Michael Otterson, who heads the worldwide public affairs office for the Church, is a regular panelist on the On Faith blog, sponsored by The Washington Post . The format: a searching question is posed by the moderators and key spokespeople representing a variety of religious faiths and philosophical outlooks respond.
This week the question was: What is the real problem with proselytism overseas by U.S. religious groups? Isn’t sharing one’s faith part of religious freedom? When does it cross the line into manipulation and coercion?
Freedom of expression, including sharing one’s faith with others, is a fundamental human right enshrined in national and international law from the Bill of Rights to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Everyone is and should be entitled to speak his or her mind on such matters, and everyone else has the right to listen, or not, as they choose. Because of the central importance of these rights, no person or government is justified in interfering with them.
I know of no other church with as many full-time missionaries around the world as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (50,000-plus), so our interest in this is hardly passive. For Mormons, the driving force is the spiritual duty to witness of Jesus Christ and his gospel. Mormons have such appreciation for the gospel message and the Biblical mandate to take it to the world that they feel compelled to respond to Jesus’ invitation to share it.
A core belief in Mormonism is that all people have a God-given “moral agency,” or right to decide for themselves whether to accept the message, and then to be accountable for one’s choices. So, Mormons eschew any tactic that smacks of coercion, high pressure salesmanship, argumentation, or economic incentive. They invite–even persuade–but do not pressure or coerce, offering everyone an opportunity to exercise personal choice to learn more or gracefully decline.
Read his entire response here.