Sunday, November 14, 2010

Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life

We live in a time where the adage "eat, drink, and be merry" is widely popular and the attitude that one is free to act as one chooses and it affects no one is largely accepted. Should someone say or act against either of those mentalities, he or she is considered "ignorant," "intolerant," "narrow-minded," or "judgmental" with little or no regard to others' rights and feelings.

In the purest respect, we are free to act as we want; agency is God-given and all are endowed with the power to choose for his or herself. The prophet Nephi taught, "Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are expedient into 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" (2 Nephi 2:27).

This verse teaches us that while we are free to choose our actions, we cannot chose the consequences of those actions. Some choices we make even limit our future ability to use our agency. Indeed, "Those who followed Satan [in the preexistence] lost the opportunity to receive a mortal body, live on earth, and progress. Because of the way they used their agency, they lost their agency." In a similar manner, those who choose to use abuse drugs-legal and illegal alike-tobacco, alcohol, or become involved in pornography or gambling likewise lose their agency and become victims controlled by their previous choices. (To learn more about how addictions affect the use of our agency see, Russell M. Nelson, “Addiction or Freedom,” Ensign, Nov 1988, 6, and M. Russell Ballard, "O That Cunning Plan of the Evil One," Ensign, Nov 2010.)

Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a talk in the most recent General Conference entitled, "Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life," in which he spoke about agency and our ability to choose. He taught:

Our agency—our ability to choose and act for ourselves—was an essential element of [the plan of our Heavenly Father]. Without agency we would be unable to make right choices and progress. Yet with agency we could make wrong choices, commit sin, and lose the opportunity to be with Heavenly Father again. For this reason a Savior would be provided to suffer for our sins and redeem us if we would repent. By His infinite Atonement, He brought about “the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice" (Alma 42:15).

We even had agency in our premortal existence when we lived with our Heavenly Father. Elder Hales continued:

But think of it: in our premortal state we chose to follow the Savior Jesus Christ! And because we did, we were allowed to come to earth. I testify that by making the same choice to follow the Savior now, while we are here on earth, we will obtain an even greater blessing in the eternities. But let it be known: we must continue to choose to follow the Savior. Eternity is at stake, and our wise use of agency and our actions are essential that we might have eternal life.

Agency is ours so long as we do not abuse it. But more than just preserving our ability to choose for ourselves in this life, the righteous use of agency—the use of our agency to follow the example of our Savior and do as He commands—enables us to live with Him and our families forever.

So go ahead, eat, drink, and be merry for someday we all die. But know that some of your actions will affect you more deeply than you think and you will affect those around you and your posterity for untold generations. Yes, each of us is free to act and free to live according to our desires but God does not approve of the unrighteous use of the agency with which He blessed us. The mentality that our decisions affect no one but ourselves is not correct and we will be accountable for all of our actions in this life of which we have not repented. The test of this life is to prove that we are strong enough to show our love for our Heavenly Father through our actions.

Jeremy

See also Dallin H. Oaks, "Love and Law," Ensign, Nov 2009, 26 (Article of the Week, October 25, 2009)