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Moral Agency

“The Savior’s use of moral agency during His lifetime is an instructive example for us. At one point in His teaching He revealed the principle that guided His choices: ‘He that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.’ (John 8:29) I believe that much of the Lord’s power is attributable to the fact that He never wavered in that determination. He had a clear, consistent direction. Whatever the Father desired, Jesus chose to do…So, being Jesus’ obedient disciple—just as He is the Father’s obedient disciple—leads to truth and freedom…

Some think that they should be spared from any adversity if they keep God’s commandments, but it is ‘in the furnace of affliction’ (Isaiah 48:10) that we are chosen. This is the battle we expected when we ‘shouted for joy’ (Job 38:7) at the prospect of this time on earth. I believe the challenge of learning to make and hold onto correct choices in the face of opposition appealed to us when God presented His plan, and we should approach that challenge now without fear, knowing that we can do it and that He will sustain us. Certainly the alternative would not appeal to us. As Elder James E. Talmage observed:

But for the opportunity thus given, the spirits of God’s offspring would have remained forever in a state of innocent childhood, sinless through no effort of their own; negatively saved, not from sin, but from the opportunity of meeting sin; incapable of winning the honors of victory because prevented from taking part in the conflict. (Talmage, Articles of Faith, p. 70)

The Lord’s promise is not to spare us from the conflict but to preserve and console us in our afflictions and to consecrate them for our gain.  (see 2 Nephi 2:2, 4:19-26; Jacob 3:1)…

Exercising agency in a setting that sometimes includes opposition and hardship is what makes life more than a simple multiple-choice test. God is interested in what you are becoming as a result of your choices. He is not satisfied if your exercise of moral agency is simply a robotic effort at keeping some rules. Your Savior wants you to become something, not just do some things. He is endeavoring to make you independently strong—more able to act for yourself than perhaps those of any prior generation. You must be able to be righteous, even when He withdraws His Spirit, or, as Brigham Young said, even ‘in the dark.’

Using your agency to choose His will, and not slackening even when the going gets hard, will not make you God’s puppet; it will make you like Him.  God gave you agency and Jesus showed you how to use it so that eventually you could learn what They know, do what They do, and be what They are.

Remember that with His gift to you of moral agency, your Heavenly Father has graciously provided help in exercising that agency in a way that will yield precious, positive fruit in your life here and hereafter. Among other resources, you have the scriptures that contain the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, mentors and parents who love you, the voice of prophets and apostles living among you, the covenants and ordinances of the priesthood and the temple, the gift of the Holy Ghost, prayer, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Draw upon these resources constantly to guide your choices, to do always those things that please God.” (emphasis added)

D. Todd Christofferson, “Moral Agency”, BYU devotional (January 31, 2006)


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