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IN THIS WORLD, THERE ARE TWO TYPES of bad decisions for which you must suffer. We have learned that you must suffer for your own bad decisions. For example, you can decide to ignore a stop sign and get into an auto accident. The collision was your fault, and you will suffer—possibly in bodily injury and certainly financially. But on earth you must also suffer for the decisions of other people.
Someone else may decide to ignore a stop sign and get into an accident with you. The collision was not your fault, but you will still suffer—possibly in bodily injury or even death.
We know very little about the premortal existence, but we do have evidence that we suffered for our own bad decisions while there. In the premortal existence, a number of our spiritual brethren decided to rebel against Heavenly Father’s plan for earth life and eternal progression. It was a poor decision on their part—and they are suffering the consequences.
And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency; And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels. (D&C 29:36–37)
It seems logical and fair that if we use our agency to make decisions, we are responsible for those decisions in any realm. It is part of the learning process. Though we don’t know our options there, we had agency in the premortal existence. We were apparently allowed to make certain decisions and suffer the consequences of the bad ones.
In a spiritual existence, it seems unlikely we had to suffer severe consequences for the poor decisions of other people. There is no evidence that a spiritual body can be harmed, but when we came to Earth, we were given breakable mortal bodies. We now live in a place where other people can damage us physically, mentally, and emotionally. The rules changed. Our spiritual brothers and sisters could now hurt us, either accidently or with intent, or even end our mortal lives.
In our lives we will have to suffer because of the decisions of many, including our friends, family, and our leaders. For this article we will focus on the family.
At the beginning of life, we necessarily surround ourselves with people called “family.” These people have the power to affect our lives. We love our family and we feel a responsibility for them. Almost always, they are a vital support to our early years and well into adulthood. Sometimes they are not. Childhood is a difficult time. We are trying to establish our own identities and learn to socialize with those around us. We learn to rely on our family members to help us deal with life. When we marry, we adopt a whole other family of in-laws that we look to for help.
Family members who died long ago have even affected our lives. The country in which you were born was determined by the ancestors who chose to immigrate to your country of birth. Who your great-grandfather chose to marry determined about 12.5 percent of your DNA. Your parents decided where you would spend the first couple of decades of your life. Childhood is the time of life when you have the least amount of agency. Your parents have the responsibility to make major decisions for you until you are legally an adult, usually at age eighteen. We all have childhood experiences that affect us into adulthood. I have a scar on my head that I can blame on my mother (auto accident) and my brother has one he can blame on me (frozen snowball). Other people suffer from more serious scars that are emotional in nature.
Afflictions caused by those we love are especially painful. If your parents decide to separate, or your spouse decides to dissolve your marriage, or a child moves out unexpectedly, you are left with the pain of separation without having a voice in the decision. Not surprisingly, your hopes and plans do not always align with those you love. A marriage can only stay in place if both spouses agree to the arrangement. A family of five can remain close only if all five members choose to do so. As one’s family gets larger, the probability of losing someone grows proportionally. There are many sad stories about close families that became dysfunctional because of the choices of one member.
Having the agency to make decisions is great when it applies to me, but must I extend the same right to my children and grandchildren? I am told I must, but it is certainly not my first choice. When others, especially my loved ones, make decisions that make my life sadder or more difficult, I am no longer a big fan of the whole agency concept. If I have an errant son, I pray to God to “soften his heart,” but I’m hoping for an intervention similar to that provided to Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon.
To set the stage for this account, Alma the Elder was the chief judge and high priest of the Nephite people. His son and namesake, Alma the Younger, had become “a very wicked and an adulterous man.” He had led many of his people away from the Church and went about “causing much dissension about the people.”
After reading these verses, I think all parents of wayward children may pray, “Dear Heavenly Father, in regard to my troubled son, I would like to refer you to Mosiah 27. You probably know the angel that appeared to Alma the Younger, whose voice shook the ground. Could you please send that same angel to appear to my son and have him deliver the same message? I think that is what it will take to get him to listen . . .”
Wouldn’t such an intervention be wonderful? Unfortunately, this is the only example in the scriptures of an angel appearing to an errant son at the request of a parent. Maybe it was because Alma the Younger was using his relationship to the prophet to do real damage to the Church. Angelic visitations are rare. This rule of earth demands that each person’s agency be respected. It is the only way we learn.
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments!