Since the beginning of the world, many have talked, written, suffered, cried, and died for liberty. Artists paint it, sculptors sculpt it, philosophers describe it, dictators and tyrants suppress it, and prophets teach it.
Each year, free men celebrate the anniversary of D day, June 6, 1944. That day on the beaches of Normandy was the beginning of deliverance for those who hadn’t enjoyed freedom for many years.
You are heirs. Your fathers and grandfathers fought for you. I was on the other side of the ocean in occupied Belgium, and I am an heir also of the sacrifice of their lives. I was waiting for that freedom to come closer and closer every day until that September 3, 1944, in the city of Audenaerde, when we saw for the first time our liberators. I can personally testify to the importance for you, the future generation, to prepare and continue to act with the Spirit of the Lord to defend your liberties.
Moroni, the great Book of Mormon leader, knew the value of liberty. We read:
“Yea, we see that Amalickiah … led away the hearts of many people … to destroy the foundation of liberty which God had granted unto them. …
“And now it came to pass that when Moroni, who was the chief commander of the armies of the Nephites, had heard of these dissensions, he was angry with Amalickiah.
“And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.
“And he fastened on his headplate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of Christians remain to possess the land” (Alma 46:10–13).
Moroni knew that liberty is a result of being a follower of Christ, a disciple. That is true liberty. And, he knew that to defend it, you need to act, to be an agent unto yourself. The Lord has revealed:
“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
“For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward” (D&C 58:27–28).
A democracy requires men and women to be agents unto themselves to defend their freedom. When a democracy collapses, it is because the individuals and families are dropping their arms. What are the usual symptoms? First, there is a feeling of fear, then resignation, then we get used to the worst. “To get used to” is a horrible phrase, to say the least. To get used to violence, to degradation, to mediocrity, to oppression, to humiliation.
History is a great teacher if we are willing to learn. It teaches us that anarchy and permissiveness always lead directly to the dictatorship of sin, to the submissiveness of our spirits, to the slavery of our bodies.
President N. Eldon Tanner said: “If there is pornography or obscenity in bookstores, on television or radio, or in places of entertainment, if there are those who would make more easily available to the young and inexperienced alcohol and its attendant evils, including drunken driving, highway fatalities, broken homes, and if we are threatened with the passage of laws which violate the commandments of God, it is our duty and responsibility as individuals to speak out, to organize, and to protect ourselves and our community against such encroachments. We have seen how people react to the high price of food. It is far more important that we react effectively against the immorality and evil in our communities which threaten the morals and the very lives of our children. …
“… We must take a firm stand against the concerted efforts in many areas to destroy the family unit” (Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973, pp. 88–89).
The scriptures teach us that sin destroys our freedom.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1).
Our responsibility is to stand firm for what we believe and to live according to our faith in the Lord.
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31–32).
What was the strength of Jesus? He was a teacher, he was the Son of God and “taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:29).
What could be our strength? “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Ne. 27:27).
A teacher, a leader, a follower of righteousness remains free. What is righteousness? First, to know the difference between right and wrong; but second, once you know it, to do what is right. To be righteous, then, is to act. However, before you act there must be a decision, a choice between right and wrong, between God or Satan, light or darkness, freedom or slavery, and knowledge is necessary to make that choice. That is why we are here on the earth.
How do we recognize the truth? Once again the process centers in Jesus Christ:
“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” (Moro. 7:16).
It also requires the gift of the Holy Ghost:
“Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
“Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation” (D&C 8:2–3).
Of course, to be worthy of the promptings of the Spirit, we must also keep the commandments:
“He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things” (D&C 93:28).
You are the future leaders of your families, your church, and your nation. Your heirs will follow your steps if you preserve your great heritage of liberty.
We have the teachings of the Lord and his prophets. We have the vision of our responsibilities.
Our most important need as defenders of liberty is to know what true liberty is, to teach it, to profess it, and to testify of it.