Protecting Religious Liberty Protects All Liberty

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La’ie, Hawai’i Temple

In case you didn’t see the title of this post, you can read it again right now…Protecting and religious liberty will protect all liberty.

Liberty

First and foremost, we need to understand what liberty actually is.

Here is a list of the definitions of liberty.

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Liberty is more than the “freedom to.” It is also the “freedom from.” This is an important distinction to make.

Freedom to

This is what we usually think of when we think of liberty of freedom. We have the freedom to choose, act, etc. In the gospel, the “freedom to” do something is agency. We are all blessed with agency. God loves and is the great protector of our agency. He doesn’t interfere greatly with our lives, but lets us choose as we will, even if it is something that will not please Him.

I also believe in freedom to choose, speak, think, believe, and exercise faith.

“Freedom to” act is not where freedom and liberty end. It is only the beginning.

Freedom From

As I mentioned earlier, God loves and is the great Protector of our agency. This is why He has given us commandments. Commandments and covenants aren’t arbitrary rules of a power hungry God. Instead, they are the “hacks” that enable us to live lives of liberty.

The commandments will keep us free from addiction, pain, strife, captivity and constraint. When we keep the commandment to forgive others, then our hearts are free from the captivity of anger and revenge. We then are better able to think and act.

In other words, “freedom from” helps to keep us “free to.” We become agents to act rather than be acted upon.

Liberty enables us to act rather than react to circumstances or actions of others. Liberty enables us to live abundant rich lives rather than live lives that may be indulgent but are riddled with addiction.

When we start to understand what liberty is, we naturally want to protect it.

The Constitution Protects Religious Liberty

It seems like people love to say that there is a “separation between church and state” as if religion needs to stay out of the government. The irony is that the first amendment of the constitution was written so that the government would stay out of religion.

In the Bill of Rights, we read:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” – Amendment I, Bill of Rights, The Constitution of the United States of America

These are the first words of the first amendment in the Bill of Rights. Remember that the Constitution wouldn’t have been ratified without the Bill of Rights.

I mean just think about the  phrase – Bill of Rights… These are our RIGHTS!

And according to this amendment, the separation of church and state is all about congress and the government staying out of the business of any church.

Congress can neither make a law to establish religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof. Right now, we are being subjected to a potential loss of this right. Religious rights are being jeopardized.

If our government can create laws that will nullify this first amendment, then what will stop our government from stripping away other rights?

Patterns

Today, I was blessed to hear the words of a living apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. He spoke on protecting religious freedom. He gave an example from The Book of Mormon. About 90 years before the birth of Christ, on the American continent, a democratic republic was organized by a dying king. King Mosiah didn’t have anyone to pass the kingdom on to (all of his sons were serving missions and refused). He decided to create a system of judges that would govern the land. These judges would be elected by the people.

Today, Elder Holland and quoted the following scripture:

“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.

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.” – Mosiah 29:26-27

This is an oft-quoted scripture, and most Mormons are relatively familiar with it. I believe that it’s true, too. There is safety in democratic practices because usually the majority of the people desire that which is right. Even if we don’t all believe in the same God or religion, most of us believe in the sanctity of life. Most of us believe we should be kind. Most of us think that lying and stealing is wrong.

Most of us, even if we go by different names and religions, still want that which is right.

But things change. And King Mosiah warned that when the majority of the people choose iniquity, then they will be visited with the judgments of God.

As I said, many are familiar with this scripture. Elder Holland recognized this fact, and then invited us to read a related, though less familiar scripture.

This scripture happens about 120 years after King Mosiah had created a democratic system. The people are still being governed by judges, but some changes have happened.

“And it came to pass that in this same year, behold, Nephi delivered up the judgment-seat to a man whose name was Cezoram.

For as their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.” – Helaman 5:1-2

Notice the last phrase in the second verse, “for the laws had become corrupted.”

As I read this and thought about the warning given by King Mosiah, I wondered – what came first? The wicked majority voice or the corruption of laws???

We are at a crossroads now. Activist judges and loud minorities are influencing laws – even laws that will prohibit religious liberty and limit the personal liberties of all who live here. I believe that the majority of people now desire that which is right, but if our laws begin to change, then how will it impact us?

If we elect those who both influence us negatively and limit our liberties, then we may start to see a change. We might witness a majority who choose evil over good.

Again – remember choosing evil over good doesn’t mean everyone is a Christian. It means that we will see more people who choose to cheat others (eg: Wall Street circa 2007???), we will see more people care little about human life and rights (eg: Any war torn country right now!.) When we have a majority that chooses evil over right, we will self destruct. So we must protect our liberties now – our religious liberties, so we can continue to be an innovative, vibrant, and abundant society.

***
I feel like I need to end this with some kind of advice on how to protect religious liberty. Here are a few ideas. They come from a talk given by the Apostle, Robert D. Hales.

  1. Be informed – Get involved with the community to know what issues could have an impact on religious liberty. I must confess that I haven’t always done this in the past, but I will start now. This is such an obvious place to start.If you are reading this post and thinking that what I’m writing is nonsense, then take a few minutes to inform yourself – find out what is happening in regards to religious liberties. There is no need for anxiety, but becoming educated is crucial for any other kind of action.
  2. In your individual capacity, join with others who share our commitment to religious freedom. – I like this – in your capacity. Today, I’m using my capacity by writing a blog post. You are using your capacity by reading it, and you could even choose to share it. Perhaps your capacity is greater. You could volunteer for a political figure or cause that will support religious freedom. I don’t have that kind of time right now. If you are a mother of young children, your “capacity” might include teaching your children. There is something that each of us can do. Share an article on facebook. Share a quote on Instagram. Donate time or money to a cause that supports religious freedom. Any bit helps. Just do what you can.
  3. Live your life to be a good example of what you believe As Elder Hales said, “How we live our religion is far more important than what we may say about our religion.” Isn’t that the truth?! Becoming informed and getting involved really won’t matter much if you aren’t living right. Does this mean we have to be perfect? No! No one is perfect. But doing our best to live our religion will help to preserve religious liberty because it shows to others precisely why preserving this liberty is so important. We should be the kind of people that others want to live with. 🙂

Thanks for reading this long post. I hope it has been helpful and hopeful to you. I hope that you are inspired to stand fast in the liberties wherewith we have been made free – no matter your religious background. I hope that you will join me in rejoicing in and protecting our precious liberty.

Charity Seeketh not Her Own

So…I feel like today’s subject really relates to what we have been studying the past few days (envieth not and is not puffed up), but it is valuable to study each of them in a different light. Today’s study has been no less valuable.

Charity seeketh not her own. In other words, charity is not selfish. I feel like it is probably more than that, too. Charity seeks for others. When pondering this subject, the first thing I thought of was the following scripture:

“He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” – Matthew 10:39

Not only does charity not seek her own, but there is a great reward in seeking the Lord’s way – When we seek the Lord, we will find ourselves. It seems counterintuitive, but it is true.

This is especially obvious when you compare the stories of Cain and Nephi.

Cain

  • Cain loved Satan more. (Moses 5:18)
  • Cain was offended when God didn’t respect his offering. (Moses 5:21)
  • Cain is loved enough by God to be warned. (Moses 5:23-25)
  • Cain was angry at his warning, and didn’t listen to the Lord. (Moses 5:26)
  • Cain makes an oath with Satan – secret combination. (Moses 5:29-30)
  • Cain is motivated by power. (Moses 5:31)
  • Cain kills Abel. (Moses 5:32)

    Cain and Abel, by Titian

  • After Cain kills Abel, he thinks that he is free.

    “And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands.” – Moses 5:33

    I think that this response is really telling. Cain thinks that he can gain freedom through hurting others. He is seeking his own welfare, power, and glory. He is so overly concerned with himself that he is even willing murder. His selfishness destroys him and any sense of decency that he may have had.

  • Cain lies to God and asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper.” (Moses 5:34) – This seems to be a peak in his selfishness. I can’t even comment on it – other than Wow…Yet…I can’t act like I’m all that much better. I need to learn what not to do from Cain. In some ways, there are times when I essentially ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper.” I think that this happens when I’m not looking out for what is good for others. When I’m only looking out for myself, then I’m not being my brother’s keeper. It is tempting to do this.

    As I ponder what this means, I realize that it doesn’t mean that I do every single thing for others. This is impossible and impractical. It is not good for me and it doesn’t really help others. If I’m being my brother’s keeper, then I will be praying often – to the Lord – and looking outward. I would serve. And I would be interested in the lives of my brothers and sisters. We can learn a lot from Cain.

  • Cain is cursed. He doesn’t inherit Abel’s fields. Instead, he becomes a fugitive and a vagabond, unable to yield from the earth. (Moses 5:35-38)

In the example of Cain, we see the truth in the Lord’s declaration that “He that findeth his life shall lose it;.” Because Cain went about looking for his life through shortcuts and sin, he eventually lost it. It’s funny that when we are “seeking our own” that is the last thing we’ll ever find.

Luckily, we have a good example, too. (There are a lot of them, actually).

Nephi
(see Helaman 10:4-5)

  • Nephi is blessed.
  • Nephi, with unwearyingness declared the word. (I get tired just by reading the word unwearyingness!)
  • Nephi didn’t fear others.
  • Nephi didn’t seek his own life.
  • Nephi sought the will of God. – This is hard! In the end, we see that it is the best thing to do, but we don’t experience that kind of satisfaction, really, until the end! In the meantime, seeking the will of God is kind of hard. We have to forgo natural desires and the reasoning of the world. We have to exercise faith. Yet, seeking God’s doesn’t seem all that hard when we actually do it. He blesses us all along the way. He comforts us and strengthens us to keep the commandments. We just have to seek Him and not our own.
  • Nephi strove to keep God’s commandments.
  • Nephi will be blessed forever.
  • Nephi is made mighty in word and deed.
  • Nephi is given God’s power – to do anything. God knows that Nephi won’t ask anything contrary to God’s will. God completely trusts Nephi. – I think that this is basically one of the awesomest things ever. God loves us enough to endow us with His power. But he won’t give it to us if we aren’t ready for it. He is a perfect parent. I can understand him, too. I mean, I am a parent, and I would like to see my children be able to do all that I do – if not more. However, I know that I won’t give them many freedoms or blessings until they are ready for them. This isn’t because I’m power-hungry. It is because I don’t want them to hurt themselves.

    Heavenly Father is the same way. When we have been trained correctly, we will be able to have power like His. Just as Nephi did. Elijah also had this power – the sealing power. Nephi gave up his life and will to the Lord, and eventually foudn it.

Charity seeketh not her own. When we try to do things our own way, we will come up with hardship and failure. However, if we put our trust in the Lord, and seek His will, then He sustains us with His power and we are able to obtain charity. It is powerful to know that Charity never fails. And it is even more remarkable to see that God’s power is completely rooted in Charity: selflessness, and love.

I want to seek God’s will. I’m trying to be better at this. Currently, I’m actively praying to do His will, even though I don’t always follow through on it. I’m still pretty selfish. I have a lot of room for improvement, but I want to be selfless one day. I look up to examples like President Monson. I know that through prayer and practice, I can one day be a person who isn’t just looking out for myself. I really want that for my life.

What do you do to seek God’s will and increase in Charity?

Charity is Not Puffed Up

The next thing we learn about charity is Charity…is not puffed up. In the scriptures, the term – puffed-up is synonymous with having pride.

The term “puffed up” is used a little bit in the New Testament and more commonly used in the Book of Mormon. But in each of the standard works, we learn that charity is not proud.

“The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” – Psalms 10:4

Already, it is obvious that we cannot possibly have the love that never fails — Christ’s pure love — if we are not remembering Him. The proud do not remember God nor do they seek God. They are busy with something else. Now, the question is why don’t the proud seek God?

“O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.” – 2 Nephi 9:28

The proud don’t seek God because they don’t think that they need Him. They are puffed up by their own knowledge, riches, or power. I can see how this would happen. I mean, it kind of makes sense. Often, when we are successful, we forget what it is like to need someone or something else. We are filled with the false sense of our own power or ability. And the thing is: we are all just people. We all come to earth and leave it the same way. It is kind of funny that we are so apt to pride, but we are.

Pride – causes us to ignore the counsels of God, and that is when the problems begin.

Let’s take a look at the Nephites. They cycled through periods of righteousness and wickedness. This pattern is called the Pride Cycle.

The Pride Cycle

1. Righteousness and Prosperity

“And it came to pass that in this same year there was exceedingly great prosperity in the church, insomuch that there were thousands who did join themselves unto the church and were baptized unto repentance.

And so great was the prosperity of the church, and so many the blessings which were poured out upon the people, that even the high priests and the teachers were themselves astonished beyond measure.

And it came to pass that the work of the Lord did prosper unto the baptizing and uniting to the church of God, many souls, yea, even tens of thousands.
***
And it came to pass that there was peace and exceedingly great joy in the remainder of the forty and ninth year; yea, and also there was continual peace and great joy in the fiftieth year of the reign of the judges.” – Helaman 3:24-32

At this time, the church was prospering. People were happy. Blessings were being poured out upon the people. This was because of their faith in God. Heavenly Father blesses us when we keep His commandments. The Nephites were faithful, and Heavenly Father was blessing them accordingly.

2. Pride Begins to Enter into the Hearts of the People

“And in the fifty and first year of the reign of the judges there was peace also, save it were the pride which began to enter into the church—not into the church of God, but into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church of God—

And they were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren. Now this was a great evil, which did cause the more humble part of the people to suffer great persecutions, and to wade through much affliction.
***
And it came to pass that the fifty and second year ended in peace also, save it were the exceedingly great pride which had gotten into the hearts of the people; and it was because of their exceedingly great riches and their prosperity in the land; and it did grow upon them from day to day.” – Helaman 3:33-36

While most of the people were living in peace, pride begins to creep into the hearts of some of those who profess to be saints.

I find this interesting. The Church wasn’t threatened by an outside force. Instead, it was threatened by what was coming from within – pride. And this from people who professed to belong to the Church of God. These so-called saints began persecuting others.

Not everyone was filled with pride, but those that were became a big problem for the church and even the faithful.

The thing that is most interesting is how these people became proud – because of their riches – the blessings that they had received from God based on their prior faith and humility.

I feel like I’ve seen this in my life: pride creeping up on me. I know that I have a problem with it. I don’t generally judge people because of their money or lack of money, but I do have a problem with forgetting that I can’t see the heart of another. Because the Lord has seen fit to bless me, I often foolishly forget that I am reliant on Him. I forget that those who are suffering are not necessarily wading through affliction because of unworthiness. Even in my most prosperous moment, I need the Lord. It is important to remember this. Again, it goes back to what was said in the Psalms…To combat pride, I need to seek after God. It is interesting to me – that this is essentially the covenant I made at baptism: to always remember Him. It seems impossible to be puffed-up if I’m truly keeping the covenant I’ve made.

3. War, Famine, or Destruction

“And it came to pass in the fifty and fourth year there were many dissensions in the church, and there was also a contention among the people, insomuch that there was much bloodshed.
***
But it came to pass in the fifty and sixth year of the reign of the judges, there were dissenters who went up from the Nephites unto the Lamanites; and they succeeded with those others in stirring them up to anger against the Nephites; and they were all that year preparing for war.

And in the fifty and seventh year they did come down against the Nephites to battle, and they did commence the work of death; yea, insomuch that in the fifty and eighth year of the reign of the judges they succeeded in obtaining possession of the land of Zarahemla; yea, and also all the lands, even unto the land which was near the land Bountiful.” – Helaman 4:1-10

After increasing in pride and wickedness, the people lost love towards one another (charity!), which caused dissension and contention. Problems!!!

Helaman teaches us the cause of such loss:

“Now this great loss of the Nephites, and the great slaughter which was among them, would not have happened had it not been for their wickedness and their abomination which was among them; yea, and it was among those also who professed to belong to the church of God.

And it was because of the pride of their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, yea, it was because of their oppression to the poor, withholding their food from the hungry, withholding their clothing from the naked, and smiting their humble brethren upon the cheek, making a mock of that which was sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation, murdering, plundering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, rising up in great contentions, and deserting away into the land of Nephi, among the Lamanites—” – Helaman 4:1-10

The pride of the wicked caused the plight of the people. Because of their riches, they grew proud. They oppressed the poor, withheld food from the hungry, refused to clothe the naked, and mocked what was sacred. They abused others, denied the Spirit, murdered, plundered, lied, stole, and committed adultery. All of these things are horrible.

Truly, pride is enmity toward God – and all things godly.

The state of the people at this time seem vaguely familiar. Even though many of us may not feel “rich”, it has dawned on me that most Americans really are rich. We have been abundantly blessed. Even if we are going through hard times – they are only “hard times” compared to some of the luxuries we have experienced in the past. Most of us do not have to endure difficulties like many throughout the world or in the history of time have. We are a rich and blessed culture.

And it seems like we have a hard time remembering our reliance on God – until things fall apart.

“And because of this their great wickedness, and their boastings in their own strength, they were left in their own strength; therefore they did not prosper, but were afflicted and smitten, and driven before the Lamanites, until they had lost possession of almost all their lands.” – Helaman 4:13

Humility and Repentance

“But behold, Moronihah did preach many things unto the people because of their iniquity, and also Nephi and Lehi, who were the sons of Helaman, did preach many things unto the people, yea, and did prophesy many things unto them concerning their iniquities, and what should come unto them if they did not repent of their sins.

And it came to pass that they did repent, and inasmuch as they did repent they did begin to prosper.” – Helaman 4:14-15

Finally, the people, beat down by their own pride, wickedness, and destruction become humble. They have to endure the difficulty that came by their own greed and pride. They repent, and experience the Love God has for them (charity!), grow in faith, and once again are prospered.

***

This is an interesting pattern to see, and I think that we’ve witnessed it in our own lives. Sometimes, you can see it on a big scale – for example: in a nation. There are other times when we see it in our own specific lives. I know that when I have grown proud, in my own ability, I begin to cut myself off of God’s love. I forget Him. When I forget the Lord, I forget what His love feels like. I forget that I need Him. I forget about His tender mercies.

When I forget His love, I have no hope in sharing it with others.

When we are proud, and we cut ourselves off from God, we cut ourselves off from obtaining Charity. We are then left to our own devices: which always results in sadness and failure.

So…I’m going to do more to try to remember the Lord, remember my nothingness, and my need for Him. What do you do to remember God and keep from getting “puffed-up?”

  • "But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." - Luke 10:42.
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