The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is the simple fact that God gave us agency or the freedom to choose. We know this because He revealed it to His prophets. Heavenly Father wants His children to have the opportunity to obey His commandments because they choose do so and not because they are forced to obey. This is the reason He bestowed the gift of agency on each of His children.
Agency is an eternal principle. We were free agents in our pre-earth life, meaning we had power to act for ourselves. One of the purposes for our life on earth is to prove that we can make good choices. If we were forced to choose the right, we would have no way to show what action we would choose if given the opportunity.
Heavenly Father also desires His children to have happiness. He knows that people – including little children – are happier when we make our own choices. When we are persuaded rather than forced to do something, the unpleasant tasks seem to be more acceptable.
We made our first choices as spirit children while living in the presence of our Heavenly Father. He called all of us together in a grand council meeting to explain His plan for our salvation and eternal happiness. We all used our agency to choose to follow Jesus Christ. We know this because we have physical bodies of flesh and blood. Those who chose to follow Satan never received physical bodies and never will.
We know agency was one of the main causes of a great war between those who chose to follow Jesus Christ and those who chose to follow Satan. When Heavenly Father asked for a volunteer, Satan said that he would bring all of us back to the presence of our Father. He would take away our agency and force us to do good things. When Heavenly Father rejected Satan’s plan, Satan rebelled and was cast out of heaven with all his followers.
Agency is a necessary part of Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation and happiness for His children. We need agency in order to be tested, and we must be tried to see whether we are worthy to be like Heavenly Father. During His creation of man in his mortal state, God said, “We will prove [test] them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 3:25). Without the great gift of agency, we would not be able to prove ourselves.
When we choose to live according to the law of God, we strengthen our agency. When we make right choices we increase our power to make more right choices. As we obey each of the commandments of Heavenly Father, we become free to learn and obey other commandments. We grow in wisdom and in strength of character. Our faith in Jesus Christ increases, and we find it easier to make right choices.
We all made the right choice in heaven and came to earth for further testing. Heavenly Father wants us to grow in faith, power, knowledge, wisdom, and every good attribute. We can continue to grow if we keep God’s commandments and make right choices. As we learn and understand, we will become more like our Heavenly Father.
Agency requires that there be a choice. We cannot truly choose unless we are presented with at least two options. This is probably the main reason why Heavenly Father allows Satan to tempt us to do bad things. God revealed this very thing to Moses: “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” (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 4:3-4).
Satan continues to oppose the work of God and does everything he can to destroy God’s work. He does not love us or desire that we accomplish anything good. In fact, he wants us to be his slaves, and he uses many disguises to take us into captivity. He is so miserable that he desires that all of us are miserable like he is.
When we choose to follow Satan, we limit our choices. The following example shows how this works. Suppose you saw a sign on the seashore such as the following: “Danger – whirlpool. No swimming allowed.” We could consider this to be a restriction, but we would be wrong because we still have many other choices. We could choose to: (1) swim somewhere else, (2) play on the beach, (3) watch the sunset, (4) go home, (5) ignore the sign and go swimming, or (6) make any other choice. If we chose to go swimming and got caught in the whirlpool, our choices would become very limited very quickly: try to escape, call for help, or drown.
In order to fully understand agency, we must understand that we are free to choose a course of action, but we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions. We are responsible for our actions because we have agency or the freedom to make choices. Consequences are a natural result of any choice – whether good or bad. If we touch a hot surface, we will be burned. If we jump off a cliff, we will get hurt. It is like picking up a stick: if we pick up one end of the stick, we automatically pick up the other end of the stick also. Whenever we make a choice – any choice – we also choose the consequence of that choice. Choice and accountability go together hand in hand.