Yesterday we took a Sunday drive to see an enormous American flag flying in a nearby canyon. It was breathtaking! When I saw our beautiful flag blowing in the breeze, I couldn’t help but have a lump in my throat, a tear in my eye and a deeper my love for this great country! I am sure part of my patriotism comes from having a father who served in the military. After celebrating the 4th of July with fewer freedoms than we usually have, I was grateful for the tender reminder of the precious gift of freedom. I truly am grateful to live in America. I am thankful for those who have fought, and continue to fight, to make us free and for those who promote freedom.
In the early 1950s, my dad served in the Coast Guard. He spent most of his time on the St. George Reef Lighthouse, off the coast of northern California. A few years before he passed away, my family had the privilege of going back with him to visit. Although we weren’t able to go out to the lighthouse, which is six miles out to sea, one clear day, we could see this sturdy granite structure from the shore. Parts of the lighthouse, including the huge Fresnel lens, were on display at the museum we visited in Crescent City. As he looked at that massive lens, my dad recounted many wonderful experiences on the lighthouse. And while cleaning that lens was one of his most important jobs, and certainly the most dangerous, it was definitely his least favorite! It was time-consuming and tedious. But it was essential. The light from the lens could warn weary travelers some twenty miles away.
Thinking about my dad’s experiences as a lightkeeper made me think a little deeper about freedom. The captains of the boats knew they could trust that there would be a light burning brightly to warn of danger, keeping them free from inevitable harm if not for that light. We, too, have lightkeepers who want to ensure our freedom by warning us of imminent dangers. They are our prophets and apostles!
A profound warning was given by Ezra Taft Benson when he was the prophet. He said, “Wickedness is rapidly expanding in every segment of our society. It is more highly organized, more cleverly disguised, and more powerfully promoted than ever before. Secret combinations lusting for power, gain, and glory are flourishing. A secret combination that seeks to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries is increasing its evil influence and control over America and the entire world. … As the forces of evil increase under Lucifer’s leadership and as the forces of good increase under the leadership of Jesus Christ, there will be growing battles between the two until the final confrontation. As the issues become clearer and more obvious, all mankind will eventually be required to align themselves either for the kingdom of God or for the kingdom of the devil. As these conflicts rage, either secretly or openly, the righteous will be tested. … But God will provide strength for the righteous; … and eventually and finally truth will triumph.”1
We know there will always be an ongoing battle between freedom and bondage, between right and wrong, between good and evil. While we are being warned about the need to cherish, honor and protect our freedoms, many of the talks I read during my study remind us that the best way to do that is through obedience to God’s commandments.
Here are a few quotes from some of those talks.
“Living the commandments makes us free. … Real freedom is found only in obedience—in subjecting ourselves to God’s will. … One of Satan’s most effective tools is to clothe bondage in the costume of liberty.”2 – Paul V. Johnson
“How can we best … secure the blessings of liberty and ensure the protection and guidance of our Father in Heaven? First and foremost, we must be righteous.”3 – Ezra Taft Benson
“Freedom and liberty are precious gifts that come to us when we are obedient to the laws of God and the whisperings of the Spirit. … Obedience leads to true freedom. The more we obey revealed truth, the more we become liberated.”4 – James E. Faust
“There is no true freedom without responsibility, and there is no enduring freedom without a knowledge of the truth.”5 – Boyd K. Packer
“The Lord has revealed His sacred standard to guide people in a troubled world. You and I were born free to follow His divine guidance. … For freedom and joy, choose to ‘be faithful in Christ.’”6 – Russell M. Nelson
“Freedom comes not from resisting it but from applying it. … It is God’s will that we be free men and women enabled to rise to our full potential both temporally and spiritually, … prepared in all things to join Him in His celestial kingdom.”7 – D. Todd Christofferson
“Freedom is a God-given eternal principle. … One of the privileges of mortal life is the opportunity to rise in freedom’s defense.”8 – Ezra Taft Benson
On my way back to the car after seeing the beautiful flag, there was an older man, a veteran I am sure, who with help from his family stood, staring at the flag. You could see from the expression on his face that he loves what the flag stands for. He, like so many others, fought for our freedoms. Does a love of freedom show in our faces and in our actions? What are we doing to cherish, honor and protect our freedoms?
Watching this humble older man reminded me of something Vaughn J. Featherstone said, “I think it is time we should all awaken. Our concern isn’t about the flames of freedom which burn so brightly in our generation; the concern is that in the upcoming generation the fire has never been kindled. … Freedom ought to ring in the heart of every Latter-day Saint regardless of his country. The United States of America is the greatest nation on the face of the earth. We ought to love it and we ought to talk about it. We need to be true, we need to have faith. If we do this, God will give us strength to brace against the winds. He will make this country like a giant pillar of granite. He will make us a mighty people, a pure people, a Christlike people, a worthy people, a free people.”9
Elder Featherstone’s generation was my dad’s generation and the generation of the veteran I saw yesterday! The flames of freedom definitely burned brightly in them! Gratefully I was blessed with a father who kindled the fire of freedom in me!
The granite lighthouse my father served on was built to withstand the ocean beating on it from every side. And perched atop was a bright, guiding beacon. If we are righteous, God will make this country, which was founded on freedom, like a great pillar of granite. Every latter-day prophet has reminded us that America is a chosen land, chosen because it was necessary to have a free country where the gospel could be restored. We know that there will be opposition from every side, not just here in America. The prophets and apostles, our lightkeepers, can be our beacon in this ever-darkening world. If we will follow them, they will lead us to safety in these treacherous times.
1. I Testify – Ezra Taft Benson
2. Free to Choose – Paul V. Johnson
3. Our Divine Constitution – Ezra Taft Benson
4. Obedience: The Path to Freedom – James E. Faust
5. Agency and Control – Boyd K. Packer
6. Addiction or Freedom – Russell M. Nelson
7. Free Forever, to Act for Themselves – D. Todd Christofferson
8. October 1972 Ensign – Ezra Taft Benson
9. But Watchman, What of the Night? – Vaughn J. Featherstone