Additional Resource

Striving Souls and Sustainable Societies: Developing Hope in a World of Suffering

By Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

This speech was delivered on Wednesday, September 14, 2022, at the Seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

Greetings, honorable friends and associates. I look forward to learning from you this day. May we celebrate the dignity of all God’s children and help create a more peaceful world.

I praise the generosity and openness of Kazakh society. You have built a space where religious variety can contribute to the betterment of your nation. This spacious country inspires awe and respect.

On the surface we all stand apart — we come from different countries, hold different beliefs, observe different rituals, and pray to our own deities. What an audacious task we undertake — to elevate the common good above our own interests, to open our eyes beyond our own experience. But despite our uniqueness, we all belong to the same human race, share the same human nature, and reach for the potential that God gave us.

All civilizations have portions of sacred wisdom. Here we echo the words of the great Kazakh poet Abai Qunanbaiuly: “What a wonderful world the Creator has given us! He magnanimously and generously gave us his light.”[i]

It is fitting that we convene this conference in the name of peace. For that is precisely what eludes our world today. We see human struggle unfold in both large and small scales: The vast impersonal forces of nations compete for power and resources, while individuals, families, and communities work through the quiet desperations of life. In the wake of this sorrow, hearts are broken, homes rupture, lives become lost, and opportunities foreclose. But in the depths of human suffering, we find our common springs of hope.

The sheer magnitude of suffering can shake the soul. Across the globe millions flee civil conflicts, refugees face starvation, religious minorities bear persecution, innocent people endure tyranny, natural catastrophes drive populations from their homes, and acts of violence intimidate schools ... men, women and children of all races and creeds suffer in untold ways.

And much of the pain goes unseen. As the global pandemic subsides, a different kind of ailment has emerged. In July 2021, the World Health Organization declared that “social isolation and loneliness are widespread.”[ii] Likewise, according to the British Medical Association, “Problematic levels of loneliness are experienced by a substantial proportion of the population in many countries.”[iii] COVID helped us understand the emotional necessity of personal connection.

The loss of social belonging, the fear of large, systemic forces, the gyrations of the world market, media omnipresence, technological overload — these factors create what we call the “age of anxiety.” The World Economic Forum reported: “The early years of the 21st century have witnessed a worldwide epidemic of poor mental health and related illnesses. ... An estimated 275 million people suffer from anxiety disorders.”[iv]

A major casualty of isolation and anxiety is social trust. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer of 2022, “We find a world ensnared in a vicious cycle of distrust, fueled by a growing lack of faith in media and government.”[v]

But let us not surrender to hardship. We must engage it instead. Everyone suffers in different ways and at different timetables — whether rich or poor, young or old, believer or nonbeliever. Nevertheless, if we embrace the trial of faith, God will “make weak things become strong.”[vi] To wrestle the universal question — Why would an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God allow suffering? — is to accept the responsibility of spiritual maturity.

The final ledger of the divine economy is hidden from our view. We discover the answer not in the way we think, but in the way we live. And we live by connection, not intellect alone. Viktor Frankl, who survived the Nazi concentration camps, understood this principle the hard way: “Love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire.”[vii]

The slow, sure wheels of time flatten the intensity of our hurt, giving us eyes to see more clearly and a heart to feel more firmly. And after our abyss of affliction, no learning is lost, no effort is wasted. All experience accrues to our benefit. The Apostle Paul beautifully expresses this hope: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”[viii]

Suffering is a school of compassion, a doorway to empathy, an invitation to relate.

The enterprise of religion helps answer the question of suffering not directly, but through the love of other people, through the presence of those who have invested in our well-being. It’s part of the covenant of my faith to “mourn with those that mourn” and “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.”[ix] Throughout history, nothing has rivaled organized religion in its ability to foster commitment to concrete people who live in concrete places.[x]

Religion fills people with identity, opportunity, and aspiration, but these personal blessings come when we look beyond ourselves. This other-mindedness instills social responsibility in our lives, based not on self-interest but as a promise to God. Fellow believers are often in the best position to care for an ailing person, repair a neighbor’s house, or fill in countless gaps that we ourselves cannot fill.

Participating in a religious community offers significant social support,[xi] and engaging in spiritual activity correlates with better mental health, happiness and stress management.[xii]

According to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, “Refugees are taking an active part in projects created by faith-based organizations to be a voice in Italian society. In Sweden, a small convent opened its doors to refugees and accompanied them through the process of obtaining asylum. The Muslim community in Croatia is working on integrating refugees by raising awareness among the local population, creating space for locals and refugees to meet, and working with local media to reshape the narrative around migration.”[xiii]

A culture is only as strong as the values of its members. The virtues of honesty, dignity, religious freedom, toleration toward difference, forgiveness, appreciation for beauty and striving for fairness all come from the reciprocal respect between citizens. The peaceful coexistence of diverse religious practices, political opinions, and philosophical beliefs relies upon a rich tapestry of laws, customs, habits, morals and ideas designed to keep human affections moving outward instead of inward.

My dear friends and associates, during this magnificent congress, may we all reflect a little deeper, love a little stronger, communicate a little clearer, and build the kinds of connections that help our societies weather the storms of life. Thank you very much.


[i] Abai Qunanbaiuly, “Spring,” Selected Poems, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1970.

[ii] “Social Isolation and Loneliness,” World Health Organization, July 29, 2021.

[iii] Daniel L. Surkalim, Mengyun Luo, Robert Eres, Klaus Gebel, Joseph van Buskirk, Adrian Bauman, and Ding Ding, “The prevalence of loneliness across 113 countries: systematic review and meta-analysis,” British Medical Journal 376 (February 9, 2022), e067068.

[iv] Sean Fleming, “This is the world's biggest mental health problem - and you might not have heard of it,” World Economic Forum, January 14, 2019.

[v] “2022 Edelman Trust Barometer,” Edelman, 2022.

[vi] Book of Mormon, Ether 12:27.

[vii] Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, New York: Pocket Books, 1984, p. 57.

[viii] 1 Corinthians 2:9.

[ix] Book of Mormon, Mosiah 18:9.

[x] See Jonathan Sacks, “The Moral Animal,” New York Times, Dec. 23, 2012.

[xi] Luciano Magalhães Vitorino, Giancarlo Lucchetti, Frederico Camelo Leão, Homero Vallada, and Mario Fernando Prieto Peres, “The association between spirituality and religiousness and mental health,” Scientific Reports 8 (November 22, 2018),

[xii] Simon Dein, Christopher C.H. Cook, Andrew Powell, and Sarah Eagger, “Religion, Spirituality, and Mental Health,” The Psychiatrist 34, no. 2 (January 2, 2018), 63–64.

[xiii] Celia Gomez, “Faith-Based Groups Play Critical Role Helping Refugees,” HIAS, February 11, 2021.

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