In a world stained by hate and violence, the unfettered practice of “true religion” plays a critical role in building peaceful societies, a top LDS Church leader said in accepting the Philosopher Saint Shri Dnyaneshwara World Peace Prize in India.
“Recognizing and protecting faith is the path to peace,” Mormon apostle D. Todd Christofferson said Monday while accepting the honor from MIT World Peace University in Pune, India.
“Religion defines and sustains us. For billions of believers, it is who we are and how we live,” Christofferson added in his acceptance speech, according to an LDS Church news release. “Failing to appreciate the good religion does society or the nation as a whole and [failing] to accommodate religion whenever possible results in social conflict.”
The LDS Church has nearly 16 million members worldwide, including 13,000 in Hindu-majority India. The church has had an official presence in the nation since 1981.
The prize honors the Utah-based faith’s global charitable and humanitarian programs. Since 1985, LDS Charities had provided nearly $2 billion in aid in 189 countries, the church reports.
A monetary award that comes with the prize was donated to the Rivka Sahil Akshar Institute, a small special-needs school in Wai, India. Christofferson visited the school Monday afternoon to present the check.
Vishwanath D. Karad, founder and president of MIT World Peace University, praised the church’s efforts as worthy of “following, and showing the pathway of peace and harmony to mankind.” He also spoke about recently visiting various institutions of higher learning in Utah and his impression that Mormons have “much in common with the Indian culture.”
Christofferson said positive faith-based actions can have “a significant effect on national prosperity [since] trust is an essential element of any well-functioning economy, and scholars have found that religion is especially effective at instilling trust and that religious people are far more trusting than people with purely secular viewpoints.”
Further, he said, when people of all faiths are free to worship according to their consciences, they will volunteer in their communities more often than those without religion. “Highly religious people are more likely to volunteer not only for religious causes but also for secular ones.”
Christofferson added: “Religious volunteers provide substantial assistance in areas that would otherwise fall to governmental agencies.”
Faith also leads to more stable marriage and families, he maintained, and principles born of religious beliefs inform future generations, too.
“Children raised in religious homes are less likely to experience anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem and sadness,” the Mormon apostle said. “Simply put, children are happier when mother and father are religious.”.
However, he emphasized, such benefits can blossom only in societies that enshrine religious tolerance.
“It is my hope that we will all recognize and appreciate the great good religion does and work together — as people of diverse faiths or no faith at all — to build more peaceful nations and ultimately a more peaceful world.”