The prophet Lehi explained to his children, "And because that they [Adam and Eve] are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given. Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal live, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil" (2 Nephi 2:26,27).

The idea of us having the freedom to choose what we want to do in life is a fundamental doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Indeed, we believe that there can be no real salvation unless we, by our own conscious decision, willingly choose to accept God's gift of eternal life. In our pre-mortal life Satan tried to take that right away from us and a war was fought in heaven over that very principle. As much as our Father in heaven wants all of us to return to our former celestial environment and enjoy all that He has, He nonetheless allows each of us the freedom to decide for ourselves whether we want to obey His commandments or not.

It's has also been said that while we have the right to choose our actions we don't have the right to choose the consequences of our decisions. Therefore, our freedom comes with strings attached. If we want to have the blessings of God, then we have to make the correct choices, otherwise we forfeit what God offers us. It has also been said that if we want to maintain our freedom of choice then we have to make the correct choices otherwise we will lose the freedom to act for ourselves.

However, to some, this sounds like coercion. They argue that to say we can't or shouldn't do something means that we are not really being allowed to make the choices we want. True freedom to them means doing whatever we want without being punished if we make the wrong decisions. In other words, we are being forced to make only certain choices and being denied the opportunity to make other choices. Therefore, it doesn't make sense to them to say we will have more freedom by limiting the number of choices we're allow to make.

To illustrate this point, if we have the choice to either steal something or not steal it and we decide that we will never steal, then we no longer have two choices available to us. Instead we have actually limited the choices we are allowing ourselves to make. Therefore, how can it be accurately said that by limiting our choices, even voluntarily, that our freedom is increased?

The problem with this argument is that it is based on the erroneous assumption that our ability to choose is gone once we have made a decision. For example, if I go to a restaurant, there may be twenty dinners on the menu for me to choose from, but just because I choose one of those items doesn't mean that the other nineteen are no longer available to me. It simply means that, after surveying all the choices available, I then make a decision of which one I want.

Now, imagine going to a restaurant where there are only two items on the menu. I still have the right to make a decision of which one I want, but the number of options from which I can choose has been greatly reduced. Instead of having a wide variety of choices, I now have a very limited selection. If I were in the mood for seafood but the only two choices available on the menu was a hamburger or a cheese pizza then I would not be very happy with either choice.

In the same way, our Father in heaven has allowed us the freedom to choose which of His many commandments we wish to obey. However, if we make the wrong choices, then we may find ourselves in a position where our future ability to choose has become significantly reduced. This principle can be illustrated by looking at the number of options for accumulating money. We can either go to work for a company as an employee, or start our own business and become the employer, or we can invest in stocks and bonds, or we can rob a bank. Each of these options has their own positive as well as negative benefits, but we are free to decide for ourselves which option we want to choose. However, if we decide to rob a bank and then get caught, we will very likely find ourselves spending time in jail. When that happens, our ability to choose becomes restricted because we loose the options of starting our own business, investing in stocks or even robbing a bank again. In jail, the only option available for making money is to work as an employee in the prison system.

On the other hand, if a person decides they want to accumulate money by working for a company, they still have the option of starting their own business, investing in stocks, or robbing a bank. Just because they decided on one of the four options doesn't eliminate their ability to choose from the other three at a later date. Even if they decide that they will never rob a bank no matter how bad they might need money, that doesn't change the fact that they still have the option to do so. The decision they make has no effect upon what options are available to them. For example, suppose a person decides to have the same meal every time he goes to a certain restaurant. That doesn't mean he has no other options available to him. It just means he has chosen one option over all the others, which is no different than someone who picks a different meal each time he goes to the restaurant. He too is choosing one option over all the others. In the same way, when we choose to do the right thing, all other options are still available to us, but when we do that which is wrong, the number of options we have to choose from may be reduced.

There';s another way to look at this. A person who is healthy is able to get around and do many things, while someone who is sick at home is much more limited in what they can do. Not only is their movement confined to the house but even the energy needed to do what they want is drastically reduced. As a result, no matter how badly they want to do certain things, they don't have the ability to accomplish their goals. However, someone who is so sick that they must be confined to a hospital bed has even less options available to them. So, the degree of sickness affects how much we can do.

This is what happens when we sin. Sin is a disease that affects the spirit. Whenever we sin we cripple our spirit, and the more we sin the more it adversely restricts what our spirit is able to do. We see this most clearly with the priesthood. Even though a righteous priesthood holder may not use his priesthood, he still has the option of doing so when needed. On the other hand, an unrighteous priesthood holder will not have the ability to exercise the power of his priesthood because it can only operate on the principle of righteousness (see D&C 121:36,37). Therefore, the options he has to choose from are less than those of someone who is obeying the commandments of God.

But sin restricts our freedom to choose in other ways as well. Our Father seeks to bless us, and the more blessings we have, the more choices become available to us. We can think of blessings as money. The more we have, the more choices there are of we can spend it on. If we spend our money wisely, we can actually increase our wealth, but if we spend our money foolishly, eventually we will lose that which we once had. Blessings from the Lord work much the same way. The more blessings we have, the more choices become available to us. And the better we become at making correct choices, the more we increase our blessings. But, when we foolishly spend the blessings God has already given us, we prevent ourselves from receiving any more blessings from God. And when that happens we also restrict the choices that those blessings provide us with.

But committing sin presents even a greater danger to our freedom Nephi taught his people concerning the devil, saying, "and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance " (2 Nephi 28:22). Nephi also explained that the devil hardens people's hearts and blinds their mind until they are "brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil" (1 Nephi 14:7 ).

Again we are bound down with the chains of hell, much like a prisoner is bound to his jail cell. When we sin, our minds become blinded to the choices that are before us and thus we fail to see or properly understand all the options that are available. It's like a hungry blind man looking at a menu. He knows there are options to choose from but he can't see what they are. Therefore, he must rely on someone to tell him what is on the menu. Someone who has been blinded by Satan is at his mercy to tell them what their options are.

The reason why Satan wants to blind and bind us is because his plan from the beginning was to "destroy the agency of man" (Moses 4:3). Thus, the more we sin, the more we are choosing to follow the promptings of the very being who seeks to take our freedom away from us."And thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell" (2 Nephi 28:21).

On the other hand, God'ss plan is to make man as free as He is. That is what the gospel is all about. Jesus taught, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36) "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" (Hel 14:30).

The greatest gift of God is eternal life, which gift is to inherit all that our Father in heaven has. In short, it is to become like God and be able to do all that He can do. Since God is omnipotent, meaning He is all-powerful, then, by definition, He can do all things. In other words, there are no restrictions or limits on what He can or can't do. Therefore, He is free to do whatever He wants. That is real total freedom and this is what God offers us. Even those who inherit the celestial kingdom but who do not become exalted are somewhat restricted in what they can do. Therefore, real freedom comes only to those who are exalted. And the way we become exalted is by keeping the commandments of God.

Rather than them restricting our freedom, the commandments of God are designed to help us achieve full freedom. On the other hand, Satan'ss plan is to prevent us from ever making it to the celestial kingdom. Therefore, all that he does is designed to rob us of as much of our freedom to choose as possible. And the way he does that is by enticing us to make wrong decisions. One way he convinces us to do that is by making us think that doing whatever we want gives us greater freedom while obeying God commandments somehow restricts or limits what we can do.

Those who accept Satan's logic believe that we can only be free if we are allowed to do anything we desire. In the blindness of their mind, they imagine that if we must only do good all the time, then that limits us to living just one way. Although they agree that Satan's plan was to deny us the option of sinning, they complain that God's plan is not much different because it won't let us do what we want. But the fact of the matter is that we are free to do evil any time we want to. Just because we choose not to do it doesn't mean that we don't have the option to do so if we desire it.

Even so, there are some who feel that when we voluntarily choose not to do something we are, in effect, restricting our freedom by denying ourselves the option to do certain other things. But this is a false argument. To illustrate why, let;s use the example of the restaurant again. If there are twenty dinners to choose from, it would be foolish to choose all twenty of them. First of all, we couldn't eat that much food at one time, and secondly, most people wouldn't want to spend that much money to eat one meal. Therefore, we survey all of the options available to us and then select the one we feel is the best for us. But because we have settled on one choice out of twenty doesn't mean we have lost the freedom to choose. We have simply made the wisest choice out of all the choices available to us. That's what freedom of choice means.

Perhaps we might use a different example to demonstrate this principle. Suppose I am walking along a mountain trail and come to a cliff that drops a thousand feet. As I look down I see a shallow stream with rocks and boulders on either side. I have the option of jumping off the cliff with no parachute if I wanted to, but why would I want to do that? If the fall didn't kill me, I would certainly be severely injured and in a lot of pain. That, in turn, would cause me to incur tremendous hospital costs, I would lose money by not being able to work, and I would probably be confined either to a hospital bed or a wheelchair for the rest of my life, not to mention the burden I would be to my family and friends. Therefore, after weighing all the pros and cons, I decide not to jump over the edge of the cliff.

If I've made a firm decision not to jump, the option of jumping is still available to me. But if I actually did jump, then suddenly I would lose the ability to do many other things I could do if I didn't jump. So, even though I have the freedom to jump, I choose not to do so in order to have more options available to me. But, just because I have made that decision, it doesn't do away with the option of jumping over the cliff.

In the same way, our Father in heaven is free to commit sin if He wants to. That option is always available to Him, but He knows that the moment He does, He would cease to be God. In the first place, He would lose the power of His priesthood since He would hold it in unrighteousness. And secondly, since no unclean thing can dwell in the celestial kingdom, He would also be forced to leave that heavenly realm. But the fact that our Father in heaven chooses not to sin doesn't eliminate His ability to commit sin. Therefore, He wisely chooses to do those things that will allow Him to have the greatest amount of freedom and rejects those options that will limit His choices. That is real freedom.

And the same principle applies to us. Choosing to do evil eventually limits the number of choices available to us. If we don't repent of our sins and begin making wise choices, then ultimately we will spend eternity restricted in what we can or cannot do.We will always have the ability or option to commit sin, but only those who live righteously will also have the option of inheriting eternal life.Therefore, the reason why God gives us commandments is to show us what we must do to achieve the greatest amount of freedom. Rather than them being a list of restrictions, they are, in reality, the only way to true freedom.

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