Free Agency and God's Interference

In the Friday Morning session of the October 1971 General Conference, Elder Henry D. Taylor of the First Quorum of the Seventy, spoke on A Time of Testing.

He mentions Abraham, and the assurance that he was given that "he was a great and noble intelligence before coming to this earth." This earth was the place for us, these intelligences, to be tried and tested after we were born as mortal beings. We are being tested to see if we will do all the things that the Lord God will command us to do.

Along with the rough path of earth life and the influence of Satan and his followers, we are allowed our free agency--our right to choose between good and evil. This is our "privilege and responsibility." But along with our trials and our testing, the Lord has always given us his commandments; his guidelines that will bring us joy and happiness if we follow them.

In connection with this subject of agency, there is a strange but pervasive doctrine cropping up among some members of the church in the last few years, that Heavenly Father will not interfere in your life by telling you what you should do, because doing so would take away your agency.

Of course, any of us who have ever received answers, confirmation, or revelation from the Lord will immediately recognize the fallacy of that kind of doctrine. Not only does the Lord make a habit of giving us instruction, either through his prophets or directly; receiving messages or instruction from the Lord is exactly what gives you that chance to exercise your agency. It gives you a choice between following His council or choosing your own. Without a choice, there is no such thing as agency.

In both our scriptures and our history, we can point to many instances of God's direct interference in the lives of His children, and especially in the lives of those whom He chooses to do his work. These are just a few examples:

Joseph Smith: God appeared to Joseph with his Son, Jesus Christ, and gave him direct instructions not to join any of the churches. He later sent angels to Joseph with further messages and direction.

Brigham Young: During the excitement incident to the coming of [Johnston’s] Army, Brother Brigham preached to the people in a morning meeting a sermon vibrant with defiance to the approaching army, and declaring an intention to oppose and drive them back. In the afternoon meeting he arose and said that Brigham Young had been talking in the morning, but the Lord was going to talk now. He then delivered an address, the tempo of which was the opposite from the morning talk.” (Link found here)

Alma the Younger: Alma led away the hearts of many of the followers of the church, seeking to destroy the church and causing dissension amongst the people. Because of the prayers of the people, and those of Alma, his father, an angel appeared to Alma and the sons of Mosiah with very specific interference and instruction. (Mosiah 27:8-17). The angel said:
Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God? For the Lord hath said: This is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people.
And now behold, can ye dispute the power of God? For behold, doth not my voice shake the earth? And can ye not also behold me before you? And I am sent from God.
And now I say unto thee, Alma, go thy way, and seek to destroy the church no more, that their prayers may be answered, and this even if thou wilt of thyself be cast off.
And then there are the many times the Lord has protected people so that they can fulfill the work He needs them to do: Samuel the Lamanite was protected from arrows; Nephi (of 3rd Nephi) was whisked away by the Spirit when the people tried to hurt him; Laman and Lemuel were stopped from beating Nephi and Sam.

The Lord also interferes in our lives by causing or allowing physical afflictions (Helaman 12:3-6):
3 And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him.
4 O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; yea, how quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one, and to set their hearts upon the vain things of the world!
5 Yea, how quick to be lifted up in pride; yea, how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths!
6 Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.
We are very free to choose what will believe and what we will do, but this does not stop the Lord from giving us instruction. Even if the Lord appears to us in person, we can still make a choice whether to believe or follow Him. A third of the hosts of heaven decided to follow Lucifer after the Lord had rejected his plan. They made this choice while in the presence of our Heavenly Father.

We are lucky enough to live at a time when the gospel and priesthood have been restored, and we have living prophets who continue to reveal the Lord's will to us.
"It is a temptation to become so involved in the things of the world that we lose sight of more important values, the things of the spirit." -Henry D. Taylor
Overcoming earthly temptations doesn't happen all at once.

Peter first denied Jesus at the crucifixion because of fear, then through his repentance and further teachings from the resurrected Savior, he developed that strength to withstand the fears of the world.

Joseph Smith suffered multiple trials after his heavenly visitations. Not only did he have to overcome his own weaknesses, but he was under constant physical and emotional attack from the people around him--even sometimes those who were close to him. He yet remained true and faithful.

Job was given trial after trial, but this was his testimony (Job 19:25-27):
“For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
“And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
“Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”
This is our test: Will we sustain the prophets when we receive revelation that interferes with our own interpretation of doctrine? Will we stand against the tide of man's disdain and derision when the Lord's will is contrary to popular belief and opinion?

Though Satan be unleashed upon us with his full efforts, we have been given the ability to resist his influence if we will accept the help and council of the Lord, which He has freely given us. By using our agency to follow the instructions that the Lord gives us, and to ask for and accept His direction in our lives, we can prove ourselves, and we can overcome the world.

To read more posts on the October 1971 General Conference, please visit these links:

What is Failure? Zion's Camp and Liberty Jail by J. Max Wilson
Sustaining Failure by Silver Rain
I was So Much Older Then, I'm Younger than That Now by Ralph Hancock
It's Dangerous to Go Alone by Nathaniel Givens
Working Out Our Collective Salvation on Junior Ganymede
Choose Ye This Day: General Conference or Elvis, The Beatles, and the Rolling Stones by John Hancock
Liberty by Michelle Linford
Our Position of Strength by Daniel Ortner
A Little Bit of Heaven on Earth by Walker Wright

Leave reply

Back to Top