Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Agency: The Power to Choose

                    Agency is the power to choose good or evil and was given to us by our Heavenly Father.  Moses wrote, "The Lord said unto Enoch:  Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency."  (See Pearl of Great Price - Moses 7:32.)

Agency is more than just the ability to do what we want.  The following quotes show that it is one of the most basic and important of all gospel laws.

                 Elder Boyd K. Pack of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, "The laws of God are ordained to make us happy" (Ensign, Nov. 1990, 84).

                President Spencer W. Kimball taught, "The basic gospel law is free agency.  To force us to be careful or righteous would be to nullify that fundamental law, and growth would be impossible" (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p 38).

                President David O. McKay said, "Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God's greatest gift to man" (Gospel Ideals [1953], 299).
                Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, "Your agency, the right to make choices, is not given so that you can get what you want.  This divine gift is provided so that you will choose what your Father in Heaven wants for you.  That way He can lead you to become all that He intends you to be.  That path leads to glorious joy and happiness" (Ensign, May 1996, 25).

Several specific conditions must exist in order for us to have and use agency.  They can be considered as the Principles of Agency.  The following principles form the foundation on which agency is based:  1) Law, 2) Knowledge of the Law, 3) Opposition - good and evil, 4) Freedom of Choice, and 5) Responsibility for Choices.

The great prophet Abraham wrote about agency after the Lord revealed the principles of it to him. "And there stood one among them that was like unto God [Jesus Christ], and he said unto those who were with him:  We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
"And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
"And they who keep their first estate [pre-earth life] shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate [earth life] shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever."  (See Pearl of Great Price - Abraham 3:24-26.)

These verses in Abraham tell us that we came to earth to "prove" ourselves - to be tested and tried to see if we would be obedient to our Heavenly Father.  Agency was necessary for us to be able to choose between good and evil.  We are here on earth because we made good choices during our "first estate" or pre-earth life.

Abraham then records what happened in our pre-earth life. "And the Lord said:  Whom shall I send?  And one answered like unto the Son of Man:  Here am I, send me.  And another answered and said:  Here am I, send me.  And the Lord said:  I will send the first.
"And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him."  (See Pearl of Great Price - Abraham 3:27-28.)

Moses also wrote of the events in heaven.  "And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying:  That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying - Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.
"But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me - Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
"Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
"And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice."  (See Pearl of Great Price - Moses 4:1-4.)
                    When Heavenly Father asked whom he should send, Jesus volunteered to be the Savior of the world and to help fulfill Heavenly Father's plan.  Lucifer (Satan) also volunteered, but he demanded conditions that would have violated Heavenly Father's plan.  Heavenly Father chose Jesus, and Satan rebelled.  Satan wanted to take away our agency and to force us to do right; he also wanted the glory of Heavenly Father for himself.  Because Satan rebelled against Heavenly Father and "sought to destroy the agency of man" (Moses 4:3), he was cast out of heaven.

                    Agency is necessary in order for us to be "proved" - tried and tested - to determine if we will be obedient to the Father's commandment.  If we were forced to keep the commandments as Satan wanted to do, our willingness to obey would not be tested.  The Principles of Agency applied in our pre-earth life or first estate.  We used our agency to make a very important choice in our pre-earth life when we chose to follow Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ instead of following Satan.  We know that we made this choice because we have physical bodies; those who followed Satan were cast out of heaven without bodies and will never have the opportunity to have bodies because they kept not their first estate.                 
                Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, "In the great council in heaven, God's plan was presented:  the plan of salvation, the plan of redemption, the great plan of happiness….  The adversary rebelled and adopted a plan of his own.  Those who followed him were denied the right to a mortal body.  Our presence here confirms that we sanctioned our Father's plan." (See Ensign, Nov. 1993, 21.)

                    We sometimes we hear a person say, "_______ made me do it."  One of the Principles of Agency is that we are accountable for the results of our choices.  God will never accept justification for our decisions because He insists that we are accountable for them.

                Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, "We are free to obey or to ignore the spirit and the letter of the law.  But the agency granted to man is a moral agency (see D&C 101:78).  We are not free to break our covenants and escape the consequences." (See Ensign, Nov. 1990, 84.)

When we make choices, we must accept the consequences.  We are free to choose our actions, but we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions.  The consequences of unwise choices can put us in a position where our choices, and thus our freedom, are greatly limited.

Some people think that we give up our freedom when we choose to obey the commandments of God.  This is not true.  The commandments are given to us as guidelines to keep us free much as a fence at the top of a cliff would keep people and animals safe from falling off the cliff.  We lose freedom when we make wrong choices and gain freedom by making good choices.  For example, obedience to the Word of Wisdom keeps our bodies healthy and free to perform other tasks while disobedience to this law brings cancer, alcoholism, drug addiction, etc. into our lives.  Wise use of agency keeps all our choices open and improves our ability to choose. 

                    Our choices have eternal significance.  In fact, the most important choice we have in this life is to choose liberty and eternal life or captivity and spiritual death.  The prophet Nephi wrote,

                    "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."  (See Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 2:27.)

                    We choose liberty and eternal life when we choose to follow Jesus Christ and keep His commandments.  This is a daily and even hourly choice that will affect us eternally.  The small choices we make such as praying daily, attending church each week, and being completely honest with our fellowmen will determine whether we gain captivity or eternal life.

                    We each must consider our choices carefully and frequently ask ourselves this question:  Do I righteously use my power to choose?  Each of us possesses the gift of agency, the freedom to choose between good and evil.  We exercised our agency wisely to earn the right to come to earth.  Now, in this life, we are responsible for each choice we make.  Making righteous decisions puts us on the path toward eternal exaltation.

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