Does Obedience Diminish Freedom?

Korihor had a message for the Nephite people: You have been brainwashed. Your religious beliefs are the effect of a frenzied and a deranged mind (Alma 30:16). Your church leaders have taught you to follow foolish and silly traditions in order to “usurp power and authority over [you], to keep [you] in ignorance, that [you] may not lift up [your] heads…and that [you] durst not enjoy [your] rights and privileges” (Alma 30:23, 27). Korihor saw the obedience of church members as a form of captivity: “Ye say that this people is a free people. Behold, I say they are in bondage” (Alma 30:24).

But Alma, the high priest over the church, had a different explanation for the obedience of church members. He and the other church leaders weren’t getting paid for their efforts: “I have never received so much as one senine for my labor,” he told Korihor (Alma 30:33). So if they weren’t benefitting materially from their service, why did they do it? One reason: “To declare the truth, that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren” (Alma 30:34).

The members of the church weren’t obedient because they were ignorant; they were obedient because of their knowledge. They had learned that joy comes from living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their leaders weren’t teaching them the commandments to bring them into submission; they were teaching them so that the members could experience for themselves the joy and freedom that comes from living the gospel. What looks like captivity to an outsider is actually informed and conscious decision-making on the part of a person of faith.

Today, I will be grateful for the freedom God has granted me, including the ability to obey His commandments and receive the promised blessings. I will remember that obedience does not diminish my freedom. Choosing to obey is a manifestation of my freedom and is a reasonable response to my knowledge that the principles of the gospel are true.

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