On Freedom and Agency (with an LDS perspective)
November 2, 2008
The below opinion piece is mine alone and I take responsibility for the words written. It is written out of frustration from the apathy and entitlement mentality in our society that, if unchecked, will eventually result in the downfall of our nation. The purpose of this article is to promote freedom of choice and to have people carefully elect politicians that will support limited government and maximum freedom.
"How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think."--Adolf Hitler
- LDS Pre-Mortal Doctrine
- Satan's Socialism
- The War Continues Today
- LDS are Deceived Today
- The Difference between Socialism and the United Order
- The Proper Role of Government
- The Law
- Socialism in our Society
- Solving Socialism
- A Beginning Freedom Library
- My Own Political Views
A lot of things have crossed my email account recently concerning a number of issues that are all important things to consider. I feel like sharing a bit of LDS theology to help explain why I believe these things are all related. First, lets look at a quick list of what's going on right now.
- Banking Crisis
- California's Proposition 8 to protect families
- Major presidential candidates both overstepping the bounds of the constitution
- Bailouts by our congress embrace socialism and reject the constitution
In the debate over the rechartering of the bank bill in 1809, Thomas Jefferson said:
"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies . . . If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] . . . will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered . . . The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs."
And a quote from James Madison:
"If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may appoint teachers in every state, county and parish and pay them out of their public treasure; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision of the poor. . . . Were the power of Congress to be established in the latitude contended for [and it was an issue then], it would subvert the very foundations, and transmute the very nature of the limited Government established by the people of America."
It has never been more obvious how inspired and enlightened our Founding Fathers were. The crisis today could have been completely avoided if people just looked to our Founder's original intent in establishing the constitution and actually followed it.
LDS Pre-Mortal Doctrine
To understand the nature of why things are coming down upon us at this time, I'd like to share a story. To members of the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter Day Saints (ie. Mormons), our beliefs extend not only into an after-life, but also to a pre-mortal life where we all lived together as children of Heavenly parents. Their love and concern for us was the perfect example of a home (with a whole lot of children :)).
As their spirit children, we admired and loved and honored them, and wanted to become like them. They had the advantage of a physical body that was capable of doing things we could not do as only spirit beings. In order to become like them, our Heavenly Father explained to us that we would need to go through an experience on an earth just like others of his spirit children had done on countless other worlds he had created. The experience would be a test where a "veil" would be drawn over our minds in such a way that we would forget our life with God from our pre-mortal realm while on the earth so that we could be properly tested in how we would live by the light we were able to obtain. As a help for us, the Holy Ghost would be provided to enlighten us and help us "remember" from time to time, commandments and lessons we were taught in our first heavenly home.
However, in going down to earth and being outside the presense of God, we would not live perfect lives. Sin would entice us and acts of sin would prevent us from ever returning home to God. In order for this to work, we would need a way for us to overcome sin. Heavenly Father's plan for our happiness would be frustrated if we didn't have a valid way to satisfy eternal laws that would prevent imperfect beings from entering heaven.
Jesus Christ came forward and volunteered to come to earth and be a sacrifice for all mankind. His pre-mortal perfection would carry forward here and enable him to live a sinless life and atone for the sins of others so that they in turn could be clean by relying on his sacrifice.
Then Lucifer (Satan) came forward, a Son of the Morning (before his fall), and said it's not fair that only some people will be saved under this proposal. He argued some would not repent and keep the commandments to enable them to return to heaven, so they will be cast out of Heavenly Fathers presence forever. Satan volunteered to be in charge of this plan and ensure that not one soul would be lost. He would merely force every soul to choose the right and thus prevent sin and enable all of God's children to return home again. (Read Moses 4:1-4)
This plan was enticing to many of our brothers and sisters because everyone would make it back. Many people wanted the guarantee of safety that they could return if they left God's presence. The clincher to Satan's plan was, because he was going to save everyone and do something God himself couldn't do, he wanted God to step down and give Satan the glory and honor for doing such a work.
This treasonous act got Satan and 1/3rd of the hosts of heaven expelled after a war of ideas in which we fought for the right to think and act for ourselves (Revelation 12:4-11). Agency and individual responsibility are at the core of every soul. Satan's desire to turn heaven into communism was rejected, and he and his fallen angels were cast out here to earth to provide the opposition for the test we all experience in life. We are constantly presented with truth and light, and tempted by falsehoods and darkness, and it is up to us to choose the light over darkness, God over the devil.
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
- Benjamin Franklin
The War Continues Today
Now that this groundwork is laid, it is easier to understand the challenges we face today because it is the same battle. Our Founding Fathers understood freedom issues and were inspired by God to create a constitution that would enable mankind to live free and achieve anything they worked for. In LDS scriptures, we read a revelation given to Joseph Smith from the Lord that supports this notion (Doctrine & Covenants 101).
77 According to the laws and constitution of the people, which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles;
78 That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.
79 Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.
80 And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.
The battles we face today are nothing more than a diabolical plan to lull us to sleep under the guise that government is taking care of our problems for us. This was Satan's scheme in the beginning, and it has played out into every aspect of our lives today.
Politicians cry "but we must do this because...it's for the general welfare..." No it's not. Please reread James Madison's quote at the top of this page, one of our Founders that specifically warned us against the misuse of that clause. If something doesn't benefit every single citizen (such as having a joint military that protects every single citizen), then a plan to help the poor on the backs of the rich isn't constitutional and was never part of what our Founding Fathers wanted. It's just that simple.
If the constitution were followed today, I believe over 90% of society's problems would vanish because people would take responsibility for their own actions. Unburdened people would be even more charitable because they wouldn't be forced to give and could do it from the good of their own heart.
The Difference between Socialism and the United Order
Even among LDS people that understand Satan's pre-mortal battle, many are seduced by the promises of socialism. Sometimes, they have read something about what is called the "United Order" and become confused thinking that they are related. They are not. In fact, when properly understood, they are close to polar opposites.
This is not to say that LDS people are in any way insensitive to those who are down on their luck or suffering in other ways. In fact, the LDS church has one of the largest and most effective humanitarian programs in the world. The members of the church give without being forced to give and out of their generosity flow millions of dollars a year in food and clothing and other forms of help to people all over the world. The key here is that Christ preached sermons to people, not governments. It is not government's job to be compassionate, but to provide maximum freedom so that individuals can fulfill their responsibility to lift a brother or sister in need.
Two powerful talks on the differences between socialism and communism, and the LDS concept of the United Order are:
"Is Socialism the United Order?" by Marion G. Romney in LDS General Conference of 1966
A Vision and a Hope for the Youth of Zion by Ezra Taft Benson given at BYU in 1977
Knowing that most readers of this page won't read these talks I would like to share a couple of relevant quotes from them. Quoting from President Benson's talk:
On July 3, 1936, the First Presidency published this warning to Church members. I quote it in part; I hope you will get a copy of the full statement for your files. In part, the statement reads:
. . . Communism is not a political party, nor a political plan under the Constitution; it is a system of government that is the opposite of our Constitutional government. . . .
Since Communism, established, would destroy our American Constitutional government, to support Communism is treasonable to our free institutions, and no patriotic American citizen may become either a Communist or supporter of Communism.
To our Church members we say, Communism is not the United Order, and bears only the most superficial resemblance thereto. Communism is based upon intolerance and force, the United Order upon love and freedom of conscience and action. . . .
Communists cannot establish the United Order, nor will Communism bring it about. . . .
Communism being thus hostile to loyal American citizenship and incompatible with true Church membership, of necessity no loyal American citizen and no faithful Church member can be a Communist.
We call upon all Church members completely to eschew [and shun] Communism. The safety of our divinely inspired Constitutional government and the welfare of our Church imperatively demand that Communism shall have no place in America.
President Heber J. Grant
J. Reuben Clark, Jr.
David O. McKay
The First Presidency
Another from President Benson (emphasis mine):
Another notable counterfeit system to the Lord's plan is collectivized socialism. Socialism derives its philosophy from the founders of communism, Marx and Engels. Communism in practice is socialism. Its purpose is world socialism, which the communists seek to achieve by revolution, and which the socialists seek to achieve by evolution. Both communism and socialism have the same effect upon the individual--a loss of personal liberty. As was said so well by President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., "The two are as two peas in a pod in their ultimate effect upon our liberties."
Why is socialism incompatible with man's liberty? Socialism cannot work except through an all-powerful state. The state has to be supreme in everything. When individuals begin to exert their God-given rights, the state has to suppress that freedom. So belief in God must be suppressed, and with that gone freedom of conscience and religion must also go. Those are the first of our liberties mentioned in the Bill of Rights.
There are some among us who would confuse the united order with socialism. That is a serious misunderstanding. It is significant to me that the Prophet Joseph Smith, after attending lectures on socialism in his day, made this official entry in the Church history: "I said I did not believe the doctrine" (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 6:33).
Ezra Taft Benson also served as the Secretary of Agriculture under President Eisenhower. On one occasion he was to play host to Soviet President Kruschev. Click here for a short audio clip of his experience.
The Proper Role of Government
Is there a place for government influence in our lives? Certainly. The 12th article of faith of the LDS church states:
"We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law."
Quoting from LDS scriptures:
1 WE believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.
2 We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.
President Ezra Taft Benson wrote a wonderful document during his tenure as Agriculture secretary entitled "The Proper Role of Government". It is one of the best summary documents on what constitutional government should and should not get involved in.
The great French philosopher Frederick Bastiat wrote one of the most important books of all time called, "The Law". The purpose of the book was to make the case against socialism as it was rapidly being embraced in France. He stated that life, liberty and property are gifts from God and precede legislation and are superior to it. Men make laws to protect these things, and they don't exist because of laws. We have a natural right to lawful defense of these things and the law is the organization of that force.
However, when people create laws that make plundering legal, such as wealth redistribution, it creates an injustice and internal conflict within moral people. On the one hand these moral people recognize that they would never allow someone to steal from their neighbor, but on the other hand the law has made it legal preventing their efforts at protecting property. Here is how Bastiat put it:
"How is . . . legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.
Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. If such a law--which may be an isolated case--is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system."
Individuals that believe society's problems should be solved by government intervention and redistribution of wealth violate God's commandment to not covet our neighbor's property. The ends do not justify the means. Mans freedom to choose cannot be violated without consequences.
" 'Thou shalt not covet' means that it is sinful even to contemplate the seizure of another man's goods -- which is something which Socialists, whether Christian or otherwise, have never managed to explain away." - John Chamberlain, The Roots of Capitalism 
Bastiat said there were three ways to solve the question of legal plunder.
- The few plunder the many (the Democrat's class envy strategy)
- Everybody plunders everybody (the Republican's strategy at social programs)
- Nobody plunders anybody (a Free People's Choice)
Bastiat also said the fatal flaw in mankind is the desire to set ourselves above others to arrange, organize, and regulate them. This ties directly back to Satan's desire to force us into choosing the right and destroys the moral agency God gave mankind.
Far too many politicians and other people in authority get the notion that with their power comes the responsibility to wield it forcibly, rather than properly understanding that when government's hand is light upon the people, they have no reason to rebel. Happy are the people whose government doesn't burden them. They have no cause to complain about the government.
Bastiat's writings are brilliant and I strongly encourage you to get a copy for yourself or read it online.
Socialism in Our Society
"READILY and, I trust, feelingly acknowledge the duty incumbent on us all . . . to provide for those who, in the mysterious order of Providence, are subject to want and to disease of body or mind; but I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for making the Federal Government the great almoner of public charity throughout the United States" . . . .
- President Franklin Pierce,
From a veto message in 1854
What are examples of socialism in our society today? They are all around us. The easiest to see are the banking bailouts that have just occurred. Government stepped in and said, "we can't let these poor companies that made bad decisions go down or it would hurt our economy. For the good of the nation, we will pay off their debts and in fact help manage the company's assets." This is pure socialism and government control of production.
Another example is the education system today. Our Founding Fathers were well aware of the dangers of state run education. Karl Marx was the one to put "free public education" into his 10 Points of the Communist Manifesto. Why? Because when government assumes the responsibility of an action, they also assume they are all knowing and whatever they deem important to teach will taught in the classroom. Education thus turns into indoctrination and every law the state deems valid will be taught to the children without parental warning or intervention. This can be clearly seen in the case of the Parker family in Massacheusetts where their Kindergartener was given a "diversity" bookbag containing childrens stories explaining how gay families are normal. When the father went to the school to complain and learn how to opt his child out, he was arrested and put in jail. (link to video) Social reformists have no tolerance for dissent. Satan didn't in the beginning and his forces here on earth want freedom of choice to disappear here as well.
C.S. Lewis wrote an amazing document as a satire on the American education establishment called, "Screwtape Proposes a Toast". I have some clips from the document here on my site, but I strongly encourage you to read this brilliant work when you get a moment.
What is the answer? It is to take upon yourself the education of your children. I'm not saying you need to homeschool them (yet anyway), but it's up to you to get involved and learn what they're learning, and teach them what they're not being taught.
One big thing they're not learning is everything about the principles of freedom that established this great country. We don't have much time before we completely embrace socialism, or worse, turn to communism. We must teach our children the core principles and original intent of the constitution as our Founders were raised up by God to create it.
The Constitution of the Republic of the United States of America is the ultimate law God created to provide for the freedom of all people. Through a modern-day prophet God said:
5 And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.
6 Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;
7 And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil.
That law of our land is being assaulted daily from international powers as well as enemies within our own country. Traitors and despots to freedom. The only hope we have is to learn what freedom means and what principles it is founded upon. To that end I provide a starting list of books I have read or have on my reading list that provide these principles in plainness and clarity. May they inspire you as they have me and provide an appreciation for the sacrifice and goodness of our Founding Fathers who saw beyond their years with Godlike vision. Truly they "more than self their country loved".
A Beginning Freedom Library
Some of these can be obtained at the National Center for Constitutional Studies website. Some others can be obtained at Cleon Skousen's book website.
Books authored or co-authored by Cleon Skousen
The 5,000 Year Leap--the 26 principles of freedom our Founding Fathers used in establishing the constitution
The Making of America--analysis of every line of the constitution
The Real Thomas Jefferson (one of the best books I've read and I think my favorite founding father. The book shows how he was accused but didn't father any children with a slave)
The Real George Washington
The Real Benjamin Franklin
The Majesty of God's Law
The Law by Frederick Bastiat (I cannot emphasize how meaningful this tiny book is. It will give you a solid understanding of why government interference in the lives of citizens, leads to problems, not solutions.)
Free to Choose by Milton Friedman
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
When Bill Bennett was asked by Glenn Beck what books he would put in a freedom library he replied "The Federalist Papers" and "Huckleberry Finn" (for it's portrayal of American life).
My Own Political Views
So where do I stand politically and economically? I am in favor of agency and personal choice. I favor mankind being unfettered from the chains of government and being free to choose what they will produce without onerous governmental restrictions. I am a capitalist in the pure sense. Greed doesn't work, but people won't waste their time producing unless there is an opportunity to benefit personally from it. From that personal benefit I believe mankind is inherently good and when guided by moral teachings and more particularly the commandments of God, they are capable of producing societies that come close to heaven on earth wherein there are no poor because they have chosen to love their brother as their self.