Free agency is a principle we are taught clearly, as followers of Christ. Sometimes it sounds like a wonderful, simple system – this choice business- of going through life. But when we goof, and have the consequence of that wrong choice, it’s not so enjoyable.
Think of a baby who can only crawl. They have their agency in effect even in terms of learning to walk. Some learn early. Others later on. Some will get up twenty times, having fallen on their little back sides, and others may more easily be discouraged – and approach the whole walking thing with more trepidation.
Yet, all babies who can keep right on trying until they get it right.
There’s a gem of a lesson there! It makes sense that we’d have to learn- sometimes the hard way- to strengthen our ability to choose. And having fallen, we keep getting up until we are able to stand for truth and righteousness – of our own accord.
Some young people love to say, “It’s my life and I can choose whatever I want.” [Some not so young people, too.] And, yep, that’s the case. That choice made, however, brings with it an outcome. That effect of choice is, in most cases, going to come right back around. It’s a valuable learning tool.
So – when we chose to be part of this wonderful mortal plan, and receive our bodies in order to learn and grow, we also realized the large and important part that free agency would play in our mortal life. Since “there must needs be an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:27), it stands to reason that we knew there were risks involved in sorting, sifting, and standing for righteousness.
If you’ve ever had to stand – alone- and feel the glares, flinch at the words, or shudder at the tomatoes- so to speak- tossed your way, you’re acquainted with the strength it takes to use our agency wisely.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:
“Four great principles must be in force if there is to be agency:
1. Laws must exist, laws ordained by an Omnipotent power, laws which can be obeyed or disobeyed
2. Opposites must exist-good and evil, virtue and vice, right and wrong-that is, there must be an opposition, one force pulling … the other
3. A knowledge of good and evil must be had by those who are to enjoy the agency, that is, they must know the difference between the opposites
4. An unfettered power of choice must prevail.
“Agency is given to man as an essential part of the great plan of redemption.” (Mormon Doctrine, Bookcraft, Inc., 1966 ed., p. 26.)
In effect, free agency isn’t freedom to “choose whatever we want.” Free agency is given us so that we may, regardless of obstacles thrown in our path, freely choose to follow the Savior. Freely, based upon deep testimony, learn to take the course that will get us Home.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell shared a comment that I’ve always kept in mind:
“Any response but righteousness is risky.” [Deposition, p.13.]
He also taught, ” We chose not to follow Lucifer once; Let us not go back on that decision now!” [Even As I Am, p. 35.]
Here’s the bottom line, it seems: If we are going to choose, we can’t expect a family member, a friend, a stranger, or even God to rescue us from a poor choice. If we don’t’ want Him interfering with us when we’re making that choice, how can we expect Him to pull us out of the mess we create when we have used our freedom to choose in a miserable way?
Choice is risky. It’s part of a magnificent eternal plan. And each of us is suited to the challenge. When we fall, we pick ourselves up. When we need a bit of help [or a lot of it] and are honest and humble in asking for it, we can once more stand up and keep on stepping forward – even if in tiny little steps- toward our Savior.
Risky? Maybe? But we have our Father in Heaven in our corner, and our Savior at our side. It’s all good.
Vickey Pahnke Taylor is a wife, mom, and grandmother who joined the LDS Church as a teenager. She has worked for many years to share her testimony of Jesus Christ with other folks. Please visit her website at www.goodnessmatters.com She created this website, her latest venture, as a place to share goodness and offer hope.
Her propensity for being the queen of embarrassing moments notwithstanding, she sums up her journey thus far like this: “It’s a Wonderful Life.” She has taught Church youth & family programs for 25 years, has written books, hundreds of columns, & created hundreds of songs all with the intent of growing goodness and pointing people to Christ. She loves the mountains, the ocean, driving with her husband, her kids and grandchildren, and eating brownies.