tl;dr: Agency is the ability to choose for ourselves, and it is wrong to interfere with others’ agency.

Introduction

In my previous post, I mentioned that it is wrong to force anyone to do anything. I would like to expand on that.

I would like to talk about agency, as defined by my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

The Plan of Happiness

Before I can explain why agency is important, my readers need to understand something else: the Plan of Happiness, also known as the Plan of Salvation, which is shown in the video below.

Agency

The definition of agency is as follows:

agency
the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and to act for ourselves.

In other words, agency is our ability to make choices, to be “agents unto [our]selves” (D&C 58:28), and it is something God gave to us.

So, why is agency important? Because without it, we cannot progress.

Progression

In God's Plan of Happiness, the point was to use our mortal lives to progress and become more like Him. He wants this for us because He wants us to be happy, and He lives a perfectly righteous life, and righteousness leads to happiness. It also leads us to eternal glory!

But in order to live perfectly righteous, we needed three things:

  1. A time set aside for progression.
  2. The ability to choose, which is really the ability to experiment.
  3. A Savior, Jesus Christ, to pay for the sins that would inevitably happen from from our experimentation.

Without time, we could not progress; that is a tautological statement, so I will not say more.

Just like science, humans cannot progress without experimentation. Without the ability to choose between choices, some of which will lead to joy and good, we will not know how to find those things. We must be able to try for ourselves.

Satan's Plan

How do I know that not having the ability to choose would have prevented us from progressing?

When Heavenly Father presented His Plan of Salvation, a competing plan was put forth by Lucifer, the one who would become Satan. He wanted the glory for himself, so he put forth his own plan: instead of us progressing towards eternal glory, with some of us failing to reach it, he would make sure all of us received the same reward, but he would get all the glory.

Of course, the only way to do so was to make our choices for us.

War in Heaven

When Satan presented his plan, we all exercised our agency for the first time and decided which plan we wanted to follow. Since you are here on Earth, you know that you chose Heavenly Father's plan.

But when we made our choices, Satan was not happy; he did not like the fact that some chose God's plan. So he tried to steal the agency we had just been given by trying to force us to follow his plan. It didn't work. A war was fought, Satan lost, and he was cast out of Heaven for his evil.

Yes, trying to steal agency without cause is evil.

But he has not stopped trying to take our agency away.

Stealing Agency

How does Satan steal our agency? By having others take it away from us. Of course, nowadays there are plenty of people who try to take away our agency.

It might start off innocently enough; after all, by removing agency from people, less bad things might happen. So governments, officials, bosses, and others try to tell us what we can and cannot do.

But it goes against God's plan for us because every time even a little bit of agency is taken from a person, his progress is dammed by that much. Thus, the people who do so, even with good intentions, are evil.

Losing Agency

However, that said, there are times when others’ choices make it so they deserve to have their agency removed. These times are when they infringe on someone else's agency without cause.

Some examples include:

  • Murder (stealing the choice to live).
  • Rape (stealing the choice whether to have intimate relations or not).
  • Theft (stealing the choice to use the item or how to spend the money).

And other examples are obvious crimes that deprive a person of the rights to life, liberty (agency), and property.

When a person has done any of these things, it is just to take away their agency to do so again. Such persons have lost their right to agency.

Responsibility

But why should a person lose some of their agency when they commit a crime?

The reason is that agency always goes hand-in-hand with responsibility. When you have the ability to choose for yourself, you bear the responsibility for your choices, which means you must accept the consequences. In fact, you cannot escape the consequences.

That is an uncomfortable thing for most people because consequences can be hard.

To prevent consequences, they will often give up agency, thereby supposedly getting around responsibility. Unfortunately, giving up agency is a choice in itself, and the consequences of that decision, direct or indirect, must be faced.

The other thing people do to try to get around the consequences is to pretend they don't exist or just avoid them. And while that may work for a while, it will always fail.

The Church and Agency

There are those who are critical of the Church and say that it removes agency from its members. However, they are confused as to how agency works.

You see, every person has the agency to choose whether or not they will join the Church, and even after that, they have the choice to leave at any time. But like any religion, the Church reserves the right to have certain expectations for its members.

Also, remember that those expectations are meant to lead its members to righteousness and happiness.

That said, even though members of the Church believe that it is the “only true and living church” on the Earth, we need to remember that non-members are not heretics; they have just decided not to try to find happiness with the Church.

As members, we should do as the Savior did: invite, but never compel.

Agency and Love

Do you have someone you love that is doing things that you don't like?

It will be hard, but you have to allow them to exercise their agency. You need to let them grow. I know that you love them and want to prevent them from hurting themselves, but the ultimate expression of love is to let them act for themselves.

After all, that is what Heavenly Father did for us.