What is the difference between Agency, Freedom and Liberty?
Let us first consider the scriptures which use these three terms implying separate meanings:
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 Mediator 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)
We are told that we are free to choose liberty or captivity. The choice implies that we have agency, or the ability to choose between Liberty or Bondage. We are free, which means we have the capability to do the action that will decide the outcome.
Agency is the ability to choose an action, whereas Freedom is the capability to DO and action. What’s the difference? Here’s an example. You have the agency or ability to make the choice to go to New York, and can make that choice even if you don’t have a car or other form of transportation. You have made the choice, despite the absence of the ability to act on that choice. It is the access to transportation that will provide you with the Freedom, or capability, to actually go to New York.
Liberty is opposite of Captivity. Liberty is often confused as having the same meaning as Freedom, yet there is a difference. Liberty comes from choosing and doing the right actions, those which are just before God. It’s really impossible to separate Liberty from Obedience to the Laws of God.
Real Liberty only comes from obeying a commandment or law to reach the destination you want. Bondage, or Captivity, is choosing a path and being bound to the outcome, whereas Liberty is choosing your destination or outcome and being bound to the path required to achieve such an outcome.
The Key to understanding and experiencing Liberty lies in choosing the outcome we want versus receiving the outcome our path dictates.
If you want the Liberty that comes from being healthy and having the ability to run an not be weary, walk and not faint (D&C 89) you must choose that outcome of healthiness and have your path dictated accordingly. If you are committed to that outcome you are not going to consume donuts and soda pop all day – that choice would bind you to the outcome inherent in unhealthy living, and you would be in bondage.
In 2nd Nephi Chapter 2, verse 25 we read that “men are that they might have joy”. It is in choosing Liberty that we will experience that joy, or happiness.
To choose Liberty is to choose to stand up for Truth and Righteousness, to be found on the Lord’s side. Choosing Liberty results in experiencing the ultimate level of Freedom.
This gives a new meaning to the words “Life, Liberty and Happiness“. This Life is a time for us to be “tried, to be tested, and to choose. Our decisions determine our destiny… Those who choose the Lord’s way” (choose Liberty) and “who prove faithful shall inherit the kingdom of God, … and their joy (Happiness) shall be full forever.” (Russell M. Nelson, Now Is the Time to Prepare, Ensign, May 2005, 16).
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)
(NOTE: This is an excerpt of what I have discussed here: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.