In the Pacific, there are relatively 500,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the “Mormon Church”by friends of other faiths) out of the 35,000,000 people that reside there. The members there are strong, but with those numbers Mormons are in the minority.
Elder James J. Hamula (Pacific Area President of the Mormon Church) visited with delegates at the ‘Managing Religious and Cultural Diversity in the Pacific’ conference at the National University of Samoa on the 30th of April and 1st of May,2012, and spoke on the minority status of Latter-day Saints. What inspired Elder Hamula to mention Mormons being in the minority? He mentioned, “Because it explains, in part, our keen interest in the preservation of religious liberty. Throughout history, minority groups have found themselves the victims of persecution and even banishment from majority groups. That has been our history, in the Pacific and elsewhere” (From Mormon Newsroom.) Elder Hamula suggested that there are two general problems with religions freedom in the Pacific:
1. “Majority faiths feel threatened by minority faiths and seek to use local or even national political power to oppress minority faiths.”
2. “The second problem area in the Pacific is in the increasingly secular societies of Australia and New Zealand, as well as French Polynesia and New Caledonia. Here, the problem is that all religious faith is increasingly in the minority. As a result, the increasingly secular, non-religious majority is using its increasing access to political power to marginalize and restrict religion. Here, secular voices allege that religious liberty is in conflict with newly asserted human rights, such as the right of same-gender couples to enjoy the privileges of marriage.”
The religious rights and freedoms are a top priority for Mormon leaders. The Mormons’ 11th Article of Faith states, “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.” And in modern day scripture, as was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, we learn more of the Mormons’ view on government:
“We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.
“We believe that no government can exist in peace,except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.
. . . “We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it,unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; . . . ” (D&C134: 1,2,4).
This visit of Elder James J. Hamula was a hallmark event for the prospect of a brighter future concerning religious freedom in the Pacific. It is the strong belief of Latter-day Saints, as well as those who hold the traditional view of Christianity, that it is a fundamental right for all human beings to have religious liberty. It was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself was the perfect example of allowing others to worship“how, where, or what they may.” He was always inviting with His gentle but powerful words, “come follow me” (Luke18:22) yet He never used force or coercion to have any individual or group follow His teachings.
Elder Quentin L. Cook, Mormon Apostle, invited young adults to participate in “build[ing] your country and the community where you live.”