Over the last week or so, maybe the last two weeks or so, I've been studying a little about liberty and choice. It all got started with the new health care bill that the government has passed. Now whether this is constitutional or worthwhile or anything in that regard is really beside the point. It made me start thinking about liberty because of the restrictions on freedom that it would necessarily imply by increasing the role of government in our lives. If anyone has any doubt about the importance of freedom they can have a look at the books of Moses, Abraham or Revelation. We had a war in heaven over that very idea, a war for agency, a war for the right to choose and not to be dictated to.
Similarly we had a war just over two-hundred years ago over the same things, many of you may remember it as the Revolutionary War. Our Founding Fathers wanted the freedom to choose, to do right by their neighbor or to leave him destitute. Their job was not to set up a moral code for the emerging nation but to allow them the choice to follow God or not, to be good or bad people, to work hard and prosper or to spend their days in idleness and to degenerate as a consequence. It didn't matter what they chose but that they could do so. As the prophets and apostles have taught us, this nation and more especially the Constitution was setup and inspired by the Lord to preserve freedom. That is what the Lord wanted for his people because, in this, they could exercise His greatest gift to them in this life; Agency.
As i have had the opportunity to study these last weeks i have been impressed by the emphasis that the scriptures place on choice. I've read lots of impressive things, several scriptures that talk of the importance of proper instruction and persuasion as a recipe for the making of good choices as well as the counter argument that no one should be forced to choose right. As i learned about the Lord's model of choice i also could see the opposite, Satan's plan for us. It is clear in the scriptures that just as the Lord will never force us to do anything, in defense of our agency and freedom, Satan seeks to dictate to us, to lock us into addiction, to give us oppressive and invasive influences in our lives. He wants nothing more than to force us to do anything. It isn't always that he would force us to do the most evil thing possible at any given time but the simple act of removing our agency, our freedom to choose, would be enough to foil our role in the Father's plan and more specifically to restrict and put in bondage the great and noble ones that were so independent and powerful in the pre-earth life.
Today i had the opportunity to study extensively 2 Nephi 2:27. It's almost as well know to the members of the church as 1 Nephi 3:7 but today it took on new meaning:
"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."
There are several things that i would like to point out, but first i need to make the disclaimer that i am in no way expressing the "absolute" interpretation of this verse or even the necessary views of the church but what as been impressed upon my mind as i read.
First we know that men are free, but only free according to the flesh. We've often heard it said that we are free to choose but not to choose the consequences of those choices. I think it is a little cliche because i have always thought that the consequences should be taken into account as part of the choice but it is true nonetheless. I believe that this is what this line is referring to when it says that we are "free according to the flesh"; we have no freedom of consequence.
Next it begins to point out the choice, essentially Liberty or Captivity, both provided by different authors. I think that it is important that the word "or" is include because we must understand that there is no middle ground, we must choose one or the other. The choice is between discipline, that begets liberty and freedom, and instant gratification, which begets addiction and captivity.
Note: When it says that Satan seeks to make us miserable like unto him i think, too often, we assume that it is referring to the choices we make while in captivity that make us miserable and while i believe that to be part of it i would also submit that the very act of being without a choice is what makes us miserable. Addiction and captivity, because they clash so sharply with the freedom inherent in our spirits, will not allow us to be happy. It put a whole new spin on the idea of existing that we might have joy.
Now, the grand question, where am i going with all of this? Partly i wrote this for myself; to express it imprints it more firmly on my mind. The other part is because of the abject fear i feel when i think of where our nation is headed. If we go down this road it will only lead to the entrapment and imprisonment in the ignominious bondage of our eternal and majestic souls. The choice is our to make for now, but in all honesty, if Satan can't get us with an addiction, he'll do it through entitlements, "free" health care (i know it's not free but there are many who think that it will be), redistribution of wealth, government welfare and any other handout that the government or man can think up.
Our Founding Fathers fought and many died to make us free, the battle between the anti-federalist and federalists over the Constitution begged the same question. History many times glorifies the anti-federalists for their desire to maintain a smaller government. These same historians turn around and say that the government must assert itself ever more to take care of all the citizens of the country. Even the Federalists who sought for a larger and stronger central government in their day would be appalled at the misuse of that idea. Government was never meant to "take care" of everyone but to preserve the freedom to allow the people to take care of themselves and each other.
I guess the basic idea i want to get across is that all of us have already fought a war to preserve our agency and the fathers of this country did it again in this life. We can't afford to allow all the sacrifices made in those wars be in vain. It has been foretold that the Constitution would hang by a thread. It would seem that that day is upon us.