General Conference Theme for Me? Agency.
October 5, 2010 7 Comments
What a great General Conference. I’m sure it is my age, but it seems to me that every conference is better and more relevant than the one before. That in of itself shows the prophetic abilities of our leaders. They are truly prophets.
One of the themes running through much of conference, at least what I heard, was the importance of Agency. Not just the doctrinal principle (though very important) but the practical application (or lack thereof) of agency was discussed time and time again.
One of the things I love about “Agency” is that inherent in the meaning of the word, we can’t be forced to exercise it. That is, we must make a conscience decision to act. As soon as someone compels me to act, I am no longer using my agency and forfeit the affect and blessings that choosing for myself would have afforded me.
An example might help. If the dirty dishes have piled up and Jill asks me to wash those dishes and I do, that is great (even wise). But it is an entirely deferent thing if I wash the dishes without Jill asking. There is power associated with the fact that I chose to do something of my own free will. (D&C 58:27-28)
There is another great example in the scriptures. We all know the story of the Brother of Jared and his people. Languages had been confounded. The Lord was merciful to the Brother of Jared and directed him and his people towards the Promised Land. Once arriving at the sea, they were instructed to build “barges” to cross the great waters. The instructions were very specific and once the barges were constructed, they were commanded to begin the long journey. However, there remained three major obstacles or problems. (Ether 2:19)
- There was no light in the barges
- No way to steer the barges (we often miss this one)
- The air would run out, so they could not breathe
The Brother of Jared approaches the Lord in prayer (something he had forgotten to do earlier in the journey) and asks for help with these three problems. How the Lord responds to each is a wonderful lesson in Agency.
First, let’s take the steering problem. The Lord tells the Brother of Jared that He, the Lord, is going to push the barges with winds and great “tempests” to their destination. In other words, “don’t worry. I’ll take care of the steering”. Second, the air problem; The Lord gives specific instructions to create a way to get air. It is important to note that getting air to breathe was conditional upon their obedience to the Lord’s instructions. By contrast, they didn’t have to do anything for the Lord to steer the barges; that blessing was unconditional.
Lastly, the problem of light, or no light. The Lord’s answer was simply, “What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?” (Ether 2:23) The Lord had required nothing for the answer to the first problem, required obedience for the second problem and now is requiring the use of Agency.
We know what happens next. The Brother of Jared devises a crazy plan to “molten rocks”, approach the Lord in humility and ask Him, yes the Lord, to touch the stones that they might give light. And it works. The Lord touches the stones and the Brother of Jared sees the Lord’s finger. That strengthens the Brother of Jared’s faith and confidence enough that he is permitted to see and talk with the Lord face-to-face.
What a miracle! But here is the point I want to make. Would the Brother of Jared have seen the Lord had the Lord not said, “what would you have me do?” Would he have had the same experience had the Lord just provided light in the vessels without condition; without the Brother of Jared having to use his agency?
This incredible spiritual experience happened because the Brother of Jared exercised his agency. There is spiritual power that is endowed every time we act righteously for ourselves. To put it in a “Maxwellean” type of way, “Agency is the detonator to the miracle of Becoming.”
It’s a huge blessing and responsibility. Truly, we get exactly what we choose in this life. And as we choose appropriately and righteously we take another step closer to becoming like Heavenly-father and His Son.
What was the theme of General Conference for you?