Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Constructive Thoughts: Liberty, Pt. 2

When last we discussed this topic, I asked two questions:
(1) Has this nation dwindled since the days of our ancestors?
(2) In how many of these beliefs is America still solid?
Let's look at some possible answers.

Today we face challenges we have scarcely known in the past. We have come through wars, both civil and international, with victory and found peace. Now we are a people of contention, with strident and accusatory voices heard in argument across the nation.... Our spiritual power is sapped by a floodtide of pornography, by a debilitating epidemic of the use of narcotics and drugs that destroy both body and mind.
We are forgetting God, whose commandments we have put aside and obey not. In all too many ways we have substituted human sophistry for the wisdom of the Almighty.
(Gordon B. Hinckley, "America Must Look to God," Address at Provo, Utah’s "America’s Freedom Festival" (June 26, 1988), in The Spirit of America 29, 32-35 (Bookcraft 1998).

Is there any question, any argument what each of us has to face in our daily lives?

Is there any doubt that this nation--at least many of the population--have dwindled?

Is the promise God gave our forebears still in force?

Consider these additional words from Gordon B. Hinckley:
Can we expect peace and prosperity, harmony and goodwill while turning our backs on the source of our strength?
An acknowledgment of the Almighty and a return to the teachings of God will do more than all else to keep our ship of state on a steady course as she sails into the third century of nationhood. Here is the answer to the conflicts that beset us. Here is the answer to the evils of pornography, abortion, drugs, and the squandering of our resources on evil pursuits.... Here is the answer to tawdry politics that place selfish interest above the common good.... [T]he strength and prosperity of the nation will not be found in her resources or her industries unless also her pulpits are aflame with righteousness and her people bow in reverence before the Creator and Ruler of the universe.
Let the pulpits of all churches ring with righteousness. Let people everywhere bow in reverence before the Almighty, who is our one true strength. Let us look inward and adjust our priorities and standards. Let us look outward in the spirit of the Golden Rule. If we will do so in significant numbers across the land something marvelous will begin to happen.Id.

Is our prosperity suffering as a result of our dwindling? We have been promised this consequence and I believe it is happening all around us. The evidence is everywhere and is incontrovertible. Even more frightening in today's environment is this idea, from the 29th chapter of the Book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon:
26 Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law——to do your business by the voice of the people.

27 And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.

Now, I do not think we are quite at the point wehre the greater part of the people choose iniquity--at least, not actively choosing iniquity. Passively, however, may be another story altogether. There are a growing number of the citizenry who are content to sit back and be given everything at the trough. They are content to be told what to think, what to feel, what to believe. There are those who do not actively work to preserve their freedoms. The problem with this attitude, this attitude that is ever-increasing in prevalence among us, is this: "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We did not pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same." (Ronald Reagan)
Freedom is delicate, fragile, and is not a static thing. Maintaining our freedoms, preserving Liberty, requires us to be active, not passive. Back to the sermon that the Book of Mormon prophet, Lehi, was giving to his family, in 2 Nephi 1:
13 O that ye would awake; awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful cchains by which ye are bound, which are the chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal dgulf of misery and woe.
14 Awake! and arise from the dust, and hear the words of a trembling parent, whose limbs ye must soon lay down in the cold and silent grave, from whence no traveler can return; a few more days and I go the way of all the earth.
. . . .
21 And now that my soul might have joy in you, and that my heart might leave this world with gladness because of you, that I might not be brought down with grief and sorrow to the grave, arise from the dust, my sons, and be men, and be determined in one mind and in one heart, united in all things, that ye may not come down into captivity;
. . . .
23 Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.

Notice that these are all active solutions; we are urged to awake, awake, awake, arise, awake, put on the armor, shake off the chains, come forth, arise. These are not passive solutions, they will not happen by themselves or with mere lip service. They require activity, substantial activity, on our part to be completed.

So, first, what does it mean to "shake off the chains"? It means to put away sin. And how do we accomplish this?
"Shaking off restrictive chains requires action. They cannot be wished away. A declaration will never break chains. It requires commitment, self-discipline, and work.... These chains cannot be broken by those who live in lust and self-deceit. They can only be broken by people who are willing to change...to give up some behavior or habits that [may] have been very important to us in the past." (Marvin J. Ashton, "Shake Off the Chains with Which Ye Are Bound," Ensign, Nov. 1986 at 13.)

Second, what does it mean to "arise from the dust and be men"? Consider this statement from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: "A man is but a beast as he lives from day to day, eating and drinking, breathing and sleeping. It is only when he raises himself, and concerns himself with the immortal spirit within him, that he becomes in [very] truth a man." (The White Company)

Third: how does putting on the "armor of righteousness" help us "shake off the chains"? Remember that it takes commitment, self-discipline, and work to shake off the chains? Consider a suit of mail armor; it can weigh between twenty and thirty pounds, and that is only the chest, arms, and back. Well-tempered steel plate weighs upwards of forty-five pounds. There are a lot of straps and rivets to fasten; it takes a considerable effort to put on armor. If we are focused on THAT effort, where will there be room, time, energy, etc., to spend on sin?

These "chains which bind the children of men"--are we talking here just about physical chains? Physical liberty? No.
Are we talking about mental liberty? In part.
Are we talking about free will or free agency? In part, but not completely. "Free agency, as precious as it is, is not of itself the perfect liberty we seek." (Marion G. Romney, "The Perfect Law of Liberty," Ensign, Nov. 1981 at 43.)
Are we also, when we speak of the ideal of Liberty, talking about spiritual liberty? Of course. Remember Webster's definition of Liberty? Freedom from restraint, in a general sense, and applicable to the body, or to the will or mind--and we added 'the spirit' to the mix.

Think of all the chains--physical, mental, emotional, spiritual--that plague our everyday lives. Think about the bad habits, think about the choices we have made that restrict our physical, emotional, and spiritual growth, mobility, and happiness. Think about the passive choices we have made, the things we have allowed to happen to us and around us that bind us just as soundly as our proactive choices. "These [bad] habits...have impeded our progress, may have made us forget who we are, may have destroyed our self-image, may have put our family life in jeopardy, and may have hindered our ability to serve our fellow beings and our God.... These chains weigh heavily on troubled hearts and souls. They relegate us to lives of no purpose or light." (Ashton, supra.)

Is it any wonder that we are urged to throw off these chains?

Is it any wonder that a people so shackled, so wrapped about with chains, could so easily lose their spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical liberty?

Is it any wonder that we, as a country--that our Prosperity is suffering?

We must each raise ourselves. We must concern ourselves with the immortal spirit within each of us. We must awake, arise, shake ourselves, and put on the armor of righteousness.

Interestingly, Webster's definition of "armor" includes the following comment: "In English statutes, [the term] armor is used for the whole apparatus of war; including offensive as well as defensive arms." Thus the counsel we have been given: "Wear the helmet of salvation, pick up the sword of truth, use the shield of faith, and accept the full protective coverings of the Lord." (Carlos E. Asay, "Be Men!" Ensign, May 1992 at 40.) All of these things make up the armor of righteousness, bout our defenses against the adversary and the offensive tools we wield against his forces. Consider the admonitions we receive from Paul concerning the "armour of light," the "armour of righteousness," and the "armour of God." Joseph Smith discussed the "whole armor" in modern revelation.

In this battle for Liberty, the whole armor is important; we must have and use all of the defensive and offensive tools and protections that we have at our disposal. "Righteous living is a shield, a protector, an insulation, a strength, a power...." (Ashton, supra.) Consider this thought: "A Democracy requires men and women to be agents unto themselves to defend their freedom. When a democracy collapses, it is because the individuals and families are dropping their arms." (Charles Didier, "Liberty," New Era, Jul. 1986 at 4.)

Liberty. Freedom. Precious, sacred gifts given to us by our God.

"Freedom...obtained...by obedience to the law of Christ--is freedom of the sould, the highest form of liberty. And the most glorious thing about it is that it is within the reach of every one of us, regardless of what people about us, or even nations, do. All we have to do is learn the law of Christ and obey it. To learn it and obey it is the primary purpose of every soul's mortal life."

How sacred a gift is freedom? We obtain freedom when we learn and obey the law of Christ, which is our primary purpose in mortality." (Romney, supra.)

That's big time, folks.

Don't forget, though.... Once we learn it and find Liberty, we must keep it, we must keep from dwindling, we must keep away from the chains. We must help others learn it, find it, keep it, keep from dwindling and keep away from the chains. "Our most important need as defenders of liberty is to know what true liberty is, to teach it, to profess it, and to testify of it." (Didier, supra.)

You know, I'm reminded of the words of the Lord to Moses: PROCLAIM LIBERTY THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND UNTO ALL THE INHABITANTS THEREOF. Many around us know of no way to escape their bonds. Many may not know they are enslaved. Again, I'm talking about Liberty on all levels: physical, mental, spiritual.

The adversary, however, cannot hold someone if they use the keys they have been given. And is it not our duty--those of us who hold our Freedom and Liberty dear, those of us who know of the keys and how to use them to be free--is it not OUR duty to proclaim liberty--Liberty--throughout all the land--and all the world--to all the inhabitants thereof?
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream that seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deeds redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.
(Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Concord Hymn")

I have stood on that bridge, watched the dark stream pass. I have witnessed the rise of an April mist, which drifted and covered that green bank. While I did so, my mind turned to the sacredness of the spot, one of the birthplaces of freedom in the world, a Fount of Liberty, if you will.

This poem stands as a memorial to those farmers--the Minutemen--who took up arms in defense of their freedoms.

We have a chance to be modern-day Minutemen, to allow others to hear once again that shot heard 'round the world. We also have a chance to share with them the blessed sound--the Gospel. Both lead to freedom.

Both lead to liberty.

To Liberty.

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