In my last article I wrote about liberty. I want to continue with the same theme today. We will discuss the following
- Rights and responsibilities
- Getting everything you want
- “Pretty” liberty
- Victimless liberty
- The Liberty you hate
- You are not born free
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the perfect law of liberty. It is calculated to lead man to the highest state of glory, and to exalt him in the presence of our Heavenly Father, “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” [James 1:17.]
Gospel Doctrine, 82
Rights and Responsibilities
I think as we talk about being free and having liberty we are lulled into thinking about only one side of the coin. We tend to focus on the rights side of the equation.
If you don’t vote you may someday lose your right to vote.
This classic line iterates the correlation between rights and responsibilities. With rights come responsibilities. The right to free speech comes with the responsibility to speak. We can not abdicate the responsibility away. I think sometimes we want to accept some rights and dismiss others. I believe I have a right to protect my life and as such, I have the right to defend myself by any means possible, which means I have the right to carry a gun for defense. My responsibility is to have someway of protecting myself. There are some who may say otherwise, but to think you have the right to free speech but not the right to defend yourself is ludicrous to me. Just remember when you say you have a right ask yourself what your responsibility is. By exercising your responsibility, you preserve your right.
“Obedience to the law of Christ is liberty.” (See D&C 88:21.)
Getting everything you want
Liberty does not mean you get everything you want. Getting everything you want means someone else did not get what they want, since there are finite resources. We all can’t get what we want. Liberty means you are able to pursue what you want or not at all, but it is up to you whether you succeed or not. As an example, if you want free medical care and they take money from me to provide for you, neither one of us have liberty. You are now being provided for and as such are subject to the entity providing the service. I am having my money taken from me, which means my work is not my own. Thinking you have the right to your wants at the expense of others is not liberty. I think it is theft.
Keeping what you earn is a surefire way to get more out of someone. If I say you get to keep what you worked for and not having 20-40% given to the government, how much more productive are you going to be? Liberty is the greatest motivator to the individual. The main reason the colonists moved here is they could own a piece of land and they were able to keep what they produces off of the land. They did not have to give some back to the Duke of the land. They were able to reap what they sowed. If they did not plant they received nothing. You have the freedom to receive an A or a F. Does this mean we leave those who received a F to go hungry? Of course not. But we do allow them to fail and then we come in and help them up. We do not prop them up. I get to decide who is worthy of my charity. I do not think it is right to take my money and give to whom YOU see fit. I of course will do all I can to help those in need as will you. We just want the choice to be able to do so.
Liberty is not always pretty. There will be people who choose to do things which are not in their best interest. They are going to do drug, make wrong choices, make religious choices, buy a fast car or whatnot. There are people when given to do what they want are not going to do what you would do. This is the point of liberty. The ability to choose for oneself. There will be failures, many of them. If you are not allowed to risk you are unable to receive a great reward. Some may choose poverty and some may choose to never give their money away. A society based on liberty is not utopia. It never will be, but it will be the greatest way to achieve your dreams and goals.
Brethren and sisters, let us be free. I contend—and I think I have a right to do so—that I am a free man, in accordance with my observance of the commandments of God. If I do wrong, I am in bondage to that wrong. If I commit sin, I am in bondage to that sin. If I transgress the laws of God, I am responsible before the Lord. But I contend that as to liberty, as to freedom of speech, freedom of will, freedom of action—as to everything that goes to make a free man in the midst of men, I do not believe there is another man on earth any freer than I am. Bless your soul, I can commit sin if I want to. I have as much liberty to commit sin as any man. No man has any right to commit sin; but all men have the liberty to do so if they will. God has given to them their agency. Is there any manhood displayed in my committing sin because I have liberty to do so? I have liberty to go to a saloon and drink liquor, if I choose, or go to a gambling [hall] and gamble. I possess just as much liberty in regard to these matters as any man living on earth. But the moment I should do such a thing as this I become a slave and a bondsman to iniquity. On the other hand, if I am not guilty of visiting saloons, or of playing cards, or of gambling, or of other crimes I am innocent of them and so far I am a free man. The truth has made me free in regard to this.
Joseph F. Smith, In Collected Discourses, 4:410–11
There is no such thing as a victimless crime. Liberty means a crime has a victim. For me to file assault charges, someone had to be assaulted. I think if you want to do something to yourself then it should not matter to me. If you want to abuse yourself then go ahead, as long as it does not encroach on the rights of others. I know you may say what about if this person is pregnant. Then we have laws for protecting the rights of that child. It’s rights are now being violated. I will always try to help those who have made wrong choices, but I will not make it illegal for you do so.
The liberty you hate
There are those who will do thing you hate. There will be things like how fast they drive, do they text while driving, they smoke, they will engage in activities you do not approve of. If you can not allow someone else to do something without it affecting you then you can’t live in liberty. You are still living in captivity.
If your happiness is dependent upon the actions of others you will always be a slave to them.
We need to let people make their own decisions without it affecting ourselves. I think debt is horrible and the surest way to enslave a person to another. This does not mean I think we should outlaw credit cards or debt. I try to give advice showing why I think debt is bad, but it does not mean we should not let people feel the repercussions of their own actions.
You are not born free
You are born into captivity. When you are born you are not allowed to do everything you want. Hopefully your parents were there to guide and show your the correct way to do things. As you get older you are allowed to make your own decisions and reap the reward or result. Eventually we understand liberty in its fullest as an adult, which is why we do not let our children do what they want. We have to understand as adults to help guide those around us toward a liberty lifestyle. This means we teach them how to grow food, how to get out of debt, become independent, make good decisions, show compassion and service to one another. The ability to choose for oneself is the greatest gift given to man. Used wisely it can promote the true worth of the individual, used poorly it can degrade the human being to nothing.
I ask you as a human being, what do you want? Do you want freedom to make your own decisions or do you want someone to tell you what to do? Do you want control the actions of others or let them decide for themselves what is best for them?
How is Liberty attained?
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.
Marion G. Romney, General Conference 1981
What does liberty mean to you?