What Does It Mean to “Stand Fast in the Liberty Wherewith God Hath Made Us Free?”

For a period of time, Alma taught the gospel in secret, in a place called the waters of Mormon. He challenged the people to be baptized there. He organized them into a church there. They began to meet weekly to teach one another and to worship God. The group steadily grew until the king became aware of their activities. He had executed Abinadi, the prophet who had inspired Alma’s repentance. He had sent servants to kill Alma. Now, fearing that Alma was organizing a revolution, “he sent his army to destroy them” (Mosiah 18:33).

Mormon tells us that the Lord warned Alma of the impending ambush, and that he and his people escaped by gathering their possessions and traveling in the wilderness, just as their ancestor Lehi had done when his life was in danger hundreds of years earlier.

And the Lord did strengthen them, that the people of king Noah could not overtake them to destroy them (Mosiah 23:2).

After traveling for eight days, they arrived  in a “beautiful and pleasant land, a land of pure water” (Mosiah 23:4), and they began to build a city. Some form of government was necessary, and the people unsurprisingly gravitated to what they knew. They asked Alma, whom they knew and loved, to be their king.

Alma was appalled that this people, who had so recently been subject to a selfish and heartless king, and who had given up so much to escape, were now willing to subject themselves once again to a monarch. Reminding them of what they had so recently suffered, and how blessed they had been to escape from constraints and dangers they had faced under the leadership of a wicked king, he pleaded with them not to give up their newfound freedom so easily:

And now as ye have been delivered by the power of God out of these bonds; yea, even out of the hands of king Noah and his people, and also from the bonds of iniquity, even so I desire that ye should stand fast in this liberty wherewith ye have been made free, and that ye trust no man to be a king over you (Mosiah 23:13).

Years later, Alma’s grandson led a group of young warriors in a series of battles to defend the freedom of his people. At the end of a letter to Captain Moroni, the commander of the Nephite armies, he described these young men as faithful, obedient, and determined to defend the liberty of their people:

Behold, they have received many wounds; nevertheless they stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has made them free; and they are strict to remember the Lord their God from day to day; yea, they do observe to keep his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments continually; and their faith is strong in the prophecies concerning that which is to come (Alma 58:40).

Shortly after, Moroni read the same phrase in a letter from the chief judge, Pahoran:

See that ye strengthen Lehi and Teancum in the Lord; tell them to fear not, for God will deliver them, yea, and also all those who stand fast in that liberty wherewith God hath made them free (Alma 61:21).

We can lose our freedom in many ways. One of them, as highlighted by Alma, Helaman, and Pahoran, is to become subject to an oppressive government. Another is to become “entangled in sin.” As the apostle Paul would later write to the members of the church in Galatia, when you accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, He makes you free. Just as Alma’s people would have been foolish to willingly adopt the same system of government which had caused them so much pain, a person who has been freed from sin through the Atonement of Jesus Christ would be foolish to return to the very sins from which they have been rescued:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1).

The fundamental principle is this: When God has blessed you with freedom, whether political or spiritual, don’t throw that freedom away. Be vigilant. Remember the pain you have experienced in the past and avoid the things which led to that pain.

Today, I will “stand fast in that liberty wherewith God hath made [me] free.” I will be grateful for the deliverance I have received from God, and I will be careful to avoid situations and behaviors from which I have been rescued. I will show my gratitude for God’s blessings by enjoying those blessings, by retaining my freedom, and by holding steady on the path of discipleship.

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