All Saints seek to have the Spirit of the Lord with them at all times, as well as maintain their liberty. Both principles are directly tied to each other. The scriptures teach clearly that you cannot have true liberty, if you don’t have the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
We are given a promise by Nephi that “this land (the Americas) shall be a land of liberty.” (2 Nephi 10:11)
This foundation was laid, in our day, by those raised up by God for that purpose as we read in 1 Nephi 13:12,
“And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.”
Orson Hyde explained this in more detail. He said,
“That same angel of God that appeared unto Joseph Smith,” (Journal of Discourses 6:368)
Who was that?
“…presides over the destinies of America… He… was with Columbus, and gave him deep impressions, by dreams and by visions, respecting this New World.”
16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles who had gone forth out of captivity did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them.
17 And I beheld that their mother Gentiles were gathered together upon the waters, and upon the land also, to battle against them.
18 And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.
19 And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations. (Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi, Chapter 13)
Orson Hyde also explained that Moroni was,
“in the camp of Washington; and, by an invisible hand, led on our fathers to conquest and victory.”
This was to be a land of liberty. God set things in motion through His servants to orchestrate it all together.
The principle of liberty is somewhat of a tricky one to understand. Much of the time we confuse liberty with license, meaning we think we have the “right” to do whatever we want. This is Satan’s counterfeit to liberty. What does a counterfeit dollar bill look like? It doesn’t look like Monopoly money because that would not effectively trick anyone into using it. Successful counterfeit money looks just like the real thing. License is Satan’s counterfeit to liberty.
I think to help us illustrate the difference, it is important to understand who the author of liberty is. The Declaration of Independence states that all men are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. There are only two possible sources, God or Government. If we accept that government is the author and giver of liberty, we have to accept the corollary—that it can deny liberty. Going back to the Declaration of Independence though, we see that to secure the liberty given to us by God—governments were instituted. Government is not the author, therefore earthly governments cannot rightfully deny liberty. Governments, however, have been given the divine role of protecting God-given liberty.
Doctrine and Covenants 134:2 says that no government can exist in peace that does not fulfill its God-given mandate to protect life, conscience, and property.
Obedience is an eternal principle necessary for maintaining the Spirit of the Lord. It’s one that our Father taught us early, shortly after leaving the garden, in Moses Chapter 5:6,
And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
Many times when the topic of obedience is brought up, someone will give a few examples to justify reasons not to follow this principle. One such example often cited is from Brigham Young when he said,
“What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, p. 150, 12 January 1862)
These individuals that want to find excuses not to follow Adam’s example then say something like, “Yes, we should be obedient, but we wouldn’t want to do whatever we are told or we might become Jim Jones style Kool-Aid drinkers.”
Another quote many like to bring up is from the Millennial Star, which reads:
“Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty (!) authority, have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the Saints were told to do by their Presidents, they should do it without asking any questions.
When the Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience, as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves—“ (“Priesthood,” Millennial Star 14/38, 13 November 1852, 594–95)
Then these individuals might followup with a comment like, “If we should obey our leaders no matter what, then why shouldn’t we have obeyed the Manifesto?”
This is what is called in apologetics as “proof texting.” In other words, this is taking a single quote out of context and building a case around it, discounting the vast amount of teachings to its contrary.
Other religions do this with the scripture in Matthew, wherein The Lord says in verse 30:
”For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven,” (New Testament, Matthew, Chapter 22) and then go on to use that to say that the teaching of the Prophet Joseph on eternal marriage is a false doctrine. Those that use the above quotes by Brigham and the one in the Millennial Star engage in the same practice: they cling to their interpretation of one sentence, ignoring the overwhelming teachings to the contrary.
Obedience is the first law of Heaven. Even God has to be obedient. Going back to what Brigham Young said about it being a pity to follow someone to destruction, he said, “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him.”
He wants us to know whether we are led by God or not. Isn’t that the same thing that Moroni tells us about the Book of Mormon in Moroni 10:6? We have to come to knowledge for ourselves that it is true. But, once we receive that testimony, do we need to go through verse by verse saying to ourselves, “Alright, all the verses in 1 Nephi are true, now on to 2 Nephi. I sure hope it’s as true as the last one.”
Here in lies the key; the Prophet Joseph taught,
“It is necessary to know who holds the keys of power, and who does not, or we may be likely to be deceived.” (TPJS 336)
We need to search, ponder and pray. We must find out who holds the keys of power. Once we know, it is our duty—if we want to be one with God—to make the mission of the key holder our mission. We must make His will ours, if we want liberty and to keep the Spirit of the Lord.
In the 1st section of the Doctrine and Covenants verse 14, the Lord makes this clear when He says,
“And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;”
The Lord says that if we don’t listen to Him or His servants, the Prophets and Apostles, that we will be cut off. In verse 38, he explains why,
“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”
The Prophet Joseph explained why it was so important to know who holds the keys. The Lord explains the spirit of those that do not obey His servants, in verse 16:
“They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, … substance is that of an idol”
When we ignore the words of the one who holds the keys, we are really making and worshipping a false idol out of our own beliefs and false traditions. Consequently, we will be cut off.
The Lord gives us an important parable on obedience in the Doctrine and Covenants section 101:43–62.
The Savior taught this parable to warn us of the treacherous path to disobedience through “murmuring.” In the parable, we learn of a nobleman who had a choice spot of land. He told his servants to plant 12 olive trees and build a tower overlooking the olive grove. The purpose of the tower was to permit a watchman, perched upon the tower, to warn of the coming of the enemy. Thus, the olive grove could be protected.
The servants did not build the tower. The enemy came and broke down the olive trees. The disobedience of the servants left a catastrophe in the olive grove (see D&C 101:43–62).
Why did the servants fail to build the tower? The seeds of the disaster were planted by murmuring.
According to the Lord’s parable, murmuring consists of three steps, each leading to the next in a descending path to disobedience.
First, the servants began to question. They felt to exercise their own judgment upon the instruction given by their master. “What need hath my lord of this tower, seeing this is a time of peace?” they said (D&C 101:48). They questioned first in their own minds and then planted questions in the minds of others. Questioning came first.
Second, they began to rationalize and excuse themselves from doing what they had been instructed to do. They said: “Might not this money be given to the exchangers? For there is no need of these things” (D&C 101:49). Thus, they made an excuse for disobedience.
The third step inevitably follows: slothfulness in following the commandment of the Master. The parable says, “They became very slothful, and they hearkened not unto the commandments of their lord”—which is most often done through the chosen servant of the Lord (D&C 101:50). Thus, the stage was set for disaster.
If we will get the Spirit of the Lord through prayer and obedience, it won’t matter if all of Babylon is gathered against us.
Bringing ourselves in line with the Lord and His Priesthood here on the earth is what will bring about the building of Zion. It will allow us to put off all earthly enemies.
Heber C. Kimball (JOD 2:105-111) explains,
“Do not fear anything this side of hell, or that is in the east, west, north or south. I do not fear it any more than I do that the sun will fall from its position in the heavens, if this people will do just precisely as they are told… The world considers it to be quite ridiculous for us to be of one heart, and of one mind. It is this union among those who are faithful “Mormons” that makes the world afraid of us; they fear us because we differ from the world.”
Are we different from the world?
I suggest we take to heart the council of Elder George Q. Cannon when he said:
“If the breach is daily widening between ourselves and the world . . . we may be assured that our progress is certain, however slow. On the opposite hand, if our feeling and affections, our appetites and desires, are in unison with the world around us and freely fraternize with them . . . we should do well to examine ourselves” (Millennial Star, October 5, 1861 [vol. 23], pp. 645-46)
This is what Heber C. Kimball explains is what the world is:
“In the United States and in the old countries, they are divided into six or seven hundred different religious denominations, all disagreeing with each other; …This is not the policy of the Latter-day Saints. Jesus says, if you are not one, you are not mine. Let the Christian world who profess to believe in Jesus Christ, and in his Father, and in this book, the Bible, note that passage, “Except ye are one, ye are not mine.”… Because there was such a oneness among the people of Enoch, and they could not continue to be one, and live with the people in the same world, God took them and their city with a part of the earth to Himself, and they sailed away like one ship at sea separating from another.
Jesus says, “Except ye are one, ye are not mine.” And yet the Christian world take a course to justify themselves in division… And yet they say they are one: I say THEY LIE. A man that says it, lies to me, and he lies to God… ” (JOD 2:105-111)
Then he goes on to explain how we become one:
“When brother Joseph Smith lived, he was our Prophet, our Seer, and Revelator; he was our dictator in the things of God, and it was for us to listen to him, and do just as he told us…. Brother Joseph is gone, and now brother Brigham Young, the Governor of the Territory of Utah, is our Prophet, our leader, our Revelator; and it is for me and you to listen to him with all diligence, the same as we would listen to Joseph were he alive. Brother Brigham is his successor; his word is sacred; and if you do not observe it, it will not be well, and there is where I fear for you” (JOD 2:105-111)
What is liberty? How do we get the Spirit of God and keep it? The Lord and His servants are consistent and abundantly clear:
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17)
“The Gospel of Christ is the perfect law of liberty. What say you, be subject to law – is this liberty? Yes, it is liberty.” (Brigham Young, June 13, 1847, Norton Jacob Diary, pg. 172, also The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young 1:229.)
The principles of liberty, coupled with getting the Spirit of God and keeping it, all boils down to the words in the hymn we sing:
“Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law. ” (“America, The Beautiful,” Hymn 126)
Self control comes through submission to the law of the Lord through the word of His authorized servants. Our Father in Heaven has promised us that self control is what will give us liberty and the Spirit of God. Our actions will show if we want it or not.