Choosing Liberty and Eternal Life
by Autumn Dickson
In the chapters for this week, we find Lehi’s family in the promised land and Lehi is dying. He knows he is dying and decides to share some last messages with his family. He pleads with Laman and Lemuel to get it together, blesses his grandchildren to be protected from bad influences, encourages the others to do what’s right, and prophesies of future events. He also shares essential doctrines.
One of these doctrines is a huge focus in the Come Follow Me manual this week as well as the huge focus for my post.
2 Nephi 2:27 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 life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
I have taught about grace and works and the atonement of Jesus Christ many times. And yet, I feel like Lehi has taught about these topics in a way that illuminates my understanding further. Not to mention, he did it in a single sentence.
They are free to choose liberty and eternal life through the great Mediator of all men.
This is a fantastic way to teach grace and the role of works in the Plan of Salvation.
A multiple choice test
I want you to imagine for a second that choosing the Celestial kingdom was occurring on a multiple choice test. There is only one question. This is how I imagine it would look like:
- What do you want?
- Liberty and eternal life
- Captivity and death
It sounds simple to the point of silliness, but I want you to think about it in this manner. Without Jesus Christ, the test would look like this.
- What do you want?
- Captivity and death
And that is why salvation is a gift. No matter how often we would have chosen to do what’s right, no matter how much we would have changed, no matter how much we would have gotten glimpses of what eternity is supposed to be like in moments with our family and friends, it would have been out of reach. Without the Savior, Heavenly Father could not have given us eternal life without spurning justice and ceasing to be God and newsflash…that would mean there was no heaven to be had. The price had to be paid, and Christ was the only one who could pay it. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, the option for eternal life was now available to us. The option was unlocked for us. It was a gift to us.
That is why we, as Latter-day Saints, believe in grace. That is why we believe salvation was given to us freely. We didn’t pay for that option to show up. Christ gave the option of salvation to us; He didn’t have to give it and He dearly wants to give it.
And yet, it is still a choice.
The “works” portion
This week, I sat down and watched “Prince of Egypt” with my kids. Phenomenal movie. Please watch it. I feel the Spirit every time.
Anyway, as I’ve been pondering this specific principle this week (i.e. Christ providing the option for us to choose eternal life), the “Prince of Egypt” movie hit me differently. There is a part where the Egyptians come chasing after the Israelites, and the Israelites are trapped at the sea. Moses, as a type of Christ, parts the water thereby providing a way for escape for the Israelites. The option for liberty appeared because of the power of Christ.
And yet, the Israelites still needed to choose to take the option. Christ didn’t transport them onto the other side of the sea; He merely made liberty available. Can you imagine the silliness of the Israelites cheering on the shore, ecstatic that the waves had parted and then just sitting there? Can you imagine them praising the Lord for parting the sea and then choosing to camp on the shore until they were slaughtered by the Egyptians or brought back into captivity?
Christ provided the option, but He won’t force us to move forward. He won’t force us to live an eternal life (which, by the way, starts today if we want). He can’t force us to live in a manner that allows for us to feel the peace and happiness He offers.
Some may argue that belief is all that is required, but I believe that eternal life isn’t bestowed. It’s something you grow into. And yet, Latter-day Saints still believe it’s a free gift because Christ paid the price for that option to become available to us..
Walking through the sea
I simplified our choice of liberty and eternal life earlier with my test question, but I did that in order to highlight grace and the principle of Christ providing an option that was not there beforehand. It’s easy to circle “Liberty and eternal life” on a test, but choosing it in real life is a little more involved than that.
I’ve talked often about growing into an eternal life, about progressing to become like our Heavenly Father rather than believing that heaven is something that simply descends upon us. Integrity, charity, and humility aren’t just arbitrary traits that Heavenly Father chose because He thought it would make us better worshippers. In actuality, these are traits that make us feel the happiness and peace that He feels. They are traits that make us feel happy with ourselves and enable us to have heavenly relationships. I could talk a lot about the importance of pushing ourselves to grow into eternal life. I could wax long about the blessings of feeling these qualities within yourself, but I believe there is another part of choosing liberty and eternal life that is equally important to our peace and happiness and ability to grow into eternal life.
Eternal life is not just about becoming like our Heavenly Parents; it’s about being with Him and our Heavenly Mother again. We may not fully comprehend the import of that concept, but there was a time when we loved and felt loved by Them. If we could taste of that mutual love again, we would understand why living with Them would equate to an eternal life.
Consciously choosing to live a life like our Eternal Parents enables us to feel happiness and begin our eternal lives now. Consciously choosing eternal life today also means inviting our loving Parents and Savior into our lives and developing a relationship with Them now. This can be accomplished through a little phrase found in the same verse we read earlier, namely, “…through the great Mediator of all men.” To be a Mediator means to reconcile two parties. The Savior provides the opportunity for us to be reconciled and united with our Heavenly Parents. But just like with any other part of eternal life, He simply provided the opportunity. We are the ones who have to walk through the sea.
There are many things that can keep us from feeling that relationship with our Heavenly Parents. We are very aware that conscious rebellion and laziness can keep us from feeling this precious relationship, but there are also more subtle tactics from Satan that keep us from Them. A belief that we are unworthy, holding onto guilt longer than is needful, and perfectionism are all subtle tactics BUT THEY ARE STILL FROM SATAN. For some reason, it may feel oddly righteous to believe we are too unworthy to approach our Heavenly Father, but nothing could be farther from our Heavenly Father’s desires. He misses us. He feels cheated when we keep ourselves from Him.
Satan would do anything to keep you from believing that you have Parents who are perfectly supportive, perfectly coaching, perfectly pushing us to become as They are because Satan knows the absolute power of that belief.
Satan knows that if we learn how much our Heavenly Parents love us, we will find the happiness and peace that is available in eternity. And if we find that happiness and peace and love, we will find the motivation and power necessary to become like them. Following the gospel will no longer feel punishing; it will be freeing and powerful, and we will crave it.
Christ provided the opportunity for us to develop that relationship by paying the price that kept us from Them. However, it will never be enough to camp on the shore. We will constantly be plagued by fears of the enemy and there will not be any growth. If we camp on that shore and keep ourselves from Them, we will likely be taken over by the adversary just like the Israelites would have been if they hadn’t walked through the Red Sea.
We have to throw off Satan. We have to choose to mentally shun him and send him away. We have to walk through the sea, not only by living the commandments, but by actively choosing to trust in Their love for us.
Trusting Their love is an act of faith; we may not see it ahead of time. Maybe you don’t feel Their love for you yet. We may have to act before we can feel it. However, if we choose to act as though they love us, if we choose to change our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves according to the love we’ve been taught about, that act of faith will start to grow and grow and grow until it fills us and we know it is true.
That is what it means to choose liberty and eternal life, and it is all made possible by a loving Savior.
Autumn Dickson was born and raised in a small town in Texas. She served a mission in the Indianapolis Indiana mission. She studied elementary education but has found a particular passion in teaching the gospel. Her desire for her content is to inspire people to feel confident, peaceful, and joyful about their relationship with Jesus Christ and to allow that relationship to touch every aspect of their lives.