I was at an international work convention in Florida, when I met someone who was from Brazil. I spoke with her in Portuguese. She asked how I knew Portuguese and I answered that I learned while serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She then asked me this question “what do you do on a mission?”
I responded with “we invite others to come unto Jesus Christ.” She looked intrigued, so I continued. I told her about the restoration of Christ’s church. I shared with her some of my favorite experience teaching others about it. My supervisor during the convention, overheard our conversation. She got upset and stormed over saying “Don’t try to convert people at work!”
Which brings the question, is she right? Should I not be allowed to bear testimony or share my religious beliefs while at work? Had I done something wrong?
“We do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship” or to “dictate forms for public or private devotion.” (Doctrine and Covenants 134:4)
In the First Amendment to the United States Constitution it states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
International human rights documents likewise recognize the universality of freedom of religion and belief. Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
A church article explains “Religious freedom is not absolute. Limits on religious activities are appropriate where necessary to protect compelling interests, such as the life, property, health, or safety of others. But such limitations should be truly necessary, rather than an excuse for abridging religious freedom. Where the law constrains religious freedom, Latter-day Saints believe in obeying the law while seeking protection for their fundamental rights through such lawful means as may be available in each jurisdiction or country.” (Religious Freedom: The Basics)
How does Religious Freedom apply to sharing the gospel in the work place?
On another occasion I was presenting a company product in an online webinar. The contents of the webinar are focused in on the science of the studies behind the product. But I start the webinar by introducing myself and how I came to work at this company. The owner of the company was my mission president in Brazil. Years after my mission I received an impression from God to move my family to Utah and that I should reach out to my mission president and ask for work references. This led me to eventually being hired in his company. It was an amazing experience.
Usually this presentation goes well. Most don’t have an issue of me explaining how I learned Portuguese on my mission, met the owner of my company I now work at, and that I’m a religious man who strives to follow impressions.
But a co-worker of mine took offense by this section of the webinar. He messaged corporate executives “I have never seen (our company) connect or company with the LDS church in such an abrupt fashion. I am uncomfortable with it and think that some guidance from some leadership here would be appropriate. Tone of voice, this too, feels out of style guide.”
His message, frankly, crushed me. Offense had been taken when none was meant. My heart pounded as I read his words. Questions flooded my mind “What does he mean that I connected our company with LDS church? I didn’t do that. Why does he feel that way? Should I not mention my mission? Am I Not allowed to mention impressions from the spirit when asked why we came here? Am I expected to lie or manipulate the truthful answers of serving a mission and following impressions to be within the style guide?”
I’ll be honest, I let his words get to me. I ceased all webinars, questioned my purpose and worth, and lost some desire to open and honest about who I am.
I began reading about religious freedom and letting your faith show in the workplace. I came across this article that helped me Religious Freedom in the Workplace
- You have a right to express your faith, as long as you don’t harass others or lead people to mistake your private expressions of faith for your employer’s views. You can talk to coworkers about your beliefs, hang a religious picture or keep personal items at your work station, wear religious clothing or jewelry, have personal devotionals (like reading your scriptures in the break room), or even start a voluntary prayer group, unless the company has job-related policies that apply the same to everyone (such as keeping desks clear of any personal items when customers can see them) and can’t give you an accommodation. If the company lets others express their personalities, you can too.
If a coworker asks you not to talk with him or her about your faith, then you need to stop. Continuing could be harassment. If you’re a supervisor, be careful not to inadvertently pressure your subordinates or make them think they’ll get special treatment or access if they adopt your beliefs.
Open thy mouth
I also came across this entry in my mission journal, which I think were notes to an MTC talk by Tad R Callister called “A Consecrated Missionary”
“Follow the commandment “And thou must open thy mouth at all times.” (D&C 28:16)
This is the seperation of consecrated missionaries from good missionaries. Open you mouth at all times and in all places. Rid yourself of any excuses, such as a timid personallity, fear of man or a companion or others, or feeling too tired or busy, whatever the excuse may be it must eventually be overcome. It never outweighs the Savior’s command to open your mouth and “declare my gospel as with a voice of a trump both day $night. And I will give unto him strength such as is not known amoung men” (D&C 24:12)
Sometimes in life we just have to square our shoulders &do it. There is no magic pill that makes us courageous, no passage of time that strenghten us, no memorized approach that emboldens us. We are left onlyu with the compelling counsel of king Benjamin “And now, if ye believe all these things, see that you do them.”
Russell M. Nelson shared
God declared in the first of His Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”2 He also said, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.”3 Yet so many people look only to their bank balance for peace or to fellow human beings for models to follow.
Clinicians, academicians, and politicians are often put to a test of faith. In pursuit of their goals, will their religion show or will it be hidden? Are they tied back to God or to man?
I had such a test decades ago when one of my medical faculty colleagues chastised me for failing to separate my professional knowledge from my religious convictions. He demanded that I not combine the two. How could I do that? Truth is truth! It is not divisible, and any part of it cannot be set aside.
Whether truth emerges from a scientific laboratory or through revelation, all truth emanates from God. All truth is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.4 Yet I was being asked to hide my faith. I did not comply with my colleague’s request. I let my faith show!
In all professional endeavors, rigorous standards of accuracy are required. Scholars cherish their freedom of expression. But full freedom cannot be experienced if part of one’s knowledge is ruled “out-of-bounds” by edicts of men.
Spiritual truth cannot be ignored—especially divine commandments. Keeping divine commandments brings blessings, every time! Breaking divine commandments brings a loss of blessings, every time!5 (Let Your Faith Show)
Let your faith show. Stand as a witness of God at all times and in all places. Be kind and courteous to others and respect their beliefs just as you want yours respected. Remember your job isn’t to try to push anyone to repentance or guilt them into living as you do. You’re job is invite in love and compassion. It’s OK to have differences. Be kind, thoughtful, and courageous in sharing your beliefs. In the words of the book of mormon “Use boldness, but not overbearance” (Alma 38:12)