- We are here on earth, where opportunities to use our agency abound; for here “there is an opposition in all things.” This opposition is essential to the purpose of our lives.
We are here to have joy. God doesn't want us to be miserable. True joy is only found by living the principles of the gospel.
- Sometimes we forget that our Heavenly Father desires that each of us have this joy. Only by yielding to temptation and sin can we be kept from that joy. And yielding is exactly what Satan wants us to do.
Elder Hales discusses the idea that "The devil made me do it." He makes it clear this is not true and instead is a choice for each of us to give into his temptations.
- Some may remember the old adage: “The devil made me do it.” Today I want to convey, in absolutely certain terms, that the adversary cannot make us do anything. He does lie at our door, as the scriptures say, and he follows us each day. Every time we go out, every decision we make, we are either choosing to move in his direction or in the direction of our Savior. But the adversary must depart if we tell him to depart. He cannot influence us unless we allow him to do so, and he knows that! The only time he can affect our minds and bodies—our very spirits—is when we allow him to do so. In other words, we do not have to succumb to his enticements!
- We have been given agency, we have been given the blessings of the priesthood, and we have been given the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost for a reason. That reason is our growth and happiness in this world and eternal life in the world to come. Today I ask, have we received that Spirit? Are we following on the strait and narrow path that leads to God and eternal life? Are we holding onto the iron rod, or are we going another way? I testify that how we choose to feel and think and act every day is the way we get on the path, and stay on it, until we reach our eternal destination.
God has not left us alone in exercising our agency. We have been blessed with the Spirit to enlighten our minds and bring understanding to our circumstances. Promptings will come that will assist us to stay on the right track if we are making the right choices to try to be on the right track.
- The promptings that come to us to flee evil reflect our Heavenly Father’s understanding of our particular strengths and weaknesses and His awareness of the unforeseen circumstances of our lives. When these promptings come, they will not generally stop us in our tracks, for the Spirit of God does not speak with a voice of thunder. The voice will be as soft as a whisper, coming as a thought to our minds or a feeling in our hearts. By heeding its gentle promptings, we will be protected from the destructive consequences of sin.
- But if we ignore those promptings, the light of the Spirit will fade. Our agency will be limited or lost, and we will lose the confidence and ability to act. We will be “walking in [spiritual] darkness at noon-day.” Then how easy it is to wander into strange paths and become lost! How quickly we are bound in the chains of sin.
Elder Hales gives us several things we can choose to do to exercise our agency in a manner that is pleasing to God.
- Choose to accept—truly accept—that you are a child of God, that He loves you, and that He has the power to help you.
- Choose to put everything—literally everything—on the altar before Him. Believing that you are His child, decide that your life belongs to Him and that you will use your agency to do His will. You may do this multiple times in your life, but never, never give up.
- Choose to put yourself in a position to have experiences with the Spirit of God through prayer, in scripture study, at Church meetings, in your home, and through wholesome interactions with others. When you feel the influence of the Spirit, you are beginning to be cleansed and strengthened. The light is being turned on, and where that light shines, the darkness of evil cannot remain.
- Choose to obey and keep your covenants, beginning with your baptismal covenant. Renew these covenants weekly by worthily partaking of the sacrament.
- Choose to prepare to worthily attend the temple, make and renew sacred covenants, and receive all of the saving ordinances and blessings of the gospel.
- Choose to believe in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Accept the Savior’s forgiveness, and then forgive yourself. Because of His sacrifice for you, He has the power to “remember [your sins] no more.” You must do likewise.
- Choose to reject feelings of shame for sins you have already repented of, refuse to be discouraged about the past, and rejoice in hope for the future.
- Remember our agency is not only for us. We have the responsibility to use it in behalf of others, to lift and strengthen others in their trials and tribulations. Some of our brothers and sisters have lost the full use of their agency through unrighteous choices. Without exposing ourselves to temptation, we can and should invite others to receive the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through friendship and love, we may lead them along the path of obedience and encourage them to use their agency to make the right choices once again.
Elder Hales concludes with a list of items about agency to summarize what he has spoken about.
- Agency was manifested in the Council in Heaven as we chose to follow our Heavenly Father’s plan and come to mortality for this probationary period.
- Agency allows us to be tested and tried to see whether or not we will endure to the end and return to our Heavenly Father with honor.
- Agency is the catalyst that leads us to express our inward spiritual desires in outward Christlike behavior.
- Agency permits us to make faithful, obedient choices that strengthen us so that we can lift and strengthen others.
- Agency used righteously allows light to dispel the darkness and enables us to live with joy and happiness in the present, look with faith to the future, even into the eternities, and not dwell on the things of the past.
- Our use of agency determines who we are and what we will be.
I have often reflected that agency is so vital to our existence that God would allow his children to walk away from Him instead of infringe on that right. It is a God given right for us to choose the path we will go down. Our biggest demonstration in life of our discipleship is to yield our personal agency to the will of the Savior. When we are able to put God first, to make our daily choices the exact choices He would have us make, we are truly in that zone of discipleship that we desire to be in. Our agency, freely returned to Him, is the greatest gift we can offer the Savior who has done all things for us. Today, I am going to give a little more of my agency to the Savior and continue to grow closer to Him by doing so.