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) is at the top of the list.
President Benson said:
“The fight for freedom is God’s fight. Freedom is a law of God, a permanent law. Men cannot break it with impunity. They can only break themselves upon it. When a man stands for freedom, he stands for God. As long as he stands for freedom, he stands with God. And were he to stand alone, he would still stand with God. Any man will be eternally vindicated and rewarded for his stand for freedom. The Lord has so endowed this matter of freedom with such everlasting repercussions that it sifted the spirits of men before this world in the Great War in heaven, and it seems today to be THE CENTRAL ISSUE that is sifting those who are left in the world. Life’s failures arise when men neither take the time nor find the season to perform their eternal duties” (An Enemy Hath Done This, pp. 54-55).
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 premortal 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 supposed fairness, equality, security, and compassion—after all, only his plan guaranteed the outcome “that one soul shall not 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 premortal life. Even the vilest of sinners on earth (aside from the sons of perdition) will still receive a reward—a kingdom of glory because they supported the principle of agency. 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” (Abraham 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 interdependent, 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 is immune. Sometimes we forget eternal truths.
If we take our eyes off of 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” and 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,” they are choosing someone other than Christ.
About Walter Penning
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.