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Free to Choose – but how, what, and why?

The vital revelations about the agency of man—the freedom to choose—inevitably and simultaneously portray the perfect generosity and perfect justice of God. It’s left to us to learn, love, and live so as to obtain the blessings and fruit of this foundational doctrine.In the summary and scriptures that follow, we see how deeply serious God is about human joy. The Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves” (Teachings, 343). In no respect is this more true than with regard to comprehending God’s mercy and justice and His commitment to our freedom to choose. Below is a summary of Neal A. Maxwell’s scriptural foundation for agency, but I comment a study of the topic and his sermon “Free to Choose” give at BYU in 2004.

  • 1. “I [have given] unto man his agency” (Moses 7:32; emphasis added; see also D&C 101:78; Moses 4:3; JST, Genesis 3:4).
  • 2. “Thou mayest choose for thyself” (Moses 3:17; emphasis added).
  • 3. “That ye may live and move and do according to your own will” (Mosiah 2:21; emphasis added).
  • 4. “act according to [our] wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good” (Alma 12:31; emphasis added).
  • 5. “Whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free” (Helaman 14:30; emphasis added).
  • 6. “[You will receive] according to [your] desire” (Alma 29:4; emphasis added).
  • 7. “[And you will receive] according to [your] wills” (Alma 29:4; emphasis added).
  • 8. Why then do some actually choose to remain ” willingly . . . ignorant,” such as of impending Messianic events (2 Peter 3:5; emphasis added)? Yes, some seem to say, “My mind is made up, so don’t confuse me with cosmic facts. Instead, let me compartmentalize my life and my choices.”
  • 9. ” not willing to enjoy that which they might have received” (D&C 88:32; emphasis added).
  • 10. “For, behold, the devil . . . rebelled against me . . . ; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency” (D&C 29:36; emphasis added).
  • 11. “it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves” (D&C 29:39; emphasis added)
  • 12. “Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other” (2 Nephi 2:16; emphasis added).
  • 13. “That every man may act in doctrine . . . according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment” (D&C 101:78; emphasis added).

“Scriptural words are not just elegant, extravagant language. Besides, souls matter more than stars. And He wants us to have joy. We cannot do that unless we are free to choose. But neither can we have that joy unless we are willing to be spiritually submissive day in, day out, and unless we exercise that grand and glorious freedom to choose in which people truly matter more than stars”

Free to Choose, by Neal A. Maxwell

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