstones of religious freedom."
He explains them as follows:
"The second cornerstone of religious liberty is the freedom to share our faith and our beliefs with others. The Lord commands us, “Ye shall teach [the gospel to] your children … when thou sittest in thine house.”11 He also said to His disciples, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”12 As parents, full-time missionaries, and member missionaries, we rely on religious freedom in order to teach the Lord’s doctrine in our families and throughout the world."
"The third cornerstone of religious liberty is the freedom to form a religious organization, a church, to worship peacefully with others. The eleventh article of faith declares, “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.” International human rights documents and many national constitutions support this principle."
"The fourth cornerstone of religious liberty is the freedom to live our faith—free exercise of faith not just in the home and chapel but also in public places. The Lord commands us not only to pray privately13 but also to go forth and “let [our] light so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [our] Father which is in heaven.”14
Prior to our lesson (which we discussed over dinner), I made little origami boxes to serve as our "cornerstones." It was a rush job, so my boxes weren't perfect, but they are very easy to make and a tutorial can be found here.
When the family came to the dinner table (the Elders were over too) they found these four "blocks" sitting on the table in a random pile. My kids were pretty quick to figure out the "puzzle."
When they stacked the boxes on top of each other in the correct order, it spelled "religious freedom" down the side.
After finishing our "puzzle", we asked the children to define religious freedom. For help with this definition, we relied on the "cornerstones" of religious freedom, given in the talk. We talked about each one individually and shared experiences from our own lives that applied to each principle or cornerstone. We talked about why living and defending these freedoms in our daily lives helps ensure our religious freedom. We talked about what would happen if we failed to stand up for these freedoms.
Since my boxes were not perfect, balancing them on top of one another required a delicate touch. When speaking about experiences we've had in the past, we talked about how we felt compelled and sometimes restrained by the Spirit to walk a fine line in defending religious freedom, while also respecting/protecting the agency of others around us and avoiding contention.
Because of experiences that I have had, I have a first-hand testimony of what is required to defend religious freedom: what is required is that we do it in the Lord's way...not our way and not the world's way.
The Lord's way is in love. The Lord's way is based in sound doctrine. The Lord's way is without contention or contempt for those who would oppose us, but with empathy and love. The Lord's way is by relying on the spirit, every step of the way.
I have been given a glimpse of the love that the Lord feels for his children...even His children who currently oppose His plan. At the time that I was given this glimpse of His love, I was really taken back and humbled at the Lord's great capacity, at how much he really does care for each one of us. And I have felt a desire to try and get closer to having that kind of love for others every day. I'm still trying, but I know that as we follow the Spirit, ever so closely, in our interactions with others, we will walk safely in a path lit by His love and power. I hope over the next few years, I will be able to pass this understanding on to my children as I believe their generation will need this knowledge and wisdom most of all.