Free agency vs. free agency

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DarkJedi
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Free agency vs. free agency

Post by DarkJedi » 23 Apr 2018, 07:23

How is that for a title? Here's the story: My son was telling me about his stake conference and that he liked the SPs talk about free agency. Essentially the SP asserted that agency is not free. As my son continued to relate things about the talk I realized that the SP was using a different definition of free than I use when I think of or talk about free agency. I have always interpreted free agency with free being an adjective meaning we could act as we want or in other words we are free to choose without impediment. The SPs definition of free seems to have been as an adverb meaning without cost or payment.

Either way I disagree with the SPs premise because I think agency could be free. One of his expressed thoughts was that agency is not free because Jesus paid the price. But if I bought you an ice cream with no strings attached (no expectation of repayment partial or full, no other obligation), the ice cream is not free to me but is free to you.

So that got me thinking. I know some here express their opposition to using dictionary definitions in talks and lessons, but the value in doing so is that we're speaking the same language when we do so, or at least others can understand where we're coming from if we define our words. I have never done so with free agency, assuming we're all talking about the same thing - free agency where free is an adjective. Now I wonder if that's correct because I had never considered it as an adverb.

So this is sort of a poll. When you think of free agency are you thinking free is an adjective (your ability to choose without the control of someone/something else) or as an adverb (your ability to choose was given to you, perhaps with an obligation)? Thinking of it both ways is a possible response. It's very possible I have been not speaking the same language when I have referenced the subject and I just want to know if I have been or not.
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Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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nibbler
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Re: Free agency vs. free agency

Post by nibbler » 23 Apr 2018, 07:45

In the past I took the phrase to mean agency to freely choose. People that are overly concerned with justice and making sure everyone is properly punished pointed out how there is no "free" agency, meaning freedom from consequences.

On the Wings of Eagles
This leads us to God’s great gift to His children: agency.

Lehi taught this most important doctrine to his children. He said: “The Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. … 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 Ne. 2:16, 27).

You have agency, and you are free to choose. But there is actually no free agency. Agency has its price. You have to pay the consequences of your choices.

Human agency was purchased with the price of Christ’s suffering. The power of Christ’s Atonement overcomes the effect of sin on the condition of wholehearted repentance. Through and by the Savior’s universal and infinite Atonement, all have been redeemed from the Fall and have become free forever to act for themselves (see 2 Ne. 2:26).
The clarification that occurred a dozen or so years ago felt like semantics. A way to draw extra attention to the fact that sins have consequences. All these years later I see it as a gold star moment. Someone makes a comment including the phrase "free agency" during a lesson then someone else seizes on the opportunity to correct them, earning a gold star.
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AmyJ
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Re: Free agency vs. free agency

Post by AmyJ » 23 Apr 2018, 08:38

I actually try not to think of "free" agency for the reasons you just listed.

To answer your question, I think of it as "both". For example, my daughter is 9 so she lives with us and we take care of her. She has "free agency" in that she has a bed, blankets, and whatever resources my husband and I see fit to bestow upon her and she has done nothing to deserve or earn those resources besides exist. And she is "free" within the constraints of consequences to use those resources however she chooses. For example, we don't really govern her choices regarding how she plays with her stuffed animals, or how she does quite a few other things. We provide guidance on parameters (no wearing flip-flops in a snowstorm), and do general safety stuff. We are teaching her Theory of Mind with a focus on how others may or may not see her behaviors. Parenting is in a sense learning and teaching how to work with what you have, and how to get what you need out in the world.

However, she does not have the "free agency" (or resources) to have anything that is beyond our ability (or grandparents) to provide for her, or is completely outside her best interests in her current circumstances (for example, she does not have access to matches - we have a wooden house and she is not great with spatial maneuvering and/or directions. She also does not need matches in her current circumstances. A camp out might be a different story). So she does not have "free agency" to light matches. She also does not have the "free agency" to have her own bedroom right now because she and we don't have the resources to provide her with one.

A favorite quote of mine is as follows:
"You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequence[(s) - intended and unintended] of your choice."
Last edited by AmyJ on 23 Apr 2018, 09:09, edited 2 times in total.

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dande48
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Re: Free agency vs. free agency

Post by dande48 » 23 Apr 2018, 09:04

I think of your first definition. Acting according to your own volition, without control.

I wouldn't say it's free without cost, but not for the SP's reasons. We could still act according to our own volition without the Savior. We had free agency in the pre-mortal realm, didn't we? And I have a hard time imagining a being who has a consciousness without that consciousness having some level of free agency. But there are plenty of times where our free agency is restricted. You could even say the Church takes away an amount of our free agency, by making the cost of disobedience artificially high. Not to mention, things like obligations, social norms, laws, habits, addictions, subconscious routines, injury, etc. all inhibit our free-agency to one degree or another. A blind man cannot look at porn. A convict cannot go to the grocery store. I cannot wear PJs to work.
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Roy
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Re: Free agency vs. free agency

Post by Roy » 23 Apr 2018, 11:16

"library resources are provided without charge, but are not without cost."
Interesting concept. We can and should value things even if we did not have to work for them.
Freedom isn't free
This line seems to be playing with the same word association that you point out DJ. Freedom has nothing to do with free. I might as well say that the principal is not your pal or that the parkway is not a park. However, it makes for a catchy catchphrase and brings to mind the sacrifices of those that came before to build a country of relative freedoms.

I interpret free agency as "your ability to choose without the control of someone/something else"

As Amy and Dande have stated - our ability to choose is not unencumbered. I myself am a strong proponent of "limited agency."

I find that our church tends to overemphasize agency because our doctrine/culture is that we choose our final destination and state. Yes, there is a teaching that special consideration applies to some (those under the age of "accountability" and the mentally disabled) but for the rest of us it is mostly cause and effect, choice and result, reap what you sow, make your bed and lie in it.

I believe this is because we as a group seem to be very afraid of people making bad choices and then "getting away with it". It goes against our principle of fairness. In the classic Packer parable "The Mediator" exists the following exchange:
The mediator turned then to the debtor. “If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?”

“Oh yes, yes,” cried the debtor. “You save me from prison and show mercy to me.”

“Then,” said the benefactor, “you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible. I will provide a way. You need not go to prison.”
Therefore, it would seem that according to Elder Packer's reckoning, there is no debt forgiveness ... only renegotiated terms and deferred payments. I am not saying that Elder Packer's understanding is unbiblical. I believe that there are a number of viable and biblically defensable interpretations. Elder Packer and the dominant Mormon narrative just drift hard to the side of justice.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

AmyJ
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Re: Free agency vs. free agency

Post by AmyJ » 23 Apr 2018, 11:37

Roy wrote:
23 Apr 2018, 11:16
I interpret free agency as "your ability to choose without the control of someone/something else"

As Amy and Dande have stated - our ability to choose is not unencumbered. I myself am a strong proponent of "limited agency."

I find that our church tends to overemphasize agency because our doctrine/culture is that we choose our final destination and state. Yes, there is a teaching that special consideration applies to some (those under the age of "accountability" and the mentally disabled) but for the rest of us it is mostly cause and effect, choice and result, reap what you sow, make your bed and lie in it.
We apply it general terms to the profoundly disabled - without trying to apply it in charitable terms in everyday life. My husband is both more accountable to me for limited shared responsibilities due to his ADHD - his brain wiring. It takes my family more resources to do less. A few years back I realized that I could beat him (and myself) up figuratively for what we cannot do, or focus on thinking outside the box and re-aligning our battlefield for our personal limited successes. But if we teach the parable of the lost shepherd going after the 1 when the 99 are safe and settled, then I like to think that God will "go after us" in a sense and be with us/accept us in our limited capacities.
Roy wrote:
23 Apr 2018, 11:16
I believe this is because we as a group seem to be very afraid of people making bad choices and then "getting away with it". It goes against our principle of fairness. In the classic Packer parable "The Mediator" exists the following exchange:
The mediator turned then to the debtor. “If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?”

“Oh yes, yes,” cried the debtor. “You save me from prison and show mercy to me.”

“Then,” said the benefactor, “you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible. I will provide a way. You need not go to prison.”
Therefore, it would seem that according to Elder Packer's reckoning, there is no debt forgiveness ... only renegotiated terms and deferred payments. I am not saying that Elder Packer's understanding is unbiblical. I believe that there are a number of viable and biblically defensable interpretations. Elder Packer and the dominant Mormon narrative just drift hard to the side of justice.
I understand this paradigm in that I comprehend some of the lessons it is trying to teach. But since we rarely "walk in another's shoes", I find it has less application than it used to.
Last edited by AmyJ on 24 Apr 2018, 11:35, edited 1 time in total.

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SilentDawning
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Re: Free agency vs. free agency

Post by SilentDawning » 23 Apr 2018, 11:44

I think of it in the same sense as liberty -- the ability to choose what I want to do -- not to be forced to do something I don't want to do.

I don't consider it free from a cost perspective. If the story of the war in heaven is true, God lost 1/3 of his sons and daughters over the issue. Satan was created from it, so it was not "free", as in without cost.

Further, it's not free in this world. You have to abide by laws you may not agree with, be careful in how you use automobiles, treat other people, and be honest or you end up in prison -- a significant lost of your free agency.

So it has both meanings, if you want, but the former meaning -- liberty to make choices as you see fit, is the dominant one I think people think of when they hear the phrase "Free Agency".
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

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Re: Free agency vs. free agency

Post by nibbler » 23 Apr 2018, 12:20

Roy wrote:
23 Apr 2018, 11:16
As Amy and Dande have stated - our ability to choose is not unencumbered. I myself am a strong proponent of "limited agency."
I'm right there with you. I've attempted to have conversations about this topic with some orthodox friends and the idea doesn't get much traction. We tend to only extend this concept of limited agency to the more extreme cases, like Down syndrome, Angelman syndrome, cerebral palsy, etc., the things that are more noticeable.

I've found that we're not as willing to extend this principle to people with more subtle issues that aren't as obvious - depression, ADHD, OCD, etc.

Further complicating matters, most of these issues occur along a spectrum and a good percentage of people are high enough on the spectrum for these things to impact their lives. It also creates a seed of doubt in me that wonders whether most people experience some issue or other but are much lower on the spectrum.

In the conversations I've had with more orthodox members I've found that we really want to believe that we are always in control of our actions. The thought process in most conversations I've had is that if a person loses their ability to control their actions it is because they started out with the ability to choose, they made a series of poor choices, they didn't repent, and ended up in a state where they have lost their agency. The people I have talked to have balked at the idea that there may be other factors, brain chemistry, diet, genetics, or something else that influences our actions. We really want to believe we are in control.

I think it does go back to this concept of justice. I struggle to be good, this person doesn't appear to make an effort to be good. It wouldn't be "fair" if we end up with the same reward because their behavior was partially excused by some condition outside of their control.

At least that's the argument I've heard in the admittedly few conversations I've had with orthodox people.

Then there's the line I've seen here: people want to justice to apply to others and want mercy for themselves. It's human nature.
We must all live in the real world... and sometimes that world can be pretty grim. But it is the dream... the hope... that makes the reality worth living.
– Captain America

AmyJ
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Re: Free agency vs. free agency

Post by AmyJ » 23 Apr 2018, 13:37

nibbler wrote:
23 Apr 2018, 12:20
Roy wrote:
23 Apr 2018, 11:16
As Amy and Dande have stated - our ability to choose is not unencumbered. I myself am a strong proponent of "limited agency."
I'm right there with you. I've attempted to have conversations about this topic with some orthodox friends and the idea doesn't get much traction. We tend to only extend this concept of limited agency to the more extreme cases, like Down syndrome, Angelman syndrome, cerebral palsy, etc., the things that are more noticeable.

I've found that we're not as willing to extend this principle to people with more subtle issues that aren't as obvious - depression, ADHD, OCD, etc.
I couldn't have said it better myself.
nibbler wrote:
23 Apr 2018, 12:20
Further complicating matters, most of these issues occur along a spectrum and a good percentage of people are high enough on the spectrum for these things to impact their lives. It also creates a seed of doubt in me that wonders whether most people experience some issue or other but are much lower on the spectrum.
Speaking as someone who is probably on a spectrum, what my reality is and what the reality of everyone else have less in common then I used to think/assume. I can "mask" or cover up some of the differences socially by learning "the right things to say or do" - but that doesn't change the basis for my reality, just how I interact with it.

Even if I am delusional in applying this description to myself, the fact that there is a Meyer-Briggs Theory states that there are areas of individual expertise - which means there are several (at least 16) valid ways to perceive "reality" - and react therein.
nibbler wrote:
23 Apr 2018, 12:20
In the conversations I've had with more orthodox members I've found that we really want to believe that we are always in control of our actions. The thought process in most conversations I've had is that if a person loses their ability to control their actions it is because they started out with the ability to choose, they made a series of poor choices, they didn't repent, and ended up in a state where they have lost their agency. The people I have talked to have balked at the idea that there may be other factors, brain chemistry, diet, genetics, or something else that influences our actions. We really want to believe we are in control.
Yup. Domination/Control was a survival trait that may need some de-programming. For a long, long time, the survival of an individual and the survival of society was built on coercing and teaching the individual to conform/be like everyone else.
nibbler wrote:
23 Apr 2018, 12:20
I think it does go back to this concept of justice. I struggle to be good, this person doesn't appear to make an effort to be good. It wouldn't be "fair" if we end up with the same reward because their behavior was partially excused by some condition outside of their control.
We really like to forget the parable of the 11th hour workers while we are 1st hour, or 5th hour, or 8th hour workers.
nibbler wrote:
23 Apr 2018, 12:20
At least that's the argument I've heard in the admittedly few conversations I've had with orthodox people.

Then there's the line I've seen here: people want to justice to apply to others and want mercy for themselves. It's human nature.
The interesting thought I have thought before. When we talk about the "boundaries that the Lord has set" - what if all these genetics and other things that govern our behavior are those boundaries that have been set, and it really is between God and the individual whether that person meets their challenges/overcomes those challenges in a Godly fashion even though we think "they got a free pass"?

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Re: Free agency vs. free agency

Post by Roy » 24 Apr 2018, 11:24

I just want to add that I am enjoying this discussion and the thoughtful responses. :thumbup:
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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