Dear LDS Liberty Reader:
On August 13, 2015, JC Bollers, the founder and co-producer of LDS Liberty, passed away from complications associated with oral cancer. He has left a lasting legacy and ongoing testimony to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of liberty and freedom with his hard work in creating LDS Liberty.
This is his last article, written months before his passing, that he wanted released once LDS Liberty had set forward on its new path. With this relaunch of LDS Liberty, we have included it as our first published article.
This is JC’s last written testimony for his many friends and readers of LDS Liberty.
It’s been awhile since I’ve raised my voice about many issues related to liberty. One of the reasons is a disturbing trend I see among some pro-liberty Latter-day Saints who have immersed themselves in philosophical libertarianism and who have eventually left the Church. This is an attempt to address a small part of this big problem.
When I was podcasting regularly, I honestly didn’t have the tool set to deal with this effectively and lead from the front. This is because when we started LDS Liberty, I knew a lot less than I do now. I can appreciate any teacher or infotainer who has to create compelling content, which experience causes that person to learn and grow, thus shedding some views that they had before.
One way that my views have grown is my understanding of the role of Jesus Christ as the central figure in securing our liberty. I think that many people focus on political liberty and pay lip-service to Christ without understanding His role. I think this is because secular libertarianism doesn’t possess the knowledge that the gospel has. Therefore, its solutions to problems may not always match up to the solutions that God would endorse. Now, one might say, “Wait a minute there! God doesn’t like people to aggress against others and that is exactly what is espoused by the NAP (non aggression principle), so what’s your problem?”
This is how it begins. Many Latter-day Saints who are introduced to the ideas of liberty tend to eventually display a type of despair that comes with starting to recognize the many ways that we are not free. Most people go through a process of waking up, getting angry, and then starting to learn the solutions that the “liberty community” has to offer to society. Many of the solutions are great and are much better than many ways society deals with its problems. I personally believe that the only consistent secular philosophy that I have ever found is libertarianism.
Nevertheless, I wish I had a dollar for every pro-liberty Mormon who says: “I feel increasingly ‘different’ from people at church and sometimes get mad because they don’t get liberty and they get mad at me for trying to enlighten them.”
People in this situation will often start to use the tools that they have acquired from the liberty community to measure and critique the church in the same way that many of us will measure and critique politicians and government in general. I have been in a unique position to see many more than a handful of people go down this road and either get excommunicated or leave the church willingly. Such is my vantage point as one of the principal purveyors of LDS Liberty. I can’t help but to bear some of the blame. Six years ago, I was mainly in the mode of researching how the gospel supported my existing libertarian views rather than simply trying to discover what my views should be as guided by the gospel.
As Latter-day Saints, it is our blessing to have so much in the way of scripture and prophetic tradition that lauds the virtues of liberty. However, it is a challenge to reconcile differences between philosophical tradition and our religion. If it were not so, this issue that I have described would not affect the “liberty community.” I would like to delineate the two ‘paradigms’ of liberty that I feel are consciously or unconsciously created by the world at large:
Secular Tyranny and Liberty
This is the world where the major threat to human freedom appears in the form of government violence. In this world, voters feel they are doing society a favor by voting a certain way, allowing their “representatives” in government to enact certain laws and creating an environment where law enforcement is given ever increasing authority to perform more “law enforcement”.
This is a world where tyranny, wherever it exists, limits the scope of how we can pursue happiness via economic, social, and religious relationships and other personal decisions. The level of tyranny in the secular world depends on when and where we live. We are potentially subject to it when we are born, and we are only free from it upon death, again, depending on when and where we live. Also, battling this tyranny at whatever cost may bring a measure of increased political liberty. While anything we do has eternal consequences, the terror of tyranny, and also the utility of political liberty, are a microcosm compared to the overarching reality of the greater paradigm.
Eternal Tyranny and Liberty
We are told through scripture and modern continuing revelation that we come from celestial parents who have supplied us with a spiritual body, a physical body, a sphere whereon to live, and time to experience a mortal probation or testing period. It is my experience that libertarians of most stripes are some of the most logical people anyone is going to meet. By the parameters we have just reviewed, just about everything that we have received up to this point comes to us by the virtue and power of someone else. From the very get-go, we find ourselves in a situation that a logical libertarian could describe in the following manner: Imagine, we are living in someone else’s house, while wearing their clothing, eating their food, and breathing their air. And even when we disrespect all the above, the owner usually doesn’t deprive us of any of it. Does this example describe more closely the real relationship between us and our Heavenly Father, or does the stock concept of self ownership describe it better? I’m sticking with the first one.
This different relationship is further differentiated by the parameters of the threat. The opposition in our eternal perspective comes from a real being with a name: Satan. He knows us very well, and he is wise and crafty. Worst of all, he seeks to derail each and every one of us from obtaining knowledge of our true origins and also to frustrate any plans we may have to live out our full potential as beings similar in glory and ability to our heavenly parents. The rest of our eternity is at stake because of a very real enemy who seeks to deprive us of eternal life, which I would also rephrase as “eternal liberty”. I don’t think that I have the capacity to give justice to the type of liberty offered us by the Creator.
As horrible as Satan’s purposes and achievements can start to sound, our bright potential lies in the personage of Jesus Christ. With the eternal threat in mind, we can now start to see why Jesus Christ is the author of liberty, and the central figure in God’s plan to secure our eternal liberty and happiness. Through Christ the Redeemer we can learn the truth of who we are, learn the ways and means to return home to live with our heavenly parents, and experience the joys of eternal life. In just the same way that most probably can’t imagine the horrid torture of living an eternity as miserable as Satan himself, most of us don’t know the depth of complete bliss and rejoicing that comes from fully partaking of all the things that Christ has in store for all who would repent and follow Him.
A most poignant example of the unfortunate tyrant comes in the form of King Noah in the Book of Mormon. Goaded on by his wicked priests, King Noah ordered Abinadi slain. Yes, Abinadi collided with the state and died because he “would not deny the commandments of God” (Mosiah 17:20). Even though government (in the form of a greedy and wicked king) overcame the individual, it could not stop Abinadi from receiving eternal life — the ultimate liberty.
The next obvious question is: “If we can gain the greatest liberty regardless of the state, then why bother to promote liberty in life at all?”
The simplest answer that I can give is that societies with a maximum amount of freedom, and hence accountability, are the ones who become and stay religious. Talking to a friend who served his mission in England, he said that his lowest level of success came as he was tracting through the endless welfare houses in the area of Leeds. All one had to do was be 16 years old and have a baby and one got a free house to go with one’s other welfare payments. This is not a society filled with motivated individuals who recognize that a relationship with Christ can drastically improve their lot in all senses. Based on numbers alone, would you prefer to serve a mission among the people of Leeds, England, or in some place where the government isn’t organized and/or funded well enough to give everyone a comfortable poverty?
So, if we’re saying that creating a more free secular environment is better for spiritual growth, then why are we talking about two worlds in the first place? Why is JC telling us that there is a secular world and spiritual world? I really believe that there is only one world. The secular world, as it is described, is only separate because most of us insist on treating it separately. That is my problem with any secular philosophy. It is intentionally created to apply to everything that we can see, touch, and smell with our senses and blatantly excludes anything made known to us via the Holy Ghost. We, as Latter-day Saints, know that the devil has sworn in his wrath to use the treasures of the earth to tyrannize the children of God. Since we are taught this, we should no longer see in our minds and hearts two worlds: One for Sunday School and the other for the rest of life. We can see any tyranny as another dart from Lucifer. Advocating for increased accountability, liberty, and greater human choice is a decision to help create a world in which religion has a greater role and voice.
That being said, there are times that philosophically consistent libertarianism and the guidance that we are given as Latter-day Saints will differ. This is because of the aforementioned reason that a secular philosophy, however consistent in our minds, is still secular. The commandments of God are always consistent, but it doesn’t always seem that way to the logical mind. This is especially so if you are Nephi and the Lord is telling you to kill a man for his brass plates (oversimplification alert). Heavenly Father is always working with more information than we are. How many of us would have guessed that those brass plates would give millions of our Nephite and Lamanite brothers and sisters a fighting chance to obtain salvation (read eternal liberty)?
To illustrate the point a bit, let us revisit our Book of Mormon story about King Noah and Abinadi. King Noah has a full-grown Nephite state with lots of goodies: subsidized wine, harlots for the wicked priests, building projects out the wazoo (hurray for full employment!). To pay for it all, King Noah stole a lot of gold, silver, copper and yes, the ziff. On top of it all, Noah’s priests were not teaching the laws of God correctly. So this society has definitely derailed, though probably not as badly as ours right now. When Abinadi arrives on the scene, does he rant about the building projects? As far as we know, does he lament the loss of so much of society’s precious ziff? These are his very first words that we have record of:
Behold, thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me, saying, Go forth, and say unto this people, thus saith the Lord—Wo be unto this people, for I have seen their abominations, and their wickedness, and their whoredoms; and except they repent I will visit them in mine anger. Mosiah 11:20
An honest reading of the above should show us that the Lord cares about everything that pulls us away from him. It’s not so easy to parse them into two realities that we can juggle depending on the day.
Where does the rubber meet the road for a pro-liberty Mormon? We come across people who will bear their testimony of the restoration of the gospel and then transition with breakneck speed into a tirade against those “dirty Muslims” who we need to “bomb back to the stone age”. The principled libertarian immediately gags. How ’bout the Relief Society president who does so wonderfully at orchestrating selfless voluntary service to the less fortunate sisters in the ward, and then spends her time agitating for higher taxes to fund someone else reaching out to the poor and hungry? Trust me, she doesn’t see herself as illogical and inconsistent. Best of all, what about the Apostle who has probably spoken with Christ face to face and gives a great talk at general conference, but he has supported government policies that we would never countenance. Is the Church still true?
Christ had a message for people like us who feel that we are the bastions of pure economic and political truth:
Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. Matthew 7:4-5
As followers of Jesus Christ, our first directive is to cultivate and display love for all our brothers and sisters inside and outside of the Church. We are at all stages of spiritual development. Some of us have trouble with logical consistency. Others have trouble with charity towards those who aren’t charitable. All of us have trouble following the counsel of Christ, and so do His servants to one degree or other. At the end of the day, we all live in someone else’s house, wearing their clothing, eating their food, and breathing their air. We are beggars, pure and simple. We could not hold onto anything that wasn’t permitted us by the Master. Any of us who choose to judge others harshly have already separated ourselves from the source of all true and correct judgement.
At the risk of oversimplifying (again), I’d like to leave you with one thought: When in doubt, follow God as best you can.
Be Cool. Stay Faithful.