The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that obedience to law is liberty. Many people have the mistaken idea that rules take away freedoms; in fact, laws and commandments are written for our physical and spiritual safety and provide freedoms. We each have our agency and can choose to obey or disobey the rules, laws, and commandments, but we cannot choose the consequences of our choices. Obedience to traffic laws helps to keep us safe from accidents; it also frees us from constantly watching for troopers and/or policemen. Obedience to God’s law keeps us free from danger and sin. When we are obedient to God’s laws, we encourage God to protect us from all evil – physical and spiritual.
Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles recently spoke at a world-wide conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about the importance of obedience. The topic of his talk was “Obedience to Law Is Liberty.” He began his talk by stating, “Men and women receive their agency as a gift from God, but their liberty and, in turn, their eternal happiness come from obedience to His laws.”
Elder Perry described a little brown book that he received as an LDS serviceman entering the armed forces during World War II. “In the front of the book, these three prophets of God [President Heber J. Grant and his counselors, J. Reuben Clark Jr. and David O. McKay] wrote: The incidents of the armed service do not permit our keeping in constant personal touch with you, either directly or by personal representation. Our next best course is to put in your hands such portions of modern revelation and of explanations of the principles of the Gospel as shall bring to you, wherever you may be, renewed hope and faith, as likewise comfort, consolation, and peace of spirit.
Since we are currently fighting “another war,” Elder Perry sought to give us counsel on how to fight this war. “It is a war of thoughts, words, and deeds. It is a war with sin, and more than ever we need to be reminded of the commandments. Secularism is becoming the norm, and many of its beliefs and practices are in direct conflict with those that were instituted by the Lord Himself for the benefit of His children.”
Elder Perry continued to share excerpts from his “little brown book” and said that “immediately after the letter from the First Presidency, there is a `Prefatory Note to Men in the Service,’ titled `Obedience to Law Is Liberty.’ The note draws a parallel between military law, which is `for the good of all who are in the service,’ and divine law.
“It states, `In the universe, too, where God is in command, there is law – universal, eternal … law – with certain blessings and immutable penalties.’
“The final words of the note focus on obedience to God’s law: `If you wish to return to your loved ones with head erect, … if you would be a man and live abundantly – then observe God’s law. In so doing you can add to those priceless freedoms which you are struggling to preserve, another on which the others may well depend, freedom from sin; for truly “obedience to law is liberty.”’”
Elder Perry said that this statement rang “true” to him at the time and that it rings “true to all of us now.” He explained that it may be “because we have a revealed knowledge of our premortal history. We recognize that when God the Eternal Father presented His plan to us at the beginning of time, Satan wanted to alter the plan. He said he would redeem all mankind. Not one soul would be lost, and Satan was confident he could deliver on his proposal. But there was an unacceptable cost – the destruction of man’s agency, which was and is a gift given by God (see Moses 4:1-3). About this gift, President Harold B. Lee said, `Next to life itself, free agency is God’s greatest gift to mankind.’ Then it was no small thing for Satan to disregard man’s agency. In fact, it became the principle issue over which the War in Heaven was fought. Victory in the War in Heaven was a victory for man’s agency.”
Elder Perry reminded us that Satan has a “backup plan” – and “none of us should ever underestimate how driven Satan is to succeed.” He said that Satan’s “role in God’s eternal plan” is to create “`opposition in all things’ (2 Nephi 2:11) and [to test] our agency. Each choice you and I make is a test of our agency – whether we choose to be obedient or disobedient to the commandments of God is actually a choice between `liberty and eternal life’ and `captivity and death.’
“This fundamental doctrine is clearly taught in 2 Nephi, the second chapter: `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’ (2 Nephi 2:27).”
The First Presidency probably sent the “little brown book” to Elder Perry and other servicemen because “they were more concerned about a greater war than World War II. I also believe they hoped the book would be a shield of faith against Satan and his armies in this greater war – the war against sin – and serve as a reminder to me to live the commandments of God.”
Elder Perry continued: A useful way to think about the commandments is they are loving counsel from a wise, all-knowing Heavenly Father. His goal is our eternal happiness, and His commandments are the road map He has given us to return to Him, which is the only way we will be eternally happy….
“God reveals to His prophets that there are moral absolutes. Sin will always be sin. Disobedience to the Lord’s commandments will always deprive us of His blessings. The world changes constantly and dramatically, but God, His commandments, and promised blessings do not change. They are immutable and unchanging. Men and women receive their agency as a gift from God, but their liberty and, in turn, their eternal happiness come from obedience to His laws. As Alma counseled his errant son Corianton, `Wickedness never was happiness’ (Alma 41:10)….
“Surely there could not be any doctrine more strongly expressed in the scriptures than the Lord’s unchanging commandments and their connection to our happiness and well-being as individuals, as families, and as a society. There are moral absolutes. Disobedience to the Lord’s commandments will always deprive us of His blessings. These things do not change.
“In a world where the moral compass of society is faltering, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ never wavers, nor should its stakes and wards, its families, or its individual members. We must not pick and choose which commandments we think are important to keep but acknowledge all of God’s commandments. We must stand firm and steadfast, having perfect confidence in the Lord’s consistency and perfect trust in His promises.”
Elder Perry encouraged us to keep our “lights” high by setting good examples in keeping the commandments of God. He encouraged us to “stand morally firm” in this war against sin.
Our nation is in deep peril as evil is attempting to destroy our government and our way of life. The very best thing that we can do to safeguard our nation is to keep the commandments of God. He promises that He will send His angels to protect us if we will keep His commandments. We must turn to the God of this land, who is Jesus Christ, in order to be truly safe and free! Obedience to law is liberty!