John 8:31-36 — the truth shall make you free — LeGrand Baker

There are always physical, political, cultural, and economic restraints that prevent us from doing what we want to do. This discussion is not about those. It is about the strengths that make us free. It is also about the conditions we impose upon our Selves that take away our own ability to see, to hear, to empathize, and to BE.

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.
33 They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?

The historical fact was that the Jews had been ruled by foreign powers ever since the reign of Zedekiah, 600 years earlier, and still, at that time they were ruled by the Romans.

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.
36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed (John 8:31-36).

Paul added:

22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:22-23).

TRUTH — The definition of truth is given by the Savior:

24 And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
25 And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.
26 The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
27 And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.
28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things (D&C 93:24-28)

Truth is knowledge of reality in sacred time. Example: That Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of his Father is an eternal truth.

For the sake of this paper only, I would like to define two other words. These definitions do not hold in all instances, but in this essay I use them this way so we will be on the same page and can communicate.

TRUE is our perception of reality in linear time. Example: I attended church last Sunday is true, but would not be quite as true if I slept through most of the meetings. In either case my being in the building is hardly an eternal truth.

SIN, as I wish to use the word here, is also defined in the quote above.

25 And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.

An example of something that is more than truth is the notion that God saves everybody.

8 And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God (2 Nephi 28:8).

An example of something that is less than truth:

5 And they deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men (2 Nephi 28:5).

One’s being unmovable in believing what is currently accepted as true may deflect his ability to know what is eternal truth. Sin (as I use it here) is believing something that is false—a greater sin is acting on it—an even greater sin is imposing that belief on others, insisting that they believe and that they live according to its rules. Alma described it in simple economic terms.

41 Therefore, if a man bringeth forth good works he hearkeneth unto the voice of the good shepherd, and he doth follow him; but whosoever bringeth forth evil works, the same becometh a child of the devil, for he hearkeneth unto his voice, and doth follow him.
42 And whosoever doeth this must receive his wages of him; therefore, for his wages he receiveth death, as to things pertaining unto righteousness, being dead unto all good works (Alma 5:41-42)

——

Our ability to be free agents hinges on a number of conditions. They all revolve on our integrity and our knowing what is real. Again, I am not talking about physical or cultural restraints that limit our freedom; I am only talking about the restraints we do or do not impose upon our Selves. Those qualities are:

(1) To not be bribable – If we can be bribed with money, popularity, power, or adulation, or whatever else strokes our pride, we are not free. As soon as someone meets the price (pay our wages, as Alma said), to that degree they own us and our freedom is lost.

(2) Not able to be intimidated. When we feel vulnerable or threatened, we are not free to be our Self. That is why bullying is such a detestable thing. A child, teenager, or adult that is threatened often takes on a pretended persona for self-preservation. Letting that pretended “self” become his real Self is the tragedy. The antidote to that is the covenant of invulnerability we describe in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord (check its index).

(3) To not have access to, or to not believe in correct information. Without accurate information one is free to guess, but not free to choose.

(4) So the last one must be the ability to process information and the willingness sort out that which is truth from that which is currently true: fashionable, popular, or culturally correct. One of our greatest deterrents of knowing truth is confusing it with what we accept as true. But when truth is available, the greatest barrier to freedom is the lack of intelligent thought. One’s freedom to think may be eroded by falsehoods currently accepted by science or social science, but unless they are permitted to encroach upon religious truth, or upon our ability to love others, they are not usually bad enough to harm our eternal Self. Nevertheless, there are ideas that are considered to be true by persons in our culture that do inhibit one’s ability to recognize truth. Consequently, the first step in learning the truth is frequently to unlearn a cultural fantasy. Mormon warned,

14 Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.
15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
17 But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
18 And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged (Moroni 7:11-18).

Ultimately, the key to personal freedom is just what the Savior said it is:

36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

And there is one standard by which truth/freedom can be judged as real. James called it the royal law.

8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:(James 2:8).

It is the royal law because where it is not there can be no valid priesthood or kingship—at least not the kind that will save us on judgment day.

Even though we do not—cannot—now have access to all truth, we do have full access to the most important truth of all— God is Love. And we are clearly taught how to arrive at that truth.

If it does not sound like love it is not gospel!

Loving people does not mean one must also be trusting and gullible, but it does mean one must not be unkind or hurtful. Some people are a lot easier to love than they are to like. The Savior taught his apostles how to navigate that problem.

16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16).

Truth gives us freedom because it enables love, while counterfeit truth gives us license to hate without a cause. Bigotry and prejudice preclude intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual freedom for the one who indulges in those biased attitudes. Calling prejudice truth, and refusing to acknowledge it for what it really is, is a crippling sin. One who uses that attitude to justify unkindness presumes to magnify that which he believes to be true into what he presumes is eternal truth. As long as he insists that the falsehood is truth he is hobbled by its inaccuracies or its lies. Those attitudes prevent one from having charity because they fill up the place in one’s soul where love should be with contempt and fear. Such a person does not keep the most basic commandment, so cannot know the most basic truth, so cannot respond to it. The Savior explained,

34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:34-35)

In 1 John, the Beloved Apostle projected that commandment back to the very beginning of our beginnings.

11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another (1 John 3:11).

I have shown elsewhere that even though the priesthood sealing ordinances are necessary to answer the demands of justice and to preserve continuity and order, no ordinance can override personal unrighteousness. For example, having been baptized means nothing if one refuses to repent. Similarly, the efficacy of the priesthood sealing ordinances is reserved to those who keep that royal law: Love the Lord (charity) and love your neighbor as thyself (law of consecration).

In the Doctrine and Covenants the ultimate objective to which we reach is the law of consecration. In the Book of Mormon it is charity. The law of consecration is what we DO when charity is what we ARE. I believe charity/love/hesed is the ultimate sealing power. Without it we cannot be in the celestial kingdom with God, our family, and our friends. If charity is the sealing power then that leaves the contemptuous soul with serious problems.

Near the end of his life, Jesus had another conversation about truth.

37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
38 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all (John 18:35-38).

There is no indication that Jesus answered Pilate’s question, “what is truth?” If he had answered the question, the only correct answer Jesus could have given would have been           “I AM Truth.”

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