The Agency of Man

Mormon Beliefs: The Agency of Man

A photo of an elderly man helping to put together care packages.The Plan of Salvation instituted by the Lord before the foundation of the world guarantees man his agency.  The choices we make determine our destiny and our place in the eternal kingdom of God.

“All of us commenced an awesome and vital journey when we left the spirit world and entered this often challenging stage called mortality. We brought with us that great gift from God—our agency. Said the prophet Wilford Woodruff: ‘God has given unto all of His children … individual agency. … [We] possessed it in the heaven of heavens before the world was, and the Lord maintained and defended it there against the aggression of Lucifer. … By virtue of this agency you and I and all mankind are made responsible beings, responsible for the course we pursue, the lives we live, the deeds we do’ (Collected Discourses, 1:341).

“Brigham Young said, ‘All must use [this agency] in order to gain exaltation in [God’s] kingdom; inasmuch as [we] have the power of choice [we] must exercise that power’ (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe (1954), 54).

“The scriptures tell us that we are free to act for ourselves, ‘to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life'” (2 Nephi 10:23). [1]

The Lord provides choices for men by providing them with opposition:

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.

And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter (2 Nephi 2:11, 15).
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 (2 Nephi 2:27).
The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency” (Moses 7:32).
“…our agency makes our life on this earth a test period. If we did not have this wonderful gift of agency, we would not be able to show our Father in Heaven whether we will do all that He commanded us.  In order for us to use our agency, we must have a knowledge of good and evil, we must have the freedom to make choices, and after we have exercised our agency, there must be consequences that follow our choices. [2]
Sometimes people wonder why God does not intervene to prevent the abuse of agency by wicked men.  Why didn’t He save the victims of the Holocaust? Why doesn’t He prevent abuse, wars, rapine, and murder? Why do these things occur at all?  Some people disbelieve in God altogether because these tragedies exist in the world.  To those who question, we say that many of these evils are not God’s choice, but man’s, and God has guaranteed man his agency.  How men use their agency often brings evil and oppression upon others.  We are all accountable before God for the ways in which we choose to use our agency.  Those who oppress or willfully hurt others will face His judgment.
There is an account in the Book of Mormon wherein a wicked society made the decision to persecute those who belonged to the Church of Christ.  Women and children who would not deny the Christ were burned to death.  Two of Christ’s disciples who held the holy priesthood powers were therefore able to perform a miracle in order to save the victims—
And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.
But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day (Alma 14:10, 11).
The Lord allows wicked men to follow through with their evil designs that these men will assuredly deserve the judgments the Lord so fairly metes out to them.  Life on earth is very temporary, as are our most bitter sufferings.  The Lord knows that through the atonement of Christ even the worst wounds can be healed in the eternities.  Our work is to choose good, to choose Christ, and to choose to serve our fellow men with kindness.
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