When I listened to Elder Robert D. Hales’ talk at the last General Conference, I was reminded of this MormonAd from the 80’s. It has always been one of my favorite MormonAd posters. Elder Hales gave this experience as an illustration of making wrong choices:
In my youth I learned an important lesson about how our actions may limit our freedom. One day my father assigned me to varnish a wooden floor. I made the choice to begin at the door and work my way into the room. When I was almost finished, I realized I had left myself no way to get out. There was no window or door on the other side. I had literally painted myself into a corner. I had no place to go. I was stuck.
“Agency is to act with accountability and responsibility for our actions.” The gift of agency from our Father in Heaven is a central point to the plan of our life – the plan of salvation, or the plan of happiness. We were allowed to come to earth to be tried and tested – and the only way we could prove to Heavenly Father that we are willing to do what He asks is by having agency – or the power to choose for ourselves that will will indeed follow His commandments.
My favorite part of the plan of salvation is knowing that we already chose to follow Christ and the plan of salvation.
“Before we came to this earth, Heavenly Father presented His plan of salvation...” Lucifer, or Satan, wanted to come to earth and redeem all mankind, saving us all by forcing us into obedience – and on top of that, he wanted God’s honor and glory. But Jesus Christ said, “thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” Even though he knew that some of us would not choose to follow Him, even though he knew that giving us our agency would allow us to “make wrong choices, commit sin, and lose the opportunity to be with Heavenly Father again” He said it anyway - “Thy will be done.” Jesus Christ knew that agency was vital to the plan of happiness. He knew that if we didn’t have the ability to choose incorrectly, we also would not have the ability to choose correctly.
“Each of Heavenly Father’s children had the opportunity to exercise the agency Heavenly Father had given him or her. We chose to have faith in the Savior Jesus Christ – to come unto Him, follow Him, and accept the plan Heavenly Father presented for our sakes. But a third of Heavenly Father’s children did not have faith to follow the Savior and chose to follow Lucifer, or Satan, instead.” (emphasis added)
One of the greatest truths that I know is that I chose to follow Christ already – before I came to this world. I already made that correct choice. It makes me feel more confident in my ability to use my agency correctly.
Elder Hales states, “Whenever we choose to come unto Christ, take His name upon us, and follow His servants, we progress along the path to eternal life... when we don’t keep the commandments or follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, our opportunities are reduced; our abilities to act and progress are diminished.” I absolutely know this is true. I have seen this in my life and in the lives of those around me. I absolutely have more opportunities when I am choosing to follow the promptings of the Spirit and keep the commandments. When I use my agency unwisely, I find that I have fewer opportunities to grow, fewer opportunities to serve, and fewer opportunities to become closer to my Father in Heaven. But when I am obedient to the Lord and use my agency wisely, I am blessed and windows and doors open for me and my family that I never even knew were there.
And then – of the eraser that we all need in life – of repentance, Elder Hales puts it beautifully:
'All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.’ For those who find themselves captive to past unrighteous choices, stuck in a dark corner, without all the blessings available by the righteous exercise of agency, we love you. Come back! Come out of the dark corner and into the light. Even if you have to walk across a newly varnished floor, it is worth is.
I add my testimony to that of Elder Hales - “I testify that by making the same choice to follow the Savior now, while we are here on earth, we will obtain and even greater blessing in the eternities... May we continue to follow Him and our Eternal Father, as we did in the beginning.” I know that if we do this – follow Christ and the Father, that we will have more opportunities and blessings, and that we will have an even greater blessing in the eternities.
How does it make you feel to know that you choose correctly in the pre-existence? Does it help you make correct choices today? Have you painted yourself into a corner? What did you do to get out? How does it feel to partake of Christ’s infinite atonement?