Free Agency

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Free Agency

Post by dash1730 » 09 Feb 2015, 19:03

Last Sunday I gave the HP lesson #3 on free agency. The moment I discovered the lesson, I emailed my HPGL and volunteered to teach it. The correlated lesson wasn't bad, but I expanded on it greatly to include "Obedience" which is so stressed in the Church. This was my opportunity to share what I felt about the two principles. With only one exception I quoted from TBM's certified sources. But I was able to say everything I wanted in their language. It was well received, and I felt vindicated on a subject close to my FC.

Much of the material I used came from StayLDS, so thanks guys!! I apologize for the formatting. It got lost in the translation and I had little time to fiddle with it. I hope this lesson will be helpful to StayLDS folks.

Chapter 3:
Freedom of Choice, an Eternal Principle
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 58–67


“Agency has been given to all of us to make important decisions that will have bearing on our salvation. Those decisions affect our happiness in eternity.”
From the Life of Ezra Taft Benson

Living and working on a farm, Ezra Taft Benson learned about the consequences of good decisions. He recalled: “I grew up believing that the willingness and ability to work is the basic ingredient of successful farming. Hard, intelligent work is the key. Use it, and your chances for success are good.”1 At a young age, Ezra learned that he and his family would have more to eat if they chose to take care of their garden. He learned that if he wanted the family to be successful in their dairy business, he had to decide to get out of bed early every day to milk the cows.2 He saw that when he made the choice to work hard, local farmers hired him to thin their beets and pitch their hay.3 He saw that trials come even to the faithful, but he also saw that individuals and families could decide to respond to trials in a way that would help them be happy and successful.4
For young Ezra Taft Benson, some consequences of good decisions could be measured in buckets of milk, on trucks loaded with hay, and with generous pay for a day of hard work. Others were harder to measure but more lasting. For example, as he observed his parents, he saw the joy, peace, and strength that come when family members choose to be faithful to one another and the Lord.5 He learned that the law of the harvest—“whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7)—applies to spiritual pursuits as well as physical labor.
The premortal Jesus Christ followed Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, which preserved our freedom of choice.

Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson
Agency—freedom of choice—is a God-given, eternal principle.
I testify that we are the spirit offspring of a loving God, our Heavenly Father (see Acts 17:29; 1 Ne. 17:36). He has a great plan of salvation whereby His children might be perfected as He is and might have a fulness of joy as He enjoys. (See 1 Ne. 10:18; 2 Ne. 2:25; Alma 24:14; 34:9; 3 Ne. 12:48; 28:10.)
I testify that in our premortal state our Elder Brother in the spirit, even Jesus Christ, became our foreordained Savior in the Father’s plan of salvation. (See Mosiah 4:6–7; Alma 34:9.) He is the captain of our salvation and the only means through whom we can return to our Father in Heaven to gain that fulness of joy. (See Heb. 2:10; Mosiah 3:17; Alma 38:9.)
I testify that Lucifer was also in the council of heaven. He sought to destroy the agency of man. He rebelled.

(See Moses 4:1-3)
I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan [said], whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.
2 But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.
3 Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and [Satan] sought to destroy the agency of man, There was a war in heaven, and a third of the hosts were cast to the earth and denied a body. (See Rev. 12:7–9; D&C 29:36–37.) Lucifer is the enemy of all righteousness and seeks the misery of all mankind. (See 2 Ne. 2:18, 27; Mosiah 4:14.)11

Free Agency is a foundational & fundamental principle
Established before the creation of earth
Chronologically the first principle in history
As fundamental as the principle of Love
Importance: 1/3 host of heaven were cast out.

Free to make only correct decisions????
Vs. freedom to make wrong decisions and hopefully learn from them????

Benson: The central issue in that premortal council was: Shall the children of God have untrammeled agency to choose the course they should follow, whether good or evil, or shall they be coerced and forced to be obedient? Christ and all who followed Him stood for the former proposition—freedom of choice; Satan stood for the latter—coercion and force.12
Any justification for manipulating or pressuring or scolding
Family, friends, aquaintenances
Any limitations?
Doctrine, ethics, morality, life choices
The scriptures make clear that there was a great war in heaven, a struggle over the principle of freedom, the right of choice. (See Moses 4:1–4; D&C 29:36–38; 76:25–27; Rev. 12:7–9.)13

Free agency from coercion & force
Contemporary discussions about freedom limited
Tea Party Economics
Political campaigns
Right to hold and bear arms
Unrighteous dominion
Psychological & physical abuse
Unrighteous dominion
Undue influence
Judge, condemn, manipulate
Holier than thou

D&C 121:36-37
36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

Benson makes reference to obedience:
The central issue in that premortal council was: Shall the children of God have untrammeled agency to choose the course they should follow, whether good or evil, or shall they be coerced and forced to be obedient? Christ and all who followed Him stood for the former proposition—freedom of choice; Satan stood for the latter—coercion and force

Free Agency & Obedience, a Mormon paradox
Seem incompatible.
I put them on the shelf for years

Uchtdorf: A Theologian asked: What the church requires of its members ... s?lang=eng

“We do not require anything,” they replied. “But the Lord asks that we consecrate all.”
church callings,
home and visiting teaching,
full-time missions,
weekly family home evenings,
temple work,
welfare and humanitarian service, and
assignments to teach.
10 hours of general conference semiannually
Three hours, every Sunday!

Oh, my,” the man said. “Do members of your church actually do what you have said?
family history,
youth camps,
scripture study,
leadership training,
youth activities,
early-morning seminary,
maintaining Church buildings,
and of course there is the Lord’s law of health,
the monthly fast to help the poor, and tithing.

The man said, “Now I’m confused. Why would anyone want to join such a church?
I thought you would never ask

No one does all the above
Requires you to be independently wealthy w/ paid staff
Therefore cafeteria Mormons

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.


Bumper sticker
The Bible said it, I believe it, that settles it (Blind faith)
Not by worshiping a vain, egotistical deity demanding our praises & worship
Mormon deity: a loving Heavenly father who loves us and coaches us (Informed faith)

The limitation of freedom
Benson: We are free to choose, but we are not free to alter the consequences of those choices

D&C 130:20-21 (revolutionary theology)
There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are
And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated. (Informed

Examples of Cause and Effect
WofW tobacco & alcohol
Temple Marriage Couples
Advanced education 61% vs 50%
Lower mortality rates, better education, higher income, lower divorce, better communities and fewer
demands for gov’tassistance. 92% of LDS say they are satisfied with their lives compared w/ 79%
of the general population

The eternal choice of attitude

A of F 13
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

The choice of attitude, always available: Extreme example:

Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Jew, Nazi concentration camps,
forced labor, meager rations, abusive guards

We who lived, in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to ,,, stoop to the form of the typical inmate.

From Wikipedia about Frankl:
Viktor Emil Frankl, M.D., Ph.D. (26 March 1905 – 2 September 1997)[1][2] was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. Frankl was the founder of logotherapy, which is a form of existential analysis, the "Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy". His best-selling book Man's Search for Meaning (published under a different title in 1959: From Death-Camp to Existentialism, and originally published in 1946 as Trotzdem Ja Zum Leben Sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager, meaning Nevertheless, Say "Yes" to Life: A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp) chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate, which led him to discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most brutal ones, and thus, a reason to continue living.

Spirituality in the words of President David O. McKay includes
("Something Higher Than Self," in Speeches of the Year, October 12, 1965, 4-5).
"Every noble impulse,
every unselfish expression of love;
every brave suffering for the right;
every surrender of self to something higher than self;
every loyalty to an ideal
every unselfish devotion to principle;
every helpfulness to humanity;
every act of self-control;
every fine courage of the soul,
and being and doing good, only because that is the good and right thing to do

The principle of agency includes more than just a reminder to “choose between right and wrong.”7 He spoke of agency as the ability to “make important decisions that will have bearing on our salvation” and that will “affect our happiness in eternity.”8 He encouraged Latter-day Saints and others to use their agency to “act on their own,” without waiting to be commanded in all things.9 The principle of agency, he said, “runs like a golden thread throughout the gospel plan of the Lord for the blessing of his children.”10
Elder Joseph Worthlin general-conference/2008/04/concern-for-the-one?
Some are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don’t belong. Perhaps because they are different, they find themselves slipping away from the flock. They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don’t fit in. They conclude that they are not needed.

Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.

Do we befriend people only as long as they are potential members, or are otherwise useful to us?
Measure of charity is how we respond when others break our rules
Mini-skirt, tattoos
tobacco or alcohol on breath
gay couple holding hands
** "Get out of here; you're ruining our worship or
** slide over or motion them to sit down next to him and say, "Thank goodness you found us!"

Benson: Freedom of choice is a God-given eternal principle. The great plan of liberty is the plan of the gospel. There is no coercion about it; no force, no intimidation. A man is free to accept the gospel or reject it. He may accept it and then refuse to live it, or he may accept it and live it fully. But God will never force us to live the gospel. He will use persuasion through His servants. He will call us and He will direct us and He will persuade us and encourage us and He will bless us when we respond, but He will never force the human mind. (See Hymns, 1985, no. 240.)

Know this that every soul is free #240
1. Know this, that ev'ry soul is free
To choose his life and what he'll be;
For this eternal truth is giv'n:
That God will force no man to heav'n.

2. He'll call, persuade, direct aright,
And bless with wisdom, love, and light,
In nameless ways be good and kind,
But never force the human mind.

3. Freedom and reason make us men;
Take these away, what are we then?
Mere animals, and just as well
The beasts may think of heav'n or hell.

4. May we no more our pow'rs abuse,
But ways of truth and goodness choose;
Our God is pleased when we improve
His grace and seek his perfect love.


I actually do believe that obedience is the first law of heaven though I see it in a different way than most have described it thus far.

StayLDS: Obedience, a telestial law

I see the word "first" as an ordinal reference describing the progression of learning rather than a hierarchy of importance. So obedience is the first law of heaven like kindergarten is the first grade in elementary school.
In other words, the first thing we have to learn is obedience. For those who have been to the temple, this should make sense.

Obedience is a telestial law paired with sacrifice - both laws that only take us so far in our progression before we must accept the Gospel, a terrestrial law.

Ultimately, the law that allows us to enter God's presence is consecration - complete charity that seeks to elevate others at our own expense (i.e. Christ like love).

Moses 5:11
11 And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.

From StayLDS, and in MyTheos
Whatever meaning we ultimately give to our joys and agonies, must necessarily be a gesture of faith.
Whether we consider the whole a product of impersonal cosmic forces, a malevolent deity, or a benevolent god, depends not on the evidence, but on what we choose, deliberately and consciously, to conclude from that evidence.

It is left up to us, imperfect people with limited understanding to choose for ourselves to the best of our ability what we want to believe.

Faith often asks us to turn a blind eye to the incongruities and inconsistencies of belief in the divine. But reason comes up short as well in accounting for those moments of deepest love and yearning, of unspeakable calm in the midnight of anguish, of the shards of light visible to the inner eye alone.

now I know a little more about my self. I know that I live the way I do because I want to, not because of some reward or fear of punishment. I believe God will judge us based on the reasons why we do what we do according to the beliefs of our heart.

Faith is a choice. For me choosing to believe in more than this life brings me hope and joy. As Ray said, determine what would bring you the most joy and hope, justify it with reason, and choose to have faith in it.

A Short Statement about Being Yourself
by Old-Timer » 2014 Dec 30, 12:27
Don't let anyone tell you that you can't just because they can't. - Mike Epps
There are lots of legitimate reasons not to do or believe some things, including, when it comes to doing some things, respect for others. It's the whole abstain from meat with those who abstain from meat principle. I would add that it is fine to ask someone not to insist on trying to convince others of differing beliefs or do specific things that are likely to shatter security and peace and cause real harm. When things go from strictly personal to interpersonal, statements like the one above become more complicated and less black-and-white. Figuring out the proper personal line between belief, word and deed is the key - and that is not an easy thing.

However, at the most basic level, others' inability to do or believe things, in and of itself, is not a compelling reason for anyone not to believe or do those things. I also would add:
Don't let anyone tell you that you must just because they must.

I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken
Last edited by dash1730 on 10 Feb 2015, 04:56, edited 1 time in total.
I may not walk the straight and narrow, but I try to cross it as often as I can.
---J Golden Kimball

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Re: Free Agency

Post by mom3 » 09 Feb 2015, 19:44

Thanks for posting the entire lesson you gave. Copying, pasting, and keeping.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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Re: Free Agency

Post by SunbeltRed » 10 Feb 2015, 07:26

Thanks dash,

This was great!

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Re: Free Agency

Post by DarkJedi » 10 Feb 2015, 09:57

I wish we had the resources to fly around the country each Sunday to hear each others' talks and lessons. Thanks for sharing, I wish i had been there to be part of it.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

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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Re: Free Agency

Post by Roy » 10 Feb 2015, 11:17

Great lesson Dash.

A big part of my faith crisis is on choice and consequences. I have settled into the limited choice and limited self determination camp.

I am not suggesting that you should have given your class any differently - just putting in my $.02 8-)

Essentially limited choice and limited self determination means three things.

1) That we do not have all choices available to us. (some things that we would like to have as options are just "off the table" for us as individuals)
2) That all options are not equally viable. Some choices are easy and natural. Other choices are technically possible but are very difficult and unatural for us.
3) That even when we choose an option and put our heart and soul into it there are no guarantees of results. (this is about the difference between correlated trends and formulas)

I fully understand that this makes me a Debbie Downer always seeing the risk more clearly than the reward in any value proposition. Some people play the odds and come out big winners. Others bet the farm and lose everything. I make smaller, more measured, bets/life choices.

I rationalize limited choice and self determination with religion by believing that God perfectly knows our situations and our hearts. I have faith in his trancendent justice and mercy ... but then again ... having faith in a loving and benevolent God comes naturally to me so I don't know that I'll get any brownie points for it. :mrgreen:
"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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Re: Free Agency

Post by LDS_Scoutmaster » 12 Feb 2015, 17:16

Nice, thanks for sharing. Your outlines look a lot like mine, lots of discussion in between (those are the best parts)
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=6311&start=70#p121051 My last talk

We are all imperfect beings, dealing with other imperfect beings, and we're doing it imperfectly.

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