Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Man, A Free Agent

(Marion G. Romney. General Conference, October 1968)

"In this year of decisions, we shall have opportunity to exercise our voting franchise. There seems to be no end to the advice available as to how we should do this. We join with all right-minded men in defense of every man’s right to make his own choice.

"Our political institutions have been structured upon the premise that man is a free agent by divine endowment. Upon this premise the Magna Charta was wrung from King John in 1215. Contending for this principle, the Pilgrim Fathers were harried out of their native land by King James. After taking temporary refuge in Holland, they came to America, where they founded a new state in which they could implement their ideals of freedom. A century and a half later, the colonists wrote the principle of free agency Into the Declaration of Independence. Following the revolution, the Founding Fathers perpetuated it in the Constitution.

"Our national strength has always been in our devotion to freedom. When asked, 'What constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence?' Abraham Lincoln replied: 'It is not in our frowning battlements, or bristling seacoasts, our army and navy. . . . Our reliance is in the law of liberty which God has planted in us.'

"We Latter-day Saints know that the right of men to make their own decisions is God-given, for to Moses the Lord said: '. . . I gave unto . . . [men] their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency.' (Moses 7:32.)

"Through an ancient American prophet, the Lord said: '. . . remember, my brethren . . . ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.' (Hel. 14:30.)

"Latter-day Saints not only believe that freedom to make one’s own choices is an inalienable divine right; they also know that the exercise of it is essential to man’s growth and development. Deprived of it, men would be but puppets in the hands of fate.

"The preservation of free agency is more important than the preservation of life itself. As a matter of fact, without it, there would be no existence.

“'All truth [says the Lord] is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.

“'Behold, here is the agency of man. . . .'” (D&C 93:30–31.)

"The foregoing are but samples of the scriptures which set forth the principle of free agency accepted and implemented by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Neither the Church, its officers, nor any of its responsible representatives ever seek to abridge one’s freedom to make his own decisions-be it in the voting booth or elsewhere. Representations to the contrary are either ignorantly or maliciously made. Usually such representations are calculated to influence people in the exercise of their agency-the very objective they impute to and so condemn in others. Only Satan and wicked men seek to abridge men’s agency. The Lord never does. Neither do his servants. The divine gift of free agency, however, is not a self-perpetuating endowment.

"Men themselves can, and most of them do, abridge their own agency by the decisions they themselves voluntarily make.

"Every choice one makes either expands or contracts the area in which he can make and implement future decisions. When one makes a choice, he irrevocably binds himself to accept the consequences of that choice.

"Jesus, in his Prodigal Son parable, gives a classic illustration of this truth. You will remember that in it a young man, exercising his inherent right of choice, makes a decision to take his portion of his father’s estate and go and see the world. This he does, whereupon nature follows its uniform course. When the prodigal’s substance is squandered, he makes another choice, which takes him back home where he meets 'the ring, and the robe, and the fatted calf.' His felicitous father gives him a welcome. But the consequence of his earlier decision 'is following him up, for the farm is gone. The `father’ himself cannot undo the effect of the foregone choice.' (Collins, Such Is Life, pp. 85-88.)

"From the very beginning God has, through his prophets, made it clear that expanded freedom follows wise choices, and that freedom is restricted by unwise decisions.

“'Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse,” said Moses to the children of Israel. “A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, . . . And a curse, if ye will not obey [them]. . . .'” (Deut. 11:26–28.)

"There is a great lesson on this point, as it affected a whole nation, in Israel’s rejecting judges, which were recommended by the Lord, and choosing to be ruled by kings. Near the end of his administration, as judge of Israel, the people said to Samuel:

“'Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.'” (1 Sam. 8:5.)

"Samuel, being grieved by this desire of the people, sought the Lord and was directed by the Lord to say to Israel:

“'This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.

“'And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.

“'And he will take your daughters to be confectioneries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.

“'And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.

“'And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.

“'And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.

“'He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.

“'And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day.'”

"This message Samuel delivered.

“'Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;

“'That we also may be like all the nations. . . .'” (1 Sam. 8:11–20.)

“'And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people . . . for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.'” (1 Sam. 8:7.)

"The Lord here followed his uniform course. He refused to interfere with Israel’s right of choice, even though their choice was to reject him. Israel, having been warned by both their God and his prophet Samuel, exercised their agency, contrary to the advice of both. They got their king, and they suffered the consequences. In due time their kingdom was divided, they were taken captive, and ultimately they became slaves.

"Realizing that liberty depends upon the decisions we make ought to inspire in us a desire to make such choices as will preserve and expand our freedom, and I believe it does so inspire us. What people lack and desperately need today-as they have always needed-is a sure guide for making right decisions.

"Let us be ever conscious of the fact that our characters are fashioned by the decisions we make. Free agency does not guarantee freedom and liberty. Freedom and liberty and peace are the products of right decisions made in the exercise of free agency.

"By the making of proper decisions, Jesus Christ became the Son of God and our Redeemer. By making wrong decisions, Lucifer, “son of the morning,” became Satan.

"Inherently, they were both endowed with free agency.

"On election day, we shall have opportunity to test our commitment to these principles of the gospel. Let no man fault his God or his state by failing to vote.

"If on that day, in the privacy of the voting booth, we so exercise our franchise as to satisfy ourselves and please our God, we shall have made a decision calculated to preserve our free agency and expand the area in which we can exercise it in the future.

"And finally, when the issues are determined, whether we stand with the winners or the losers, of this we may be sure: To make the proper choice on any issue is of far more importance to us personally than is the immediate outcome of the issue upon which we make a decision. The choices we make will affect the scope of our agency in the future. As of now, we have the right of decision. What we will have tomorrow depends upon how we decide today. In conclusion, I put to you the question and the admonition given by Elijah to Israel:

“How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21.)

"God grant us discernment and the courage to make right decisions

Friday, March 9, 2012

Will We Be True?

"Each day the forces of evil and the forces of good enlist new recruits. Each day we personally make many decisions showing the cause we support. The final outcome is certain---the forces of righteousness will win. But what remains to be seen is where each of us personally, now and in the future, will stand in this battle---and how tall we will stand. Will we be true to our last days and fulfill our foreordained missions?" (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, September 1988, p. 2).