Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and Elder Ahlstrom

Recently it seems people have been asking me a lot on the chat about whether or not we really have agency, or free will.  The questions usually go something like, if God knows everything, and God created us, how could we possibly choose our future?  Or if God knows every action we are going to make, does that mean we have no choice to go against it?  At the surface, these questions can seem a little perplexing, but a deeper look helps us to see the freedom we really do have.

The questions make a few incorrect assumptions with God.  Knowing something happens, does not mean we force it to happen.  An example is of me witnessing a car accident on the side of the road.  Just because I see the accident does not mean I made it happen.  In the same sense, I can drop a penny, and I know it will hit the ground.  But, it is gravity which pulls it down, and not me.  We control our future, and God has provided the way.

I love how Lehi is able to explain the need we have for opposition and for choice in our lives.  He tells us without the opposition, all things would remain as dead;

“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.” -2 Nephi 2: 11

I feel this verse also applies to our ability to choose.  If we have no choice, then nothing is there to entice us to do good or to do evil.  If we can do no good or evil on our own, then we really do nothing.  And if we aren’t doing anything, then we wouldn’t exist.  “I think, therefore I am” (René Descartes).

I am reminded of the novel 1984 by George Orwell.  While it has been a long while since reading it, I do remember a little.  The main character, Winston Smith lives in a world where a small portion of the populations controls the masses.  They repress individual thought, and choices.  Winston begins to rebel against the world he lives in, and make choices contrary to the control around him.  Those in control catch Winston in his rebellion, and proceed to correct his behavior with torture and brain washing.  At the end of the novel, Winston is turned and betrays those with him.  In one of the last scenes he is drinking at a pub, and is found rejoicing with what he once opposed.  The image I recall seems that Winston has had the life taken out of him.  He is condemned to die, and seems to have no opposition in his mind to it; he has nothing else to live for.  As Lehi would say, he is “as dead” before the execution even occurs.

It is a principle which I have seen in my own life as well.  Such as with the missionary work here.  As we have started creating blogs, and as we have began using more tools online I have seen the life of the mission grow.  We can see new and greater possibilities for teaching and working with others.  We are more excited about the work we are doing.  We are more effective servants as we have an eye of faith, with a hope for the future.  The more choices I have, the more life there has seemed to be in me.  The more I can see possibilities and hope of a future, the more excited I have been.  As I have been affected by the treatments in cancer, many times the future has seemed bleak and depressing.  It is at those times the life in me has diminished.  I am indebted to the plan of Salvation, and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which has given me the strength to continue.  We find life in Jesus Christ, as we find hope in Him.  I do know Jesus Christ is our Savior.  I know we can find peace and comfort in Him.  I know He is the Light and the Life of the world.  Nothing can bring us greater purpose and joy then following Him.


  1. What an amazing post! I love the examples that you give with the car accident and penny. It really helps clarify the way our actions are truly our own and they are not pre-determined. Thank you!

  2. I really liked reading this post. Thank you. It was also wonderful to meet you. :)

  3. Thanks for sharing your testimony of agency. It is something that I have been struggling with, and reading your post helped me to feel the peace of the Holy Ghost this morning.

  4. Hello Elder Spencer. this is such a great idea, my middle son has just embarked on his mission so I this will really help me feel a little closer to him. This is a wonderful tool for missionary mums as well as those wanting to find out more about the church and its teachings. Thanks for your service :)

  5. No lies elder, you're one cool mamma jamma! Thanks for your testimony! that was cool! Great examples as well!


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