Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Word or Two About Agency

Your Heavenly Father has given you agency, the ability to choose and to act for yourself. Agency is essential in the plan of salvation. Without it, you would not be able to learn or progress or follow the Savior. With it, you 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”.


You might be wondering why I put a picture of a jail cell under a blog title and quote about agency. This is for a couple reasons. First, I've been wanting to blog about agency for a while now, considering its relevance to the current political and cultural climate of our country. Also, for my Abnormal Psychology class tonight we took a field trip to the Utah County jail in Springville. We had a short spiel from Sgt. Wall (which felt like a string of scare tactics intended to warn troubled youth against bad and addictive behavior rather than a presentation to a group of college students who just finished studying the psychological causes and effects of substance-related disorders), a brief tour of the facilities (in which we weren't sure who were the caged animals and which were the zoo visitors, us or the inmates, the way they were ogling us) and concluded our visit with a short Q&A session with two young ladies who were serving their respective sentences for extreme and repeated possession, use and selling of various and numerous illegal substances (both of whom were younger than I am, and one of whom had been in and out of jail a total of 21 times... so far...).

So, with the presidential race, as well as issues such as Proposition 8, a lot of LDS people are using the concept of agency (which, as stated above, is our God-given freedom to choose between right and wrong, a gift given to man since the very beginning with Adam and Eve--indeed, according to Preach My Gospel, it's among the very first principles taught to those investigating the Church) in some sort of convoluted misunderstood reasoning against standing for their traditions and beliefs. Agency IS a good thing, and everyone has it, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to stand for and yes, even enforce good things. Agency is sort of a double-edged sword, because we all love and want to be able to choose what we want to do, but at the same time there are always consequences, for good or bad. The poor girls at the jail tearfully expressed their regret for their poor decisions, but at the same time didn't seem to shift the responsibility or blame to anyone else (they indicated they were among the most sober of the other inmates, others might not be so quick to accept the blame). Now, a lot of people feel like enacting and supporting/promoting amendments and laws that protect a preferable way of life or align with your beliefs is in some way infringing on others' agency. This mindset seems completely off to me. According to that logic, why should we even have missionary work or strive to share our beloved beliefs with others? Why would God even give or enforce commandments and why would we have to suffer consequences? Couldn't that be considered an attempt at infringement on agency? Similarly, people feel that we should vote for so-and-so because said candidate believes in, say, abortion and gay marriage, since those are things people should be able to choose, and to vote otherwise would indicate that we DON'T want to allow choice. That is hardly the point. Laws and commandments that protect morality and enforce the right are NOT an infringement on agency. People are always free to choose whether or not to follow or adhere to a set of rules (be they laws, commandments, amendments, recommendations, or friendly suggestions), but we have to do what we can to promote the good while we still can.

I believe that God gave us agency. I also believe that He wants us to use our agency to further His work and share what we believe in any realm, be it social, cultural, political or spiritual. I don't believe efforts such as promoting Proposition 8 are taking away anyone's agency. Standing for truth and righteousness in any way helps us learn and progress and follow the Savior.

Incidentally, both of these tragic ladies (who the Sgt. feels will be back in jail once released, despite their adamant insistence that they were going to clean up for good) responded identically when asked what single word of advice they would give in five seconds to keep people away from making bad choices and ending up like they did:

Keep God in your life.


  1. Very well written Drew. It is so true. People keep clinging to that silly excuse to justify their position when it goes against the main belief of our religion. Good grief, let us remember what our purpose is here in life! Not to give in to the ways of the world! Not to accept worldly ways! No no! Why have any rules, because don't all rules take away our agency in that case? What ever happened to just going along with what God says? Rather than trying to balance man and God. What IS this world coming to?

  2. Very good post. Agency is a tricky thing, and hard for people to understand. Part of agency is dealing with consequences.

  3. Good thoughts Drew. Thanks for your insight.

  4. Very nicely put. It's funny, no one thinks that murder should be legal, but the same reasoning could be used. "We shouldn't take away someone's agency, they should be able to choose if they want to kill someone." It sounds so silly when you say it that way, but it's the same argument. I guess you could argue that's because murder affects someone else, so how about suicide? (Since they say gay marriage won't hurt anyone :P) That's illegal too. Should it be? OF COURSE! But the flawed logic that people try to use says we should let people commit suicide if they want to.

    The truth is that the world is far to stuck on not stepping on anyone else's toes, to the point that you cannot be who you are because of it. The minorities are making all of the rules because the majority is "intolerant" if we try to protect our ideals. It's all about yourself, what you want and how you feel, no matter what the consequences.

  5. I really wish you could have heard the Princeton guy at the forum the other day, Drew. It was awesome.
    By the way - I am for Obama, but not for the reasons you listed. I'm still pro-life and pro religious freedoms (and so pro prop 8 and anti gay marriage). Just thought you should know. :)