Freedom: The Foundation of Existence
An LDS Christian Defense of Liberty
by J. Perry
LDS theology states that before our world even came into existence, God held a council with all the hosts of heaven. In it, He proposed a plan that would provide His children (us) with the opportunity to grow beyond our feeble state and become like Him. This plan hinged on two things: first, a savior (Jesus Christ) who could bridge the gap between fallen man and God; and second, the freedom to choose to obey God. The importance of this second condition is made especially clear in the continuation of the primordial drama: Lucifer pointed out (quite accurately) that many people would choose to not obey God, and would be lost to the heavens forever. His solution was simple: to eliminate the choices. With no choice but to choose to obey, everyone would be saved. However, God knew that denying people the ability to choose would not work, for multiple reasons (see 2 Ne, etc). Lucifer disagreed, and tried to take the will of mankind by force: Moses 4:3.
Now, let us reason together. God created the world so that man could have choices. The very first choice of Adam and Eve in the Garden enabled all subsequent choices; now that man could tell good from evil, they could make rational, intelligent judgements. The light of Christ would enable men to know right from wrong, and when blessed with knowledge of God’s plan, the ultimate good would be to follow it. However, God knew that many of His children would choose not to follow Him, and would suffer the consequences (damnation of one degree or another). But we learn from the scriptures and prophets that God loves us more than we can comprehend[i]. How can we reconcile a God who loves us with a God who is willing to let us damn ourselves? The only answer is that there is something that God values more than our safety, security, lives, and even our eternal salvation: our freedom. This is demonstrated over and over again in the scriptures, as God refrains from intervening in the affairs of men[ii]. In one of the most poignant episodes, Enoch sees the great God of heaven weeping over His children, and asks why: (moses 7). God values the freedom of His children so much that He will let them and Himself suffer, rather than force them to choose happiness.
We have seen that freedom was integral to the possibility of becoming like God. Lehi makes it clear that this freedom is prerequisite to even our very existence as rational beings: 2 Ne. The freedom to act based on our reason, belief, and previous experience, whether choosing between right and wrong or between chocolate and vanilla, is how we exist as human beings. This freedom can only be implemented if mankind’ s basic rights are protected: the right to life; to own and control property; to defend life and property from harm or theft; and to think, believe, and speak without interference of violence from the state or others. Of note, for more than the first century of its existence, the United States (with a constitution that LDS believe was inspired and ordained by God Himself[iii]) was the only major country in the history of the world to guarantee these rights to its people. Of course, not all choices are as innocuous as chocolate versus vanilla; some decisions are extremely hard to make, and may cause suffering in the life of the individual and countless others.
Unsurprisingly, many people, on realizing how weighty the responsibilities of freedom actually are, start to think that Satan’s plan of restricting or eliminating freedom is actually a rather good idea. Of course, they usually don’t say to themselves, “I think I’ll start following Satan.” But any system that men enact that restricts the freedom of men[iv] is mimicking, to one degree or another, the plan of Satan. Any such system would have to have the power to use violence to force people into submission, so almost all of these systems are governments or operate under government. There are many names for these copycat versions of Satan’s plan: socialism, “democratic socialism,” communism, social welfare programs, economic subsidies, eminent domain, and the list goes on.
Especially troubling is when Christians (and LDS in particular) use Christ’s exhortations that we care for others as justification to give government the power to take people’s property and (allegedly) use it to care for the poor. This has been used to justify everything from the social welfare programs of the 20th century to Bernie Sanders’ misbegotten political campaign, which revealed just how deeply this perversity has spread. Despite the words of the scriptures that forced charity benefits nobody[v], despite the lessons of history detailing the failures of socialism and communism[vi], despite the words of modern prophets on the evils of getting something for nothing[vii] and the value of freedom[viii], despite the wise and inspired words of the founders of America who framed the Constitution[ix], despite the example of God Himself, people still want to exchange freedom for peace, freedom for security, freedom for prosperity.
To paraphrase Ben Franklin, those who want to exchange freedom for anything else will find that they have lost both. The inevitable conclusion, the complete realization of any philosophy, state, or system that restrict’ s man’s freedom, is to destroy the reason and faculties of mankind, rendering them a race of sub-human automata; or as Lehi put it :2 Ne 211-12.
Those who choose to ascribe to and promulgate any creed or entity that limits the freedom of men are undercutting the foundation of their own existence. People who are not LDS can at least claim ignorance; LDS have no excuse. They cannot handle the responsibilities of freedom, but think they will be able to handle the responsibilities of divinity; I am afraid that they will be eternally disappointed.
As a closing, I will leave with a rhetorical question:
If God values our freedom so much that He would rather see us damned than force salvation on us, how dare we restrict an innocent person’s freedom for any reason, let alone to provide temporal security?
[i] God, love of
[ii] Fill cup of evil, etc
[iv] Note that restricting freedom is not the same thing as punishing crime. However, depending of what the government in question considers to be a crime, they can overlap.
[vi] Search any reliable history book for details about the regimes of Stalin, Mao Xedong, Hitler, Che Guava, and others.
[viii] Other great talk!
[ix] See the Constitution of the United States of America, esp. Amendments 1-10. Other writings of the founders are also of value.