Today in our priesthood meeting we discussed the “free agency” of mankind and the opportunity that free agency, or the right to choose and act upon our choices, gives us to progress and become the best that we can be. Freedom of choice is a concept that many in Christianity embrace as God’s gift to mankind. The reason for this is that Christians are required to live by faith and that faith in Christ will save us from damnation. It is not surprising then to find that many people of faith in America cherish our founding fathers’ intentions of constructing a government that would protect the individual’s personal freedom and offer opportunity to pursue happiness as they perceive it. This is why many in the politically conservative groups across the country tend to be religious conservatives in the Judeo-Christian tradition. A goodly portion of Tea Party activists, for example, appear to be religious conservatives, who want to protect their personal freedom in the face of what they see as a concerted onslaught against them from the liberal and progressive leadership in the White House and both houses of Congress.
As a Mormon, or a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I believe that all mankind lived with God as his spirit children before this earth life. Even then we enjoyed free will. We are taught that there was a council in Heaven before we came to this earth, where opposing plans were presented concerning our future earthly existence. Mormons believe that the eternal principle and purpose of God’s creation was that his spirit children would come to earth to gain a physical body, and to gain experience and to grow to be like our Heavenly Father, to continue in the eternal work of creation. In this great Heavenly council Lucifer, a son of the morning, proposed a plan where he would enforce God’s will on His spirit children during their earthly sojourn, so that none would be lost and all would return, thus Lucifer would receive great honor. The other plan proposed at the great council was by our elder brother who we know as Jesus Christ. Jesus proposed that mankind be allowed their free will to choose to follow God or to follow Satan. Now Christ understood that this was essentially our Heavenly Father's will, that mankind would need be able to fail in order to truly progress. The only way to grow and become greater would be by struggling to overcome obstacles and building upon failure. He understood that true repentance, after sin, would generate the faith necessary to become Christ-like or God-like, which was our Heavenly Father’s ultimate goal for us. Christ would be the Savior of mankind but the glory would be the Father's. Justice and mercy would be work together.
We believe that John the Revelator referred to this pre-earthly council when, in Revelations he describes a “war in Heaven” and the “Dragon” gathering a third of the stars of Heaven after him. In essence, a third of God’s spirit children exercised their God-given free agency and chose to follow Lucifer. According to our church doctrine this group was cast out of heaven for rebellion against God’s will, and that they are on earth with us to tempt mankind, to provide a necessary opposition for us to work against. We believe that there is a need for opposition in all things, just as it is an eternal natural law that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. For example, the force of gravity is, ironically, needed for us to work against to propel us upward and forward. If there is not a possibility of failure, there is no real possibility of success and growth.
I had often wondered when I was younger why anyone, with the great knowledge that Lucifer and his followers had of the power of God and His intentions for the welfare of His creations, would choose to oppose Him and insure their ultimate damnation or stop their own progression. Satan had to know that he would ultimately be defeated. He had to know that it was not in his self interest to get into a contest of wills with his creator. As I meditated on this over the years, I later came to realize that true evil is not being able to resist temptation. Where basic logic would suggest ultimate failure, a truly wicked individual would fall to the temptation of feathering his own nest against all odds. Our prisons are full of persons who try to play against the odds, to get what they want, to live off the fruits of others. The temptation to steal and destroy to feed their physical desires is more than they seem to be able withstand. That being the case, it would stand to reason that the most evil one, Lucifer, or Satan, would have the least amount of self control of anyone. In this world we live in, someone who has a conscience and suffers shame will generally confess and try to make amends for bad behavior when they are caught or their sins are exposed, while truly evil persons will either never break character and confess, even when there is no doubt, or they will admit their actions with pride.
To a great degree, this is what we might call human nature, the pursuit of self interest at the expense of others. We of my faith believe that we chose to come here to earth, with the express purpose of taking on flesh and overcoming it, or overcoming “human nature”, to learn by faith to be unselfish and to grow to be God-like, to ultimately prove ourselves worthy, through repentance and the atonement of Christ, to share an exalted existence with our Father in Heaven. But this would not have been possible unless we chose to do it. If we had been coerced to do good we would never truly have learned or gained anything. We would not have sinned but we would not have grown.
Since this concept of freedom of choice is so fundamental to Judeo-Christian philosophy, it should be easy to understand why communistic, socialistic and progressive political ideas hold little attraction for politically conservative Christians and Jews. Progressives will surely argue that governmental social safety nets are needed to help those who are unable to help themselves, that it is our “Christian duty” to even the playing field, for the rich to share the resources with the poor. This is actually pretty ironic, since most progressives would never tolerate religious expression in government activities. I think most of us (Christian Conservatives) would agree that we have a responsibility to care for the poor and needy, perhaps even more if we are affluent. In fact, the truth is that statistics show that conservative Christians are much more likely to donate and give to the poor and needy than non-religious Americans. We do not have to be coerced by the Government to do it and we do not want to be coerced to do it. Because of our beliefs we see government mandated health insurance as an evil. Such takes way our free agency. We are convinced that when progressive government policies, though well intentioned, are forced on the American people to protect them from failure, will weaken us and created more and more dependency when we need to develop self reliance and honest respect for one another.
Progressives need to realize who they are dealing with and what our goals, as a religious people, are. We want to do the right thing because want to do the right thing, not because we are forced to do it by a government mandate. Cradle to the grave entitlements from nanny state governments are as evil as the plan that Lucifer came up with. No matter how well-intentioned proponents of progressive policies are, the result of their further implementation will be disastrous for our nation. Indeed, such trends have already taken a substantial toll, damaging large portions of our society. The idea that nobody gets lost or loses is an evil lie. An unfettered progressive government will continue to reduce us to unproductive, uninspired, dependents, unwilling to take chances and reach our potential as individuals and as a nation. The old adage that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions is especially appropriate in this case. And, we as true conservative Americans in the mold of the founding fathers need to reject any politicians who want to embrace the current status quo and seek out the politicians who understand who we want to be and who we need to be as a nation. Do I hear a big “Amen” ?