The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that the highest form of liberty is freedom of the soul. Agency, sometime called free agency or moral agency, is an eternal principle and will endure for all eternity. God gave us our agency in our pre-earth life and sent it with us when we came to earth. We can use our agency to remain free or we can misuse our agency to sell our souls to the devil. It all depends on the choices we make.
In an address given in October 1981, President Marion G. Romney, then Second Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke about the “Perfect Law of Liberty.” “… The sweets of liberty about which we usually speak may be classified as (1) political independence, (2) economic freedom, and (3) free agency.”
President Romney invited the attention of his listeners “to a few illustrations in support of the thesis that, while political independence, economic freedom, and free agency may contribute to liberty of the soul, they do not guarantee it. He first spoke about “political independence and power” and used the examples of Alexander the Great and Cardinal Wolsey to prove his point.
Alexander the Great used his courage, energy and imagination to become “master of the then-known world. But he was far from enjoying liberty, for of himself he was not master.” He died at age 32 “a total stranger to freedom of the soul.”
Cardinal Wolsey learned the hard way “how little political independence and even political power can contribute to true liberty…. [H]e gave a long life in the service of two English sovereigns, enjoying all the while great freedom and political power” but was “shorn of all his greatness by an impatient king.”
There are many “financial wizards” who achieve economic freedom. Too many of them lose their fortunes and die broke. The disgrace is so awful that some of them commit suicide to escape. Others spend time in prison for breaking the law. “All of the men had obtained temporarily at least, economic freedom, but to none of them did their economic abundance bring freedom of the soul.”
Even free agency can be misused. This “God-given right to choose one’s course of action is an indispensable prerequisite” to “perfect liberty.” “Without it we can scarcely enjoy any type of liberty – political, economic, or personal. It is one of our greatest heritages. For it we are deeply indebted to our Father in Heaven, to the Founding Fathers, and to the pioneers….
“Free agency, however, precious as it is, is not of itself the perfect liberty we seek, nor does it necessarily lead thereto. As a matter of fact, through the exercise of their agency more people have come to political, economic, and personal bondage than to liberty.”
President Romney gave numerous examples from scripture and history of people – Egyptians, Israelites, Nephites, etc. - making wrong choices and losing liberty. “We ourselves have gone a long way down this road during the last century. My counsel is that we beware of the doctrine which encourages us to seek government-supported security rather than to put faith in our own industry….
“With respect to the loss of personal liberty through the misuse of free agency, our daily lives are filled with tragic evidence. We see the alcoholic with his craving for drink, the dope fiend in his frenzy, and worse, the pervert with his irretrievable loss of manhood. Who will say that such persons enjoy liberty?”
Political, economic, and personal liberty are lost through the misuse of agency, but “free agency will always endure because it is an eternal principle. However, the free agency possessed by any one person is increased or diminished by the use to which he puts it. Every wrong decision one makes restricts the area in which he can thereafter exercise his agency. The further one goes in the making of wrong decisions in the exercise of free agency, the more difficult it is for him to recover the lost ground. One can, by persisting long enough, reach the point of no return. He then becomes an abject slave. By the exercise of his free agency, he has decreased the area in which he can act, almost to the vanishing point….
“Just as following wrong alternatives restricts free agency and leads to slavery, so pursuing correct alternatives widens the scope of one’s agency and leads to perfect liberty. As a matter of fact, one may, by this process, obtain freedom of the soul while at the same time being denied political, economic, and personal liberty….
“Freedom thus obtained – that is, by obedience to the law of Christ – is freedom of the soul, 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.”
I love the message given in a hymn of our Church entitled “Know This, That Every Soul Is Free” (Hymns, 240). The author of the text is unknown, but it was apparently written about 1805 in Boston. It was included in the first LDS hymnbook in 1835. The music was written by Roger L. Miller. The first two verses are as follow.
Know this, that every soul is free To choose his life and what he’ll be;
For this eternal truth is giv’n: That God will force no man to heav’n.
He’ll call, persuade, direct aright, And bless with wisdom, love, and light,
In nameless ways be good and kind, But never force the human mind.
With our God-given agency, we can choose to attain the highest form of liberty. It is up to us as individuals because it is us who decide what we really desire. If we desire true liberty, we must learn the law of Jesus Christ and then remain obedient to it. There is no other way to be truly free. Freedom of the soul IS the highest form of liberty!