News Release

Elder Ulisses Soares Speaks at Second Brazilian Symposium on Religious Liberty

Freedom and Responsibility Meet: How Religion Cultivates the Human Good

For the second time in as many years, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was a featured speaker at the Brazilian Symposium on Religious Liberty, held this year in Brasília, the federal capital.

The theme of this year’s symposium was Building Bridges, Breaking Barriers: The Role of Religious Freedom in Building a Free, Just and Mutually Supportive Society. Elder Soares shared a panel with representatives of the Catholic Church, the Baháʼí faith and Afro-Brazilian communities.

Read his full address

The symposium was organized by the Brazilian Center for the Study of Religious Liberty of the Federal University of Uberlândia, the International Center for Law and Religion Studies of Brigham Young University and the Brazilian chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society. Last year’s inaugural event was held in Rio de Janeiro. Religious leaders, scholars of law, judges, advocates and students attended the symposium.

Expressing great joy at being back in his homeland, Elder Soares compared civil society and the interaction between people of various backgrounds to the rich diversity found in the ecosystems of Brazil. “Every tree, creek and insect contributes to the balance. God created diverse ecosystems that bless and enrich human life. But we must do our part to preserve creation’s wonders,” he said.

“Like this system of interdependent organisms, society lives and breathes amid a diversity of opinions, experiences, feelings and beliefs. We need each other in countless ways — to listen, to learn and to speak. Just as the biological ecosystem is fragile and susceptible to misuse, so the social ecosystem breaks down if we don’t balance our actions. The way we use our freedoms and uphold our responsibilities determines the health of the earth and the health of society.”

Elder Soares went on to say that, while we can’t escape the differences in society, our task is to not only live together but “live together well.”

Quoting from U.S. civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Christian author C.S. Lewis, Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and others, he made a case for putting community above self-interest and seeing our fellow travelers as souls, not objects. He also noted that families provide the first lessons in love and cooperation, and that religion provides a moral reservoir from which everyone can drink.

Making a strong case for the responsibilities that accompany freedoms, after listing many of those freedoms, he said that freedom without obligation can only go so far. “The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches me to be answerable to God, to my fellow beings and to myself. This obligation comes in many forms and has little to do with freedom.” He then enumerated some of the accompanying obligations: to show respect; to be civil; to listen, learn, show empathy and give your opponent the benefit of the doubt; to support a friend who is persecuted for their religion; to be honest, patient and find the good in other religions; and to honor the law and others.

The symposium began on Tuesday, August 8, and will continue through Friday, August 11, with various keynote addresses and panel discussions. As part of the scheduled activities, the attendees will take a special tour of the newly completed Brasília Brazil Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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