While I was visiting my family in Utah, I read through the Ensigns at night to help me settle my mind down so I could sleep. Nick wasn't there anymore, so I was a little lonely. And I hadn't brought any books that I felt like reading, so it was just me and the Ensign.
This talk, from the June Ensign of this year stood out to me. I had to read and reread it a few times before I felt like I got the message correct in my mind. And once I did I thought, "What an amazing article!" I'm not just going to post the article here, but highlight what stood out to me and then if you have time to read the entire thing, go for it!
First, I like that an apostle finally cleared things up: "Moral Agency" is a better term for us to use than "Free Agency". The latter term there is kind of a repetitious word- kind of putting "freedom" and "agency" in the same term. But I like that since people today are becoming more and more politically correct, we can come up with better terms to better describe what we are saying. Also, the term "moral agency" gives us a sense of responsibility for the choices we make- rather than the "I can choose whatever I want, so there" attitude that sometimes gets tied up with "free agency". (Just from my experience, not to say everyone meant that.)
Next we learn that there are three things that must be present in order for us to exercise our agency. I will list them, you can read more about them in the article. They are: alternatives from which to choose, knowledge of what the alternatives are, and the freedom to make choices.
I like that the next thing he says is that our agency is not taken away with the lack of ability to remove the consequences of our actions. If agency worked otherwise, then we would not learn from our mistakes. We would not progress because we would have no regrets. So I feel that responsibility for our actions is a crucial part of agency that God, in His wisdom, cannot remove for any purpose.
He then describes the differences between Christ's view of agency and that of Satan's. Elder Christofferson describes it better than I can paraphrase:
"Satan has not ceased his efforts “to destroy the agency of man.” He promotes conduct and choices that limit our freedom to choose by replacing the influence of the Holy Spirit with his own domination (see D&C 29:40; 93:38–39). Yielding to his temptations leads to a narrower and narrower range of choices until none remains and to addictions that leave us powerless to resist. While Satan cannot actually destroy law and truth, he accomplishes the same result in the lives of those who heed him by convincing them that whatever they think is right is right and that there is no ultimate truth—every man is his own god, and there is no sin."
Thus we can tell by the end result of our choices if it led us to less agency- then perhaps it was a bad choice. If it led us to more agency, then it was a good choice. (Generally speaking)
"To the secular world it seems a paradox that greater submission to God yields greater freedom. The world looks at things through Korihor’s lens, considering obedience to God’s laws and ordinances to be “bondage” (Alma 30:24, 27).
"But the Lord’s statement that the truth will make us free has broader significance. “Truth,” He tells us, “is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (D&C 93:24). Possession of this knowledge of things past, present, and future is a critical element of God’s glory: “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” (D&C 93:36). Does anyone doubt that, as a consequence of possessing all light and truth, God possesses ultimate freedom to be and to do?
"Likewise, as our understanding of gospel doctrine and principles grows, our agency expands. First, we have more choices and can achieve more and receive greater blessings because we have more laws that we can obey. Think of a ladder—each new law or commandment we learn is like one more rung on the ladder that enables us to climb higher. Second, with added understanding we can make more intelligent choices because we see more clearly not only the alternatives but also their potential outcomes. As Professor Daniel H. Ludlow once expressed it, “The extent of our individual … agency … is in direct proportion to the number and kind of laws we know and keep.”
What I have learned from this is that my lack of knowledge will then put me in a position where I will be less free than I would have been if I did not lack the knowledge. For example, my car has a flat right now. We can't get the tire off because it has a locking lug nut. So until I figure out how to fix that, I'm stuck here. My agency is limited. But if I try to venture out and obtain the proper knowledge to solve my situation, then I will be free to make that choice to fix it.
"Exercising agency in a setting that sometimes includes opposition and hardship is what makes life more than a simple multiple-choice test. God is interested in what we are becoming as a result of our choices. He is not satisfied if our exercise of moral agency is simply a robotic effort at keeping some rules. Our Savior wants us to become something, not just do some things. He is endeavoring to make us independently strong—more able to act for ourselves than perhaps those of any prior generation. We must be righteous, even when He withdraws His Spirit, or, as President Brigham Young said, even “in the dark.”"
I just want to testify that moral agency is all about what we are "becoming" in the process of making our choices. Life isn't a checklist, or a course we take that ends with a letter grade. It is about how we change throughout our time here on Earth, how we learn to become more like our Father in Heaven.