Freedom to Choose

This is the forth chapter of the Gospel Principles manual for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To view the entire lesson, go here: Freedom to Choose

Agency Is an Eternal Principle – If someone asked you why it is important to have agency, what would you say?

Agency was given to us, by God, to allow us the opportunity to choose for ourselves if we would follow Him. It is an eternal principle which existed before life on this earth. We learn of our agency in the scriptures. In Doctrine and Covenants 29:36 we read, “And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency;”. We used our agency and chose to follow the Savior. Agency is the thing that allows us to be free. It is the principle that causes us to learn, grow and ultimately to progress. Without agency, we cannot become more intelligent. Rather we are forced to remain in the same state forever, which is to be under the control of another. As an eternal principle, agency gives us the ability to become like our Father in Heaven, who is free to act for Himself in all things. In 2 Nephi 2:27 we read, “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.” Our agency gives us the eternal opportunity to be free like God, or be captive like the Devil. Abraham 3:24-25 says the following:

24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God, 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;
25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;

Agency also makes us responsible for our own decisions and therefore able to prove ourselves worthy to God by choosing to follow His commandments.

Agency Is a Necessary Part of the Plan of Salvation – How does making right choices help us make more right choices?

To every choice there is a consequence, either good or bad. There are many times when we are choosing between two good things and either consequence would be good. Then there are plenty of times when our choices are between that which is good and that which is bad. There is a feeling of peace and contentment when I know that I have made the right choice. This feeling is one that I long for often in my life. There is so much uncertainty and struggle in life, that a moment of peace can give me the strength to take the next step forward. Knowing that I can get peace from making the right choice, gives me a simple enough reason to continue making right choices. I know from study of the gospel, that the peace is a gift from God, through the blessings of the atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Agency Requires That There Be a Choice – Why is opposition necessary?

We learn from the scriptures that there has to be opposition in all things in order for us to progress. In 2 Nephi 2:11 we read, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so . . . righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.” As an example of the importance of this, I have not experienced much death in my life so far. In fact, the only family member in my side of the family, who had passed away before 2010, was my great-grandmother. She died the day I was born, so I don’t really recall the experience that my family went through at her passing. In 2010, my Grandfather died from complications resulting from cancer. It was not entirely expected and progressed so quickly that the family was not really prepared for his death. I realized as we went through the process, that I never really knew the value of life until experiencing this so personally. I had an idea of principles and concepts, but I could not understand what I had not experienced. Our entire growth in knowledge and intelligence, depends on the experiences of life. We have to go through the opposition, in order to understand the joy. Doctrine and Covenants 29:39 reads, “And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet—”. We must learn to choose the good, in order to learn from our choices. The Savior had to suffer through the greatest opposition of all. Matthew 26:39 reads, “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” By choice he followed God’s will and suffered even death for us so that we would have the ultimate ability to choose our eternal outcome.

What are some examples of actions that limit our choices? What are some examples of actions that give us more freedom?

Each consequence of our choices can either give us the freedom to choose more, or the limit to the choices we can make. In Doctrine and Covenants 88:86 we read, “Abide ye in the liberty wherewith ye are made free; entangle not yourselves in sin, but let your hands be clean, until the Lord comes.” An action that limits our choices, is anything which causes us to give of our freedom to choose, to another. We give this, when we put ourselves in some kind of bondage. As a temporal example, choosing to live life based on credit, gives the creditors the right to choose how our finances can be used. Many people have suffered greatly for this mistake in the recent years. On the other hand, living a life free of debt, gives us the freedom to spend our money how we choose and the freedom to keep the things that we own without someone waiting to take it all away from us.

Another example of an action which limits our choice, is partaking of something that impairs our own judgment. There are things which can affect us in a way where we become either dependent on that thing, or we physically cannot control our own thoughts and actions any longer. These things can be taken into our bodies, such as harmful substances, alcohol, and other drugs; or they can be things we choose to become addicted to, such as gambling or pornography. Before we can understand what is happening, we become bound to that thing and are unable to have the self-control to do something else. I have experienced my own types of addictions in life and I understand that the struggle to overcome them, no matter what they may be, is difficult and can feel next to impossible at times. The Savior taught of the power sin has over us. In John 8:34 we read, “Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” We cannot have freedom if we choose to become a servant to sin and to the master of sin itself, Satan. On-the-other hand, when we keep ourselves free from addictions of any sort and from sin, we are completely free to act according to our own will, and more importantly, according to the will of God.

I am amazed at the wonderful gift of agency that we have been given. It is natural and right to be able to choose for ourselves and to be responsible for the path our life takes because of these choices. I cannot imagine the way life would be if agency did not exist. I know that agency gives purpose to our life and makes us better beings. I am so glad that I can gain knowledge and experience through my choices, good and bad.

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