I hesitate to address such a complex principle as freedom but I have been thinking much of what actually constitutes Freedom. There are many circumstances and situations that restrict our freedoms. There are governments and laws that either take away our freedoms or protect our freedoms. There is one freedom that no one or no government can take from us. Only we can give up this freedom. It is the freedom of choice or in other words our Agency to choose. This is a gift from God and it is eternal. This is a freedom given only to the children of our Heavenly Father and this particular freedom applies only to us as human beings.

All my life I have loved animals and have tried to learn about them and their habits and lives. When I was a boy I acquired all kinds of pets some I raised with great success and others did not adapt to domestication. As I look back on the different ones I find that the success was based on the amount of freedom that was taken away from each one. The ones that suffered the most changes in their natural lives were the most unsuccessful in adapting to domestication.

I remember one day I came upon a beautiful, young Red Tailed Hawk. It had just come out of the nest to learn to fly. I caught it easily and carefully took it home. I put him on a post in the grape arbor and took over the role of parent Hawks. I named him Zar for I thought he was like a king. I got my flipper and went to hunt birds to feed my new pet. At first I would give the bird to him while he was sitting on the post and watch as he tore it apart with his sharp beak. Soon he would see me coming with a bird for him and would sound a cry of welcome "Coleeeeeeo!!!!!!!!" I would toss the bird on the lawn and he would fly down and pounce upon the bird with his sharp talons and devour it with his sharp hooked beak. Soon he could fly very well but sat mostly on the post so as to not miss a meal. The birds got harder and harder to kill for him and I began to tire of trying to keep up with his voracious appetite. He seemed to have no bottom and I couldn't keep up with his hunger. I tried to get him to fly away and hunt for himself but he was always there on the post waiting for the easy meal.

I had unwittingly taken away his freedom to soar in the wide blue skies and dive on his prey. He didn't know the thrill and the joy of hunting for himself. I decided that I had made a mistake and had taken away his free wonderful life that the Lord had created him for. How to get him to leave and go back to the wild free life he was meant for? I decided that I would go away and then he would have to go away and find food for himself. Hunger would drive him to hunt for himself.

For three days he sat on his post calling for me to come and feed him but I did not relent and soon he flew away and soared high in the sky circling our house for a long while then disappeared. A few times I saw him early in the morning come and alight on his post but soon he would give up and fly away. After  that when I would see a big Red Tailed Hawk soaring around in the blue sky I wondered if it might be my pet Zar.

When our son Keith LaRae (Kiko) was an Explorer Scout we were camped in our favorite camp on Trout Creek. This camp is where the trail comes down from the Carrizo and drops into Trout Creek where there was a series of level Terraces shaded by tall Black Oak and Pine trees. We had about 18 boys and men in the party and we were enjoying our camp in this beautiful part of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Kiko had taken a couple of the boys with him and had gone to search for some horses that had not come into camp with the rest of the "Remuda". They were riding along on a grassy side hill covered with trees and shrubs when a little spotted White Tailed Faun jumped up and started to run away. Kiko piled of his mule and even though he was hindered by his Chaps and spurs was fast enough to catch the little Faun. He held him tenderly in his arms and carried him back to camp. There he contrived to feed him some diluted canned milk and tied him in his tent where the little fellow lay quietly as his instinct prompted him to do. The rest of the trip and all of the way home Kiko took good care of the little Deer so when he arrived home he was in very good condition and had lost most of his fear of humans. At home all of the family fell in love with little Bucky, as they Named him, and he became the family pet. Each of the children took turns feeding him his baby bottle filled with fresh warm cows milk. That little Deer thrived on the attention and good food and grew slick and fat. He was very playful and lively and had the freedom of our whole lot to run and play in. Sometimes he would play a little rough and knock some of the smaller children down.

Even though we had taken him out of his free wild home in the Sierra Madre Mountains and away from his Mother he seemed to be happy and free in his home for he knew no other. He had claimed as his home a room in the old abandoned Adobe Chicken Coop where he felt safe from the big dogs of the neighborhood. We had placed a half door in the open door of the coop to keep out the dogs and keep him safe. I saw him several times come running in the driveway followed closely by a big dog. He would run swiftly to the chicken coop and jump over the half door into the refuge of his home. When    this happened the dog was run off in a hail of rocks that we threw at him for bothering our Bucky. Bucky seemed even to enjoy eluding the dogs in this way. After the first year he grew some spike horns and with his sharp hoofs would defend himself from the smaller dogs. He was prudent enough however to run to safety when the big dogs came after him.

There was plenty of food of all kinds for him to eat around the lot and the garden so he grew steadily and soon was not the loving little Deer for the kids to love and pet. Naoma and I decided that he had become a danger to the smaller children. He could almost kill a small dog with his sharp front hoofs.

The family was used to eating delicious venison steaks so they never knew when they ate some prime venison after Bucky had disappeared.

I tell this story to let you decide whether we deprived that little Faun of his freedom or whether we just gave him another home until he was ready to be harvested. True we kept him from filling the measure of his creation but we did it out of love and to have him for a pet for the whole family.

I sometimes wonder if over protective parents deprive their children of some of their freedoms because they love them and don't want to see them get hurt. There is a fine line between what is too much protection and what isn't enough. Every situation is different so we must rely on good judgment and the Spirit of the Lord to guide us constantly.

The only way we can be free is through keeping the commandments of the Lord. We must make right choices that do not lead us to things that can enslave us. This can keep us free from the enslaving chains of debt or the clutch of the vice of gambling, We must choose to be free from the more insidious things that can destroy us by following the counsel of the Prophets of the Lord.

The Governments of the world can take away our freedom to do the things that we consider our rights, but they cannot take away our freedom to make right choices. We are free to have peace of mind and be free to serve others in their need. We are free to love our family and spouses and our Neighbor as ourselves. We can always be free and happy in our hearts if we make right choices or if we make a mistake we can repent and become free again.

Some of the things that are very destructive to our freedom are Worry, anticipation of things that could surely harm us if they happened but probably won't and worst of all is fear. We all seem to have some fear of the unknown. This fear can keep us from doing many things that are good and we would like to do them, but because they are unknown to us we usually fear them.

The story is told of a ruler that was very harsh with the prisoners that he took in war or even the criminals of the land. His fame had spread far and wide for his many executions. One time a neighboring Magistrate was visiting him in his palace when he was called to pass judgment on two prisoners that had been taken in war. The ruler and the Magistrate went to the judgment hall for the hearing. When the first prisoner came in he was a bold warrior and stood proudly before them. Behind the prisoner was a fearsome big black door next to the corridor that led to the execution yard. The ruler sadly looked at this proud prisoner and spoke saying, "I will give you a choice between two fates. You can choose execution or you can choose to go through that black door that is at your back". The  prisoner turned and looked at the formidable black door for a moment then turned and with head held high he chose execution. He was led away to his death.

The next prisoner came in and the whole process was repeated. As he was led away the Magistrate asked the Ruler, why do you give them their choice? What is behind that big black door. The Ruler answered sadly. "That door leads to freedom but because it is the unknown they would rather face execution than the unknown black door."

We must learn to conquer our fear and worry over the things that probably will not happen. Anticipation of disastrous happenings that might occur can only rob us of peace of mind and the freedom to act as if it were not going to happen. Positive thinking can give us freedom to act in many things while pessimism and negative thinking can make us miserable and take away our freedom to act in many things.

I am very thankful to live in a free country where the government is trying to preserve our freedoms. They make many mistakes in legislation that actually takes away some of the freedoms that we cherish but in the whole we are among the free nations of the earth. We cherish that freedom and must be vigilant to preserve it.