Several high-ranking Latter-day Saint leaders met Thursday with Vice President Mike Pence about a common concern: religious freedom in the United States and across the globe.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints want to be able to “go anywhere in the world to witness and testify to what we believe, and not be persecuted or threatened because of our position on Jesus Christ,” M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the faith’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told reporters after his exchange with Pence. “Everybody should have the same opportunity.”
They did not discuss countries such as mainland China and Russia, where open proselytizing is forbidden, Ballard said, but they did mention “the broad expanse of the church worldwide, where we have missionaries scattered all over the world, trying to share our religious beliefs.”
The vice president, an evangelical Christian, shares that missionary view, the 90-year-old Ballard said. It is an important concern.
He used “this little trilogy — faith, family and freedom,” said apostle Ronald A. Rasband, who joined Ballard at the meeting. “We told him that would go over well in Utah.”
Rasband added that Latter-day Saints need to “be vocal” about religious freedom “in the public square and on social media.”
But they should not be alone in these actions, he said. “We need to be in a chorus, not soloists. ... We need all believers speaking together.”
That’s happening, Rasband said, mentioning the March audience Ballard attended at the Vatican with Latter-day Saint President Russell M. Nelson and Pope Francis, the first-ever meeting between a Mormon prophet and a Catholic pope.
During Thursday’s 30-minute meeting at Salt Lake City’s Grand America Hotel, where Pence was staying during his short visit to the Beehive State, the group — which also included Jack N. Gerard, a general authority Seventy — discussed several other mutual concerns.
They touched on the issue of immigration, without going into specifics, Gerard said, “other than our humanitarian efforts with refugees.”
Pence thanked the Latter-day Saint representatives for the faith’s “significant [humanitarian] footprint around the world,” the Seventy said, “where we continue to assist Father in Heaven’s children any way we can.”
They talked about the rising economic and political crisis in Venezuela, which is on the vice president’s mind, Ballard said, and it is also a country that worries Latter-day Saint leaders.
The Utah-based faith has “ a large congregation of members there,” he said, “and we are doing everything we can to see that they have something to eat. It is a terrible thing that is happening there.”
They also discussed a lack of civility in the rising generation, Gerard said, on the internet, and in society more broadly.
In the end, the church authorities told Pence they would “pray for him,” Ballard said. “We hope he is praying for us, too.”