Post by Mickayeen Farner.
I am a huge fan of gameshows, and one of my favorites is “Let’s make a deal!” One of the most entertaining moments of the show comes when the contestants have to choose one of three doors. Behind the doors are either real prizes such as trips to Hawaii and luxurious new cars or what are referred to as “zonks” or fake prizes consisting of fake camels in bathtubs or swamp trips. The contestant’s reactions are priceless when there are “zonks” behind the doors. Youtube them if you want, but needless to say people aren’t exactly pleased when their hopes of a trip to Hawaii are washed up in the form of a daunting zonk. I would imagine a lot of that pain comes from the fact that if they would have chosen something else the result would have been better.
The word “choice” has come up a lot lately, mostly because of this election. That’s not the type of choice I want to examine right now as a lot, perhaps too much, has already been said about it and the majority of people, including myself, are over it. No, the type of choice I want to focus on here is the God-given ability to act, our moral agency. I’ve had this particular form of choice come up in some conversations recently and the attitude about it has been one of “There are just too many rules, why would the church say we have agency, then make it so our choices are limited by giving us all these rules?” Yes, rules are hard to follow and it is against any form of the natural man to be “told what to do”, but I contest the notion that we are being forced in anyway by these rules or commandments we are given. In fact, I suggest and strongly believe that these commandments are given to us so that we can learn and grow and become better people, better than the natural man, through the Atonement. I’ll attempt to illustrate how that is and how commandments aren’t meant to limit us, but to free us.
The easiest way I can illustrate anything that comes close to the way God thinks and the reasons He does what He does is to think of how I would want my daughter to be raised. Simple example is when a child comes close to a heated stovetop. Of course any good parent would tell the child to stay away from the stove and even though the child has never felt the burn of touching the stovetop, they trust the parent to know what’s best for them and what consequences come from touching a heated stovetop. This is what I think comes closest to King Benjamin’s dream of everyone becoming as little children, submissive to the will of their Father.
How does that relate to freedom though? The child becomes more limited when told not to do something, right? Wrong. In fact, the child not getting burned from the hot stovetop will make it so he/she will not have to go to the hospital and receive treatment for that thus limiting the child’s freedom to do things during treatment or healing that they would otherwise be able to do if they had never touched the stove. In the same way following God’s commandments makes it so we will not have to suffer consequences of life that limit our ability to choose in the future.
Not only does using our agency to follow God’s commandments bring freedom, but also happiness and joy. Let’s imagine life as being the gameshow referenced earlier. Let’s say that our life is in sequences of having to choose between three doors. Here’s the difference between the gameshow and life- God has already told us which doors to choose and which ones to not choose. God knows where the “zonks” are and the rules and commandments he puts in place are simply to guide us away from them and to pick the other doors that have the nice trips to Hawaii and nice cars. As imperfect beings though, we always have to test that, right? We have to see what those zonks are in life, because wouldn’t it be cool to have a giant camel in your bathtub or a trip in the swamp to hang with the bugs and gators? While those things may be fun for a season, it’s only a matter of time before you get bit by the gators or spat on by the cruel camels of life. We must keep in mind that even when we do follow the commandments, we will still go through trials, but we can find a lot of comfort knowing they aren’t because of our disobedience. Rather we are given them to learn and grow.
But what if there were no consequences? That’d be nice, right? We could all touch fire and not get burned! We could get bit by the gators of life and not feel anything! Well, maybe we wouldn’t feel the burn at that point in time, but the lesson of not touching a heated stovetop would never be learned. We wouldn’t feel the pain at the time, but we would never learn to not go into swamps. In the same way that if there were no consequences for our actions in this life, no one would grow and learn and become more perfect. Like a chess board that was never touched, we wouldn’t know what the right moves were because there would be no wrong moves. We wouldn’t know happiness because there would be no misery or trials. That was Satan’s plan for us. No consequences, no happiness, no joy. Simply zonks with no consequence and ironically the consequence would be an eternal stalemate and no one likes a stalemate.
The attitude of those people I’ve had conversations with would be a lot different if they looked at agency and commandments as liberating instead of restricting. My only advice to these people and to all of us is to always do as King Benjamin suggested and “consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.” (Mosiah 2:41)