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Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life

Elder Robert D. Hales
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles


We teach that agency is the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and to “act for ourselves and not to be acted upon.”  Agency is to act with accountability and responsibility for our actions.  Our agency is essential to the plan of salvation.  With it, we 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.”…

Before we came to this earth Heavenly Father presented His plan of salvation—a plan to come to earth and receive a body, choose to act between good and evil, and progress to become like Him and live with Him forever.

Our agency—our ability to choose and act for ourselves—was an essential element of this plan.  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.”…

But think of it:  in our pre-mortal 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, 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 agency is essential…

Whenever we choose to come unto Christ, take His name upon us, and follow His servants, we progress along the path to eternal life.

In our mortal journey, it is helpful to remember that the opposite is also true: When we don’t keep the commandments and the promptings of the Holy Ghost, our opportunities are reduced; our abilities to act and progress are diminished…

As we understand the challenge of repenting, we appreciate the blessings of the Holy Ghost to guide our agency, and Heavenly Father who gives us commandments, and strengthens and sustains us in keeping them.  We also understand how obedience to the commandments ultimately protects our agency…

Contrary to the world’s secular teaching, the scriptures teach us that we do have agency, and our righteous exercise of agency always makes a difference in the opportunities we have and our ability to act upon them and progress eternally.

Let There Be Light!

Elder Quentin L. Cook
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles


Freedom and light have never been easy to attain or maintain.  Since the war in heaven the forces of good and evil have used every means possible to destroy agency and extinguish light.  The assault on moral principles and religious freedom has never been stronger.

As Latter-day Saints we need to do our best to preserve light and protect our families and communities from this assault on morality and religious freedom.

An ever present danger to the family is the onslaught of evil forces that seem to come from every direction.  While our primary effort must be to seek light and truth, we would be wise to black out from our homes the lethal bombs that destroy spiritual development and growth.  Pornography, in particular, is a weapon of mass moral destruction.  Its impact is at the forefront in eroding moral values.  Some TV programs and internet sites are equally lethal.  These evil forces remove light and hope from the world.  The level of decadence is accelerating.  If we do not black out evil from our homes and lives, do not be surprised if devastating moral explosions shatter the peace which is the reward for righteous living.  Our responsibility is to be in the world but not of the world.

In addition, we need to greatly increase religious observance in the home.  Weekly family home evening, daily family prayer and scripture study are essential.  We need to introduce into our homes content that is virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.  If we make of our homes holy places that shelter us from evil, we will be protected from the adverse consequences that the scriptures have foretold.

In addition to protecting our own families, we should be a source of light in protecting our communities.  The Savior said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Our day has been described as “a time of plenty and an age of doubt.”  Basic belief in the power and authority of God is not only questioned, but also denigrated.  How under these circumstances can we promote values in a way that will resonate with the non-believers and the apathetic and help abate the spiraling descent into violence and evil?

The question is of monumental importance…

I believe that light and truth will be preserved in our time.  In all nations there are large numbers who worship God and feel accountable to Him for their conduct.  Some observers believe there is actually a global revival of faith.  As Church leaders we have met with leaders of other faiths and have found that there is a common moral foundation that transcends theological differences and unites us in our aspirations for a better society.

We also find the majority of people art still respectful of basic moral values.  But make no mistake there are also people who are determined to both destroy faith and reject any religious influence in society…The power and influence of these people is very large even in they are relatively small in number…

In our increasingly unrighteous world it is essential that values bases on religious belief be part of the public discourse.  Moral positions informed by a religious conscience must be accorded equal access to the public square.  Under the constitutions of most countries a religious conscience may not be given preference, but neither should it be disregarded.

“The Choice is Yours”

Bishop Richard G. Edgley
First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric


The reality of the Savior, His atoning sacrifice, and its universal application for all of us is challenged and often dismissed as a myth or the baseless hope of a weak and uneducated mind.  Furthermore, the reality of the restoration of the gospel in these latter days continues to be challenged.  The continual bombardment of such messages may cause confusion, doubt and pessimism, each attacking the fundamental truths we believe in, our faith in God, and our hope for the future.

This might be the reality of our world, but we can still choose how we react to it.

When our sacred doctrine and beliefs are challenged, this is our opportunity to become acquainted with God in a most private and intimate matter.  This is our opportunity to choose…

Moving forward into the unknown, armed only with hope and desire, is evidence of our faith and devotion to the Lord…

Let us choose faith.

–If confusion and hopelessness weigh on your mind, choose to awake and arouse your faculties.  Humbly approaching the Lord with a broken heart and contrite spirit is the pathway to truth and the Lord’s way of light, knowledge and peace.

–If your testimony is immature, untested, and insecure, choose to “exercise even a particle of faith;” choose to “experiment upon his word.” …

–When logic, reason, or personal intellect come into conflict with sacred teachings and doctrine or conflicting messages assault your beliefs as the fiery darts described by the Apostle Paul, choose to not cast the seed out of your heart by unbelief.  Remember, we receive not a witness until after the trial of our faith.

–If your faith is proven and mature, choose to nurture it with great care.  As strong as our faith is, with all the mixed messages attacking it, it can also become very fragile.  It needs constant nourishment through continued scripture study, prayer, and the application of His word…

Because of my faith I have personally witnessed a mountain of pain replaced with peace, hope, and gratitude.  Yes, I have seen mountains removed.

–Because of my faith I have activated the power of the priesthood that I hold and have been a partaker of the sweetness of the gospel and have embraced the saving ordinances.

–Because of my faith I work through the struggles and difficulties in life with peace and assurance.

–Because of my faith I have been able to turn questions and even doubts into assurances and understanding.

–Because of my faith I approach the unknown, unseen and unexplained with unquestioning assurance.

–And because of my faith even in the seemingly worst of times, I recognize with peace and gratitude that in reality it is the best of times.

Our Very Survival

Elder Kevin R. Duncan
Of the Seventy


Surely one of the crowing blessings of membership in this Church is the blessing of being led by living prophets of God.  The Lord declared, “There is never but one of the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred.”  The prophet and president of the Church today, Thomas S. Monson, receives God’s word for the entire membership of the Church and for the world.  In addition, we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators, the counselors of the First Presidency and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

With frozen feet, and a barren wasteland, it surely took faith for those early Saints to trust their prophet.  Their very survival and lives were at stake.  Yet the Lord rewarded their obedience and blessed and prospered those who followed His mouthpiece.

And the Lord does the same today, for you and me.  This world is full of so many self-help books, so many self-proclaimed experts, so many theorists, educators, and philosophers who have advice and counsel to give on any and all subjects.  With technology today, information on a myriad of subjects is available with the click of a keystroke.  It is easy to get caught in the trap of looking to the “arm of flesh” for advice on everything from how to raise children to how to find happiness.  While some information has merit, as members of the Church we have access to the source of pure truth, even God Himself.  We would do well to search out answers to our problems and questions by investigating what the Lord has revealed through His prophet.  With that same technology today, we have at our fingertips access to the words of the prophets on nearly any subject.  What has God taught us about marriage and the family, through His prophets?  What has He taught us about education and provident living, through His prophets?  What has He taught us about personal happiness and fulfillment, through His prophets?

What the prophets teach, may, to some, seem outdated, unpopular, or even impossible.  But God is a God of order and has established a system whereby we may know His will…

Trusting in and following the prophet is more than a blessing and a privilege.  President Ezra Taft Benson declared that, “our very salvation hangs on following a prophet.”

Temple Mirrors of Eternity

Elder Gerrit W. Gong
Of The Seventy


I recently stood in a House of the Lord with a worthy couple there to receive blessings by covenant.  I invited them to make their first honeymoon last 50 years; then, after 50 years, to begin their second honeymoon.

I found myself looking with the beautiful couple in the temple mirrors—one mirror on this side, one mirror on that side.  Together temple mirrors reflect back and forth images that stretch seemingly into eternity.

Temple mirrors of eternity remind us each human being has “diving nature and destiny”; “sacred ordinances and covenants available in hold temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for family to be united eternally;” and, growing together in love and faithfulness, we can give children roots and wings.

In temple mirrors of eternity, I reflected on First Dragon Gong, born 837 A.D. (late Tang dynasty) in Southern China and the succeeding Gong family generations to my father, our family’s 32nd recorded generation.  My brother, sister, and I are in our family’s 33rd generation; my sons and their cousins, the 34th generation; our grandson, the 35th recorded Gong family generation.  In temple mirrors of eternity, I could not see a beginning or end of generations.

I then imagined not only a succession of generation, but also a succession of family relationships.  In one direction, I saw myself as son, grandson, great-grandson, back to First Dragon Gong.  In the mirrors in the other direction, I saw myself as father, grandfather, great-grandfather.  I could see my wife Susan as daughter, granddaughter, great-granddaughter and, in the other direction, as mother, grandmother, great grandmother.

In temple mirrors of eternity, I began to understand my wife and myself as children to our parents and parents to our children, as grandchildren to our grandparents and grandparents to our grandchildren.  Mortality’s great lessons distill upon our souls as we learn and teach eternal roles including child and parent, parent and child.

Never Leave Him

Elder Neil L. Anderson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve


As we follow the Savior, without question there will be challenges that confront us.  Approached with faith, these refining experiences bring a deeper conversion of the Savior’s reality.  Approached in a worldly way, these same experiences cloud our view and weaken our resolve.

  Some we love and admire slip from the straight and narrow path, and “walk no more with Him.”

How do we remain true to the Savior, His gospel, and the ordinances of His priesthood?  How do we develop the faith and strength to never leave Him?

Jesus said, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. ”  We need the believing heart of a child.

Through the power of His Atonement, we are to become “as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us], even as a child doth submit to his father.”  This is the mighty change of heart.

We soon see why a change of heart is necessary.  Two words signal danger ahead;  the words are offended and ashamed.

To those troubled the Savior’s divinity, Jesus asked:  “Doth this offend you?”  In the parable of the sower, Jesus warned:  “He…[endureth] for a while [but] when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.”

Offense comes in many costumes and continually finds its way on stage.  People we believe in disappoint us.  We have unanticipated difficulties.  Our life doesn’t turn out exactly the way we were expecting.  We make mistakes, feel unworthy, and worry about being forgiven.  We wonder about a doctrinal issue.  We learn of something said at a Church pulpit 150 years ago that bothers us.  Our children are treated unfairly.  We are ignored or under appreciated.  It could be 100 things, each very real to us at the time.

In our weakened moments, the adversary seeks to steal our spiritual promises.  If we are not watchful, our injured, childlike spirit will retreat back into the cold, dark crust of our former ego, leaving behind the warm, healing light of the Savior.

When Parley P. Pratt, in 1835, was judged unfairly, bringing embarrassment and shame to him and his family, the Prophet Joseph Smith counseled: “[Parley]…walk such things under your feet…[and] God Almighty shall be with you.”

The Transforming Power of Faith and Character

Elder Richard G. Scott
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles


Faith and character are intimately related.  Faith in the power of obedience to the commandments of God will forge strength of character available to you in times or urgent need.  Such character is not developed in moments of great challenge or temptation.  That is when it is intended to be used.  Your exercise of faith in true principles builds character;  fortified character expands your capacity to exercise more faith.  As a result your capacity and confidence to conquer the trials of life is enhanced.  The more your character is fortified, the more enabled you are to benefit from exercising the power of faith.  You will discover how faith and character interact to strengthen one another.  Character is woven patiently from threads of applied principle, doctrine, and obedience.

We become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day.  Righteous character is a precious manifestation of what you are becoming.  Righteous character is more valuable than any material object you own, any knowledge you have gained through study, or any goals you have attained no matter how well lauded by mankind.  In the next life your righteous character will be evaluated to assess how well you used the privilege of mortality.

Neither Satan nor any other power can undermine or destroy your growing character.  Only you could to that through disobedience.  A sterling character is converted to worthless ashes when eroded by deceit or transgression.

Strong moral character results from consistent correct choices in trials and testing of your life.  Such choices are made with trust in things that are believed, and when acted upon, are confirmed.

What are some of the empowering principles upon which faith is based?

-Trust in God and in His willingness to provide help when needed no matter how challenging the circumstance.

-Obedience to His commandments and a life that demonstrates that He can trust you.

-Sensitivity to the quiet prompting of the Spirit.

-Courageous implementation of that prompting.

-Patience and understanding when God lets you struggle to grow and when answers come a piece at a time over an extended period.