The world offers a lot of confusion as to who and what makes us free. Secular, political, and philosophical traditions in Western thought have adopted a strong “arm of flesh” conclusion when discussing the source of freedom, but the scriptures are repeated plain to the true source of our freedom. In his book, Infinite Atonement, Ted R. Callister has a large chapter dedicated to the “Blessings of Freedom” wherein he compiles a host of sources on the the authorship of our freedom.
Man could never enjoy the full powers of agency without intervention from God. Samuel told the people of Zarahemla, “Ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourself,” and then he added, “He [God] hath made you free” (Hel 14:30). The latter phrase is one utilized by the prophets on both hemispheres throughout the ages. King Benjamin taught, “Under this head [Christ] ye are made free.” He then makes it clear that there is no alternative source of freedom: “And there is no other head whereby ye can be made free” (Mosiah 5:8). The Savior taught that true freedom comes “If the Son… shall make you free” (John 8:36). Paul urged the saints of Galatia to retain their “liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free (Galatians 5:1).
And, lest we believe that the scriptures are only talk about moral, spiritual, or religious freedom, Callister continues:
And in the latter days the Lord has declared without equivocation, “I,the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed” (D&C 98:8; see also D&C 88:86)… Freedom is described as the power or agency to act for oneself. Repeatedly the Lord revealed the source of such agency.
Callister addresses in great detail four components of freedom that help describe how “God endow[s] us with agency, and what part the atonement play[s] in making us free.”
- “First is the need for an intelligent being…
- “Second is the need for a knowledge of good and evil…
- “The third element of free is the availability of choices…
- “[Fourth] is the power to execute or to carry out the choices before us.”
Callister then describes the “key to freedom” as explained in the scriptures and identifies the Adversary’s false philosophy pertaining to this “key”:
About twenty-five hundred years ago Nephi prophesied of those misguided souls who would teach, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us” (2 Nephi 28:7; see also Mormon 8:31). Does it not seem ironic that such a philosophy is authored by the master of slave himself? It was he who was cast out of heaven, who was deprived of a body, who will be bound a thousand years, and who will ultimately be banished to outer darkness. The freedom he promises is illusory; it is a mirage on the desert; it is the very condition that has always eluded his grasp.
What is the “key to freedom”? It is that thing that the Adversary refused to understand and that makes agency powerful: obedience.
How then does the Lord propose to make us free? The answer is obedience. In fact, Brigham Young indicated there is no other way: “In rendering… strict obedience, are we made slaves? No, it is the only way on the face of the earth for you and me to become free.” Contrary to the belief of many, obedience is not the antithesis of freedom, but the foundation of it.
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