Church leaders often talk about how the world is drifting one way and the Church is staying a steady course. The gulf that separates the two will only get wider and wider, and I would not be surprised that that gulf will eventually bring the day that the terms Mormon and LDS become, once again, a hiss and a by-word. In fact, judging by the protests outside several temples over the last few days, that day has arrived for some.
There are a great many people who stand up for the Church, and they have my thanks. But as the gulf expands and the Church continues to maintain that course, the day will come when many supporters both in and out of the Church will be too firmly planted on both sides of the divide to stand and maintain their foundation. They will make the choice then whether the sacrifice is worthy of the reward. That is their choice, and the consequences for good or bad, are their own.
Discussing free agency often makes me laugh. The only people who consistently cry “free agency” are, in general, the same who use that same cry to justify their right to go against the will of God. Free agency, while an intrinsic and essential part of the gospel (I’d go as far as to call it one of the most fundamental principles), is only brought to the forefront when used as an excuse to “live my own life” or “make my own choices.” Those with a testimony of the Gospel and a correct understanding of free agency understand that, at its core, free agency correctly exercised involves making choices as directed by divine revelation, spiritual promptings, and inspired leadership. Our free agency is more a matter of choosing between God’s will and Man’s will rather than total freedom to live as one wants. After all, with all choices, good or bad, come consequences, and the determining factor between the consequences will not be the choice made as much as the course chosen. Choosing God’s will, no matter what that may be, leads to salvation. Choosing Man’s will, no matter what that may be, does not.
This Sunday, I am teaching the lesson in Elders Quorum as part of Ward Conference. I’ve been pondering deeply what should be taught for almost four months now. Recently, the idea of personal responsibility and free agency came to me. It seems a timely topic. I think the quorum needs to understand that the time of standing on the fence is coming to a rapid close, and we won’t have the time or opportunity to make the choice of side then. If we haven’t made our choice before then, it won’t really matter because the gulf will be too wide, the friends left behind too great in number, and the “embarrassment” of standing for Christ too large.
Our agency is our own to do with as we please. To choose for Christ, or not. But with each choice comes our personal responsibility to accept the associated consequences. Moreover, we maintain the personal responsibility of our own testimonies, our own ability to listen to the Spirit and accept divine counsel, and our own willingness to follow inspired leadership no matter the voices that gather against us. As my current stake president said not long ago:
“Remember this: If God is for us, truly who can be against us, and does it really matter if they are?”
Choose to stand, choose to stand today, and do it with courage.