Recently, Connor Boyack posted an article on his blog in which he posed the question, “What is liberty?” You can read his post here:
This article prompted me to begin asking myself a question that I had previously taken for granted: “What does “liberty” mean to me?” I must admit that I fumbled with the question, as did others I asked. So, I resorted to the Dictionary.com definition, which is very revealing:
1. freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.
2. freedom from external or foreign rule; independence.
3. freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.
4. freedom from captivity, confinement, or physical restraint: The prisoner soon regained his liberty.
This makes a definition of liberty much easier to explain – it is freedom from constraint in the pursuit of one’s desires. But this doesn’t necessarily make my original question any easier – “What does liberty mean to ME?”
It has become clear that I must first define my desires….what exactly is it that I want the freedom to pursue? So…my true and greatest desires:
….to serve God
….to become less selfish with my time and my material possessions
….to love my wife, my family, and “my neighbor”
….to learn the mysteries of heaven
I can already see this inquiry is leading me in an unanticipated direction, because I contend that there is no power on earth that can truly prevent me from achieving these, my greatest desires, so I guess I’m not any closer to answering my question. However, let’s take another look from a different perspective……what activities do I spend the majority of my time on? Thus, another list – in approximate order of the amount of time spent:
….work and the associated travel
….entertainment (as much as I hate to admit, this includes too much TV, movies, and social media)
….self-improvement (reading, prayer, etc.)
….domestic activities – health and hygiene, house and yard work, etc.
….social interaction with family and friends
I can honestly say that with the exception of temporary out-of-work periods that were quickly resolved as a result of my own efforts and a little luck, I have not felt like I was ever impeded by any despotic or forced constraints in my pursuit of these activities. I’ve always had enough. I’ve never been hungry or without a place to sleep. I’ve always had ample opportunity for self-improvement – even more than I have diligently taken advantage of. I’ve been able to go pretty much anywhere I wanted to go with few real restrictions except time and money. In short, I have been greatly blessed throughout my life. Of course, I understand that if I hadn’t been paying a myriad of taxes all these years, my income might well have gone farther toward accumulating savings for retirement, but I haven’t always been particularly fiscally responsible, and I probably would have blown most of the extra money anyway. So, truly – this is my experience – this has been my life. For most of it, I have not felt like my liberty was being restricted.
So, why am I even concerned about liberty, or any perceived encroachments on it? To answer this question, I obviously have to look outside myself and my own life-experience. As soon as I do that, my motivations become, by definition, idealistic, to an extent even altruistic. I am not motivated particularly by fear – I have no real experience to base that on. Rather, I have to draw on my testimony that the principle, or gift, of agency, is sacred and no one has the right to compromise the agency of another, and that if I am to fulfill my first great desire – to serve God – I have an obligation to fight any attempt anywhere to restrict the agency of myself or of others. I have to remember the lessons taught so eloquently in my #1 favorite scripture – D&C 121:34-46, a portion of which declares:
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only persuasion, by long suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned, by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy and without guile…….
In addition to that, I must recall the burdens of living in a “telestial” world which I described in a recent post, which burdens are, with the exception of disease and natural calamity, 100% attributable to men choosing to ravage the agency of others out of a desire for personal power.
I am concerned about Liberty because I have learned in my life that there are lines that must not be crossed – because once they are crossed, there is no return. For example, once we start taking the decision over life and death out of the hands of God, where will men end up drawing this self-abrogated line? We see the results of this arrogance in the abomination of abortion, and I fully anticipate that it will, within my lifetime, spread from exercising control over the beginning of life to controlling the end of life as well. In my opinion, this same principle applies to the concept of agency, and therefore to liberty. I have NO right to force my desires upon others against their will. With the exception of exercising my responsibility for the protection of children, any violation of this principle is a sin. It is a line that must not be crossed. I also have no right to surrender my agency to another. It is a God-given gift, and for me to surrender it is to disrespect the gift. Once I convince myself that I have that right, where does it stop?
Perhaps I am concerned about liberty because the black and white principle I just described is very difficult to live up to in today’s world. Perhaps it is because I am concerned that, in the near future, I’m going to have to decide whether accepting social security and medicare will constitute unrighteous support of Satanically inspired socialistic initiatives. Perhaps, as I look around me, I am becoming righteously sickened at the evil that is being inflicted upon God’s children, and learning that my ability to tolerate such things is rapidly waning. Perhaps I am coming to the realization that someone (and if not me, who?) has to stand up to Satan himself and, regardless of the personal cost, say “No….in the name of Jesus Christ – NO!
Why am I concerned about liberty? I am becoming more and more convinced that the great upcoming battle that precedes the return of the Savior is in every way a battle for the agency of man. The battle has waged ever since the war in heaven – in families, in communities, in nations, in the world. Every time an abusive man exercise unrighteous dominion over his family; every time a criminal gang intimidates a neighborhood; every time a power-mongering politician runs rough-shod over a city or state; every time a country imposes its will on the government and people of another country, or even upon its own people, whether it be by force, the threat of force, or economic sanctions, Satan’s hand can be seen working its evil plan. I am concerned about Liberty, then, because I and every other child of God will eventually be called upon to declare on whose side he or she stands; and given the understanding and knowledge I have gained over the last 15 years, I only have one righteous choice, and that is to engage in this great, eternal battle with as much energy, passion and integrity as possible.
Liberty, then, is the sacred agency of man. What does it mean to ME? It means that I must learn to question paradigms that I have adopted little by little over the past 60 years. It means that I must likely make some very hard choices, that I must be constantly alert to programs that are designed to insidiously induce me to surrender my liberty in the name of comfort, security, and safety. It means that I must constantly act in such a way as to demonstrate that I cherish not only my own liberty, but that of every other person in the world. These are hard things— certainly contrary to the wisdom of the world—but I believe the promised reward is great. By standing on the side of liberty, I stand on the side of God. My actions in defense of liberty are manifestations of my faith in Him and in the veracity of His laws, His commandments, and His promises. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel of Liberty, bought and paid for by the blood of He who committed no sin. I can no longer live one without living the other. The battle was engaged long ago. God forgive me for taking so long to understand, and God help me as I strive for the faith, courage and inspiration that will be required if I am to stay true to the covenants I made at baptism, in the temple, and privately between myself and the Lord.