Monday, April 15, 2013

Free To Choose

The Fall of Adam gave all men (who kept their first estate) the chance to experience mortal life, and to know good and evil, virtue and vice, and happiness and misery. But as I mentioned in my last post, all of these things would have eventually led to an unhappy ending if it were not for the Atonement. The Fall without the Atonement is akin to skydiving without a parachute.

 26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
 27 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.
Any injustices caused by the Fall are rectified by the Atonement.  It would be incorrect to say that the Atonement reversed all of the effects of the Fall. If such were the case, there would truly have been no need for the Fall. But if the Fall was necessary, then why would we need to be redeemed from it? Because our mortal and fallen condition was never meant to be permanent. Mortality is an incredibly important stepping stone in our journey towards eternal life, but it is by no means the destination.

But did the Savior not have the power to overcome all of the negative effects of the Fall? If he did, why is there so much suffering and injustice in the world? How can we possibly believe that God would want us to pass through the pains and heartaches inherent in this life? In reading through this week's priesthood lesson, I found the following insight from Lorenzo Snow:
   "There is no other way in which the Saints can make spiritual improvement and be prepared for an inheritance in the celestial kingdom than through tribulation. It is the process by which knowledge is increased and peace will ultimately be established universally. It [has] been said that if all our surroundings were peaceful and prosperous now, we would become indifferent. It would be a condition that would be all that would be desired by a good many natures; they would not stretch out after the things of eternity."
However, trials and tribulations were not the reason for the Fall. I believe that the main reason that the Fall of Adam was so crucial was that it gave us an opportunity to exercise our moral agency like never before. Did we have agency before this life? Yes. This is evidenced by the third of the hosts of heaven that chose to follow Satan. Did we have the opportunity to choose between good and evil before this life? Yes. Abraham was shown the spirits in premortal realm that were "the noble and great ones." How could there have been noble and great spirits unless they had chosen righteousness over evil?

This mortal experience then, must have offered something that we did not already have before this life. I believe that this life affords us the chance to exercise our agency in a way that would not have been possible while living with God as spirits. This life brings sorrow, pain, and temptation in ways that we could not understand as mere spirits. The Fall presents us with more opposition than we ever could have faced otherwise.  But it is precisely that opposition that empowers us, and activates our agency. The greater the opposition, the more meaningful our choices become.

So it is precisely the combination of the Fall, the Atonement, and the Resurrection which make us free forever.  If there had been only the Fall, but no Atonement nor Resurrection, then our freedom would have been short-lived indeed.  We would not have been free to choose liberty and eternal life, because they would be permanently out of our reach. Our only choice would have been captivity and death, which means that we really would have had no choice at all. It is only through the Atonement that we have become free forever, and the choice becomes ours to make, and no one else's: Will we choose liberty and eternal life? Or will we choose captivity and death?


  1. In the October General Conference of 1997 Elder Russel M Nelson gave a talk called Spiritual Capacity. I'd like to quote a part of that talk that reads as follows, "More than 87 years ago, Gordon B. Hinckley was an infant cradled in the arms of his loving parents. That newborn babe looked much as any other, I presume. An infant's body is tiny, and its spiritual capacities are undeveloped. While the body may reach the peak of its maturation in a few years, the development of the spirit may never reach the limit of its capacity, because there is no end to progression." End quote. Spiritual progression is infinite and so that means our potential to grow as we make choices is also infinite. As we act rather than being acted upon by the forces that are around us we will either progress or regress. “2 Nephi 2:26 to act for themselves and not to be acted upon”.

    When the fiery darts of the adversary come upon us if we choose to be an object and take the fiery darts letting Satan drag us down to the gulf of misery and endless woe without a fight we will regress into the state of the natural man, but if we choose to be an agent and call upon God for help and rely upon Christ we can crush the enemies head with the power that God gives us. That happens only through His perfect son Jesus the Christ who helps us to conquer any battle in our front. That is why doing nothing “committing sins of omission” is basically just as bad as doing something wrong “sins of commission” because you’ll either be the object or the agent of Satan in both situations. Whether you are Satan’s bowling ball or satans agent rolling the bowling ball for him you’ll still be in the equation for knocking down some pins.

    The only true path of a Disciple of Jesus Christ is to be an agent that acts in accordance with the will and disciplines of Christ. As we are agents acting in accordance with the will of Christ we will receive the powers of heaven to seal things on earth and in heaven which is a gift that Christ will give to those He trusts will do His will. As we choose to act more each day in righteousness God promises that He will give us the powers of Heaven to accomplish His work. The powers of Heaven being granted unto us for our benefit or the benefit of others is purely because of the grace of Jesus Christ and His worthiness not that of our own. As we are objects “not agents” or we are agents of the devil by doing His work, the powers of Heaven will be “turned off” as it reads in D&C 121 36-46. Of course Heavenly Father knows that we won’t be perfect so according to His infinite love He will give us Heavenly aid and grace as we but have faith in Him and even when we don’t deserve it, however we do not have any promise unless we do what He commands. D&C 82: 10 “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” This promise does not say that we will not have trials, but that when we do what He commands during the trials- we will have the Powers of Heaven to get through the trials. That means we will have the very powers of God to help us to get through the trials which will help us to grow and become like Him. God has promised it, so it IS because God ALWAYS keeps His promises. Agency or the gift God gave us to act rather than being acted upon is essentially the KEY to Eternal Progression. Gordon B Hinckley made choices to be an agent of Christ during His time on earth so He sped up His progression. Each of us has this ability to unlock the powers of heaven by choosing to be Agents and Disciples of Jesus the Christ. Christ paid the price so that we could have access not only to be saved from Sin but to be enabled to receive the very powers of Heaven and Progress. D&C 130 18-21 We can help everyone progress with these powers which will bring Joy to the world. These powers are limitless because God’s power is limitless. God can do all things, so thus with His power we can do all things. The power of agency is limitless when added to the power of God.

  2. I like the way you put that: "you’ll either be the object or the agent of Satan in both situations." I guess that sins of omission vs. commission are two different ways of using our agency. Failing to use our agency to choose righteousness subjects us to the devil because it separates us from our anchor.

  3. I also wanted to add this quote from the talk "the Savior wants to forgive" by Craig A. Cardon that was given during the Saturday Session to emphasize the enabling power of the Atonement, which in my mind relates to your metaphor of "falling without a parachute". That would be the consequence without the Atonement, but to contrast- with the atonement is like having a jet pack with unlimited fuel that could take us up to heights we've never known before. This could be defined as the "enabling powers of the Atonement" He says " If w exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the enabling power of His atonement strengthens us in our moment of need, and His redeeming power sanctifies us as we "put off the natural man." This brings hope to all, especially to those who feel that recurring human weakness is beyond the Savior's willingness to help and to save.
    I find it interesting to contrast the dark perspective of free falling without help, to receiving help

  4. I don't know about jumping out of planes with or without a chute. I do know about stepping out over a 200+ foot cliff. Even a secure harness and new climbing rope coupled with the encouragement of a fully trained and experienced guide did not remove my fear and doubt that I could survive the decent that was expected of me by the group I was a leader to. This simple example helps me understand a little bit why/how some good spirits may have been unable to choose to keep their first estate. It literally took a giant leap of faith for me to physically make myself choose to step carefully and ever so slowly off the edge.

    Maybe the noble and great vs some of the third of the hosts of heaven just really couldn't make the better choice toward the plan of happiness even though they weren't necessarily guilty of making evil choices. Don't we do that here to some degree by not choosing to have sincere and meaningful personal prayer or scripture study, etc.

    Lucifer was a son of the morning. He made a bad choice and helped lead the charge in the war in heaven to fight against the Father.

  5. Think about how some political leaders seem to be a better leader once the history books are written. Others lead us away in carnal security and we don't see it until after the trials and tribulations. Taking the leap of faith is hard even with a safety line or net. But the experience is guaranteed by our Father to have a perfect ending regardless of how hard the journey if we look to him and do all that we can do. We never should get caught in the trap of comparing our successes or trials (opportunities for growth) with others. The Father of our Spirits knows exactly what we uniquely need to become like Him and be able to dwell with Him.

  6. Very interesting. Perdition seems like a pretty harsh punishment for those whose faith in Christ's (not yet accomplished) Atonement wavered. I think of how many times my faith has wavered and I have knowingly sinned against the light, yet Christ's Atonement can still save me from the devil's captivity.

    It makes me wonder what the "war in heaven" must have been like. There was obviously no fighting in the corporeal sense, but it must have been a mighty struggle to inspire sufficient faith in those who could not find it. I imagine that it was not until every soul had been given ample opportunity to follow God--once it was apparent that the souls who followed Lucifer could not be persuaded--that God dismissed them from His presence.

  7. I agree. It wasn't until I had to face some difficult trials and temptations of my own head-on that I caught a real glimpse of this principle. It reminds me of the bumper sticker: "Don't judge me because I sin differently than you."


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