Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen – Chapter 2
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 said:
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 the
laws 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 we produce.
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. 299300)
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 contrary.
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)
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Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen Chapters: