Monday, November 15, 2010

Obedience Is the Highest Expression of Freedom

In studying on the topic of agency, I came across the following excerpt in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism,
Obedience expands agency, and the alternative to obedience is bondage.
Thus, in the LDS concept of agency, obedience and agency are not antithetical. On the one hand, Church leaders consistently stand against all coercion of conscience ("We are not disposed, had we the power, to deprive anyone of exercising…free independence of mind" [TPJS, p. 49]) and counsel Church members to depend first of all on themselves for decisions about the application of gospel principles. On the other hand, obedience-willing and energetic submission to the will of God even at personal sacrifice-is a central gospel tenet. Far from contradicting freedom, obedience is its highest expression. (emphasis added)
According to this quote, obedience and captivity are opposites; this seems odd, since both are basically the submission of our will to another being (one Christ and the other Satan).  However, as Nephi describes it,  captivity or bondage is the opposite of obedience.  In 2 Nephi 2:27, it's rather clear that we have two choices:
  1. "Liberty and eternal life, through [Jesus Christ]" - in other words, obedience to the laws and ordinances of Christ's gospel-, or
  2. "captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil"
My wife made the connection of this concept (the dichotomy of obedience and bondage) and the numerous times in the scriptures that the followers of Christ are exhorted to remember the captivity of their fathers. For instance, I'm currently reading in Mosiah 27. There an angel stops the sons of Mosiah and Alma the Younger from pursuing their destruction of the Church. He tells them in v.16,
Go, and remember the captivity of thy fathers in the land of Helam, and in the land of Nephi; and remember how great things he has done for them; for they were in bondage, and he has delivered them. And now I say unto thee, Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered, and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off.
The angel even goes as far as to tell these rebels that they will do as they are commanded ("seek to destroy the church no more") even if they would of their own choice be subject to the bonds of Satan, just as long as they didn't bring the church down with them, emphasizing their freedom to choose.  

Remembering both the physical and spiritual captivity of our fathers should allow us to better comprehend our agency.  We should be aware of the incapacity (lack of freedom) that existed while our fathers were in bondage, and that only through obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ are we free to become like our Redeemer is.  There is no such thing as "free to do whatever I want to do, with no restrictions or consequences"; even though today that is what is given as the most common definition of freedom.  Obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ is the highest expression of our personal freedom.

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