Monday, January 9, 2017

Obedience Enables Agency

I know we often speak of agency enabling our obedience: we can only choose the right if we have the ability to make choices. We understand this principle intuitively...choices have consequences that affect our agency. For example, if we choose to steal, we may find our agency limited by the fact that we are now in a jail cell. If we choose to do drugs, we may find our agency greatly impaired by the fact that we have become addicted to a substance. This cause-effect relationship is pretty straightforward.

But yesterday in sacrament meeting, I bore my testimony on the converse principle: how obedience actually makes it possible for us to fully utilize our agency. Allow me to explain.

  1. Obedience leads to keeping the commandments.
  2. Keeping the commandments invites the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
  3. One of the Holy Ghost's primary objectives is to testify of truth.
  4. Discerning truth enables us to use our agency.

Aside from the embedded links, I don't think there's much to delve into with those first three; they're pretty self-evident. I'd like to focus on that last one. If we don't know the truth, we cannot effectively make use of our agency (that's why deception is Satan's number one tool). For example, if I tell you to choose between my chocolate ice cream and my vanilla ice cream, you may be free to choose, but that agency avails you nothing if the truth is that I only have strawberry ice cream.

Satan pulls this bait-and-switch all the time, by trying to convince us that sin will bring joy, or that our actions have no consequences, or that there is no good or evil, or any number of other lies that make it more difficult to make an informed decision. In fact, if we could see all things as they really are, using our agency correctly would be much, much easier for most of us.

And that's why it's critical that we do all we can to keep truth in our sights...and the best way to do that is through the gift of the Holy Ghost. Truth can be found in all sorts of places: certainly in the scriptures, and from the prophets, but also in many other places in life. And the Holy Ghost will help us discern truth from error.

And there's no better way to stay close to the Holy Ghost than by keeping the commandments. Yes, we all fail and fail often, which is why we should repent quickly and often (see item #4 here, though the whole talk is fantastic). But working toward perfect obedience is the goal, and the key to our ability to choose the right and thus fail less often. I now better understand what it says in my patriarchal blessing, that "learning and obeying the commandments is the most profitable thing you can do in this life."

If we strive for obedience, we will find ourselves better equipped to choose correctly, enabling that all-important gift of agency and helping us to become more and more of what our Heavenly Father wants us to become.

I love how the gospel all fits together so neatly, perfectly designed for our benefit and blessing.

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