In an effort to thwart the spread of a virus that has killed more than a million people, world leaders should not revoke religious freedom, Latter-day Saint David A. Bednar told a global gathering of scholars and ministers of various religious traditions on Wednesday. .
“The ongoing pandemic demonstrates that some government officials do not understand how and why religion is essential to the lives of billions of people,”
To that end, he “completely misunderstands how vital religion is to people’s lives,” Bednar said, echoing topics he addressed in June at a conference sponsored by the LDS Church, owned by Brigham Young University.
Clearly, governments must play a “crucial role in protecting people from the coronavirus,” the apostle said, given that “no one has the right to spread a dangerous virus.”
The question is how they do it, he said, and whether they recognize “the central place of faith in human dignity.”
Interrupting people from their religious communities, he warned the leaders gathered on Wednesday, “threatening the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health of the people. Experts document the rise in depression, physical and emotional violence, suicide and other tragedies during social locking and isolation. “
Bednar called for “respect, accommodation and cooperation – for creative solutions that mitigate the threat of COVID-19 while not cutting people off from a significant part of their lives.”
Instead of seeing governments as opposing efforts to resolve the crisis, he said “it can be a powerful font of legitimacy and practical help during a crisis.”
The Utah-based faith called on its members around the world to be “good citizens” during the pandemic and to heed public health advice and government guidelines. The leaders of the Latter-day Saints have suspended worship and temple operations around the world for a long time, and are now slowly resuming their meetings and opening their chapels and temples.
“As with secular activities, religious activities must be carefully limited when they are really needed to keep people safe,” Bednar said. “But that’s not the end of the matter. How secular officials understand religion and religious people have a profound effect on how they treat religious institutions and believers in times of crisis. The deeper and more respectful the understanding, the more legitimate and effective public policy responses can be. “
The 68-year-old church leader blamed at least part of the “crisis of legitimacy in response to COVID-19” for the inability of politicians to recognize the central role that faith plays in the lives of believers.
Bednar also pointed out that religious institutions could be a powerful and influential ally in the fight against the pandemic.
“Disinformation is a major obstacle to the health crisis,” he said. “The community of faith can uncover rumors, allay fears and facilitate accurate information.”
Sharon Yubank, the first adviser to the general presidency of the Women’s Relief Society and president of the Holy Charities in recent days, addressed the forum in the last two years, according to a news release, and is scheduled to do so again on Saturday.