Tag Archives: Agency

Hymn #240: Know This, That Every Soul Is Free

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.

2 Nephi 2:27

The Plan of Salvation is one of the most profound, most enlightening, and most comforting truths the Gospel of Jesus Christ has to offer. It helps us to understand our individual nature, our relationship to God, the point of mortality and its myriad challenges, the finite nature of death, and the infinite blessing of eternal life.

Everything in this plan is based on two great principles. The first, of course, is “the wondrous and glorious Atonement,” described by Elder Neal A. Maxwell as “the central act in all of human history….the hinge on which all else that finally matters turned.” He then takes the nature of the atonement one step further, introducing the second great principle: “But it turned upon Jesus’ spiritual submissiveness!”

Christ’s atonement was based on his eternal lifetime of choices. It was He who decided, of his own free will, to stand at the Grand Council and say, “Here am I, send me.” It was his mortal life filled with only correct decisions that made him the Perfect Lamb that alone was worthy of sacrifice to redeem us all. It was his perfect submission, even while begging the cup to be removed, to the entirety of the Father’s plan in his worst hours (the worst hours any person has ever or will ever endure) that allowed the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan. It was his decisive commendation of his eternal spirit into the hands of his Father (for no man took his life from him; he laid it down of himself) that allowed for the Easter Morn in which death forever lost its sting and the victory of the grave became eternally forfeit.

Christ made every choice right. He is our perfect example in all things, and use of agency is no exception. I think we sometimes lose track of that fact, thinking that perfection was no big deal for Christ. We’re quick to spout off that He was perfect, almost like it’s a factoid and not a profound, miraculous truth. He had the exact same capacity as you and I to make decisions. That agency is a universal gift from the Father to every single one of his children. That agency allowed for the fulfillment of the Atonement and the Messianic mission.

Interestingly enough, it is that same agency that allowed for the greatest of all downfalls, the birth, as it were, of evil and perdition. The rebellion of Lucifer, just as the Atonement of Christ, was not a forced matter. Satan and the spirits that followed him made their decisions with the same capacity with which Christ made his–and with which you and I make ours. And, just like Christ reigning forever over all His Father hath or Lucifer forever gnashing his teeth in misery and darkness, we will reach our final destination based on the paths we choose to get there.

Know this, brothers and sisters: Every soul is free. EVERY soul. Yours, mine, Christ’s, Lucifer’s. It is our agency, that immutable gift of God, that allows us to choose our lives and what we’ll be. God will never take that gift from us. He wants us all back with Him forever. He loves us each so very much and is deeply pained at the idea of losing any one of us. But He would rather allow that loss than force any of us to Heaven.

Let us all choose to use our agency for good. Let us choose to fulfill our covenants, to take upon us the name of Christ, and to be even as He is. When we fail to do these things, it is an abuse of the great agency our Father has trusted us with. Let us choose to repent of those failings and, with the grace of Christ, improve and draw nearer to God. He wants to bring us home, to share everything with us. His perfect love awaits us.  Let us seek it.

CTR

Hymn #239: Choose the Right

CTR

This is an instantly recognizable hymn for most members of the LDS Church. It has a simple, catchy melody and simple, easily-remembered theme (the BUM BUM BUM progression really solidifies the words “choose the right”), and, along with “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” might be one of the most-played hymns in the book by beginners.

The message is a familiar one. As children, we have the message “choose the right” drilled into our heads from a young age. There’s easily-recognizable imagery to go with the message, and children are given rings to help them remember. Many Latter-day Saints choose to wear those rings well into adulthood to give them a constant reminder to always choose the right.

On the surface, this seems like a hymn that further reinforces that theme. When a choice is placed before us, we can look at our finger and see that familiar shield. We can hear the BUM BUM BUM of the first three notes of the hymn and remember that we need to choose the right. And that’s certainly what this hymn is designed to do. It’s  a potent earworm that lodges itself in our brains, just as many of the other instructional Primary songs seem to do. But there’s a lot more that this hymn can teach us than simply choosing the right. Consider the first two lines:

Choose the right when a choice is placed before you.
In the right the Holy Spirit guides.

“In the right the Holy Spirit guides.” As we choose the right, the Holy Ghost can more effectively guide us to make right choices. It’s an almost tautological statement, but that’s the way it works. Making right choices fills us with an influence that inspires us to make more right choices. The light of the Holy Ghost will be “forever shining o’er [us]” as we continue to make choices that allow Him to remain with us. The inverse is just as applicable; if we make poor choices, we limit the ability of the Holy Ghost to remain with us, making us less able to feel His influence and more susceptible to making poor choices.

Not only does the continued influence of the Holy Ghost make it easier for us to choose the right, but constantly making right choices while under that influence helps to train us to make those choices more readily. The old saw is true; it’s easier to make a decision about a difficult issue beforehand than it is to make it in the moment. In the second verse, we sing that choosing the right will “let no spirit of digression overcome [us] in the evil hour.” If we’re already choosing the right, we won’t be led astray by any spirit of temptation when a thorny choice is placed before us. We’ve already chosen the right, and thus the Holy Ghost is already there with us, helping to chase away distractions and temptations. Even if we haven’t already made the choice for the issue we’re facing, the companionship of the Holy Ghost can make those choices simple through His guidance. We can be safe through inspiration’s power.

So we choose the right. There is peace in righteous doing, and there is safety for the soul. We invite the Holy Ghost into our lives, whether we’ve been safely on the right path for years or whether we’re just returning to it. The Spirit helps to guide us on that path through the light of inspiration. And in its light, we choose the right, and even if only by helping us to draw nearer to the Spirit (although we know we can and will receive so much more), God will bless us evermore.

Image credit: “CTR Ring (LDS Church)“, Wikipedia user Ricardo630.

Hymn #304: Teach Me to Walk in the Light

304-TeachMeToWalkInTheLight_600

This is one of the few hymns included in both the LDS hymnal and the Children’s Songbook. Its melody is simple, its message sweet. Its words are straightforward enough for a small child to understand, and it is from a child’s perspective that we begin to sing.

Teach me to walk in the light of his love;
Teach me to pray to my Father above;
Teach me to know of the things that are right;
Teach me, teach me to walk in the light.

The second verse is a response to the first, as someone–we’ll talk about who in a moment–agrees to do what the child has asked. The perspective has shifted, though, so that we are no longer the child but the teacher. Together, we reply, we will study God’s word, learn what He would have us do, because we hope to eventually live with Him again.

Based on the fact the this song is listed under the topics of “Home” and “Motherhood” in the hymn book, I think we often assume that the dialogue is between a parent and child. The only parent named, however, is our Heavenly Father. This leaves the hymn open to include many “children” and their teachers. A young woman and her youth adviser. An investigator and a missionary. An aging patriarch and his home teacher. The possibilities really are endless.

Ours is a gospel of learning.  The Lord instructs:

“Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 109:7)

And so we do. We attend Sabbath services to teach and be taught by one another. We read the same books of scripture over and over, seeking new insights and personal revelation. We strive constantly to gain a better understanding of the gospel and what is expected of us so that we can return “home to his presence to live in his sight.”

Frequently we find ourselves in a position where we can mentor others, but even the prophets seek regular instruction in the House of the Lord.

And so we pray to our Father and thank him “for loving guidance to show us the way.” We’re all learning together so we can walk gladly in the light.