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.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Choices and Consequences

                    Families, communities, and nations grow stronger when we as members, residents, and citizens understand that choices have consequences.  We have the agency and freedom to make choices, but we cannot choose the consequences of those choices.  All choices have consequences:  when we make a choice, we also choose the consequences that go with that choice.

We each make choices every day; few of us can go longer than an hour without making a choice of some kind.  Some of the choices are trivial such as what we will wear while others are extremely important and will affect our future.  Some will not have any lasting requirements; others can affect our eternal lives.

In recent weeks Anchorage citizens came face to face with the consequences of choices.  Two different men, on two different occasions but within a week, were killed by two different police officers because of choices the men made.  The first man killed was a very large man who was threatening his family and neighbors with a broomstick when the police were called.  The first responding officer recognized the danger of the situation and drew his gun; he ordered the man to put down the weapon several times, but the man kept advancing on the police officer.  When the man came within six to eight feet of the officer and was still swinging the stick, the officer shot and killed him.  A state investigation cleared the officer of any wrong doing.

On the second occasion a man was threatening his family, and someone called the police.  Since there had been numerous, previous calls to the address, six officers were on the scene when the man pointed a "gun" on the officers.  The man was told to put down the "gun" but chose to disobey the order.  Two officers shot and killed the man, only to find that the "gun" was a non-working BB gun that closely resembled a lethal weapon.  The results of the investigation on this incident are still pending.

The relatives of these two men are not willing to accept that the men chose the possible consequence of being shot when they refused to obey the officers' orders to put down their weapons.  They are blaming the police for using too much force and trying to use public pressure to make the police department to change their policies.  They refuse to understand that their loved ones chose "suicide by police" over life.

In his remarks to the priesthood brethren in the October 2010 General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson discussed choices and consequences.  As President Monson "contemplated the various aspects of choice," he "put them into three categories:  first, the right of choice; second, the responsibility of choice; and third, the results of choice" and called them "the three Rs of choice."  

                    He taught that we have the right to choose because Heavenly Father bestowed His gift of agency or the right to choose upon each of us while we still lived with Him in heaven.  President David O. McKay, the ninth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stated:  "Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God's greatest gift to man" (Teachings of Presidents of the Church:  David O. McKay (2003), p. 208).

                    We used our agency before we came to this earth when we voted on whether or not to support Heavenly Father's plan for the happiness of His children.  Lucifer tried to take our agency because he did not believe that we could use it wisely; he wanted to force us back to heaven - for our own good.  He did not understand that we needed to exercise our agency in order to learn and to gain knowledge and by doing so we could become good enough to someday return to the presence of the Father.

                    An ancient American prophet by the name of Lehi explained:  "Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto men.  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" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 2:27).

                    Lucifer rebelled against our Father and was cast down to earth with all those who chose to follow him.  Lucifer is also known as Satan or the devil; neither he nor any of his followers in heaven will ever have the opportunity to obtain physical bodies.  We know that we chose to follow our Father in Heaven because we have bodies.  Satan and his followers wage war against all of us with bodies because they want all of us to be "miserable" like they are.

                    President Monson said that "with the right of choice comes the responsibility to choose.  We cannot be neutral; there is no middle ground.  The Lord knows this; Lucifer knows this.  As long as we live upon this earth, Lucifer and his hosts will never abandon the hope of claiming our souls.  The choices we make will determine whether we stand on the Lord's side of the line of demarcation or on the side where Satan reigns.

                    "Our Heavenly Father did not launch us on our eternal journey without providing the means whereby we could receive from Him God-given guidance to assist in our safe return at the end of mortal life.  I speak of prayer.  I speak too of the whisperings from that still, small voice within each of us, and I do not overlook the holy scriptures, written by mariners who successfully sailed the seas we too must cross."

                    When we came to earth, we came with "all the tools necessary to make correct choices."  In the Book of Mormon, Mormon wrote, "The Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil" (Moroni 7:16).

                    We must always be alert and prepared for attacks from Satan and his followers because they are constantly watching for a moment of weakness or when we decide to take off our "armor."  Satan has a whole "tool box" full of tools and uses a variety of methods to get to us. 

Another prophet in the Book of Mormon named Nephi told us, "For behold, at that day shall he [Satan] rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.
                    "And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say:  All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well - and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
                    "And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them:  I am no devil, for there is none - and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance" (2 Nephi 28:20-22; emphasis added).

                    When we are faced with significant decisions, what will we choose?  Will we yield to peer pressure, to our natural urges, or to the "promise of momentary pleasure"?  For these critical decisions we must "make them wisely."  We must have "courage to say no [or] the courage to say yes" - whichever answer is most appropriate.  We must remember that "decisions determine destiny."

                    Along with the right of choice and the responsibility of choice comes the result of choice.  "All of our choices have consequences, some of which have little or nothing to do with our eternal salvation and others of which have everything to do with it.
                    "… May we keep our eyes, our hearts, and our determination focused on that goal which is eternal and worth any price we will have to pay, regardless of the sacrifice we must make to reach it.
                    "No temptation, no pressure, no enticing can overcome us unless we allow such.  If we make the wrong choice, we have no one to blame but ourselves….  Salvation is an individual operation."

                    We can remember the counsel of the Apostle Paul:  "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man:  but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).

                    As children of God, we each have a noble birthright.  Heavenly Father explained His plan for our happiness.  Our goal should be to return to live with Him.  "Such a goal is not achieved in one glorious attempt but rather is the result of a lifetime of righteousness, an accumulation of wise choices, even a constancy of purpose.  As with anything really worthwhile, the reward of eternal life requires effort."

                    Each of us makes many choices every day of our lives, some insignificant and some very important.  We have the right and responsibility to make choices and must be aware of the results of our choices.  We can decide on the choice but not the results of that choice.  When we understand that choices have consequences and choose wisely, we will strengthen our families, communities, and nations.

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