by Joseph Warren Grammer
When man was spiritually created, he was given the right to make choices. That right, known as agency, is also granted to him here upon the earth. It is the right to be free to choose. God said, “... in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency.” (Moses 7:32.) This statement does not mean that it was first in the Garden that man received his agency, for all spirits in Heaven had their agency, and that agency was from the beginning. Here in Moses 7:32, God is just reiterating the fact that from the beginning of mortality man was also granted agency.
Intelligence and Light and Truth Is Agency
In the beginning, or pre-earth existence, we were created by God and were known as His spirit children. He said to the prophet Enoch, “Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them ...” (Moses 7:32.) So God created man and gave him knowledge. In some manner, currently unknown to mortals, God organized a substance called intelligence (Abr. 3:22), and out of it created His spirit children. From the Doctrine and Covenants we learn, among other things, some very important points in relation to our creation and agency. The Lord said to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.” (D&C 93:29.)
Here we learn that intelligence is the light of truth and cannot be created or made. So when man was created he was given intelligence or, in other words, he was given truth, which is light. This intelligence, or the light of truth, has always existed and will always exist. It cannot be made or created but only organized.
Now let’s go on and read a couple more verses from this section: “All truth 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, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.” (D&C 93:30-31.)
Here we find that truth and intelligence is agency. We now find that all truth and intelligence, or light, are independent to act for themselves. We also find that without this light, truth and intelligence, we could not exist. With this existence man has agency which gives him the capacity to act and be independent. Agency, it appears from the foregoing, is coeternal with our spiritual and intellectual makeup and cannot be separated.
This then is the beginning existence of man when he was created and given the ability to be free and independent. (D&C 104:17; 2 Ne. 2:26.) He was given his agency to make choices about the light of truth that is in him. The scripture goes on to say, “... and here is the condemnation of man; because ... they receive not the light.” It could also be said, however: “Here is the glory of man, because he receives the light.”
Glory Is Light and Truth
Skipping down to verse 36 it states, “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” Here we find that God’s glory consists of intelligence, which is light and truth. We have learned also that truth and intelligence are agency. Therefore, we come to understand that, since glory is intelligence, light and truth, it also consists of agency. That light and glory which is emitted from a perfected intelligence is truth and agency—a light so refined that it glows and becomes His glory and He is made glorious. God is praised and exalted, and His splendid and radiant magnificence is due to perfected intelligence, truth, and agency.
Verse 39 says, “And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth ...” Since light and truth are agency, as just discussed, then by taking away light and truth he also takes away our agency. We find that the “wicked one,” Satan, can indeed take away light and truth by telling us lies and by deceptions. By believing his lies we relinquish our freedom to exercise our agency, and we subject ourselves to his will and become slaves. Or, to put it another way, by believing his treachery, we give power to him to take away our liberty.
By being deceived into believing and accepting Satan’s principles, or false doctrine, we indeed lose some truth, or light. The process might be likened to a vacuum: when there is emptiness, something must fill it. The more darkness we accept, the more light we lose. The more we accept light, the less darkness is in us. It is either one or the other. The Lord said, “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (D&C 50:24.) Therefore, the more we allow ourselves to yield to Satan’s deceptive ways, the more we lose light and truth, but the more we personally yield to God’s light, the more light and truth we are capable of receiving.
To become glorious, as the Father and the Son are glorious, we must do as they have done. We must learn truth, not falsehoods. We must be willing to live God’s laws, not Satan’s. We must make wise choices with the light that is in us by carefully guarding our God-given agency. Our future salvation and glory are dependent upon how we exercise our agency, use our intelligence in choosing truth and light, and decide whom we will follow.
Heavenly Conflict Over Agency
Sometime after the creation of man in the pre-earth life a council was held in heaven, and God stood among “the intelligences that were organized before the world was” created. There was one of “them that was like unto God” who said, “... we will make an earth whereon these [intelligences] may dwell.” (Abr. 3:22-24.)
What was the reason for an earth? One reason was so man could be proven. The scriptures state the following: “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abr. 3:25.) The earth, therefore, was to be a proving ground for God’s children. It was to be this way so that we, and not only God, could see how well we would use our agency and what type of choices we would make. The creation of the earth was so important and needed that “all the sons of God shouted for joy.” (Job 38:7.)
Because all of Heavenly Father’s children except Jesus would make choices that would keep them from God’s eternal presence, someone had to provide a plan of salvation. This was necessary to give His children an opportunity to enter into His presence when they were finished with their proving ground on earth. “And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here Am I, send me....”
At this time another also wanted to have that privilege. “... And another answered and said: Here am I, send me....” (Abr. 3:27.) We do not know how many others might have offered their services, but we do know of two offers and the resulting conflict that followed the second one.
This second intelligence was Lucifer, who “was from the beginning,” and was “an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God.” (Moses 4:1; D&C 76:25.) This angel, Lucifer, was called “a son of the morning.” (D&C 76:26; Isa.14:12.) From this, could we speculate that there was more than one son of the morning, since it says “a” son of the morning, instead of, “the” son of the morning?
We also find that “the devil was before Adam” (D&C 29:36), or as it may sound: Lucifer was spiritually created before Adam was spiritually created. Whatever the case, it seems that Lucifer had influence, and he said, “... 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....” (Moses 4:1.)
The Lord tells us that by Lucifer’s plan, the devil “sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him.” (Moses 4:3.) Lucifer planned to accomplish this by not giving man a chance to exercise his agency in making choices. Man would be forced into submission, whether he wanted to submit or not. This is not God’s way. The Prophet Joseph Smith stated, “We deem it a just principle, and it is one the force of which we believe ought to be duly considered by every individual, that all men are created equal, and that all have the privilege of thinking for themselves upon all matters relative to conscience. Consequently, then, we are not disposed, had we the power, to deprive any one of exercising that free independence of mind which heaven has so graciously bestowed upon the human family as one of its choicest gifts ...” (TPJS, p. 49.)
Lucifer Sought That Which Was Evil
Not only did Lucifer want total power and control over the glorious agency of God’s spirit children, but he wanted God’s honor, power, and glory also. Nephi tells us that Satan “sought that, which was evil before God.” (2 Ne. 2:17.) What was that evil? The scriptures tell us what it was: Lucifer wanted to be the “Son,” and he wanted God’s “honor,” which is God’s “power.” (Moses 4:1-3; D&C 29:36.) By so doing, Satan “sought to take the kingdom of our God and His Christ.” (D&C 76:28.) The Devil also said in his heart, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” (Isa. 14:13-14.)
However, his plan was rejected because of his pride and disrespect for the glorious aspect of man’s agency. God said, “But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, Thy will be done....” (Moses 4:2.) His Beloved Son wanted His Father’s will to prevail, which included respect for the agency of man. The Son also displayed a respect for the Father’s position, meekly submitting Himself to the Father’s will, and saying, “the glory be thine forever.” This was in sharp contrast to Lucifer’s plan that was to take the power and honor of God and disenfranchise man of his agency and future light and glory. So God said, “... I will send the first.” (Abr. 3:27.) Because of this decision, the scriptures tell us that, “Satan, that old serpent, even the devil” rebelled against God and the Only Begotten Son. (D&C 76:25-28; Moses 4:3.)
War in Heaven
A conflict of principles developed between Lucifer and his followers and Jehovah and His faithful supporters. Heavenly Father told His spirit children that if they remained faithful in their pre-earth existence they would receive glory and be “added upon.” Abraham records this account in the following way, saying, “And they who keep their first estate, shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate....” (Abr. 3:26.)
The second intelligence, Lucifer, “was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him.” (Abr. 3:28.) This angel in authority, and a son of the morning, must have had great influence because “a third part of the host of heaven turned he away from” God, and “his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth.” (D&C 29:36; Revelation 12:4.) Because of his rebellion and influence, there was a war in heaven. “... Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, ... And prevailed not;...” (Rev. 12:7-8.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie helps explain what type of war it was that raged in the heavens. In his monumental work, The Millennial Messiah, he illustrates:
“That war was a war of words; it was a conflict of ideologies; it was a rebellion against God and His laws. Lucifer sought to dethrone God, to sit himself on the divine throne, and to save all men without reference to their works. He sought to deny men their agency so they could not sin. He offered a mortal life of carnality and sensuality, of evil and crime and murder, following which all men would be saved.
“And so, in the courts of heaven, waged the war of wars. Christ and Michael and a mighty host of noble and great spirits preached the gospel of God and exhorted their brethren to follow the Father. Lucifer and his lieutenants preached another gospel, a gospel of fear and hate and lasciviousness and compulsion. They sought salvation without keeping the commandments, without overcoming the world, without choosing between opposites.” (The Millennial Messiah, pp. 666-67.)
That war of words, and conflict of ideologies, raged in heaven and still rages in the philosophies of the world today. It is raging for the purpose of destroying man’s intelligence and agency, and his future light and glory. President David O. McKay said in general conference, April 1942, “An attempt to rob man of his free agency caused dissension even in heaven ... To deprive an intelligent human being of his free agency is to commit the crime of the ages.” Then President McKay went on to say, “So fundamental in man’s eternal progress is his inherent right to choose, that the Lord would defend it even at the price of war. Without freedom of thought, freedom of choice, freedom of action within lawful bounds, man cannot progress. The Lord recognized this ... Men have sought for it, fought for it, have died for it.” (CR, April 1942, pp. 72-73.)
We see, then, that the war in heaven was not over money; it was not over the pros and cons of abortion, drugs, or homosexuality; it was not over the mode of baptism; it was not over the Book of Mormon being the word of God or not, or if Joseph Smith is a prophet; it was not over which church is right, or even the sacred atonement of Christ. It was over agency: the right and freedom to exercise that agency and to be accountable for the choices thus made.
Lucifer and His Angels Cast Out
The scriptures tell us that Lucifer, “having sought that which was evil before God,” became “that great dragon,” and “as lightning,” had “fallen from heaven” and was “cast out into the earth.” (2 Ne. 2:17; Rev. 12:9; Luke 10:18; Isa. 14:12.) This rebelling angel, therefore, “was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son” by the power of the “Only Begotten.” (D&C 76:25; Moses 4:3.) “He became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, ... And was called Perdition ... he was Lucifer, ... that old serpent, called the Devil ... which deceiveth the whole world ...” (Moses 4:4; D&C 76:26; Rev. 12:9.) President Alvin R. Dyer, a former member of the First Presidency, stated in his book, The Meaning of Truth, that there were no neutrals in that conflict. He wrote: “Some have said that there were neutral spirits in the pre-mortal state ... there were no neutrals in that estate of existence, all sustained one position or the other. Some were occupied with complete rebellion, and became sons of perdition. As such, they were not permitted to be born into the probation of mortality.” (The Meaning of Truth, p. 57.)
As the story continues we find that, “at that day, many followed after him”; that “a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from [God] because of their agency”; that “his angels were cast out with him, ... And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels.” (Abr. 3:28; D&C 29:36-37; Rev. 12:9.) Why were they turned away and cast out? It was because of their agency. They were free to make a choice, and their choice was to be on the side of good or the side of evil. There was no other choice to make.
Creation and Agency
Progression into the second estate hinged upon how well one kept his first estate. Everyone here upon earth, the second estate, apparently kept a measure of faithfulness to God’s plan while in the first estate. God, then, gave man commandments to see if he would keep his second estate. Men therefore, were to be proven to see if they “will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abr. 3:25-26.) Man was not to be forced to keep commandments, he was to exercise his agency and choose to keep them
Agency is so important to God that, when He placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, the first thing He did, after giving Adam the breath of life, was to give him a choice to make. Let’s briefly go through the scenario and refresh our memories.
To start with, we will read a statement by President David O. McKay, who told us that agency is the second greatest gift of God to man. In a Conference address in 1966, he said, “Efforts are being made to deprive man of his free agency, to steal from the individual his liberty; and we must never forget that next to life itself, free agency is the greatest gift of God to man.” (CR, October 1966, p. 5.)
We find that after placing the plants and animals on the earth, “the Gods formed man.” (Gen. 2:7; Abr. 5:7.) Next we learn that God commanded Adam, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it.” (Gen 2:9-17; Moses 3:16-17; Abr. 5:9-13.) It was not until after the tree was introduced to Adam that Eve was brought onto the scene. (Gen. 2:21-23; Moses 3:21-23; Abr. 5:14-17.) The first thing God did was to give Adam life, then God gave Adam a commandment so he could make choices, exercising agency. This was done even before Adam and Eve were told to multiply and replenish the earth. That’s how important agency is to our Heavenly Father.
Atonement and Agency
In the foregoing quote by David O. McKay, we must realize that he did not say, “agency is the greatest gift of God to man,” except for the resurrection or the atonement of Christ. He said that “next to life itself, free agency IS the greatest gift of God to man.”
First comes life, then agency. Agency is a more important gift than the resurrection of man, the atonement of Christ, or exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom. If this were not so, then God would have permitted Lucifer’s plan of force to control our Father’s spirit children. He would have forced them to go to earth, take a body, become resurrected, and be saved without any choice or responsibility of their own—a plan that was, of course, Lucifer’s great lie from the beginning.
When analyzed, this concept—the belief that agency is a more important gift than the atonement of Christ—can become a challenging notion to the belief system of many of us. However, to our wise and Eternal Father, the right to choose is more important than these other blessings. It is more important, even if it means one third of His Children will be cast out of Heaven and not have a body, or if many of us on earth, through choices of our own, will end up as Telestial beings or a son of perdition. Agency is also more important than the establishment of the Church, for without agency and freedom we would not be free to practice our religion. It may be a hard theory for many to appreciate; yet, as needful as is the resurrection, as sublime as the love and sacrifice of Jesus, as glorious as will be exaltation, nevertheless, agency is still the greater principle and greater blessing.
War Upon the Saints
Among all of the commandments given to Israel, of course, God gave them the first and second greatest commandments: to love God and their neighbor as themselves. Moses records: “And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father ...” (Moses 7:33.)
However, Moses goes on in the same verse and says that, “they are without affection and they hate their own blood.” This happened because Satan was “to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto” the voice of the Lord. (Moses 4:4.) Indeed, that great dragon “deceiveth the whole world” (Rev. 12:9), even from the beginning unto this very day
It is clear when the scriptures state that “power was given [Satan] over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations,” and that “it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.” (Rev. 13:7; Isa. 14:12.) “Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about.” (D&C 76:29.) President Benson said the war that was fought in Heaven is now upon the earth, and it is still a war over agency. In an address delivered at Brigham Young University in 1986, he said, “The war that began in heaven is not yet over. The conflict continues on the battlefield of mortality. And one of Lucifer’s primary strategies has been to restrict our agency through the power of earthly governments. Proof of this is found in the long history of humanity.” (The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner, p. 3.)
Why is it necessary for such conflicts or war to occur? The Lord has explained it, yet it is hard for many to comprehend. To really grasp the full importance of it, one needs to have the Holy Spirit as his or her guide. The Lord proclaimed, “I ... have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.” (D&C 104:17.) But, in another place He said, “And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet—” (D&C 29:39.) From his book, The Millennial Messiah, Elder McConkie presents some explanation into Satan’s offer of forced salvation in these words: “His offer was a philosophical impossibility. There must needs be an opposition in all things. Unless there are opposites, there is nothing. There can be no light without darkness, no heat without cold, no virtue without vice, no good without evil, no salvation without damnation.” (The Millennial Messiah, p. 667.)
Yes, Satan is subtle. He tried to destroy our agency in the pre-earth life and is trying to do it here. Latter-day Saints are most vulnerable. They are finding it challenging to make choices that will protect their free agency, and the rights of others. Satan’s influence is powerful, but no more powerful than we choose to let it.
When Lucifer wants to mislead he uses his greatest tool, which tool is, of course, deception. He lulls people away with a sense of security in their sins—sins that most do not recognize as sins. Nephi also warned us in these words: “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.” (2 Ne. 28:21.)
Difference Between Freedom and Rights
It will be necessary to mention that the term “free agency” is not used in the scriptural standard works of the LDS Church. Agency is not free. A price was paid in the pre-earth life and a war in Heaven was fought over this sacred principle. A bloody revolution raged in the land of America for the establishment of a free environment where man’s agency could be exercised without restraint. Throughout history, many such wars and revolutions have been for the establishment and protection of this God-given principle. And there is still a price that will have to be paid by almost all of us, if we are to retain this Godly blessing.
Free agency does not automatically mean the right. Some have difficulty understanding the difference between the word “right” and the word “freedom.” Perhaps it could be explained by simply saying that, “We might have the freedom to take a life, but we do not have the right to do so.” Life is fragile and a free gift, and no one has the right to take it from another person, or for a person to take it from himself without God’s sanction.
In that same light, agency is a free gift, and the freedom to exercise that agency is a cherished possession. No one has a right to take that agency, or the freedom to exercise that agency, from another; nor does one have the right to put his agency, or that freedom, in the hands of another. Man is solely responsible for his own agency and no one else’s. Lucifer would have it otherwise. That was his proposal in the pre-earth life and the reason he was cast out of Heaven. In his farewell counsel to his son, Jacob, father Lehi 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.” (2 Ne. 2:27.)
During communing with God, Abraham learned something of the spirits of man. He was informed that there are three types of spirits, or intelligences:
19. And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are TWO spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be ANOTHER more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.
22. Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23. And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born. (Abraham, 3:19, 22-23.)
First Abraham mentions two types of spirits, one spirit was more intelligent than the other. Then he learned that there was a third type of spirit which was more intelligent than the first two. From an understanding of Abraham’s writings, we learn that there are three types of spirits upon the earth; there being three levels of intelligence, one higher than the other.
From what we learned above, intelligence, which is truth and light, is inseparably connected with agency. So we have three degrees of spirits upon the earth that respond to truth and light, and the spirit of liberty, in various ways. The capacity of one group of spirits to accept truth and light, and that of agency, greatly differs one from the other.
I am sure many of us have heard someone refer to another person as being very intelligent because that person knows a lot about thus and so. Perhaps we could put things in their proper perspective. Just because someone has much book learning or a lot of college degree initials behind their name, that does not necessarily mean they are very intelligent. True intelligence should be measured by how much light and truth one can comprehend, and how they understand free agency and honor that God-given right. A person may be educated, learned in the ways of the world, and even considered intellectual, but fall short in understanding the ways of God. If one cannot truly comprehend real truth and light as it comes from God, then that person cannot truly be considered very intelligent. Truth and light IS intelligence; and truth, light, and agency is inseparably connected to intelligence. Perhaps the words of the Apostle Paul can be applied here when he was speaking of those who are, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim. 3:7.)
Currently, a great number of Gentiles are being brought into the LDS Church. The full gospel of Christ is only for Ephraim, the nations of true Israel, and the Gentiles who will believe. As the missionaries go out to preach, they are willing to baptize any and all who accept their teachings. And since the correct gospel is not truly understood by most members of the Church today, what is taught by modern-day missionaries is rather enticing to many Gentiles who normally would not accept the true restored light of the truth. Although the true gospel is to be taken to every nation, it is only intended for the gathering out of scattered Israel from those nations. Consequently, a time will come when there will have to be a separating of the sheep FROM the goats and the wheat FROM the tares—separating the different intelligences. In other words, a cleansing is coming; there will have to be a setting in order of the House of God (D&C 85:7; D&C 112:23-26.)
Yet in all this difference, God does not infringe upon anyone’s right to make a choice. He does not force. As Abraham said, God only proves them: “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abr. 3:25.)
How does God prove us? He gives us choices, and then gives us the privilege of being responsible for those choices. An individual’s capacity to recognize and accept truth and light can be determined by how he understands and honors the agency of man. Does he allow them the freedom of conscience, or does he try to force compliance. The Prophet Joseph Smith once said, “God would not exert any compulsory means, and the devil could not ... all was voluntary.” (TPJS, p. 187.) Man is to be free to exercise his agency and be “accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.” (D&C 101:77-80.) Agency is part of man’s intelligence, his light and eternal glory.
Now the Lord grants unto us leaders and teachers in all walks of life—government, church, school, business, etc.—that are relevant to our personal desires. When we are spiritually minded, He sends leaders and teachers that inspire and lead righteously. When we are carnal minded, He ALLOWS leaders and teachers to take us off onto forbidden paths. God will “send [us] strong delusion, that [we] should believe a lie” (2 Thes. 2:11) if we choose wickedness over righteousness, or man’s counsel over that of God’s. Part of the problem or delusion is: if we are carnal and worldly minded we often do not recognize that fact, nor do we recognize, because of our spiritual blindness, when those leaders we have might be leading us astray.
Two years after the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, there was a revelation given to Apostle Orson Hyde at Nauvoo, Illinois, in April of 1846. Among other things, the Spirit moved upon Elder Hyde and he wrote:
3. Evil men, ambitious of power, must needs arise among you, and they shall be led by their own self-will and not by me. Yet they are instruments in my hands, and are permitted to try my people, and to collect from among them those who are not the elect, and such as are unworthy of eternal life.
4. Grieve NOT after them, neither mourn nor be alarmed.
5. My people know my voice and also the voice of my spirit, and a stranger they will not follow:
6. Therefore such as follow strangers are not my people. (Millennial Star, 7:10, May 15, 1846, pp. 157-58: Unpublished Revelations, 1:65, pp. 104-05.)
In this revelation to one of the Lord’s apostles we are told that there will be “evil men” in power that will be permitted to “try” God’s people; but, those who are truly of God will not follow after the wicked because God’s people know His voice and the voice of His Spirit. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27.) Just because we have a leader or teacher that proclaims thus and so, it does not mean that “thus and so” is God’s will. We must realize, there is a difference between what God wants and what He will allow. Because of agency, the Lord allows us what WE want, whatever the consequences, which may not necessarily be what He desires.
Truth Shall Make You Free
Yes, His sheep do hear His voice and follow Him. In the Gospel of John we can hear the voice of the Master, who said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32.) Now what did Jesus mean when He said that truth shall make us free? And for what purpose are we to be free? With this scripture in mind, let’s do a little exploring.
To truly understand this scripture, we must go back to the beginning of creation and ask: “Why did God put man on this earth? It was obviously for a reason, and that reason was to have earthly experiences where we could learn to make free choices based upon our own spiritual inclinations. For man to have free choice it was necessary for him to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Now what is meant by free choice is that man is to be free to choose for himself what he desires, not what someone else believes is best for him.
Yes it is true that the Creator told Adam not to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, yet it was necessary that Adam do so for the eternal progression of his posterity. If God told Adam to partake of that tree, then God would be responsible for the death of Adam. The Creator would have then been an unjust God, having been responsible for bringing death upon Adam for no reason at all. But Father is a just God, and He had to give Adam a commandment which, if broken, would bring death. Adam, himself, had to make the choice to obey or not to obey.
At this time, Adam and Eve had no contrasts in their lives. Living in eternal light and goodness, they did not know the dark nor understand evil. Now Satan, that old serpent, told Eve that if she partook of that tree: “your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5.) This was a true statement designed to tempt Eve to transgress God’s command. The part that Satan was to play was known beforehand by God, and this is why a Savior was prepared before the foundation of the earth, to save Adam and his posterity from their sins. Not knowing the mind of God, Satan did just what was necessary for Adam and Eve to have their eyes opened so they could receive further light and knowledge, improve their intelligence, and further their eternal progression.
Partaking of the tree of knowledge of good and evil causes all of us to have our eyes opened to truth. It is only after partaking of that tree that we are able to receive from the tree of life. Remember, Adam and Eve were forbidden and prevented from partaking of the tree of life until they had repented and chose to become worthy by way of righteousness over disobedience. They had to understand the contrast between the light and the dark, the good and the bad. They needed to experience the bitter before they could appreciate the sweet love of God and make a choice to accept the grace and atonement of Christ. Only then would they be worthy of partaking of the tree of life.
Without Adam’s transgression, we would have no comparisons—we would have no options for choice. To become as God, knowing good and evil, being full of light and truth, and finally partake of the tree of life, it is necessary, as stated, that we first partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. However, our learning is to be a positive experience.
Now God expects us to make mistakes. But this does not mean that we are to go looking for trouble, there is plenty of that without looking for it. Our errors in life are not to be stumbling blocks where we keep going back over-and-over again wallowing in our old sins, or go around feeling sorry for ourselves. When trouble comes we are to use wisdom, move on, make the best of the experience. Our frailties are to be as stepping stones helping us ascend to a higher state of being. From our bitter experience we are to use our agency and make wise choices, choosing righteousness and Jesus Christ as our only way to truth and light. We must be free to make our choices, not somebody else’s. Only then can we fulfil the measure of OUR creation, instead of someone else’s creation.
There is no growth from not making mistakes in life, but there are those who refuse to learn truth because truth might upset their lifestyle. It disturbs their peace. However, peace at the cost of liberty is unacceptable to God, and man in general. Down through the ages man has given up temporary peace for the cause of liberty. Remember, we learned that truth, light, and intelligence is agency, and they are independent to act for themselves. Only through the understanding of truth comes true freedom and peace. When we purposely choose to ignore truth and light for the sake of comfort and peace, we exhibit a cowardly nature. We remain a slave to fear. Someone once said, “None are so enslaved than those who know not of their bondage.” By refusing to learn important truths and closing our eyes and ears to the option of receiving light, we are choosing to remain a slave to that which dictates and controls us. That is “selective ignorance”; we are then choosing Lucifer’s plan of control, unrighteous dominion, and oppression.
Without access to truth and light, we cannot receive adequate knowledge sufficient for us to make meaningful and intelligent choices relevant for our upward eternal progression. To have access to truth and light we must be free to inquire and act for ourselves. When we are not free to act for ourselves, our search for truth is thwarted; we then fall under the authoritarian hands of those who will try to dictate their philosophies. Allowing a person or an organization, such as a government, church, school, or society at large, to restrict what we can or cannot do, say, read, or even believe, we allow them to be our slave master. We then remain slaves to whomever or whatever it is that controls our belief system and how we live our lives—staying tied to philosophies and traditions that may not foster growth unto godhood.
God wants us to experience the bad along with the good so that we can recognize the difference and make righteous choices from the experience gained. He wants us to know the truth of all things. We then become free from ignorance, false philosophies, and those who would control our thinking, actions, belief systems, and way of life. We are then free to choose God’s way over that of man’s way. Having thus increased our intelligence, learning the truth about good and evil, the difference between light and dark, we are at liberty, with our own free will, to choose Jesus Christ as our only salvation, or not choose Him. Of course, since there are differences in intelligences, and as to how people perceive truth, not all will choose to be free or make the same choices. Even with the option of becoming a free agent unto themselves, many will still choose to remain ignorant to truth and slaves to the will of others.
It’s Our Choice
As we consider the subject at hand, we find that the Orson Hyde quote above is in strict harmony with what the Lord said through the Prophet Joseph Smith: “For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; ...” (D&C 88:40.) And these thoughts help us understand more fully the Lord’s statement when He said, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the same that came unto mine own, and mine own received me not. I am the light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” (D&C 6:21.) But later He said, “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.” (D&C 88:67.)
Many true followers of Jesus Christ have found the key to opening the doors of peace, spiritual growth, and true freedom. That key, surprisingly, comes from choosing to relinquish their will to the will of the Father in total obedience and meekness. In so doing they are letting the righteous pleasure of the Father be predominant in their lives. When we submit to the Father, exercising our agency and subordinating our will to His as Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane, then, and only then, can we truly be free, find true peace, and develop the spiritual faith and power necessary to be His sons and daughters and partake of His divine gifts.
Every aspect of our earthly lives is based on our making choices and being responsible for those choices. While in mortality, Jesus chose to finish His Father’s work. That work consists of a plan whereby we may all be saved back into the Father’s Kingdom by acceptance of Christ’s atonement and sacrifice. Lucifer has a counterfeit program of slavery, spiritual deprivation, and idolatry. Agency is a free gift from God. However, the more we deny God’s involvement in our lives, the more we allow Satan control over them; the more we choose to follow the light of Christ the more free we become. Our salvation, therefore, is hinged on our agency and how prudently we exercise it in relation to the light and truth of God’s plan.
Because of their defiance and revolt, and because of their stance due to the conflict in ideologies, there was no “place found any more in heaven” for Satan and his followers. (Rev. 11:8; Jude 1:6.) Thus, one third of the host of Heaven exercised their agency in full view of reality and knew the consequence if they failed. And fail they did! In that pre-mortal existence they had a choice, and so do we on earth. They failed to keep their first estate. Now, will we fail here in our second estate?
How we accept light and truth, how we honor the agency of man, and what we choose, determines if we win or lose.