Many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints operate under the assumption that religion and politics shouldn’t be mixed. “The gospel of Jesus Christ is about repentance, not politics”; and while yes the gospel is obviously about repentance and faith, we cannot truly be disciples of Jesus Christ without being advocates of freedom. In fact, President Ezra Taft Benson said, “You cannot fully live the gospel without working to save freedom.”1https://latterdayfreemen.com/talk/protecting-freedom-an-immediate-responsibility/ But Why? Is freedom really that important?
According to the scriptures and the words of latter-day apostles and prophets, the answer is an unequivocal ‘YES’. For followers of Christ and seekers of truth, the fight for freedom isn’t about differing political views: it is a timeless struggle between good and evil, freedom and coercion. What side you are on has eternal consequences.
The fight for freedom carries weight into the eternities because freedom, and individual liberty, or agency as the scriptures call it, is central to the plan of God for His children. Without agency, God’s children would be unable to progress. Virtue, morality, righteousness cannot be separated from choice. Virtue not freely chosen isn’t virtuous. Because of this, all growth, all development, salvation itself is stalled in the absence of individual liberty.
It is, for this reason, President David O. McKay said, “To deprive an intelligent human being of his free agency is to commit the crime of the ages.”2“The Church and the Present War”- President David O. McKay, April 1942 Conference Report, pp. 70-74
The Premortal Fight for Freedom
Lucifer was the first to suggest that all of God’s children could be saved through the destruction of their agency or liberty. President Benson taught,
“The central issue in that premortal council was: Shall the children of God have untrammeled agency to choose the course they should follow, whether good or evil, or shall they be coerced and forced to be obedient? Christ and all who followed Him stood for the former proposition—freedom of choice; Satan stood for the latter—coercion and force.”3 https://latterdayfreemen.com/talk/the-constitution-a-heavenly-banner/
Packaged as an act of love, compassion, and charity, Satan desired to destroy freedom and force individuals to follow his will and, in classic totalitarian form, exalt himself above others in the process. For the first time, the promise of benefits in exchange for power was made. Gratefully victory was won for freedom. You and I chose Christ and chose freedom.
The Fight for Freedom Today
Today, Satan continues his war on individual liberty and two of his chief tools in this war have been too much government and the lack of government.
The ability of an individual to exercise their agency is so important to our Heavenly Father that He has authorized the use of force to secure it. According to the laws of nature and nature’s God, force is morally justified to secure agency from threats to liberty. Force, according to God’s laws, cannot be morally be used for any other purpose. As all government action is inherently force, eternal principles require us to evaluate government action by that standard. President David O. McKay said,
“Any form of government that destroys or undermines the free exercise of free agency is wrong.”4Conference Report April 1940 pg.118
The Inspired Role of Government
Does this mean that there should be no government? Can agency be freely exercised without government? No, on the contrary, agency or freedom cannot exist in our fallen world without government. Elder H. Verlan Andersen said for agency to be exercised freely, there must be a dominating force capable of securing liberty from all threats of individual and group force and objectively judges and enforces those judgments against all who would violate the agency of others. Every individual has a natural duty to respect the rights of others, without that duty rights do not exist. If that duty cannot be enforced it is a duty in name only and the rights associated are not secure and ultimately do not exist. The natural duties we have must be enforced by an overwhelming force capable of enforcing the duty to respect rights on all groups and individuals. That overwhelming force must be possessed by government. If government cannot exercise overwhelming force against all persons or groups, agency would be destroyed. 5The Book of Mormon and The Constitution, pg. 125-130 President David O. McKay described this:
“The greatest responsibility of the state [government] is to guard the lives, and to protect the property and rights of its citizens; and if the state is obligated to protect its citizens from lawlessness within its boundaries, it is equally obligated to protect them from lawless encroachments from without — whether the attacking criminals be individuals or nations.”6“The Church and the Present War”- President David O. McKay, April 1942 Conference Report, pp. 70-74
However, this does not give government free reign. Government must also be strictly limited to those functions for agency to exist.
It is for this reason that Heavenly Father inspired the American Founding Fathers to frame the United States Constitution which creates a government that’s sole purpose and powers are to secure individual liberty from threats foreign and domestic and nothing more. It is this form of constitutionally limited government that constitutes free government and of which the Lord Jesus Christ Himself declared that “more or less than this (this being the Constitution) cometh of evil.” (D&C 98:7) Why would more or less government than the Constitution come of evil? Because more or less government than our inspired Constitutional government would be destructive to individual liberty and the free exercise of agency.
The Choice Before Us
And so we as members of Christ’s church have a duty to stand up for the Constitution and for the freedom of the individual. We as members must reject policies, proposals, and ideas that violate the principles of individual liberty and free government, no matter how compassionate, kind, or loving they may sound. If we, through our direct support or silent assent, permit the Constitution and the free government it establishes to be destroyed or to go beyond its moral bounds, we not only endanger our own agency but commit the crime of the ages by threatening and destroying the agency of our fellow men.
There are two contending forces competing for our loyalty today, as President McKay said in 1960, “in the beginning they were known as Satan on the one hand, and Christ on the other…In these days, they are called “domination by the state,” on one hand, “personal liberty,” on the other; communism [socialism, statism] on one hand, free agency on the other.”7“Two Contending Forces”- President David O. McKay, given May 18th, 1960 at BYU
Which side will you choose?
|↑2, ↑6||“The Church and the Present War”- President David O. McKay, April 1942 Conference Report, pp. 70-74|
|↑4||Conference Report April 1940 pg.118|
|↑5||The Book of Mormon and The Constitution, pg. 125-130|
|↑7||“Two Contending Forces”- President David O. McKay, given May 18th, 1960 at BYU|