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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York, hugs Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the patriotic service for America's Freedom Festival at Provo at Utah Valley University in Orem on Sunday, June 30, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY — The friendship and alliance between one of America's most influential Catholics and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continued Monday when Cardinal Timothy Dolan met with President Russell M. Nelson.

President Nelson presented Cardinal Dolan with a Lladro miniature of the Christus statue during the leaders' meeting in President Nelson's office at the Church Administration Building in downtown Salt Lake City.

The two churches have worked closely together now for decades, but the relationship has grown stronger in recent years as they work together on religious liberty and humanitarian aid.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
President Russell M. Nelson, left, leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, embraces Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York, in President Nelson's office in the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 1, 2019.

The alliance reached a peak in March when President Nelson met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in March.

Monday's meeting took place a day after Cardinal Dolan, who as archbishop of New York holds Catholicism's most prominent post and is past president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke with his friend, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, during the patriotic service of America's Freedom Festival at Provo.

Cardinal Dolan delivered a strong defense of religious freedom Sunday night during his keynote address at Utah Valley University.

"The defense of religious freedom is not some evangelical polemic or some wiley strategy of bunkered-down church leaders," Cardinal Dolan said, "but it happens to be the quintessential American cause, the foundation of all other human rights."

Cardinal Dolan built a case that religious liberty is under attack in the United States.

"A dominant strain in our culture says, 'Ah, religion's OK to tolerate, but you're to have absolutely no impact upon the public square.' Well, that is ridiculous," he added in a videotaped interview posted on newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org. "The essence of religion is that what we believe deep down animates and inspires everything we do."

Elder Cook expressed hope that Latter-day Saints will speak up in defense of religious freedom. He also called Cardinal Dolan a bridge builder.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
President Henry B. Eyring, left, President Russell M. Nelson, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Elder Quentin L. Cook talk in President Nelson's office in the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City on Monday, July 1, 2019.

"He has a great personality, he has got a great sense of humor, but he's also committed to values that are consistent with the things that we believe in as disciples of Jesus Christ," Elder Cook said in the news release.

Cardinal Dolan said he is grateful for his relationship with Elder Cook and other leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which Elder Cook called "an incredibly significant thing."

"We come together as neighbors, we come together as a family, we come together as friends," Cardinal Dolan said. "See, that gives a counterexample to those who would love to caricature us as these bigoted, hateful, violent people. And we can't allow that to happen."

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Cardinal Dolan was friends with another apostle, the late Elder L. Tom Perry. He also has relationships with several other Latter-day Saint leaders, including Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who has said Cardinal Dolan won their hearts "with his Irish charm and unshakeable faith."

Elder Holland presented Cardinal Dolan with the Visionary Leadership Award from the New York Latter-day Saint Professional Association in New York City in 2016. At that time, Cardinal Dolan said he had wanted to meet with Latter-day Saint leaders in New York for more than seven years.

In 2017, Elder David A. Bednar spoke with Cardinal Dolan and a Jewish leader at a forum on marriage and families in New York.