Do you ever look back at your life and smile thinking of how different it is from what you had once planned? I’m so grateful I’ve learned a lot since the days when I knew it all.

Once upon a time in my youth, I had life all planned out. I would have my important career in a skyscraper and live in a downtown apartment with easy access to the nearest major league ballpark. I would live an important, satisfying life in my urban oasis.

Fast forward to reality. I now live in a century-old farmhouse with an amazing husband who couldn’t care less about sports. I didn’t finish college. I spend my days as a stay-at-home mom caring for my husband, my daughter, a Yorkie and some horses. There are no tall buildings in sight, and I can’t even tell you the current starting lineup for my favorite baseball team. Instead, I keep busy researching rare neuromuscular diseases and other topics that were nowhere near my radar 15 years ago.

The best part is – I wouldn’t change a thing! I have no doubt that life leads you down different roads for a reason. Every step we take builds on the one before. First, I met a man I couldn’t live without, even though he took me completely by surprise and turned out to be everything I never knew I always needed. Then I became a mom and it changed my life in every way. Suddenly I had an answer for the things I had always questioned earlier in life. I used to wonder things like: How does it benefit anyone to have children and just be a stay-at-home mom? You spend your whole life raising kids just so that they can grow up to spend their whole life raising kids. Kind of a pointless cycle, I had thought. Ironically, I was blessed to grow up with the greatest mother as an example. It just took me awhile to realize that I wanted to be for someone else what she has always been for me.

My outlook changed dramatically once I was actually a mother. Our little family had a rough beginning which – following a now familiar pattern – was nothing like I thought it would be. Instead it was infinitely better! Once you feel a love like that, you can’t go back to thinking anything is more important. I realized the purpose of “just being a mom” was eternal in nature. It became so obvious that families were created to help us learn Christlike love, to learn what it means to love someone more than you love yourself, and to be willing to do anything for them. Families are where we learn sacrifice and service and unconditional love and compassion and forgiveness and all the other traits that will help us return to our Father in Heaven someday.

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That makes the family critically important and worthy of defending. In order for our families to be a laboratory of learning as we progress back to our heavenly home, we have to have the freedom to teach our children what and how we see fit to teach them. This is why I’ve taken an interest in things like education and freedom and preserving the family. All of these issues are linked.

As a society, we’re either moving toward strengthening the family or we’re moving toward letting it fail and having government step in as the caregiver.

As a society, we’re either moving toward strengthening the family or we’re moving toward letting it fail and having government step in as the caregiver. There are many forces at work in our nation trying to pull us to one side or the other. President David O. McKay once gave a talk entitled “Two Contending Forces”. In it, he talks about Satan vs. Christ and the different ways that we see these two sides contend with each other, like selfishness vs. service and state domination vs. personal liberty. He quotes Communist leaders like Marx, Lenin and Khrushchev in saying that hatred is the basis for Communism, and Christian love is an obstacle to the development of a revolution. While they may disguise their ideology with a smile, the only unity sought for is voluntary submission to their ideals.

On the other hand, Christ teaches that the greatest commandments are centered in love: love the Lord thy God and love thy neighbor. Our works must be filled with love, and the noblest aim in life is to strive to make the lives of others better and happier. He likens this to motherhood – the noblest calling where work is done exclusively for others.

Satan would have us be captive and controlled by oppressive tyrants, so that our choices are not our own. In that scenario, we cannot develop into all that we have the potential to become because someone else is in charge of our destiny. Christ wants us to be free to love and serve and put our religious beliefs into action, thus spreading the light of Christ throughout the world and allowing the gospel to go forth. The talk ends with the counsel to sustain, fight for, and be willing to die for the light of Christ.
This is why I want to stand for freedom. Communism may seem like an impossibility to most Americans, but there can be no doubt that our freedoms are slowly being eroded and that traditional morality is being replaced by moral relativism where there is no right or wrong and people are encouraged to simply do whatever feels good. This kind of thinking will eventually erode our liberties.

John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” A moral and religious people tend to govern themselves rather well as they strive to live a higher law. Our Constitution is based on principles of limited government, and a moral people don’t need government to tell them the right way to live. It’s a very symbiotic relationship. When we move away from being a moral society (like when religion is silenced and stigmatized), government has to move in with greater control to guide behavior. When you get the wrong people in charge of such a government, the effects are catastrophic.

Ezra Taft Benson said, “The cause of freedom is the most basic part of our religion. Our position on freedom helped get us to this earth, and it can make the difference as to whether we get back home or not.” That statement alone tells me all I need to know about which side to be on. If you wonder how you can get involved and where to begin, start by reading the address by D. Todd Christofferson at the 2016 Provo Freedom Festival. He gives the background of why religious freedom matters to us and to our families, and then gives counsel on how we can become informed, speak out, and get involved. Once you have a desire to do this, the Spirit will guide you from there on the specific actions you can take.

The Family: A Proclamation to the World states:

“We warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

My only goal in this life is to return to my Father in Heaven with my eternal family intact. I believe part of that will require being accountable for what I did while I was here. I want to stand for things that matter in order to preserve the things that mean the most to me – faith, family, and freedom. If these things matter to you, choose to be involved. Choose to make a difference. It is marvelous that we can take part in preserving Godly principles in our society! The future of religious freedom – and the future of our families – depends on whether or not people of faith choose to stand. Let us rise to the challenge!

14718811_676212405873852_5523984483066766551_nAbout the Author: Stephanie Gifford lives in southeast Idaho with her husband and daughter. She has a passion for learning about God’s hand in American history and how it ties to the restoration of the Gospel. To share what she has learned, Stephanie has started a Facebook page – Latter-day Prophets and Patriots – which has daily thoughts from LDS prophets and apostles on government and our inspired Constitution.