Choose Christ – by Choosing and Defending Liberty
“Jesus Christ is the ultimate source of freedom – both physical and spiritual. We are
forever indebted to Him, and our Father in Heaven, for this priceless gift!"
At the start of the Revolutionary War, Thomas Paine penned these words, “These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; “but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.
“What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”
Yes, Heaven does know how to put a proper price upon its goods. And Freedom (with its companion Agency) are at the top of the list.
President Benson said, “The fight for freedom is God's fight. For free agency is an eternal principle. It existed before the world was formed, it will exist forever. For freedom is a law of God, a permanent law. And, like any of God's laws, men cannot
break it with impunity. They can only break themselves upon it.” (Gen. Conf. Apr 1967 “Prepare, then Fear Not”)
Every July 4th we celebrate our nation’s independence and freedom. It was a long and arduous process to initially achieve this. Eight years of war, then four more filled with divisive debate, before the adoption of the US Constitution. Of this new government the Lord said, “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.” D&C 101:80
Most of the blessings we enjoy as citizens of this nation, come to us because of their work – which also served to prepare the way for the restoration of the gospel.
Jesus Christ is the ultimate source of freedom – both physical and spiritual. We are forever indebted to Him, and our Father in Heaven, for this priceless gift!
While my remarks may touch upon things of a political nature, my message is about principles (not partisanship). The underlying theme is “Choose Christ, by choosing and defending Liberty.” I pray that message will shine through.
Wouldn’t it be nice if once established, freedom would be self-perpetuating. But alas, there is “opposition in all things.” And some things, like the restored gospel and our divinely inspired Constitution, seem to attract an inordinate amount of opposition. But that isn’t surprising given the nature of the struggle between good and evil.
In the pre-mortal world we chose Christ. If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t be here. Was it an easy choice? Were we firm and resolved, or did we waiver or hesitate? Due to the veil placed over our minds, we can’t remember. I suspect it was not as easy as we might assume.
The arguments put forth by Lucifer must have been extremely persuasive and appealing. I can imagine his rousing speeches appealing to “fairness”, “equality”, “security” and “compassion” – after all, only his plan guaranteed the outcome - “not
one soul will be lost.” And then there was the seductive appeal of his counterfeit version of “freedom” – the ability to do whatever one wanted, without any consequences!
These are the same appeals and promises we hear today.
Think for a moment of the heavy price paid by those spirits who chose wrongly in the pre-mortal life. Even the vilest of sinners on earth, will still receive a reward – a kingdom of glory, because they supported the principle of agency. While those who
succumbed to Lucifer’s sophistry – were cast out! For them it was Game Over.
Why such a severe consequence for a single choice? As members of this church, we are blessed to have a more complete understanding of the word “agency.” We understand that agency is more than just the ability to choose, it also involves accountability for those choices. You can’t separate the two. Agency and accountability are like two sides of the same coin.
We usually associate the war in heaven with being about agency, but more correctly it was about agency and accountability. This is important to remember, because both are central to God’s Plan.
In Abraham we read, “We will go down... and make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” Abr. 3:25
The purpose of this life is for us to “prove ourselves” to God. In order to do this, we need agency and accountability. Those who choose to follow Lucifer rejected both, and that was a fatal flaw.
Some mistakenly believe that Lucifer’s plan was based entirely on force or compulsion. But how could Lucifer entice so many spirits to follow him a proposal like this? “I have this great plan. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, it will
work. You will go to earth, but for your protection, you won’t be allowed to make any choices. I will make all of them for you, and I will make all of you do exactly as I say.”
Would that plan appeal to you?
Remembering that agency and accountability are inter-dependent, now think about what would happen if instead of a direct attack on agency, he used the back door approach and removed accountability? Now you would have a plan with astonishing
appeal – “I have this plan. You’re going to love it! You can go to earth and pretty much do anything you want; we’re talking ultimate ‘freedom.’ And the best part is, no matter what you do, you will ALL be saved... Am I awesome or what!?“
He whispers in our ears, “God will justify... a little sin;” – lie, cheat, steal, be immoral –“there is no harm in this... and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” 2 Nephi 28:8
By removing accountability Lucifer also destroys agency, and he does it all under a façade of freedom. Oh how cunning!
His objective appeared noble and compassionate – helping to get God’s spirit children from point A to point B – but this was merely a cover to his own selfish interests.
Satan and his minions have not abandoned their plan or the methods they employ. You can see their continued application in the world around us.
When you think back on the history of mankind, and look at the condition of the world today, the decisions people make, the agency-and-accountability compromising policies and programs that are proposed and supported, the confusion over what is right and wrong, it appears that many who passed the first test, are flunking the current one.
With the knowledge we have of his methods and tactics, there is no good excuse for members of the church to get this wrong! We should not have difficulty choosing Christ. But Satan is persuasive. He is very good at what he does.
None of us are immune. Sometimes we forget eternal truths.
If we take our eyes off Christ it is easy to become confused. If we wish to choose and defend liberty, we must remember these principles and use them as a yardstick to evaluate the methods used by others.
When someone supports policies and programs that rely on compulsion rather than “persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness and meekness, and love unfeigned;” When anyone, regardless of their position or title, seeks “to cover [their] sins, gratify [their] pride or vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness” (because they believe the outcome is more important than the methods used to achieve it), “the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved;” (D&C 121:37) – they are choosing someone other than Christ.
Although the Constitution was not perfect and certain compromises were made in order to get it ratified, the men who brought it forth did a number of things incredibly well.
The founders were wise men. They understood this eternal truth, “that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, ... they immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121:39). In order to guard against its misuse, they attempted to separate, define and restrain the power of government.
The Constitution also did a remarkable job at preserving man’s agency. Of course, agency is a big thorn in the side of the adversary, so he opposes and seeks to destroy anything that preserves it.
While Satan will never pass up an opportunity to corrupt an individual, his most efficient method for impacting the most people (and disrupting the kingdom of God) is through earthly governments. This provides him with the means to carry out his plans on a “wholesale level.” Using government, he can impact the agency of millions
with a single decree or the stroke of a pen.
President Joseph Fielding Smith explained, “Satan has control now. No matter where you look, he is in control, even in our own land. He is guiding the governments as far as the Lord will permit him. That is why there is so much strife, turmoil, confusion all over the earth. One master mind is governing the nations. It is not the President of the United States...it is not the king or government of England or any other land; it is Satan himself.” (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 3, pp. 314-315)
Just as Christ does, Satan recruits volunteers to help him with his work. He seduces them with promises of power, wealth, fame and pleasure, as well as “freedom” from accountability. In order to minimize resistance, he works behind the scenes. He is very persistent, and patient.
One day I was working in the orchard at the inn and happened to lean on a fence post. Suddenly, the post snapped off right at the ground. Upon closer inspection I noticed the inside of the post had been eaten away by termites. It looked like lacy
Swiss cheese. Termites feed on wood pulp. They don’t like light. They stay below the surface, out of sight, careful not to break through the exterior surface of the wood and expose themselves to sunlight. If they find their way into the framework of a
house, they will, over time, weaken and destroy the integrity of the house.
Termites are a problem in many areas. Once you understand the nature of the threat, and know what to look for, you can spot the tale-tale signs of problems. But since termites work below the surface, once the damage becomes visible on the outside, it
is often too late. The damage has already been done.
President Heber G. Grant once told the saints in General Conference, “[Satan] plans to destroy liberty and freedom ~ economic, political, and religious, and to set up in place thereof the greatest, most widespread, and most complete tyranny that has ever oppressed men. He is working under such perfect disguise that many do not recognize either him or his methods.” Gen Conf Oct 1942
From this and other such warnings, it sounds to me like we have a termite problem in America.
Of the many titles used to describe the adversary, another one we could add to the list is, “the father of termites.”
We can learn a great deal about “spiritual termites” from reading the Book of Mormon. In Ether chapter 8, Moroni explains that they were the cause of the destruction of both the Jaredite and Nephite nations. Then he warns us that in our day they would also seek to seek to overthrow, not only the freedom of this land, but all lands, nations, and countries. (Ether 8:21-25)
As Americans we lean heavily upon the Constitution to safe guard our God-given freedoms and to provide us with religious liberty. Although that important document appears to be mostly intact (on the outside), if you look closely you will see signs of damage. It is beginning to crack.
The prophet Joseph Smith once predicted, this nation would be on “the very verge of crumbling to pieces”... with “the Constitution upon the brink of ruin.” Are we approaching that time? Perhaps that question is best answered by considering how the Constitution is regarded today.
Here's what one Senator from Arkansas believes, “the American Constitution is nothing more than a product of the Eighteenth Century agrarian society. It is now obsolete.”
And another from Pennsylvania, “the separation of powers with its checks and balances must be curtailed because they keep the President from making quick and decisive decisions.”
Even one of our Supreme Court Justices has suggested that other nations should no longer look to the US Constitution for guidance, because there are other better options now available.
And said J. Rueben Clark, “Do not think that these usurpations, intimidations, and impositions are being done to us through inadvertence or mistake; The whole course is deliberately planned and carried out; its purpose is to destroy the Constitution and our government; then to bring chaos, out of which the new Statism, with its slavery,
is to arise.” (Church News, September 25, 1949)
What is the solution to these threats to our Constitution and our freedom?
Does it rely on getting a certain person in the White House? Passing a particular law
or another Amendment?
The solution, I believe, is not in reforming the Constitution, but in reforming the people.
If we ever hope to reverse the current negative trends, we must begin with ourselves, in our homes – working from the bottom up. This is the same method we use in the church. The responsibility lies with each of us. We need to learn, understand and
uphold those principles that preserve agency and accountability. If we don’t, no elected leader (or group of leaders) will ever be able to correct our course.
Don't get me wrong, it is important to elect good leaders and pass good laws, but if we think we will fix things from the top down we are kidding ourselves. This solution appeals because it puts the responsibility on someone or something else. It would be nice to think we could elect a few key people and then stand back and watch as they set everything right, but it won't happen that way.
We, in this church, have a special obligation and duty. For as was predicted, “this people will be the staff upon which the nation shall lean, and they shall bear the Constitution away from the very verge of destruction.” Are we prepared to do this?
Perhaps, this task will fall to our children. Who is teaching and preparing them to lead the cause? Will they be sufficiently prepared?
There are misguided (and even corrupt) leaders in positions of power. Yes, modern day Gadiantons are among us and they are doing the same thing they did in Book of Mormon times; continually stirring up the people to war; changing the laws to make
what is evil acceptable and what is righteous intolerable; appointing corrupt judges that allow the wicked to go free; removing restraints and calling it “freedom”; corrupting the morals of the people, and even “seduc[ing] the more part of the
righteous until they [have] come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils.” Helaman 6:38
These words by President Benson are thought provoking, “If America is destroyed, it may be by Americans who salute the flag, sing the national anthem, march in patriotic parades, ...but Americans who fail to comprehend what is required to keep
our country strong and free—Americans who have been lulled away into a false security.” [end quote] (“Americans Are Destroying America” Conf. Report April 1968)
Threats to agency, freedom, and religious liberty come in many forms, some are external like those described above, while others are more internal such as personal corruption and apathy. We must guard against both.
Apathy, and other diversions such as an insatiable appetite for entertainment, keeps many able bodied soldiers on the sidelines. All that we hold dear – “our religion, our freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children” – are at risk. (Alma 46:12)
“We are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er... come join the ranks, come join the ranks.”
(Hymn No. 250 “We Are All Enlisted”)
So, what is the greatest thing you can do for your country?
When faced with a serious “termite” problem, Lachoneaus, went to great lengths to protect his people. Despite all their many preparations, he knew on whom their deliverance relied, and he pled with his people, “As the Lord liveth, except ye repent
of all your iniquities, and cry unto the Lord, ye will in nowise be delivered out of the hands of those Gadianton robbers.” 3 Nephi 3:15
As we repent, and seek to cleanse the inner vessel, we are choosing Christ and choosing liberty!
And what is the most patriotic thing you can do for your country?
Nephi, who saw our day and the turmoil and unrest there would be among the nations, reassured his brethren; “Because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power; ...and the Holy One of Israel... will preserve the righteous by his power,
...Wherefore, the righteous need not fear;” 1 Nephi 22:26
The greatest thing you can do for yourself, your family and your country is live righteously. When the people are righteous, righteous leaders get elected, good laws are upheld, and the nation prospers.
The powers of discernment; the ability to receive personal revelation, and the protection of Heaven are all dependent upon righteousness. In the difficult times in which we live, our reliance on these will steadily increase “till the conflict is o’er.”
We’ve drifted from the well-defined and limited government the founders envisioned. It has taken us over 200 years to get where we are today: Where God has been removed from public schools and public places; where evil men seek to make
pornography “public” and religious practice “private”; where millions of unborn children have their lives terminated under the pretense of “Freedom”; where a
powerful, world-wide conspiracy seeks to extinguish the flame of Liberty in this land as well as the rest of the world.
We have our work cut out for us, but we are not alone.
We know that in the end Christ will be victorious. The kingdom of God will not be overthrown, but things will continue to get a bit bumpy along the way. Our only hope to weather the storm and come out victorious on the other side. As we preserve
agency and accountability, we are choosing Christ and defending liberty.
May we not shrink from our duty. Remember the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
"Satan's War on Free Agency" Greg Wright
Some more Examples