Brigham Young University
October 5, 2003
Distinguished officials and guests, Vice President Rogers, Dean Hansen, Professor Durham, good evening. To the large number of you who are visiting, welcome to Utah. You will please forgive me for my partiality, but you are visiting the greatest state in the Union and one of the finest places on earth. I hope your visit is fruitfulfrom what you gain in the days ahead at this Symposium and from how you enjoy yourself among my fellow Utahns. We are very happy to have you here.
It is an honor once again to address this Symposium, which I last addressed three years ago, in October of 2000.1 Little did we know how the topics discussed then and today-or the relation of religion and society in the modern world-would become central to our thinking, our policies, our concerns and-since that terrible day in September of 2001-our fears. Today, the themes this Symposium will address over the coming week are more central to policymakers than ever before.
I am proud that my alma mater, Brigham Young University, continues to host these international conferences. Over the past decade, these symposiums have brought together more than 400 officials, scholars, and experts to discuss how faith and society intersect in the law. This year, there are participants from almost fifty countries.
I am aware of much of the work that the people in this room have accomplished in addressing the questions of faith and law in modern society, and I am very impressed by your dedication. I wish to thank the many sponsors of these symposiums.
And I find it fitting that Brigham Young University can serve as host. Here in Utah, where there is the highest concentration of adherents to my faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the United States, we have wrestled with questions of faith and society since before the days this state was welcomed into the Union. The history of this state and the history of the Mormon Church-which today has more members living overseas than in Utah or the United States as a whole2-can provide a valuable context for the issues you, who have come so far to be here, will discuss in the coming days.
This is an important point: the United States and Utah provide natural venues for discussions of religious freedom. We also provide a historical context that should remind us all to be humble. We have had religious persecution in this country. The wisdom embodied in our laws (constantly evolving laws made by imperfect men and women) is a wisdom born of experience-an experience that we cannot deny included failures and persecution. President Bush has argued that America should seek to practice humility in our foreign affairs. That is sound advice, drawn from a humility learned from the study of history.
Come and learn with us this week. But see us as a beacon, not a paragon.
Since September 11, 2001, the relationship between religion and society has become a central concern of policymakers around the world. Was it Islam-many asked, many concluded-that attacked this country on that terrible day?
Shortly after the end of the cold war, the eminent scholar Samuel Huntington wrote a book that I know many of you have read. The Clash of Civilizations articulated the first paradigm on how conflict would arise in the post-cold war era.3 It argued that conflict would erupt along civilizational lines. Civilizations were determined, in part, by their religion, and thus conflicts would occur where religions abut. It was a useful model-useful for predicting potential conflicts-but, in my opinion, not useful enough to explain the dynamic of actual conflict.
One of those civilizational lines ran right through Bosnia, between the Christians (divided between Orthodox and Catholic) and the Muslims. We saw a terrible conflict there in the early 1990s, when the world witnessed a genocide in Europe barely fifty years after the Holocaust. …