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FREEDOM—ITS ULTIMATE MEANING
In a statement contained in the Book of John 8:31-32, Christ promised His disciples freedom if
they learned the truth and followed His teachings. Said He:
If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and
the truth shall make you free.
From this, it would appear that only those who obey Christ’s teachings (continue in my word)
shall know the truth and be free. The promise of freedom to those who will obey, runs throughout
all scripture. Conversely, we are warned that if we are wicked, our enslavement by Satan is certain.
Father Lehi told us:
Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are
expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great
mediation of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of
the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. (2 Nephi 2:27)
There is a relationship between righteousness and freedom on the one hand, and evil and a
denial of freedom on the other, which allows us to define good and evil strictly in terms of whether
the act in question increases or decreases freedom. Both the laws of God and the laws of civilized
man have always defined good as that which increases and preserves freedom. Evil constitutes its
destruction or decrease. The essential truth of this proposition will be more readily apparent if we
identify each of the elements of freedom, and note those acts which have the effect of preserving or
destroying these elements.
Freedom can be defined as the power and opportunity to accomplish our goals. An element of
freedom is some possession which enables us to do this. Those components or elements of freedom,
which we must possess, in order to accomplish our purposes, are:
(1) life, (2) liberty, (3) property, and (4) knowledge.
Let us consider each of these elements and note the immoral nature of those acts which destroy
them, and the moral nature of those acts which supply, or preserve them.
The most obvious requirement for a person to accomplish his purposes is some degree of
physical and mental health and strength, or life itself. Throughout history, the destruction or injury
of this element of freedom by murder, mayhem, or assault and battery, has been a sin in the sight of
God and a crime in the eyes of the law. Prostitution of the God-given power of pro-creation is also
regarded as criminal and evil.
Conversely, whenever we act to preserve the life of another, or when parents provide bodies for
children, supply them with a home, and raise them to maturity, they are fulfilling God’s commandments
to be good Samaritans, and to multiply and replenish the earth. Thus, that which provides
this element is called good; that which destroys it is labelled bad.
The second element, liberty, is the absence of coercion or restraint. When we enslave a fellow
man, or unjustly subject him to our will, we have committed both a sin and a crime. The Lord has
Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another. And for this
purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised
up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood. (D&C 101:79-80)
In this passage, the Lord not only condemns slavery, but also speaks His approval of those
who act to liberate the captive and establish a government prohibiting bondage.
The third element is the right and control of property. Wealth, or organized raw materials, is an
essential ingredient of freedom: First, because our very survival depends upon access to such
things as food, clothing, and shelter; secondly, because the right and control of property permits us
to increase our physical and mental powers almost without limit. By utilizing tools, machinery,
equipment, and harnessing electrical, nuclear, and other forms of energy, our ability to achieve our
purposes is raised to the nth power.
If you deny a person access to the necessities of life, of course he will die. If you deny him
these necessities unless he does what you say, you can make him your slave because most of us
will obey nearly any command to remain alive. As Alexander Hamilton has said:
A power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will. (Federalist Papers No.79)
The right to own and control property or wealth is as essential to the exercise of freedom as life
itself and must be protected or individual liberty is impossible.
We all come into this life owning the same—nothing. All we ever legally own is what we earn
or receive as a gift. As children, we are quite dependent upon our parents to even stay alive. If the
right and control of property is protected, we may, as we grow to maturity, use the health and
strength of our mind and body and take of the unlimited raw materials and energy about us and
fashion these into consumable products. We may either use these products ourselves or exchange
them for the goods and services of our fellow men and thus free ourselves from dependence upon
others. If we are willing to labor hard enough and restrain our desire to consume, we can make
ourselves what is called independently wealthy.
The Lord has told us there is plenty for all. He has been over-generous in making available the
raw materials and energy of this earth for the very purpose that we may exercise our agency. This
is indicated in the following scripture:
For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have
given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves. (D&C 104:17)
It is clear that the right and control of property is a basic element of freedom. It is as vital as
life and liberty, neither of which are of any value without it.
When we deprive another of this element by stealing, destroying, or otherwise denying him the
right to control what he owns, we have to this same extent diminished his freedom and violated thelaws of God and man. On the other hand, when we use the strength of our minds and bodies to
organize wealth and provide ourselves and others with the necessities of life, or the means of
achieving life’s goals, we are obeying God’s commandments to work and be charitable with what
The fourth element of freedom mentioned is knowledge. One may achieve a desired result only
by complying with that particular law upon which the result depends. No person can consciously
obey a law unless he knows what that law is. Thus, freedom to attain any goal is impossible
without a knowledge of the pertinent facts and laws.
If one bases his actions upon false information and principles, his failure is certain, his efforts
rendered futile, and the exercise of freedom frustrated. Consequently, one who deceives or
deliberately misleads, is condemned by both the laws of God and man. The effect of perverting the
truth hinders or prevents compliance with law and destroys freedom.
In contrast, one of the most approved and righteous of all callings is to increase freedom by
disseminating truth, thereby increasing men’s ability to reach their goals.
FREEDOM—THE POWER TO AFFECT FREEDOM
It will be noted that substantially all deeds which are considered evil are included among those
actions which destroy the elements of freedom. Conversely, substantially all actions regarded as
righteous have the effect of providing or increasing these same elements. If we include in our
definition the motives which cause men to preserve the elements of freedom on the one hand, and to
destroy them on the other, we have comprehended essentially all which is either good or evil in life.
In the following quotation President David O. McKay expresses his belief that good and evil
can be completely defined in terms of free agency:
I refer to the fundamental principle of the gospel, free agency. References in the scriptures
show that this principle is (1) essential to man’s salvation; and (2) may become a measuring rod
by which the actions of men, of organizations of nations may be judged. (Gospel Ideals, pp. 299-
We may use freedom as a standard by which all actions may be judged because joy, the
ultimate purpose of existence, may be measured in terms of the amount of freedom one has.
Freedom is the one indispensable element of joy, and the relationship between them is such that it
can be stated as a law that joy is a function of freedom, and varies directly therewith. It is also true
that misery is an inevitable consequence of slavery. No intelligent person can be convinced to the
We have heretofore defined freedom as the power and opportunity to achieve goals. Let us
observe in the light of the above discussion that the only goals which are of any importance are to
increase or decrease joy and freedom. In other words, the only desires which matter are to do good
or evil, and these desires are nothing more nor less than the desire to increase or destroy joy and
freedom. This being so, we may now restate our definition of freedom as follows:
Freedom is the power and opportunity to affect the freedom of others.
JOSEPH FIELDING SMITH
We have all been taught the doctrine of personal free agency and that no individual is ever
compelled by force or other means to comply with divine edicts and philosophy. We have been
informed that a long time ago in the pre-existence there was a rebellion in heaven, and because
one notable character, who had been entrusted with great authority, rebelled and led many away
with him, he had to be cast out of the kingdom. However we should remember that every
principle and law existing in the celestial kingdom has been proved to be perfect through the
eternities through which they have come. If any individual proves himself worthy for the
exaltation in that kingdom, it will be by strict obedience to every principle and covenant here
existing. Therefore we may be assured that every law and principle thereunto pertaining is
perfect and cannot be amended or discarded because of its perfection. (Joseph Fielding Smith,
Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 4 p. 69)
The modern trend of the nations is towards dictatorship. It is taking form in two great
camps, but, nevertheless, the direction is the same, although it is being reached by different
routes. On the one side the direction to make an end of all nations, is through communism;...
(Joseph Fielding Smith, The Progress of Man, p. 397)
Generic wrote:I've been assigned to speak on the blessings of freedom. Anyone have some good ideas where to start?
It remains to be seen whether or not our nation can tame big government. There is, frankly, no precedent for dismantling, even partially, a welfare state, especially in a peaceful and constitutional way. Such a Goliath will not go quietly to surgery.
It is no accident that the lessening, or loss, of belief in certain absolute truths, such as the existence of God and the reality of immortality, has occurred at the same time there has been a sharp gain in the size and power of governments in many portions of the world.
Once we remove belief in God from the center of our lives, as the Source of truth and as a Determiner of justice, a tremendous vacuum is created into which selfishness surges, a condition which governments delight in managing. Trends become a theology. A religion of regulations emerges in which tens of thousands of regulations seek to replace the Ten Commandments.
And with this secular religion comes a frightening insistence on orthodoxy, enforced by the withdrawal and bestowal of benefits. Such governments inevitably tend to enlarge taxes and to stunt their citizens.