John 1:1-4– (part 4) Freedom is necessary for Truth/Light/Love/Joy/Friendship — LeGrand Baker

The proposition is that we are only free to the degree that we assimilate truth and become a person of pure truth/light/love/joy/friendship (hesed). As I wrote in part 3, love is what we exude, while friendship in its purest form is a love developed as a covenant priesthood fellowship. (A temple sealing may also be described in those terms.) In Psalm 23 that hesed relationship began in the Council in Heaven and continues to the present. In Psalm 25 and 1 John 1:1-4 it is an eternal covenant fellowship with each other and with the Savior and his Father. {1}

Agency is the power to make considered choices and to act upon those choices. If we do not have that power we are nothing. The Lord said without agency we could not exist.

29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
30 All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence (D&C 93:29-30).

The scriptures tell us that there was a war in heaven, and agency was the issue.

3 Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unt o him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down (Moses 4:3).

How Satan proposed to “destroy the agency of man” without causing everything, including himself, to cease to exist, we can only conjecture. He could not have had a rational plan, but only led a rebellion by touting mindless and self-indulgent pipe-dreams and promises that could never be fulfilled. An interesting description of that conflict is in the Prophet’s poetic version of Section 76. Joseph wrote,

And I saw and bear record of warfare in heaven;
For an angel of light, in authority great,
Rebcll’d against Jesus and sought for his power,
But was thrust down to woe from his godified state.

And the heavens all wept, and the tears dropp’d like dew,
That Lucifer, son of the morning, had fell!
Yea, is fallen! is fallen and become, oh, alas!
The son of perdition, the devil of hell! {2}

After that issue was settled, the earth was created and Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden. Lehi explained that two great sacrifices were then necessary to secure our freedom. The first was the fall, and the second was the Savior’s Atonement.

24 But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself (2 Nephi 2:24-27).

I have a dear friend who observes that we sin because it is pleasurable and seems to be in our best interest. We continue to sin until we discover that it is ultimately more hurtful than satisfying. When we acknowledge that we can begin to repent. Otherwise we sink into an ever increasing dependence on the pursuit of what we perceive as pleasure. The Savior explained the consequences.

34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever (John 8:34-35).

The servitude strengthens as the urgency of our pursuit of advantage or pleasure increases. Even though the outcome may appear to ourselves and others to be a great success, the price is overwhelming. It presents a counterfeit triumph. It drains our ability to see reality and prevents us from being in total control of our own destiny (“my … is my life!”). To the degree that we surrender our Selves to that pursuit, to that same degree we forfeit control of our Self, and to that degree we become slaves to the pursuit of our advantage or pleasure, and to that degree we cannot be free.

There are three necessary conditions prerequisite to freedom. They are:

1. The first is that one must not be for sale. If there is a price for which one will sell oneself (money, fame, power, or anything else this world might offer), then when that price is met, one sells one’s freedom and becomes a slave. That is especially true when one seeks pleasure or preeminence and surrenders his Self in anticipation of receiving the prize. One can only be free if he can not be bribed. And no one can be bribed by being offered that which he does not desire.

2. The second is that one must not be intimidateible. If one is afraid, he is not free, but is restrained to act within the limits of his perceived safety. In contrast, our personal freedom is a gift of the Spirit. The Holy Ghost teaches reality and what is of eternal worth. One cannot be intimidated by threats of forfeiting something that is only of secondary personal value.

3. The third is that one must have sufficient accurate information to make correct decisions. Otherwise he may be free to guess, based on what he knows or thinks he knows, but he is not free to choose, based on “truth” as defined by reality. In most of our decisions in this life we cannot foresee the consequences, but we can observe the consequences of similar decisions made by other people. If we are wise, those observations greatly enhance our own freedom to choose rather than only to guess. The kind of freedom that is most important is the power to be one’s Self. It is the freedom Joseph exercised while he was in prison. (That example works whether one refers to the biblical Joseph or to Parley P. Pratt’s description of the Prophet Joseph in Liberty Jail) It is the freedom Abinadi exercised throughout his trial and execution.

The first two conditions mentioned above lead to either freedom or servitude, depending on one’s own integrity. But they are entirely inadequate, by themselves, to assure one’s personal freedom. If one’s perception of truth is flawed, and if one is determined to support his false beliefs, then integrity can turn on itself to justify self-gratification and self-aggrandizement. Truth generates charity, not pride. Pride erodes freedom. Thus to be free, a person must know the truth about himself and about the purposes of God, and must have the integrity to be true to both. {3}

Alma taught that to his son Corianton who had found pleasure in self-indulgence.

10 Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.
11 And now, my son, all men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness (Alma 41:10-11).

In a very real sense, wickedness is a product of ignorance. Some people never have a chance in this life, but will after death. I am not talking about those people. I am talking about people like Corianton who had been taught better, but apparently chose not to understand. Self-imposed ignorance is a dangerous choice, just as Alma warned Zeezrom,

9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God;

“Mystery,” as it is used both in the New Testament and in the Book of Mormon, can mean either the secrets of the sode experience or the secrets of the ancient temple drama. In this context, it could mean either. {4} Alma continues,

nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. [It is the learner, not the teacher who controls this conversation.]
10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this [that is, one’s choosing to not know the blessings of the ancient temple] is what is meant by the chains of hell (Alma 12:9-11).

In Book of Mormon theology the afterlife offers only two choices. Either we will be where God is, or we will be somewhere else. What Alma is saying is those who will not accept the blessings of the Nephite temple will not be where God is. He calls their choosing that option “the chains of hell.”

Paul taught the same thing, very succinctly.

23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). {5}

One of the greatest deterrents of personal freedom is personal pride. Just as sin can erode our sense of Self, so pride can enshroud our Selves within a fantasy so that even we cannot perceive our own reality. Just as we can become servants of sin, so we can become servants of the illusion that is pride. Both sin and pride use up our energy and our resources. Because pride is a counterfeit that hides our real selves from even our own eyes, and pretends to hide our inadequacies from the eyes of others, pride disables our ability to know ourselves. Then, because we are not what we pretend to be, we work to perfect and enhance the illusion that is not real rather than trying to perfect the Self that we no longer recognize as real.

Then, notwithstanding all that work to create a wonderful facade, it will be our Self, not the facade, that will stand before God to be judged. Alma describes what happens then.

14 For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence (Alma 12:14).

Freedom is having the power to be one’s Self, and using that power to be true to the eternal law of one’s own being. Freedom is both the cause and the effect of our accepting the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement to the perfection of our own truth/light/love/joy/friendship relationships.

This rationale leaves us with the ultimate question. If personal freedom is dependent on the maturation and perfection of our truth/light/love/joy/friendship; and if sin and pride preclude that freedom by distorting our sense of truth about our Selves; then how can we learn through experiencing both good and evil, and still avoid going to hell?

The answer is two fold. The first is the Savior’s Atonement which enables our repentance. The second is the Holy Ghost which teaches truth and invites us to repent. The psalmist understood that, when he wrote this beautiful phrase, “in thy light shall we see light.” In this magnificent psalm, the first four and last two verses are about the dangers of pride. In contrast, verses 5-10 are full of ancient Israelite temple code. I’ll point out that code in the footnote. {6}

1 The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.
2 For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful.
3 The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good.
4 He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil.

5 Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.
6 Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O Lord, thou preservest man and beast.
7 How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.
8 They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.
9 For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.
10 O continue thy lovingkindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to the upright in heart.

11 Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hand of the wicked remove me.
12 There are the workers of iniquity fallen: they are cast down, and shall not be able to rise (Psalms 36:1-12).

The assimilation of truth was the origin of our cognizance as intelligences and was the source of our light. Our appreciation of the truth/light in others caused our own light to grow and initiated bonds of love/charity/friendship/hesed with other intelligent beings. However, as we matured we had to discover how we could find our own personal fulfillment. If it would be by indulgent pleasure and by using others to one’s own advantage, then the truth/light/love/friendship/freedom that defines one’s Self either could not develop properly, or may have even deteriorated. Our inability to be free responds to that decision.

In contrast, if we found fulfillment by blessing others and being blessed by them, then our truth/light/love would grew together with them, like two logs in the bonfire burn more brightly when they exchange each other’s heat and light.

If free agency is necessary to our very existence, then in neither theory nor fact can freedom be distinguished from truth/light/love/friendship. They may be identified as a single unit, or separately, but they are all simply different ways we have of describing our personal power, and that power is to be alive.

Now, in this world, we are still engaged in this maturation process that takes us from intelligences toward becoming celestial beings. Because of the enabling power of the Atonement and because of our own integrity; our truth, light, love, joy, friendship, and freedom all become self-purifying agents. They give us an abundance of life. We grow within the environment and by the power of the Savior’s light which enlightens our minds and enriches our lives. The Holy Ghost teaches truth and is, therefore, an instrument that enables us to mature into celestial beings. Only then will we find absolute freedom.

31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
…..
36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed (John 8:26-36).
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FOOTNOTES

{1} For more on the eternal importance of hesed, see “Psalm 23″ and “Psalm 25″ in the scriptures section of this website. For further discussion see my post, “Ether 12:27 – weakness, strength, and humility & pistis, hesed, and charity.”

{2} A Vision by The Prophet Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, February 1, 1843. See D&C 76:25-27.

{3} For further discussion see my posts, “Jacob 4:12-13 — LeGrand Baker — Truth and Freedom,” which is the source of the quote, and “Jacob 2:18-22 — LeGrand Baker– pride is a dangerous illusion.”

{4} Sode is a Hebrew word that means the secret deliberations and decisions of a council. In the Old Testament it is frequently translated as “secret.” The Greek mysterion, is translated as “mystery” in the New Testament. Strong # 3466 reads, “musterion, ‘mystery’ (through the idea of silence imposed by initiation into religious rites).” It can refer to premortal temple rites as in Ephesians 1, but usually refers to early Christian temple services.

A “sode experience” is a vision in which the prophet is returned to the Council and taught afresh what assignment he was given, and under what circumstances he is to fulfill it while in mortality.

It is likely that when sode was found on the gold plates of the Book of Mormon, it was translated mystery when it meant the Nephite temple rites and secrets when it meant something unholy, like “secret combination.”

For a more complete explanation see the chapter called “Sode Experience: Returning to the Council in Heaven,” in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, paperback edition, 139-148

{5} It is a two-sided coin. There is a negative side to that coin, people who are defined by darkness rather than light resent, or hate, and persecute those who exude light. Thus the Savior said,

10 And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake;
12 For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you (3 Nephi 12:10-12).

The Savior also taught:

18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God (John 3:18-21).

Evidence of that negative reaction is easily found in the murders of the Savior, his apostles, Abinadi, Joseph Smith and many of his friends, and countless other righteous people.

{6} The words in italic are Hebrew. Each is discussed at length in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord. Check the subject index to locate them there. The coronation ceremony mentioned in verse 7 is also discussed in the book.

Here is the identification of the Israelite temple code I promised.

5 Thy mercy [hesed, “unfailing love based on a prior covenant], O Lord, is in the heavens [eternal]; and thy faithfulness ]keeping covenants] reacheth unto the clouds. [both are infinite and eternal]
6 Thy righteousness [zedek] is like the great mountains [temple]; thy judgments are a great deep [infinite]: O Lord, thou preservest man and beast.
7 How excellent is thy lovingkindness [hesed], O God! therefore the children of men put their trust [there can be no trust if there is not a prior covenant or contract] under the shadow of thy wings [cherubim wings that overshadow the throne of God in the Holy of Holies, and only the adopted sons of God may sit under those wings. The phrase represents sacral kingship and priesthood] .
8 They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness [richness of blessings] of thy house [Temple]; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. [Waters of Life, that, with the bread of life, is our sacrament]
9 For with thee is the fountain of life [for Nephi that fountain represented the love of God]: in thy light [shechinah] shall we see light [It is God whom one sees when standing within the veil, the shechinah].
10 O continue thy lovingkindness [hesed] unto them that know [that word means to know intimately] thee; and thy righteousness [zedek] to the upright in heart [the heart was believed to be the seat of both the intellect and the emotions].

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