The Choice to Choose
Every day when we wake up, we are instantly presented with choices. Some choices are more trivial, such as “What shall I eat for breakfast?” – we even have the choice whether to eat breakfast or not. Some choices are more important “Do I get on my knees and thank the Lord for the new day?” At the times in the morning I’m sure many of us arise at, this choice may not be as easy as we think. I know when I go to our children’s room where our 3 year old son is insisting it is morning (despite it being 6am in the morning at a weekend) it can be easy to make small choices which will affect us later on.
All our decisions will have an impact on our lives. As mentioned, some will have more influence on us. However, do we ever stop to consider how fortunate we are to choose? How blessed are we that we are able to choose. From before the beginning of this world, an important choice was made. We made the choice to choose.
The War in Heaven
President Thomas S Monson said “When we left our premortal existence and entered mortality, we brought with us the gift of agency.” As spirit children of our Heavenly Father we were given an important opportunity. We had two choices: choose Satan and have no choice, or follow Father’s plan and have choice, but with that choice came accountability. Ironically, in order to accept Satan’s plan, we would have to use our agency to lose it – make that choice. We know that as we are on this Earth today, we, like all of the people who have lived and will ever live on this Earth made that choice to follow our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. There are, at least, two very important lessons we learn from this doctrine, this plain and precious truth:
- We recognised the value of our moral agency.
- Everyone else on this Earth…EVERYONE…once made the choice to follow Christ
Value of Moral Agency
When we, along with two thirds of Father’s children decided to accept the Plan of Salvation, the Plan of Agency, Satan and his hosts rebelled. In Revelation 12:7 we read:
“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels”
We do not the nature of this ‘war’ but we know that, ultimately, it was our agency, our ability to choose, that was at stake. Do we remember when we live our everyday lives just how blessed we are to choose? This agency has been fought over, retained and been given as a precious gift. This is why we veer away from the phrase ‘free agency’ because it really has never been free (the term free agency is also never mentioned once in the scriptures – moral agency is though). This phrase moral agency implies something much more accurate, yes we can choose but all our choices lead to a consequence which we do not decide.
Satan recognises the value of this moral agency and the potential it has to bless us, and that is why his tactics revolve, generally, around us giving up our agency to sin, the loss of free will because of the lack of blessings we receive. Lehi, in his great lesson to his son, Jacob, taught:
“And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Nephi 2:27)
Each and every day, that War in Heaven is continuing around us spiritually. Will we make the choice to continue to follow Father’s plan and retain the full blessings of agency or will we yield some of that ability to choose to him who would make us miserable? Of course, in the haze and mists of the day, it will not be so clear that all the choices we make are that important, but they are.
All have made the Choice to Choose
The other truth learnt from knowing about this choice to choose that we all made is that everyone on this earth once accepted the same choice we did. Isn’t that a great motivator for missionary work? Just think: our colleagues at work, our friends at school and our neighbours around us all stood on that ‘battlefield’ in the War in Heaven shoulder to shoulder with us and our Saviour. When asked “Who will be faithful?” – at that time, all of us said we would, and all of us were. That is why we live on this earth today. We made the choice to choose also. In the year 2000, Elder Jeffrey R Holland said to an audience of missionaries in the Provo MTC: “So the fact of the matter is investigators are not only hearing our testimony of Christ, but they are hearing echoes of other, earlier testimonies, including their own testimony of Him, for they were on the side of the faithful who kept their first estate and earned the privilege of a second estate. We must always remember that these investigators, every man, woman, and child, were among the valiant who once overcame Satan by the power of their testimony of Christ! So when they hear others bear that witness of Christ’s saving mission, it has a familiar feeling; it brings an echo of truth they themselves already know.”
There may well be times where we think that our friends just will not be interested. They are living lives they are perfectly happy with, why would they want to listen? We know how much this Gospel has blessed us and they once felt the same as us, they simply do not remember. As children of God that have the opportunity to have plain and precious truths in this life – we must invite others!
How can we invite others? Start with small steps – I once went away from a Stake Conference around 4-5 years ago with the invitation from our Stake Presidency to be a better member missionary. I had, what can only be explained by me as a rush of adrenaline, the decision that I would speak to every person on the early bus I used to take to placement about the marvellous news I had. I then quickly realised that for me personally, that probably wasn’t the best place to start. So instead, we invited the missionaries into our home more often, I went teaching with the missionaries more. A few months later my wife and I were asked if we could help teach an investigator in our home – we of course agreed. I have to say – that was the easiest missionary work I have ever taken part in. The investigator came to us, built a great friendship with us and our son and he was baptised. I felt prompted later on to call him as our Activities Coordinator in the Elders Quorum and we had some fantastic Quorum brotherhood building experiences.
The Europe Area Plan urges us become temporally and spiritually self-reliant, find an ancestor and bring a friend. Knowing that all our friends once made the choice to choose, we must choose today to begin a pattern to become more missionary minded. We might not feel confident to go to someone tomorrow and invite them to be baptised. But we can make the choice to invite the missionaries into our home as a start – they will jump at the chance. As a missionary myself I would love to meet with the members briefly during the day as seeing so much rejection when you know how amazing this news is that you are sharing. Sharing some time with members can strengthen missionaries and may lead to future missionary opportunities. Wherever we are on the missionary spectrum, try to move today.
Once we understand how much value has been placed on our agency from the pre-mortal existence and we have been blessed even further with a knowledge of the Gospel in this life, the small choices like getting on our knees in the morning or studying regularly from the Book of Mormon suddenly become privileges, not mundane decisions.
The Ball is in our Court
As a primary school teacher in a school where around 80% of the children speak English as an Additional Language, we often come across moments where there is a little confusion in language. For example, we were having a discussion which led to a question. One student wanted to decide something but was unsure which response to go with. I, having spoken the English Language for pretty much all my life, said “Well, you can’t sit on the fence,” meaning the student would have to decide. This was followed by a look of confusion from at least half the members of the class and one child raised their hand and asked ‘Sir, what fence?” These peculiar phrases, or idioms, shape a lot of our language and all of us use them in day to day language. The phrase “sitting on the fence” can apply here – we have been given the ability to choose. We cannot decide to sit on the fence. The ball is in our court. We have to be led away from Father or go the whole nine yards. If we are not making choices which will lead to spiritual blessings then we must turn over a new leaf and get the ball rolling.
In 2 Nephi 26:23-24 we are taught by Nephi: “For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness. He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.”
We will never be forced to make the right choice; that is not God’s plan. However, he has asked, invited, us all to come unto Him. No one is exempt from this invitation. What we decide today will in large part determine whether we will allow the full blessings of the Atonement to enter our lives our not. As President Monson has said ‘Decisions Determine Destiny.’
We Are Accountable
However, despite this fantastic news that we are truly blessed to be able to choose, there is a word of warning – and it refers back to the definition of moral agency. We choose our decision, but we do not choose the consequence. Yet, we are fully accountable for that choice. To prove this further, we read in the Doctrine and Covenants 101:78, we learn… “That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.”
We, not anyone else, are ultimately responsible for our decisions. We have often heard and sung the phrase ‘Choose the Right’. In a world of swiftly decaying values and attitudes, choosing the right is becoming increasingly more difficult. We can never take the approach that we are safe, for the War of Heaven is continuing around us; it continues to claim souls. However, like a call from a watchtower, our prophet, President Thomas S Monson had these words to say in his address: “We know where we want to go, and it does matter which way we go, for the path we follow in this life leads to our destination in the next life.”
We are constantly making decisions of eternal significance. We read in the scriptures that by small and simple things, great things are brought to pass. Unfortunately, this can apply to the opposite. If we don’t do the necessary small and simple things, make those small decisions of course-correction, then it will have larger consequences.
We have a Guide
All of this can be unnerving. However, we have an Anchor, a Rock, and Iron Rod which we can hold fast to, not just cling to half-heartedly. Our Saviour Jesus Christ has felt the pains, sorrows and therefore difficult decisions we have to make in life. He can help us. He will help us, if we will just invite Him. We read in Alma 7:11-12:
And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
Because our Saviour knows how to support us, He knows what will give us the greatest opportunity to reach Heavenly Father. If decisions determine destiny, then Christ can support us in making the correct decisions to lead us back to Father.