Veritas Liberabit Vos

Inscription on the Northwest Missouri State University building in Maryville

At the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus gave His disciples a sequential formula describing how His teachings would improve their lives:

  1. “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;”
  2. “And ye shall know the truth,”
  3. “and the truth shall make you free.”

(John 8:31-32)

Note that sustained action leads to the knowledge. He had taught previously, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine” (John 7:17). Now, He promises that those who “continue” in His word will know the truth.

Alma explained to the people of Ammonihah that those who harden their hearts receive less knowledge—even less than they had before—while those who intentionally choose not to harden their hearts grow in knowledge over time. (See Alma 12:9-11.) Nephi warned us against becoming complacent with our current level of knowledge: “For unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have” (2 Nephi 28:30).

Then, Jesus goes on to give the promise. Why do we need knowledge? Because knowledge makes us free.

Many schools, including Johns Hopkins University, the University of Portland, and Southern Methodist University have adopted the Latin version of that promise—Veritas Liberabit Vos—as their motto.

His antagonists were offended, because the Savior had implied that they were not already free. “We be Abraham’s seed,” they protested, “and were never in bondage to any man” (John 8:33). This was preposterous. Everyone knows that the Israelites lived in captivity in Egypt for hundreds of years and that a major theme of the Old Testament was that God delivered them. (See 1 Nephi 17:25.) And in the time of Jesus, His people were governed by the Roman empire. They may have resented the claim that they were not entirely free, but it was entirely true.

Jesus made a clarifying statement which broadened the definition of captivity: “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). The first step in the Alcoholics Anonymous program, which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has adopted with some revisions for its Addiction Recovery Program, is to admit that you have a problem and need help. Without the truth, you may not only be in bondage; you may be entirely unaware that you are in bondage. Recognizing and admitting the truth may be your first step toward freedom.

Joseph Smith taught that knowledge is essential for salvation:

Knowledge does away with darkness, suspense and doubt; for these cannot exist where knowledge is. … In knowledge there is power. God has more power than all other beings, because He has greater knowledge; and hence He knows how to subject all other beings to Him. He has power over all….

A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God.”

Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Chapter 22: “Gaining Knowledge of Eternal Truths”

Book of Mormon prophets recognized this relationship between knowledge and freedom. Jacob asked his people, “Would I be plain unto you according to the plainness of the truth if ye were freed from sin?” (2 Nephi 9:47). And Samuel the Lamanite urged the people of Zarahemla to recognize that their liberty was related to the truths they had learned: “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” (Helaman 14:30).

Today, I will remember that the freedom I enjoy is linked to the knowledge I have gained. I will recognize that I am not yet entirely free, that my sins represent a form of bondage. I will strive to gain more knowledge, recognizing that increased understanding of the truth will increase my power to act.

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