This is a talk I prepared for, but never got around to present at the Nordic Remnant Conference held yesterday (13th of August) in Göteborg (Gothenburg), Sweden.
30 And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.What are some of the implications of free will?
31 He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you. (Hel. 14:30-31)
We are free to start world wars and kill others and free to lay down our life for others and all that’s between these two extremes.
We are free to turn the other cheek when warred against and worship God as we perish under the sword.
In essence and in short, there is no limit on what God will let us do with the gift of free will.
Free will - to God it's sacrosanct. For man, it's tolerable a best. At least in others. What makes it hard for us to grant others the same benefit we take for granted for ourselves?
1. We take it for granted and don't see that it truly is a gift. If we would do that, we would recognize that it's given to everyone and that we can’t, nor should want to interfere with how anyone is using it (of course as long as they aren’t hurting anyone).
2. We want everyone else to do and believe as we do. Let's admit it, it's hard to stand alone. There’s power in numbers. Neither truth, correctness nor righteousness are dependent on numbers. Sometimes it seems that we’d rather have company in hell than be alone in heaven. When we seek for the company and affirmation or confirmation of mortal men and women, we put our trust in the arm of flesh. Heaven isn’t a place of solitude and we should seek for company. We must be careful to choose the right company and also seek for pats on the back from the right place - that of God and his son.
3. We miss the fact that we're all on a journey, at different speed, with different vehicles, at different pace and from different starting points. At best, we're heading towards the same goal. It's hard to see how one's own journey will develop. How much harder is it then to pass judgment on someone else's.
In C.S. Lewis´ second book of the Narnia series, “The Horse and the Boy”, we read about Shasta, the young man who left his custodian to travel north to Narnia. On the way, he had close encounters with several different lions, as he supposed. Later on, he met with someone who seemed to know quite a lot about all of this lion-business.
"There was only one lion," said the Voice.
"What on earth do you mean? I've just told you there were at least two the first night, and-"
"There was only one: but he was swift of foot." "How do you know?"
"I was the lion." And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. "I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you."
"Then it was you who wounded Aravis?"
"It was I"
"But what for?"
"Child," said the Voice, "I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own."
This Voice was Aslan, the symbol of Jesus Christ that have made the Narnia series a profound religious experience for me. He tells us about ourselves and not about others. In January, I met Jesus in a dream in a dream. In the dream, I asked him about our collective insecurities. He answered me about mine. But then, as a sidenote, he mentioned that he’s on Facebook (and let me draw the conclusion that he was fully aware of all of our insecurities).
What can we learn from Jesus’ way of relating to other people’s use of their free agency?
Jesus found himself on earth some two thousand years ago. He was a man with a mission to teach and show the way to the Father among the vilest of self-righteous religious pricks. Think about it. Jesus had given the Jews their scriptures, their ordinances, their feast days, he had liberated their ancestors from slavery and bondage. He had loved them and already given them the chance to come into his presence, but they would not. As it turned out, the Jews had taken all they had been given, corrupted, twisted and perverted it, supplanted it with traditions of men, mistaken symbols for the actual saving ordinances and made the temple into a house of merchandise. They had a lot but were living spiritually empty handed and empty hearted. Oh, contemplate the frustration, the disappointment, the anger, the feeling of betrayal and the desire for revenge and to withhold future blessings … that we would have had to struggle with being in Jesus´ place.
But what did Jesus do? He taught them the truth, not only about himself and the Father, but also about themselves. He was willing to forgive of the pride and self-righteousness, and eventually, he lamented from the bottom of his heart that he would’ve gathered them as a hen gathers her chickens, time and time again. His long suffering is astounding. To me, the biggest miracle from Jesus´ life isn’t the walking on water and the bread and the fish, but the fact that he didn’t give in to the temptation to strike this people with lightning and end the charade and divine disrespect and mockery. But then again, that’s me.
What can we learn from Jesus in handling people who might be termed Latter-day Pharisees? Many things, of course. I want to shortly mention three.
1. Consider yourself a fool before the Lord.
It will help you extend the same privilege to others. You don't expect yourself to be in possession of all truth, so let others join you in being in the wrong, but don't demand them to be wrong in the same way as you are. Diversity is a blessing, in truth as well as in error.
2. What you need is more love - from others as well as from yourself. The golden rule compels you to give exactly this to those around you. But don’t expect them to reciprocate. In fact, expect nothing from man, nothing at all. Love them instead. All expectations placed on mortal man will disappoint in the long run. Every expectation has to be “made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise” (D&C 132:7) in order for it to be worthy our hope and faith.
3. Follow your heart, for there is no other heart that beats for you the same way as your own does. Until God tells you in detail what to do, you should pursue what the best part of yourself guides you to. No one except God can say what your divine potential and divine nature will have you do and be.
I find that what I’ve said is a part of the concept presented by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount about loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors and forgiving all men (and religious institutions) everything. This is a component of the charge from the D&C (93:30), to be ”independent in that sphere in which God has placed” us. When we don’t let the actions of others hedge up or limit our christlikeness, we are truly independent for we give no man any power over what we will do. If we are willing to love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and pray for them which despitefully use and persecute us, turn the other cheek, walk the second mile, give to those who ask, respond to a lawsuit with a desire to settle generously, we might be played every now and then. But, and this is important, no one will have any power over us to drag us down to the pit of despair or into the false sense of justice the legal system provides.
Our hearts need to be unencumbered by the things of this world, and that includes the false sense of justice and vindication. Jesus will at the last day vindicate the ones with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and that promise should give us strength to seek for the best our heart wants us to have. Therefore, we need to teach our heart what it wants, but also give God place to touch it and plant therein a deeper hunger after himself and his Son.
It all boils down to taking up the yoke of Christ. His yoke is all about love, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, salvation and the heart. It's all about taking up our cross and carrying it to our Golgatha were the Father, as Jesus taught to the Nephites, will lift us up like the Son was lifted up (3 Ne. 27:14). We will need to crucify all that binds us to this world, or else we can't be taken to heaven. It's been said that if you want to go to heaven you need to bring a piece of it with you. I believe there's some truth to that. I also believe that we need to let go of all worldly possessions and aspirations and empty our pockets from even the smallest piece of dust belonging to this world. This kind of thorough cleaning is what Jesus will do with us if we let him.
This is my belief, my small but growing faith and my fragile desire. I want Jesus in my life.