The Truth Shall Set You Free
Whether we cognitively think about it or not, this life is a battle of trying to free ourselves from things that seek to enslave us. These may include:
- Unsatisfactory Employment
- Personal Debt
- Mental Distress
- Destructive Relationships
- Passionless Marriages
- Stressful Parenting
- The Past
Throughout Jesus’ life he set the perfect example through teaching and behavior. In the gospel of John, we learn that while Jesus was preaching about his role as the Savior, many Jews began to believe his words. After calling the believers his disciples, he stated in John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” In what ways does Christ and the truth set us free? Although there may be more areas in which Christ sets us free, I will group the things mentioned previously in the same four areas that the children and youth program focuses on: (1) physically, (2) intellectually, (3) socially, and (4) spiritually free.
To begin, I will talk about being physically free. In the April 2018 ensign, a member of the church named Matthew Flitton recounts a story about how addiction robs our physical freedom.
“One day my companion and I were walking through a park, when a homeless man walked up to us. This man laughed at us. He told us we were slaves to our religion. He bragged about how he could commit immoral acts and we couldn’t. ‘If I want to drink wine, I drink wine. If I want to do drugs, I do drugs. But you can’t,’ he said dismissively. ‘Your church has taken away your ability to choose.’ He continued telling us all the ways the commandments were holding us back. As he did so, he became increasingly agitated. Finally, he asked, ‘Do either of you have a cigarette? I need one now.’ When we told him we didn’t, he ran off to find a cigarette. That moment showed the reality of captivity and freedom.”
This church has constantly advocated keeping ourselves free physically. Each day we can be a little bit better and we don’t need to try to free ourselves on our own. In D&C 68, Orson Hyde, Luke S. Johnson, Lyman E. Johnson, and William E. McLellin were seeking the mind of the Lord and received this revelation in verse 6, “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.” Christ will stand by us and help free us. He has healed lepers, those sick with palsy, or raised the dead. Through him, others have been freed of illnesses or have been granted relief. He promises us blessings as well, “For example, when we hearken to the Word of Wisdom, we escape the captivity of poor health and addiction to substances that literally rob us of our ability to act for ourselves” (Freedom or Captivity, April 2018 Ensign).
In my own life, I have had struggles and have prayed for guidance. The spirit has prompted me with concrete actions that I could take to improve my circumstances or those of others. For example, I have been a part of priesthood blessings that have led to pregnancy labor progressing smoothly, promised children where hope was dimming, and given life where things were hanging by a thread.
Many of us struggle to be intellectually free and we would be naïve to think otherwise. Indeed, some struggle with drugs or alcohol as previously mentioned. However, I believe that Satan is more subtlety binding people today in addictions such as pornography, video games, and mobile devices.
“We are a sad nation. A study released in 2011 by our government states that more than one in 10 Americans over the age of 12 takes anti-depressants” (up 400% from two decades earlier, 10 Ways to Be Truly Free, AllProDads.com). This jumped to 13% between 2015 and 2018 (Antidepressant Use Among Adults: United States, 2015-2018, CDC). With the COVID pandemic, the usage of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety prescriptions is up 21% and 34% respectively (Americans are taking more anti-anxiety medication and antidepressants during coronavirus pandemic: report, TheHill.com). We perceive with today’s technology that personal freedoms are enhanced, but in reality, they have enslaved many to the point of despair. The struggle is real whether it is clinically diagnosed or otherwise.
The general authority Marcos A. Aidukaitis has said, “With so much available on the Internet, we must carefully consider where to apply our efforts. Satan can keep us busy, distracted, and infected by sifting through information, much of which can be pure garbage.”
I remember when I was young, we would engage in activities such as street hockey with brooms, steal the flag, eenie-onie over, or ultimate frisbee. Now, we pick up that virtual hockey stick, we throw that virtual football, and we virtually shoot others in a game of tag or steal the flag or capture the base. In fact, screens have taken up so much of our time that the average American spends 5.4 hours a day behind a mobile device checking it up to 63 times per day. Millennials are the worst offender with 12.3% of them spending over 12 hours a day behind their devices (How Much Time Does the Average American Spend on Their Phone?, TechJury.com). In fact, how many are using a device right now instead of listening to this talk? Or pull out the device instead of having meaningful interaction with family or friends that are present?
One of the first assignments I give to my students in the introductory technology class is to go 8 hours without any technology. Some comments from the students indicate that this was very difficult; however, other comments indicate this was “refreshing” or that “I need to do this more often”. Russell M. Nelson has advocated fasts from technology and to “make a weekly sacrifice of time to the Lord” (President and Sister Nelson’s Devotional for Youth, June 3 2018).
Why is it so critical that we remain intellectually free? In Galatians 5:13, Paul speaks of this, “For…ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”
So by being free, we can socially benefit others. Elder Albert E. Bowen (1875-1953), of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated that, “The true function and office of giving, is to help people [get] into a position where they can help themselves and thus be free.” However, although we can best serve and help others socially when we are free ourselves, let’s not use this as an excuse from serving others.
One show that my family has started watching and really love is The Chosen. This show dramatizes the back story of Christ and those who interacted with him. I love the director’s interpretation of how these events may have occurred. One example from The Chosen is that of Peter and his obligation of financial debt to taxes. When Christ came and told them to cast their nets on the other side, the nets were so full of fish that they began to break. This fish was enough and more to cover the supposed debts of Peter.
Elder Edward Dube (First Counselor in the Africa South Area Presidency) had a friend Jerry D. Hymas teach him to remain free from debt, “Eddie, here is a formula for financial success that has worked for me over the years and has enabled me to retire early. When you receive your paycheck, you (1) pay tithing, ten percent; (2) pay ten percent to yourself; and (3) save ten percent for emergency purposes.” Then he looked at me and said, “Never spend money you do not have.” Some say, “If I had more money, I would have a better plan.” What I failed to grasp is that if I had a better plan, I would have sufficient money. Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught us that two basic principles can guide and strengthen individuals facing life’s proving and trying circumstances—preparation and pressing forward with a steadfastness in Christ.
Social freedom can occur in more than financial obligations to others. These include personal relationships with spouses, children, friends, and others. As a parent, I feel like I frequently fall short in the heat of the moment. In the book, The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart, she states, “In the heat of the moment, it may be too difficult to pause and prevent the outburst. But it’s never too late to take that internal inventory. We get endless chances for the pause – we can pause before, during, after, after, after, and after again. There’s no expiration date on revisiting what was going on with me when I flew off my handle or dumped my anxiety on the head of my children.” Further illustrating this point, the site AllProDad.com is a site that focuses on parenting and other topics. One article mentions that, “we need to have confidence that if we pour right things into our children, they’ll turn out just fine. Confess to them when you have blown it and model for them what love and leadership looks like. All you can do is your best and leave the rest up to God.”
Let us not let an unkind word or action be our last interaction with others. Let us be willing to repent and forgive ourselves and others as Jesus has said, “till seven times seven” (Matt 18:21).
Lastly, Jesus makes it possible for us to be spiritually free from sin. The crowds gathered around as Jesus was teaching, and the best family and friends could do for a paralytic was to lower him down through the roof. The first thing Jesus said to this man was, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” This is a common phrase that we see from Christ. He was willing to forgive any who came to him with faith and full purpose of heart.
Even Peter was a sinner and constantly recognized this. “Fishermen at that time were gruff, unkempt, vile, shabbily dressed, and often used vulgar language. The fishermen of the first century were a man’s man. They were full of vigor and had boisterous tempers” (Apostle Peter Biography: Timeline, Life, and Death, WhatChristiansWantToKnow.com) which may be why they were called the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17). However, the invitation to come from Jesus was enough for him and others to drop what was important in their life and follow him regardless of the cost.
In the April 2018 Ensign we learn, “When we follow the prophets’ counsel to hold family home evening, family prayer, and family scripture study, our homes become an incubator for our children’s spiritual growth. … By our righteous choices and actions, we liberate them from darkness by increasing their ability to walk in the light.”
During COVID, becoming free in the ways mentioned above may prove difficult as each day may seem like we are reliving our own personal Groundhog’s Day, but as Russell M. Nelson states in his August 2020 Facebook post, “Dear friends, the road ahead may be bumpy, but our destination is serene and secure. So, fasten your seatbelt, hang on through the bumps, and do what's right. Your reward will be eternal.” Jesus confirms this by saying in John 8:36, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."
I know that by doing what is right and in line with the gospel truths we can be free physically, intellectually, socially, and spiritually. I have experienced many blessings in my life from following Christ and his teachings. I urge you to act on any promptings you may have had as you listened today. The gospel is true. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.