Modern-day prophets discuss freedom (first in a series)

This is an excerpt from “The Law of the Harvest: As a Man Sows, So Shall He Reap.” Elder Howard W. Hunter. BYU Devotional. March 8, 1966.

From my own experience in business and as a lawyer and church worker, and from my firsthand observations in this country and other countries of the world, there appears to me to be a trend to shift responsibility for life and its processes from the individual to the state. In this shift there is a basic violation of the Law of the Harvest, or the law of justice. The attitude of “something for nothing” is encouraged. The government is often looked to as the source of wealth. There is the feeling that the government should step in and take care of one’s needs, one’s emergencies, and one’s future.

Just as my friend actually became a slave to his own ignorance and bad habits by refusing to accept the responsibility for his own education and moral growth, so, also, can an entire people be imperceptibly transferred from individuals, families, and communities to the Federal Government.

Right of Free Agency

The right to own and control private property is not only a human right; it is a divine right. We will largely be judged, if I understand the Savior’s teachings correctly (see Matthew 25), by how we use our property voluntarily for the blessings and benefit of our Father’s other children. President McKay continually teaches us that this right of free agency is our most precious heritage. It is our greatest gift in this world and is to be valued even more than life itself.

If you deprive a man of his right to fail in the righteous use of his property, you also deprive him of his right to succeed. If you remove from a man his right to “go to hell,” you likewise remove his free agency to go to heaven. Satan’s entire philosophy is based on a “something for nothing” philosophy: salvation without effort – a free gift. This counterfeit doctrine was rejected by God our Father. Our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ, accepted our Father’s plan and agreed to pay the infinite price to become our Savior and Redeemer and to show us the way back to the Father. The way is often the hard way. It is the Law of the Harvest. It is the same basic law in the spiritual realm which the farmer must obey in the physical realm. He plants in the spring and cultivates, waters, weeds, and nourishes the ground and its new life and then harvests in the fall.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ Restored

Christianity in its fulness and truth has been restored to the earth by direct revelation. The restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most significant fact since the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What was restored? In a very real sense, the true Law of the Harvest was restored – the law of justice, the law of mercy, the law of love. It was restored in a free country under the influence of a God-inspired Constitution which created a climate of freedom, opportunity and prosperity. The basic virtues of thrift, self-reliance, independence, enterprise, diligence, integrity, morality, faith in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ, were the principles upon which this, the greatest nation in the world, has been built. We must not sell this priceless, divine heritage which was largely paid for by the blood of patriots and prophets for a mess of pottage, for a counterfeit, a false doctrine parading under the cloak of love and compassion, of humanitarianism, even of Christianity.

Working on the Roots of Prosperity

Under a free enterprise economy, little more than 6 percent of the population has produced nearly half of the world’s goods. We can today best wage a war on poverty by working on the roots of prosperity, not by sapping their vital strength. To sap the self-reliant spirit of enterprising independent souls in the development of a welfare state can bring only “poverty equally divided.” When the responsibility for their own welfare is completely shifted from the shoulders of individuals and families to the state, a lethal blow is struck at both the roots of our prosperity and our moral growth.

What is the real cause of this trend toward the welfare state, toward more socialism? In the last analysis, in my judgment, it is personal unrighteousness. When people do not use their freedoms responsibly and righteously, they will gradually lose these freedoms.

Let me illustrate: If I, as an employer, in my policies and practices exploit my employees, I will either lose them and my business, or my employees will gather together and threaten to strike me. They will strive to exercise an influence on the legislative process so that laws will be enacted dictating fair employment policies and practices, thus limiting my freedom to determine these things for myself.

If man will not recognize the inequalities around him and voluntarily, through the gospel plan, come to the aid of his brother, as outlined by Brother Romney, he will find that through “a democratic process” he will be forced to come to the aid of his brother. The government will take from the “haves” and give to the “have nots.” Both have lost their freedom. Those who “have,” lost their freedom to give voluntarily of their own free will and in the way they desire. Those who “have not” lost their freedom because they did not earn what they received. They got “something for nothing,” and they will neither appreciate the gift nor the giver of the gift.

Vital Freedoms Endangered

Under this climate, people gradually become blind to what has happened and to the vital freedoms which they have lost – just as my friend, the student, was blind to what was really happening as he took the short­cut route through school, until one day he was caught up in a new reality, demanding far more than he was prepared to deliver.
Let me remind you of the first thing Cain said after he murdered Abel. In his blind fury and hatred and envy of his brother, he swore to himself and to Satan in secret that he would kill his brother because Abel’s offering in righteousness was accepted by the Lord where his own was not. Listen carefully:

And Cain went into the field, and Cain talked with Abel, his brother. And it came to pass that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him.

And Cain gloried in that which he had done,saying: [Now listen to this.] I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands.

And the Lord said unto Cain: Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said: I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper? (Moses 5:32–34.)

Cain said that he was free. How deceived he was. In fact, he became a slave.

A thief takes something and gives nothing. He thinks he is free but sooner or later his freedom vanishes into walls and bars. Likewise, a person becomes a thief of his own soul by deceiving himself that he can live unrighteously, immorally, that he can cheat, lie, and take advantage of his neighbor; but all the while he is imprisoning himself behind bars and walls of his own making. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked.” (Galatians 6:7.)

Freedom Through Personal Righteousness

Dear students, the only way we can keep our freedom is through our personal righteousness – by handling that freedom responsibly. We are our brother’s keeper. We must be concerned for the social problems of today. We must take that responsibility upon ourselves according to the gospel plan but not according to the socialistic plan.

You know that it is vain and foolish for a doctor to criticize the symptoms of a disease and refuse to work upon the roots. So, also, it is superficial to only criticize socialism and the welfare state and the many other evil “isms” growing up among us unless we work upon the roots. Thousands of you here have served missions. You worked upon the roots. It is only in the changing of a man’s heart – a second birth – the changing of an individual, that the root strength comes to change a people or a nation.

Righteousness, Responsibility, Freedom

I sincerely hope that the net effect of this message this morning is that each of us, each of you, will be ever more determined to live righteously. Why? Because righteousness and freedom are inseparable, just as respon­sibility and freedom are inseparable.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

4 thoughts on “Modern-day prophets discuss freedom (first in a series)

  1. The more interesting question to me is not what they said then, but why aren’t they saying it now — and what are they saying instead? I don’t think Pres. Hinckley, Monson, Packer, etc. don’t hold these same values anymore. As you can see bits of it peeking through in some of their statements as well as the other authorities.

    But why aren’t they preaching it now? And what are they preaching instead?

    I know this is tangential to your post, but nothing short of a pronouncement tomorrow from Pres. Monson will convince those in the church on the other side of the debate on these things, and even that will be parsed and disagreed with as much as issues of gay marriage, etc.

    So why not now? Because I think they recognize it would uncomfortably and perhaps uselessly and needlessly put the church in the position which is antagonistic to most governments and most society. Not only would proselyting in many countries become much difficult, but I think we’d see some of those antagonistic things coming to pass in OD1. For those that think their political compatriots are above using the power of argument and reason to confiscate the property of their detractors, you don’t really understand your position anyway (which is to use the power of reason and argument to confiscate property).

    But the why’s are tough to answer. The what’s are easy to answer. And I’ll suggest that the “What are they teaching now” gives hints at the answer of “Why aren’t they teaching that anymore”.

    Let thy bowels be full of charity to all men and the household of the faith and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly. Then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God and the *doctrines of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul* as the dews from heaven.

    I’m not sure how much this is expressly thought of this way by the Brethren, but my own realization is that in conference we get taught basically two things over and over and over again — charity (pure love of Christ) and virtue. I think when we learn those things, we can indeed have the doctrines of the priesthood (such as free agency/freedom to choose) distill upon our souls, not too mention other doctrines.

    At least this was my personal answer to a prayer wondering why it seems doctrine was not so much the focus in so many talks from so many wonderful servants of the Lord who could talk for hours and hours expounding on doctrines of the priesthood. Every now and then we get a glimpse of what they can and do say regarding true doctrine (agency issues, as well as other doctrinal ones).

    But my feeling is they have such a limited amount of time, we have such a limited span of attention, that they say those things which will be for our most good. So while I love this talk. I have to think about why talks like this aren’t given anymore and why others are given in their stead. I think we’ll see a talk like this some day… but I hope that we’ve progressed individually as a people to embody the twin principles of charity and virtue in order to be prepared to receive it.

  2. Chris, please excuse me, but I think you may be reading Elder Hunter’s talk a bit wrong (just a bit). His talk, is about reaping what you sow, meaning if you are not personally charitable you get state-enforced welfare, which decreases the freedom of everybody. His talk is more a call to repentance for people who don’t act charitably than it is your typical right-wing diatribe against statism (although that is clearly part of the message). In my opinion, that message has definitely NOT changed in the last few decades since 1966.

    Now, having said that, the other part of your message is that the GAs seem to have toned down their anti-statism message in general, and that is certainly true. The early 1960s were a time of great warnings about the evils of Communism and socialism, from ETB and many other (including President McKay, btw). We don’t hear that as much these days. But there are some warnings out there. Let me give you a few.

    “The Book of Mormon narrative is a chronicle of nations long since gone. But in its descriptions of the problems of today’s society, it is as current as the morning newspaper and much more definitive, inspired, and inspiring concerning the solutions of those problems. I know of no other writing which sets forth with such clarity the tragic consequences to societies that follow courses contrary to the commandments of God. Its pages trace the stories of two distinct civilizations that flourished on the Western Hemisphere. Each began as a small nation, its people walking in the fear of the Lord. But with prosperity came growing evils. The people succumbed to the wiles of ambitious and scheming leaders who oppressed them with burdensome taxes, who lulled them with hollow promises, who countenanced and even encouraged loose and lascivious living. These evil schemers led the people into terrible wars that resulted in the death of millions and the final and total extinction of two great civilizations in two different eras.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, First Presidency Message, Ensign, August 2005)

    February 2006 Ensign magazine, had an article written by Elder Shirley D Christensen of the Seventy, entitled, “I, the Lord God, Make You Free.” In it he said;
    “Are we doing all that we should to preserve freedom wherever we live? …The Lord has placed upon His children the responsibility of preserving their precious freedoms.”

    In December 2007 the Church produced a video called, “Why is it important for Church members to participate in the political process?” In the video, Elder Ballard says, “The very fundamental principle of freedom is absolutely essential for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to prosper… (T)hat principle of sustaining the Constitution… is a very, very important principle and has been taught since the very beginning in the history of our Church.”

    In the October 2008 General Conference, President Boyd K. Packer teaches us the vital lesson that the Lord “established the Constitution of this land”.

    You are correct that we no longer get the thunderings against Communism and Socialism. But we DO get reminders to be personally charitable. We get reminders to be self-reliant (the Church just sent out that reminder against on June 1, 2011). We get reminders that we should preserve freedom and the Constitution. So, the situation has not changed that radically, imho.

    Barb, exactly. But we need to get away from the idea that failure is the most horrible thing in the world. Failure can make you stronger and help you succeed in later endeavors. If you have the freedom to succeed and fail, you also have the freedom to achieve new heights of success. Sometimes the only way to do that is to learn from our mistakes.

  3. Hi Geoff,
    “meaning if you are not personally charitable you get state-enforced welfare, which decreases the freedom of everybody.”
    I agree. But I think we’ve practically lost that battle as a society. We did end up with state-enforced welfare and I’m not sure it could be turned back without first a generation or three of preaching and following…. charity and virtue.

    “But we DO get reminders to be personally charitable.”

    That was the point of the scripture I quoted… it seems like what we get in conference is really what we need to become — saints who embody charity and virtue. Charity both as the pure love of Christ and looking to him and his atonement as well as how we can become more like him in embodying all the aspects of charity.

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