Agency - a Gift from God and Essential to our ExaltationAgency - a Gift from God and Essential to our Exaltation
Agency, or our right to choose, is a gift from our Father in Heaven. In our premortal existence, we were already enjoying this gift, which enabled us to choose between following our Savior or Lucifer in the Council of Heaven. It is so important that during that Council, Heavenly Father cast out Lucifer because he 'sought to destroy the agency of man.' (Moses 4:3).
Agency is of critical importance in our journey to exaltation. On the surface, Lucifer's plan sounded very appealing as he guaranteed that not one soul would be lost (see Moses 4:1). In order to do that, he proposed to take away our agency, so that no one would make any wrong choices in life. However, without the ability to make decisions, we would not have the opportunity to learn. And without learning from past experiences, we would not grow intellectually or spiritually. Thus, the gift of agency is essential to our exaltation. We need to value this wonderful gift by utilizing it wisely.
A Recent ExperienceA Recent Experience
One of my 2014 ‘new year resolutions’ is to keep myself physically fit. I pick hiking so that I can admire the Lord’s creations while getting my much-needed exercise. Though a great metropolis, Hong Kong is also home to numerous beautiful country parks. One weekend I decided to hike up a nearby hill which I had never visited before. After doing much research on the internet, I gained the confidence to visit this hiking destination.
The climb to the top of the hill was not too difficult and the closer I got to the peak, the more beautiful the scenery was. After admiring the wonderful scenery on top of the hill for a few moments, I began my descent down the other side of the hill.
A few minutes after starting downhill, I noticed a middle-aged man, whom I had never met before, coming up towards me. Apart from his hiking boots, he was dressed so causally that he looked as though he was just taking an afternoon walk in the park with an umbrella sheltering him from the bright sunlight. After taking a look at me, and everything I was carrying, I am sure he was thinking 'amateur hiker.” We greeted each other with a nod, he passed me by and continued up the hill.
My attention quickly turned to finding the best downhill path and there were at least two visible paths. The man was on one as he travelled uphill while the other one, was closer to where I stood and seemed shorter, a more direct path to the bottom.
As I moved toward the more direct path, I felt a gaze behind me, I turned and found that the man was watching me. I ignored him and continued moving downward. Very soon, I realized that this path was much steeper than I had originally anticipated and quite risky for me given my skill level. I retraced my steps to the fork and started down the other path. At this time, the man came down and met me, he said, 'taking the other path can be faster, but it goes straight down all the way.'
Before I could respond, he walked right passed me and headed downhill. A thought came to me saying, 'Follow him,' and so I did. I soon realized that there were quite a few paths going down the hill, yet the ones that this man took were always the easiest and safest. He was about 20-30 meters ahead of me, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not overtake him. From time to time he would look back to see whether I was able to keep up with him. When we were approaching the foot of the hill, I really needed to slow down to catch my breath, and eventually I lost sight of him.
I felt strongly that as this person sensed I was in need of help, he changed his plans, and led me safely down the hill. I am so grateful that he volunteered to lead me and that I made the right choice to follow him.
This experience reminded me of a few important principles regarding making choices:
1. We have to accept the consequences of our choices, good or bad.1. We have to accept the consequences of our choices, good or bad.
Our choice to follow the Savior in the preexistence gave us the right to come to this earth and experience mortal life (see Abraham 3:26). We learn in the Doctrine and Covenant: 'There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated— And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20-21)
This same principle applies not only to celestial laws but also in our daily lives. If I had taken the risk to travel the path that lead straight down the hill without being sufficiently prepared, I would most likely be injured, and have to go through a painful recovery.
2. Our daily choices need to be in harmony with our ultimate goal.2. Our daily choices need to be in harmony with our ultimate goal.
The main purpose of this life is to prove ourselves “to see if [we] will do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command [us]” (Abraham 3:25). At baptism, we made covenant to take upon us the name of Christ and to serve Him and our fellowmen (see Mosiah 5:7-8 & 18:8-10). In essence, we have to translate these covenants into actions by applying gospel principles in our daily lives and preparing ourselves to serve one another.
Comparing this to my hiking experience - it was not enough to just have the desire to go home after visiting the top of the hill, I needed to ‘find and follow’ the path that would take me safely down the hill.
3. Knowledge and experience can help us make correct choices; alternatively, we can follow someone who has such knowledge.3. Knowledge and experience can help us make correct choices; alternatively, we can follow someone who has such knowledge.
Because it was my first time visiting that hill, I did not know which path was the right one to take. Fortunately, someone who knew the area very well led me so that I could avoid unnecessary risk or even injury.
In our mortal journey back to our eternal home, the Lord has sent his servants - prophets, apostles, and other Church leaders to set examples and give us guidance. It is wise to follow them for they will always lead us safely on the right path. And, once we have gained experience and a testimony, we can also be a guide in other people's lives.
Agency and AtonementAgency and Atonement
With agency, there is a probability of making mistakes or committing sins. Fortunately, in the great plan of salvation, the Lord has provided us with another gift - the Atonement. The Lord has willingly sacrificed Himself to atone for our sins so that with sincere repentance, we will be saved through His grace after we have done all that we can.
These two gifts, Agency and Atonement, go hand in hand to enable us to gain the necessary experience, to prove our willingness to follow the Father, to repent of our sins, and to prepare ourselves to return to our heavenly home. I am grateful for these two wonderful gifts.
I testify that God lives, Jesus is the Christ, and they love us. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master, amen. ■
Caption: Elder Fook Chuen Zeno Chow