Agency or the freedom of choice is currently in the spotlight because of a statement made by Dr. Ben Carson, potential Republican candidate for President of the United States. Dr. Carson “ruffled feathers” and “raised eyebrows” when he shared his feeling “that homosexuality is sometimes a conscious choice.” He explained his thoughts by using the example of “a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight – and when they come out, they’re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”
Dr. Carson may no longer be a viable candidate for President, but he has a defender in Matt Walsh, “a blogger, writer, speaker, and professional truth sayer.” Walsh claims that Dr. Carson is absolutely correct in his statement that homosexuality is a choice.
“I don’t think Carson handled this question the right way, and I don’t agree with what he said completely – although I agree with what I think he meant, that our behavior is a choice, if not our desires….
“There are many factors that play into our sexual orientation. It isn’t written entirely into our genetic code from birth. It develops over time, and it can change. Some of it has nothing to do with our choices, some of it does….
“These are interesting quandaries, fine for an academic conversation, but it’s not all that important. The real question is this: what defines us? Are we defined by our urges, or by our actions? Are we compelled to turn our desires into a `lifestyle,’ or can we live beyond them? Specifically in this case, what does it mean to be something? Do our proclivities automatically become a state of being?
“I would say no, and so in that sense, it is a choice whether to be gay or to be straight. Our feelings may not be up to us, but how we live, what we do, whether we indulge those feelings – these decisions are ours to make. Take the example of men who experience same sex attraction but choose to fight it, control it, and even marry women and have kids…. I see them as men who sometimes feel one way but choose to be another way….
“So what defines us in the end? The feelings or the actions? If we divorce one from the other, who are we? …
“You choose to be gay, because you are not defined by what you feel, but by what you do and how you live. You may not have complete control over those feelings, but your lifestyle is yours to determine. That’s the point. That’s what Carson should have said.”
I believe Dr. Carson should have borrowed a “page” from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s “notebook” and said nothing at all about homosexuality. What does that topic have to do with a presidential campaign?
I read another article about how agency can make a difference in our lives. It was written by Nate Sharp and entitled “6 Things Every Latter-day Saint with Divorced Parents Should Understand.” He discussed each of the “6 Things,” but only half of them are relevant to this discussion.
Number three was “It is a myth that your own marriage will unavoidably have the same fate as your parents’ marriage.” Number four was “If you want your marriage to last forever, you must treat it differently.” Number six was “It can begin with you.” All of these “things” are determined by choice, and the last two are self-explanatory with good stories in the article. Here is a quote from number three.
“Another common anxiety for children with divorced parents is that their own marriage is one day doomed to the same fate. This is another falsehood. Even if your parents did not model the perfect marriage for you in your home – whose parents do? – the scriptures, the teachings of the living prophets, and the Holy Ghost provide all of us with the knowledge and wisdom we need to have a fantastic marriage.
“If anything, seeing firsthand the sadness and heartache caused by my parents’ divorce made me even more determined to ensure my
own marriage does not end the same way….”
Marriage and divorce are all about choice. We are free to choose whom we will marry, we are free to choose how we will treat our marriage, and we are free to choose whether or not we will stay married. We can choose to follow the example of our parents or choose to do things differently; one thing is for sure, we can always choose to let good marriages begin with us. Over nearly fifty years of marriage I have had many opportunities to choose to end my marriage or to invest more fully in my marriage! I am still married so obviously I chose to invest!
We have freedom to choose in many areas of our lives. Sometimes we simply have to make the last great choice. In his book Man’s Search forMeaning, Victor E. Frankl wrote this very powerful statement: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”
All mankind received the gift of agency in our pre-mortal life where we lived as spirit children with our heavenly parents. Right there in our heavenly home, our loving Father gave us agency to choose. We were free agents in our pre-earth life and were given important choices to make. Those choices affect our lives today just as our choices in this life will affect how and where we live in the next life.
Agency is an eternal principle and requires the opportunity to choose. Agency gives us the power to act for ourselves. We brought agency with us to earth, and we use it in our tests and trials to see what choices we will make. If we choose wisely, we will have the opportunity to live with our Heavenly Father again; if we choose unwisely, we will receive other consequences.
We are free to choose what we will do, but we are not free to choose the consequences of our choices. Consequences are natural results of our choices. If we choose to touch a hot stove, we will be burned. If we choose to step out in front of a car, we will likely die.
Our agency becomes stronger when we make choices according to God’s plan for us. Making right choices strengthens our ability to make even more right choices. We can make good choices by using our brain and heart together because the Holy Ghost speaks to us through our thoughts and feelings. If we follow the commandments of God, we will be directed away from danger and bad choices. If we choose wisely, we will gain exaltation, progress eternally, and enjoy perfect happiness. The choice is really up to you and me!