Agency, Choice, and Accountability

Our moral agency is infinitely important to our progress. The temple explains and amplifies the eternal importance of agency, which is “the ability and freedom God gives people to choose and to act for themselves.” The Father gave the great gift of moral agency to all His sons and daughters. Using our agency correctly is the key to becoming like our Heavenly Parents. Agency is our most powerful and eternally influential gift.

Written by the authors of Discovering Your Temple Insights.

To enable and protect our freedom, Heavenly Father ensures we can know and understand good from evil. 

This power to choose is the greatest weapon we have in the battle between good and evil because it unlocks the potential of Jesus Christ to redeem us through His infinite Atonement.

Moral agency is critical to our development into independent, noble beings as He is. The reason for us having our moral agency is so we might “stand independent” in the universe, being able to “act” and not be “acted upon” and having conquered all through the gift and power of Christ.

Having to overcome through Christ eternally ties us to Him, which keeps us humble and submissive—two foundational requirements for becoming like God and using His infinite power on behalf of others for eternity. Therefore, all people must choose for themselves, for they are “free according to the flesh” to “choose liberty and eternal life” or “to choose captivity and death.”

The Father has a great reverence for our agency. Moral agency is among the Father’s most fundamental points of doctrine and most precious gifts. As portrayed in the temple, He will never violate our agency, even when the choices made will cause pain and heartache to Him and His children because He knows our agency is the key to exaltation and the key to becoming like Him. To protect our agency, He always invites and persuades and never forces or coerces.

Therefore, when making invitations, His Spirit and voice are still and small, not harsh and loud. His approach is one of gentleness and lovingkindness. His model of perfect persuasion and inspired invitation is described in the scriptures and portrayed in the temple. We must adopt it if we want to become like Him. Of God’s approach in protecting agency, President Howard W. Hunter has said,

To fully understand this gift of agency and its inestimable worth, it is imperative that we understand that God’s chief way of acting is by persuasion and patience and long-suffering, not by coercion and stark confrontation. He acts by gentle solicitation and by sweet enticement.

He always acts with unfailing respect for the freedom and independence that we possess. He wants to help us and pleads for the chance to assist us, but he will not do so in violation of our agency. He loves us too much to do that, and doing so would run counter to his divine character. (Howard W. Hunter, “The Golden Thread of Choice,” Conference Report, October 1989, 21.)

We should intently strive to emulate this model in all our interactions with others. It will enable us to follow His example in protecting and respecting the agency of all.

Choice and consequence are eternally and inevitably tied together. The temple emphasizes choice and consequence. The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches we are free to act for ourselves. However, when we make a choice, we select “the way of everlasting death” or “the way of eternal life,” meaning we choose the consequences of those actions. 

The temple reinforces that God gave agency to men and women, but with our agency comes the inevitable consequences of our choices. We cannot avoid these repercussions except through sincere repentance, and even then, some consequences may remain or may take time to resolve. Blessings flow from good choices; penalties result from poor choices. Indeed, “every man [and woman] receiveth wages of him whom he [or she] listeth to obey.”

What are these wages? Ultimately, our character and our attributes are either enhanced or degraded by each choice we make. Each time we make good choices, we gain the attributes of godliness, and each time we make poor choices, we lose those attributes. Unrepentant choices allow these character injuries to remain; sincere repentance cleans our slate and enhances our character. Other wages of choices include myriad other blessings gained or lost, such as access to temples, covenant priesthood blessings, good physical health, or even financial stability.

Our words, our works, and our thoughts will bless us or will harm us because of the freedom He gave us to act on the knowledge we have received.

Written by the authors of Discovering Your Temple Insights.