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By Henk Fischer
July is a month when we celebrate the blessings of freedom and liberty in our country. I immigrated to this country from Germany and became a citizen in 2006. I am grateful to live in a country where we have free exercise of speech, travel and religion.
Growing up in West Germany, I enjoyed similar freedoms, but I was also keenly aware of the many restrictions that the citizens of East Germany were facing. I was a teenager when the Berlin wall came down, and I still remember the excitement of the people as they were experiencing their newfound freedoms.
A few months later, as a church group, we traveled to Dresden, East Germany, and I was shocked to find the poor conditions of the cities and homes there. It seemed that hardly any progress had been made in the previous 45 years. Crossing over from West to East Germany was like going from “color TV” to “black-and-white TV.” It is then that I truly realized how important the concept of freedom is.
The concept of freedom is a gospel principle because our Heavenly Father wants us to be free and live a life abundant in choices. The scriptures teach us that “the truth shall make you free” (John 8: 32). In a spiritual sense, those who repent, come unto Christ, and obey God’s will are free from the bondage of sin through the atonement of Jesus Christ. An American leader in the Book of Mormon also stated that “the Spirit of God is the spirit of freedom” (Alma 61: 15)
In Isaiah 61:1 the Lord promises that His atonement and gospel path can break temporal and spiritual bonds. I believe that this hope of freedom includes those who are seeking to overcome debilitating habits or addictions, and are trying to make their own choices again.
When many people think of the concept of freedom, they think of freedom from oppression, misery, restrictions and even pain. However, the freedom that God offers us goes beyond that and is the freedom to make choices. It means that we are not the victims of our circumstances anymore — that the gospel path can truly liberate us.
God will never compel us to do His will. His desire for us is to come closer to Him. He knows that we need to embrace His attributes and gospel of our own free will and choice. It is only then that we are changed and set free.
I feel privileged to enjoy freedom in this country where many have sacrificed for it and continue to fight for it. Let us use this freedom evermore to increase our personal choices, choose good over evil and find peace through the atonement of Christ. The hope of freedom is real because Jesus Christ and His gospel are real.
Henk Fischer is president of the Redlands Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is affiliated with the Redlands Area Interfaith Council.
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