Thursday, November 25, 2010

Free to Choose Eternal Life

Last week we were in the Salt Lake Temple for a stake temple day.  We have many ordinance workers from our stake who volunteer their time, most of whom are elderly and not in the best of health.  They arise early in the morning, even the middle of the night for most of them, to perform that sacred service for the patrons who come to do the work of saving souls.
In all of this they are agents on an errand from the Lord.  No one compels anyone to do anything in this Church.  We are free to choose.  There is no way God at this late stage in the earth's temporal existence, having put in place the plan of life to include the gift of agency, can reverse course and do it some other way.   
Lehi said it well:  "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 Nephi 2:27).
The plan ensures even God must bow before the immutable effects of agency, but we also have the assurance that despite the rigors and demands of the law there will be mercy as well.  It was President J. Reuben Clark Jr. who reminded us:
"I believe that in his justice and mercy [God] will give us the maximum reward for our acts, give us all that he can give, and in the reverse, I believe that he will impose upon us the minimum penalty which it is possible for him to impose" (Conference Report, October 1953, 84).
In our stake temple day session I was taught a profound truth about the Father.  
We read the verse about how Lucifer does not understand "the mind of God."  (Moses 4:6).  Because it is true, there was no way Lucifer could comprehend or accept the way agency and joy would someday intertwine in the hearts and minds of the believers who would embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior and Redeemer.
There is no such thing as "avoiding" agency.  Even choosing no decision is a decision. Delay is a delusion. Procrastination is joy deferred, but it is still a decision.
Conversely, actively choosing to be obedient is a choice.  Obedient Jesus, for example, chose to let His will be "swallowed up in the will of the Father."  (Mosiah 15:7).  It was His deliberate choice — a choice on this Thanksgiving Day for which we all became immensely blessed everlastingly and eternally.  Our gratitude extends beyond this life into the eternities up ahead because of His choice.  
Elder Neal A. Maxwell once wrote:  "Being obedient is a way of life, but it is also the way to eternal life."  (Moving in His Majesty and Power, "Free to Choose").
Without being able to choose among many alternatives, wouldn't "life" really be no life at all?  We are told things would "remain as dead," having "neither sense nor insensibility."  (2 Nephi 2:11).  Only agency and the freedom to choose activates life before, here and hereafter.
We are informed further by Father Lehi that God's creation would have been wasted and would have served "no purpose," but for the freedom to choose.  (2 Nephi 2:12).  What if?  What if there were no agency?  I wonder if we know what might have been in the absence of agency.
The lesson from Lehi continues:  God wants us to have joy, which is the purpose of His creation (see 2 Nephi 2:25).  We cannot do that if we "remain as dead."  (2 Nephi 2:11).   We must be free to choose to become like Him.
Now for the temple lesson the other night.  I was reminded in the endowment drama of just how hard the lessons of the Gods must be.  There is such a profound profusion of doctrine associated with what it means to be the parent of a rebellious son who abuses his agency.  In two verses we learn so much:  "And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil -- for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency; and they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels."  (D&C 29:36-37).  
Note the word rebelled.  Lucifer "rebelled against me" (Moses 4:3; italics mine).  Maybe it was just a foretaste of that which was to come on this earth -- all the unresolved father-and-son differences and angst.  One-third of Heavenly Father's children were turned away from Him!  Parents often lament the rebellious children who reject their teachings.  But all must do as the Father did to become as He is.  We must embrace agency in spite of the pain and anguish it often evokes.  There is a common misperception among us that there were two plans presented in what gave rise ultimately to the "war in heaven."  However, Lucifer wasn't putting forth a plan.  Instead he was rejecting and rebelling against the established plan of the Gods, the very same plan under which our God achieved his godhood.  
The other night I was reminded again this was an agonizing personal loss to the Father.  The "heavens wept over" Lucifer, His "son of the morning" (D&C 76:26), who rejected the Father and turned away from Him a third of His children "because of their agency."  I caught a brief glimpse of the agony in one word:  "Depart!"  (D&C 29:36).
It's the irony that is so inescapable.  Lucifer used the very agency he was given (see Moses 4:3).  The bitter pill is part and parcel of parenting, then, now and forever.  It is godlike in every dimension.  Were it possible, Lucifer really would have destroyed our agency as part of achieving his ascendancy, all the while using the agency God had given him.
I saw the agony even for a brief instant the other night.  Imagine the personal rejection the Father must have known in that moment when the plan was rejected!  What did the Father experience that is so crucial to our individual growth into godhood?  Wouldn't most of us shrink in the fellowship of that suffering?  Becoming like God is so euphemistic it is almost axiomatic.  But did we really comprehend the suffering to get there?  And later would come the ultimate parenting agony of standing aside when His Firstborn Son suffered for all in Gethsemane and at Golgotha.
Much later in the recorded scriptural record, we are reminded that Enoch saw the God of heaven weep.  Why all the tears?  Because of human suffering resulting from man's failure to keep His commandments to love Him and one another (see Moses 7:24, 28).  When Enoch saw the heavens weep, they reflected the same agony of the Father (see Moses 7:29, 33).
Still, even in the agony of such ultimate rejection, we see "God moving in his majesty and power."  (D&C 88:47).
He is still moving in that direction for all of us today.  For that we may be truly grateful on this day of gratitude and thanksgiving.


  1. where'd you findthat amazing picture of the temple? I love it. I'd love to get it on canvas for my house

  2. That is actually a picture I took (and added a texture to)...You can see the original at this link...

    It is available on Ebay at this link: