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Honoring agency does not mean embracing anarchy

09 August 2015



I just finished re-reading a great article from the March 2015 Ensign titled "Satan's Rebellion." If you haven't read it, go read it right now-- it's awesome. Like a "Jeffrey R Holland meets Bruce R McConkie" kind of awesome.

The article's purpose is to clarify several points about the pre-mortal council and the Plan of Salvation that often get tied up in heavy misconception in LDS culture, and sometimes cause significant doctrinal stumbling. Like these gems:

  •  "Our Heavenly Father did not ask for volunteers to invent and present different and competing plans of salvation... Satan made an unwelcome and arrogant proposal to change Heavenly Father’s plan... not an innocent suggestion to amend God’s plan. It was a rebellion, a revolt, an attempted mutiny to dethrone God and take over heaven. Those who followed Satan declared war in heaven and made themselves enemies to God."
  • Regarding Satan's plan, "we would be absurdly naive to assume that Satan was telling the truth when he made this exaggerated claim of universal salvation... What Satan proposed was a lie. It would not have worked. It was not a viable alternative to Heavenly Father’s already perfect plan, but rather it was a trap set to ensnare and deceive people into following Satan. It was, in the end, a plan of damnation, not a plan of salvation."
But if I could take one line from the article to define it, it would be this:

"Honoring agency does not mean embracing anarchy."

There's this disturbing trend among some members to believe that agency is in jeopardy whenever someone tries to write or enforce rules. "That's Satan's plan! Stop taking away agency!" they crow.

You heard it from the kid whose parents just explained that he will be grounded if he ditches seminary again. You heard it from that missionary when his zone leader taught yet another district training on following mission rules. And you heard it all over social media this year when the Church encouraged us to do everything in our power to defend traditional marriage (see the comments at the bottom of my own post a few months ago if you need some examples).

These are the people who think agency means, "I can do whatever I want without restraint or consequence." But agency actually means "the right to choose between right and wrong." Nothing more, nothing less. Because of that, we can invite, persuade, warn, legislate and even punish, yet agency remains unaffected. Until we master Jedi mind control, we cannot "control conscience" nor "suppress the freedom of the soul" (D&C 134:4), so stripping someone of their agency will be perpetually out of our reach (for a more in-depth article on that, see MMM's post on that subject).

Therefore, the author notes, "carrying out proper Church and parental discipline, enforcing rules and standards in missions and Church schools, and establishing righteous laws in society are all practices approved of the Lord and not part of 'Satan’s plan.'"

But he also points out modern-day examples of people who are seeking to enforce that aspect of Satan's plan:


"For example, compulsion and force are used today by tyrants seeking power over nations and by political activists who seek to limit religious freedom and compel society to accept sinful behavior...

"Those who protest and rebel against God and His prophets, those who seek to change God’s plan, those who demand a lowering of the standards of righteousness and seek to compel others to accept immoral behavior, and those who seek to deceive people into believing that wickedness is happiness and that we can find salvation in sin all support different elements of Satan’s rebellious strategy."


Unfortunately, there are too many (or at least too vocal) members of the Church who actively push themselves into this category.

I hate to harp on the LGBT rights issue, but it's the most obvious scream-in-your-face, threaten you with bodily harm, spit on priests issue this decade. Read the Ensign this month. Listen to the Church PR dept head's talk from a few days ago. Watch any General Conference this decade. Read the First Presidency's letters (plural) to the Church. It's a very clear-cut issue that's not going away, and not going to quiet down anytime soon. But it applies to all issues: when it comes down to it, there are only two sides-- the Lord's, and Satan's. We can straddle both sides for only so long before we will fall into one camp or the other.

Let's be careful to make sure which side we fall on.
 
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