News Release

President Camille Johnson Addresses Religious Freedom Symposium in Iowa 

Primary general president also visits state government leaders and Red Cross

I am grateful for the opportunity to address the important topic of the freedom to serve our neighbor. That includes the role of religious charities and volunteers and why it matters that they be free to serve,” said President Camille N. Johnson of the Primary general presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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President Johnson joined other religious and academic leaders at the “Freedom to Serve Symposium” at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday, April 19, 2022. The symposium was jointly sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Des Moines, local congregations of the Church of Jesus Christ and others.

The symposium was part of Iowa Religious Freedom Day, as declared by Governor Kim Reynolds. This is the ninth year Iowa has celebrated an official Religious Freedom Day.

President Johnson — an attorney and soon-to-be Relief Society general president of the global faith — was in Iowa for outreach visits, including the opportunity to speak on the role of religion in our communities.

“There are staggering needs in our world,” she told the audience. “We also see and are moved by those struggling in our own families and neighborhoods. … It will take all of us serving, contributing whatever we have available in time, talents and money to address the suffering we see around us. We are all needed." 

She continued, “All of us play a part in serving our neighbor. We are our communities. We are our churches, mosques and synagogues.”

President Johnson shared data from research that confirms how religious institutions make a significant positive difference in our lives and in our communities. “That alone should be reason to care about religious freedom.”

During her presentation, she outlined five additional reasons why religious freedom is important.

“When we love our neighbors, we don’t just seek their rights, but also their interests, concerns, and sensitivities. Religious freedom is not just a battle to be fought but is a way to connect and bless those around us, even those with whom we may disagree,” she said.

Monday evening, President Johnson taught a lesson to a few Latter-day Saint families from the Des Moines Mount Pisgah Stake, taking the time to minister to some of the children she oversees in her global calling. She reminded the parents in the room to “look into the eyes of the children” and truly see their potential, their goodness and wisdom.

Outreach Visits

Tuesday morning began with a visit to the State Capitol building to meet with a state senator and the lieutenant governor.

State Senator Sarah Trone Garriott spoke with President Johnson about how missionaries help the Des Moines Area Religious Council with its food pantry and how she loves being around members of the Church because they embody the Christian ideal of service. The senator was able to share details about her efforts to help members of different faiths respect one another and learn from each other. The legislator was presented with a JustServe lapel pin in recognition of her community service.

The state leader then took the Primary general president and Elder Jeremiah J. Morgan, an Area Seventy, and his wife, Rebecca, to the Senate Gallery to be introduced to and welcomed by all the senators on the floor at the beginning of the session. The trio later paid a courtesy call to Senate President Jake Chapman.

Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg warmly welcomed the group to his office for a discussion. They were joined by local stake President Brian Parks. President Johnson shared how Latter-day Saints contribute to communities in Iowa through endeavors such as disaster relief efforts, beautification projects and working with other partners to serve their neighbors.

The Iowa visit also included a stop at the Red Cross headquarters to visit with Leslie Schaffer, executive director of the Central Iowa Chapter. Church members serve with the Red Cross in nearly all large-scale disasters in Iowa, including fires, floods and tornadoes.

Before completing her ministry in Iowa on Wednesday, President Johnson met with Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen. President Johnson talked about the Church’s desire to serve in the community, about the need to prepare children and youth to be self-reliant, about global humanitarian efforts and about some of their shared interests.

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