Today I was able to give my farewell talk, sing with my family, teach my last Sunday school class of 12/13 year olds, eat homemade chili, remember my sweet sister (who passed away) on her birthday, say bye to a lot of my siblings, and get set apart as a missionary from my stake president. Someone in my home ward requested my talk, so I have decided to just post it on here. This will also be my last post as myself. My sister Lindsey will be taking over to copy and paste my emails. I LOVE YOU ALL!!!
There is a story of a time I sat in the Terrestial Kingdom. Some of you in here may remember a standard's night during my youth years that Sister Sperry organized. I might be off on a few details, but I remember what generally happened, and it will serve to prove my point. When you entered the gym that Wednesday night, you were given a certain amount of tickets to spend at the various booths set up. One booth had books and magazines you could read all scattered on a table. The books varied from popular fashion magazines to Calvin and Hobbes comics to The New Era and the scriptures. Another booth had a pile of food on it. The food ranged from sugary treats to fruit and vegetables. There was a music station you could choose what kind of CD you put in to listen to some music for a while. The whole time, there were adults collecting your tickets at the booth and writing down everything you chose. Not thinking anything of it, my friend and I walked around together choosing some things we thought were kinda fun, like the Calvin and Hobbes comic book and we probably ate some brownies; I know, I even look back now and can't believe I didn't see how the whole thing was set up. Eventually the lights flickered and turned completely off in the gym, leaving everything pitch dark. A voice spoke and said there was an earthquake and we all died (which is a little scary thinking now cause I'm going to California). If we would make our way to the dividers between the gym and the chapel, our judgement awaited. While waiting my turn, I thought back at all the choices I made, and just kept thinking I am a good person, I didn't really do anything BAD. My turn came to see the stake president, who represented Jesus Christ and he quietly told me my friend and I had made some choices together that resulted in being awarded the Terrestial Kingdom. I then entered the chapel, where the Celestial Kingdom dwellers got front row to the fireside, I had the middle row, and the Telestial people sat towards the back. What I remember most from that experience was thinking how shocked I was that I didn't make the Celestial Kingdom, just because of some of the choices I had made weren't the best that was offered to me.
There has been a plan made where we have free agency, or the ability and priviledge God gave us to choose and act for ourselves. Many choices are presented to us everyday, almost every hour. Like the choices I made in the gym that night, my real world choices do affect where I end up after this life. President David O. McKay said "Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God's greatest gifts to man". My topic today is the role free agency plays in the plan of salvation. I will base much of my talk on the scriptures, Elder Robert D. Hales' talk "Agency, Essential to the Plan of Life" and President Monson's talk "The Three R's of Choice".
Agency plays a main role in each of our stages of life- our premortal life, our current mortal life, and then our post mortal existence.
We are literally children of Heavenly Father, He is the Father of our spirits and we lived with Him. In our premortal life, Father called a family council to decide how we could become just like Him and enjoy all the blessings He enjoys. We needed to experience mortality and living with a physical body. We were presented two plans, Jesus Christ's plan involving our freedom to choose, including the stumblings and difficulties that would come with that but also providing a savior, or Satan' s plan which President Monson said "We know that we had our agency before this world was and that Lucifer attempted to take it from us. He had no confidence in the principle of agency or in us and argued for imposed salvation. He insisted that with his plan none would be lost, but he seemed not to recognize—or perhaps not to care—that in addition, none would be any wiser, any stronger, any more compassionate, or any more grateful if his plan were followed." Lehi also states in 2 Nephi 28:27 “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. 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." Some did follow Satan, and were cast out of heaven. However, we know we followed Jesus Christ, because we are all here sitting in this room on this earth. I really liked how Elder Hales says something like When we chose Christ, see what we got (a body, the earth, etc); imagine if we still choose Him what we get in the next life"
Next we move on to this mortal life. In the For Strength of Youth pamphlet it starts with Agency and Accountability. It sets the stage for the rest of the book full of standards. While the standards come from the Lord, we still have the choice to follow them or not. What I really like about the 2 Nephi verse, is immediately after telling them about agency, Lehi tells his sons that while you have the right to choose, you should choose the right (Read v 28). I think of the hymn Choose the Right when a choice is placed before you....there's the right and the wrong to every question, be safe through inspirations power. We have been so blessed with the gift of the Holy Ghost, a member of the godhead, to help us to make righteous choices. Elder Hales says "when you understand the challenge of repenting and appreciate the blessing of the Holy Ghost to guide our agency, Heavenly Father will straighten and sustain us". Sometimes, it is so scary to make a decision. It can be scary to buy a house, go on a mission, get married, have children, change jobs; and for a good reason! President Monson says "When faced with significant choices, how do we decide? Do we succumb to the promise of momentary pleasure? To our urges and passions? To the pressure of our peers? Decisions are constantly before us. To make them wisely, courage is needed—the courage to say no, the courage to say yes. Decisions do determine destiny." So we know decisions are important, but that is easier said than done. We have to trust in the Lord, rely on the Holy Ghost, listen to counsel from our leaders and parents, and something that helped me on my decsion to serve a mission was going to the temple to ponder about it. I say ponder because up at BYU, my stake president made a comment about personal revelation during stake conference. Sometimes, personal revelation is considering different scenarios in your head. If I made this decision, than what would I want to have happen, what probably would happen, etc. And ponder about things. Think about it throughout your day. When I would go to the temple, I thought about serving a mission as well as NOT serving one. It happens that for me, I am serving one. Sometimes when we need to make a decision, we need to do just that. Do as President Monson said and have courage! As they say in the film We Bought A Zoo, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. If the choice is not right, trust that the Lord will stop you. Elder Hales also says that obedience to commandments helps protect our agency. If you think about it, going to church, partaking of the sacrament, reading your scriptures daily, praying often, serving others, visiting and home teaching, etc make us feel good and motivates us to do more good. It might seem small to remember to read your scriptures everyday, but remember that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass! I know for myself what a difference it makes in my day when I don't read, or maybe just don't choose to treasure the scriptures as I should. When I have done what I'm supposed to, I feel better about my direction in my day, and am more confident in making decisions, instead of feeling guilty or sad.
When you are using your agency, we are choosing to be more like Christ, because that shows we accept His plan and do as He did. He had a choice, He didn't have to suffer in Gethsemane or on the cross or to perform miracles. Yet He knew His mission, and He chose to fulfill it. I think of the hymn Who's on the Lord's Side Who, the enemy's awake, who's on the Lord's side who? We serve the living God, and want his foes to know, that if but few, we're great, we're going on to win, who's on the Lord's side who? We know we are already on the winning side as long as we continue to choose Christ. As Lehi said, there are ultimately really two choices, liberty and eternal life with Christ's plan, or captivity and death. But it is not always so black and white in every day life, because as the hymn said the enemy's awake, satan is real and trying to steer us away from the straight and narrow. Elder Hales discusses how the world will try to give you false things about agency, such as eat drink and be merry cause it won't matter cause you will just die.
However, moving on to the post mortal life, our choices do matter. In the hymn Choose the Right, it says "let god and heaven be your goal". If God and heaven is our goal for our future, are we acting like it now? President Monson said "I speak of the results of choice. All of our choices have consequences, some of which have little or nothing to do with our eternal salvation and others of which have everything to do with it. Whether you wear a green T-shirt or a blue one makes no difference in the long run. However, whether you decide to push a key on your computer which will take you to pornography can make all the difference in your life. You will have just taken a step off the straight, safe path. If a friend pressures you to drink alcohol or to try drugs and you succumb to the pressure, you are taking a detour from which you may not return. Brethren, [and this applies to everyone] whether we are 12-year-old deacons or mature high priests, we are susceptible. May we keep our eyes, our hearts, and our determination focused on that goal which is eternal and worth any price we will have to pay, regardless of the sacrifice we must make to reach it.No temptation, no pressure, no enticing can overcome us unless we allow such. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
Those were just some examples President Monson gave of choices, so I hope that you each have thought about how it applied to you in your life. It's like he said, our decisions do determine our destiny, so it is my hope that we ponder our choices carefully and use our agency for good, because it is so key to every part of our plan of salvation. It's the only way to become more like our Heavenly Father.