Sunday, February 6, 2011

Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life, by Robert D. Hales
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Have you ever heard someone passionately talk about something they believe in, but you've had little to no idea what message they were trying to convey because they kept using a word you either didn't know, or in a way you didn't understand? Perhaps this short video will help:

Elder Hales tells of when he corresponded with an old friend, but the conversation was hindered because the friend didn't understand the "Mormon jargon," particularly the word agency. The problem was confounded when he realized that "of the 10 definitions and usages of the word agency [in an online dictionary], none expressed the idea of making choices to act." To add clarity, I'll repeat the definition he gave:

We teach that agency is the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and 'to act for [ourselves] and not to be acted upon' (2 Nephi 2:26).

I love the topic of agency! Elder Hales reminds that it is an essential element in the plan of salvation, and central to our progression and happiness.

Choice. We can choose. But what of the times we make bad choices? Elder Hales tells a humorous story of when, as a youth, he was given the task of varnishing a floor. Here's what he says:

I made the choice to begin at the door and work my way into the room. When I was almost finished, I realized I had left myself no way to get out. There was no window or door on the other side. I had literally painted myself into a corner. I had no place to go. I was stuck.

We, likewise, become "stuck" whenever we knowingly disobey the commandments of God; we become "captive to our choices."

But there is a way back!

Like repentance, turning around and walking across a newly varnished floor means more work—a lot of resanding and refinishing! Returning to the Lord isn’t easy, but it is worth it.

Wherever we are in life, we will make mistakes. These mistakes are the result of our choices—our agency. Successive mistakes leave us spiritually painted into a corner. The invitation to enjoy the blessings of the Atonement again is extended to all:

Come back! Come out of the dark corner and into the light. Even if you have to walk across a newly varnished floor, it is worth it. Trust that “through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind [including you and me] may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” (Articles of Faith 1:3)

I don't want to be stuck in a corner, painted in, either physically or spiritually. To remain in such a corner when there is a way out—even if it will take work to get out—is, for lack of a better word, inconceivable! (And, yes, I know what that word means.)

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