Why would I ask such a question? Why would it even be in question? What does it have to do with freedom? To understand these questions, we have to understand the following questions as well as their answers: What is agency? What happens when we support the government’s attempt to take it away from others? What is compulsion? What happens to us when we support the government’s attempt to use it on others?
Moses Chapter 4 states that because Satan “sought to destroy the agency of man”, he was cast out of Heaven. What did Satan want to force us to do? The scriptures say Satan wanted to force us back to Heaven. This brings up the question, “What is wrong with going back to Heaven?” Nothing. The Book of Moses teaches that our exaltation is our Father in Heaven’s entire purpose. (Moses 1:39) Clearly it is the “how” not the “what” that really matters.
Satan and his followers were cast out of the Father’s presence for attempting to compel us to do his will. In Doctrine and Covenants 121:37 we learn what our consequence is for following the same path:
(W)hen we undertake to… exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men… behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
These scriptures instruct us that when we try to compel anyone to do something, when they themselves have not violated the rights of others, we are literally following Satan’s plan, are rejecting the law of God, and the sacrifice of those that came before us and most importantly, we lose our priesthood.
The scriptures are clear that whenever we venture to compel another to do something, we must be sure that we are acting in righteousness, and not (in a metaphorical way) forcing our brothers and sisters back to Heaven.
This applies to every aspect of our lives, from parenting, to martial relationships, Church callings, and even to our actions in relation to government; any aspect that we can use our position of authority to compel another.
Doctrine and Covenants 134:1 states that the Father,
“holds [us] accountable for [our] acts in relation to [government], both in making laws and administering them”
Verse 2 teaches that to remain in peace, we must ensure that our agent, the government, protects (notice it does not say provide) the life, conscience and property of all within its area of jurisdiction. Not only must it protect our right to our property, but it says it must protect our right to control our property.
To protect those basic God given rights, we learn from scripture that- “all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld.” (D&C134:3). Therefore, if I am not violating your life, your conscience, or your property, how can you feel justified in violating mine? Obedience to this basic principle is a necessity for peaceful government. God says he will hold us accountable for such actions.
Regarding government, the Lord Himself said He gave us the US Constitution,
“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 beaccountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.” (D&C 101:78)
He gave us the Constitution as a tool that He will hold us accountable towards in regards to its heavenly appointed purpose of protecting the agency of our fellow man. And according to Doctrine and Covenants 98:7, to use the Constitution in any other way is evil. When we use government to compel others to “do good”, no matter how “good” it is, we are putting our Priesthood authority at risk.
Some take this to mean that to obey this principle is to neglect our holy mandate to provide for the poor and needy. Nothing is further from the truth. While it is true that we all have an obligation to be a good neighbor, to take good care of the stewardship the Lord has given us, to care for others, etc., if I am compelled to do those things, that portion of my existence is a waste. I did not have the opportunity to act, but was acted upon and therefore cannot be accountable for those sins of neglecting my neighbor or blessed for that “good” that was done on their behalf. Those that seek to compel others to do good actually follow a plan they rejected before they were born.
Another way we put our Priesthood at risk is through government education. Education is essential to our progression, and has always been a commandment from our Father in Heaven. However, we have been warned about the elements of compulsion used in its implementation. President Brigham Young said,
“I am opposed to free education as much as I am opposed to taking away property from one man and giving it to another… Would I encourage free schools by taxation? No!” –General Conference 1877
John Taylor was even clearer on the matter when he said this about sending our children to government schools,
“I very much question men and women’s getting into the Celestial kingdom of God who have no more knowledge about principles of life and salvation than to go and tamper with the sacred offspring, the principle of life which God entrusted to your care.” –General Conference 1878
Remember, it was Lucifer that wanted us all to return to our Father in Heaven (clearly a good goal, in line with the will of the Father). However, he wanted to use compulsion to do it. Would God be a just god if our consequence was any different than Lucifer’s for the same action here on earth?
As Howard W. Hunter said,
“If you deprive a man of his right to fail in the righteous use of his property, you also deprive him of his right to succeed. If you remove from a man his right to ‘go to hell,’ you likewise remove his free agency to go to heaven.” Howard W. Hunter, BYU, 8 March, 1966
So how do we “get” people to do what is right? What about lazy parents that won’t ensure their children are educated or greedy people that will not help those in need?
In Doctrine and Covenants Section 121, after learning some of the ways in how to lose our Priesthood authority, we learn the Lord’s way to help each other do what is right; the Lord said we are to do it,
“(O)nly by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile…” (D&C 121:41–42)
When we use compulsion or direct our agents, the government, to use compulsion and unrighteous dominion, we put our Priesthood authority at risk. With all of the earthly laws and statutes that use this principle of the evil one, there are clearly those amongst us that have put this authority at risk, and have possibly lost it because of their actions in these areas. Do you support laws that compel your neighbors in an unrighteous way? If so, it would be beneficial to ask yourself, “Have I lost my Priesthood?”, and if so, “What can I do to get it back?”
For a more in-depth explanation of these principles, I highly recommend reading H. Verlan Andersen’s classic “Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen”, which was recommended in the April 1972 General Conference for all members to read by then Elder Ezra Taft Benson.