Freedom to choose
One of the greatest opportunities our Father in Heaven gave each one of us when we came to earth was the opportunity to choose for ourselves.
The right to choose for ourselves is called “agency.” Agency was one of the principal issues to arise in the pre-mortal Council in Heaven.
It was one of the main causes of the conflict between the followers of Christ and the followers of Satan, spoken of in the Book of Revelations.
Satan rebelled against our Father in Heaven and sought to destroy the agency of man – his offer was rejected, and he was cast out of heaven with his followers (see Revelations 12).
Agency makes our life on earth a period of testing. When planning the mortal creation of His children, God said, “We will prove [test] them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.”
Without the gift of agency, we would have been unable to show our Heavenly Father whether we would do all that He commanded us. Because we are able to choose, we are responsible for our actions.
When we choose to live according to God’s plan for us, our agency is strengthened. Correct choices increase our power to make more correct choices.
As we obey each of our Father’s commandments, we grow in wisdom and strength of character. Our faith increases. We find it easier to make right choices.
Many people feel that they are limited or feel restricted by living the commandments of God. The following example suggests how this works:
Imagine seeing a sign on the seashore that reads: “Danger – whirlpool. No swimming allowed here.” We might think that is a restriction. But is it?
We still have many choices. We are free to swim somewhere else. We are free to walk along the beach and pick up seashells. We are free to watch the sunset. We are free to go home.
We are also free to ignore the sign and swim in the dangerous place. But once the whirlpool has us in its grasp and we are pulled under, we have very few choices.
We can try to escape, or we can call for help, but we may drown.
Even though we are free to choose our course of action, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions. The consequences, whether good or bad, follow as a natural result of any choice we make (see Galatians 6:7; Revelation 22:12).
These consequences come upon all of us no matter if we believe or not, whether we follow the commandments or not.
In the Book Of Mormon the Prophet Nephi said, “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.
“And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit.”
The Apostle Peter said (2 Peter 2:19) “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.”
The truth is that if you obey the commandments of our Heavenly Father, they lead to happiness. Just as a loving parent gives us instructions growing up for our safety and happiness, so our Heavenly Father has given us his commandments for us to follow to be happy.
The Prophet Helaman in the Book of Mormon said it well when speaking to his people:
“And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, 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.
“He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you.”
It is our prayer that we choose liberty and eternal life by following God’s commandments and believing in his Son Jesus Christ the Savior of the world.