Scripture Sunday

Blessing or Burden

I’ve been thinking all day about the burden that comes with agency.  I’ve been thinking about the price that comes with agency.

Agency is a priceless, sacred, eternal gift.  Agency is the power to think, to choose, and to act for ourselves.

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Agency presents endless possibilities and opportunities.  Attached to these possibilities and opportunities is responsibility and consequences.  Agency is a blessing, yet agency is a burden.

Let’s be real.  Choices are unavoidable.  There are so many things to choose from… seriously! There is an overwhelming number of ways to spend your time, fuel your body, entertain and educate your mind, and distract you from what is most important.  My days are flooded with choices.  Opposing forces vie for my attention… for my commitment.

I love how Lehi teaches this principle!  “Men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil…” “For it must needs be, that there is opposition in all things…” If there was no opposition, there would be no righteousness nor wickedness.  There would be no good nor bad.  “Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself… We can’t act for ourselves if there is no choice. (see 2 Ne. 2:5, 11, 16, 27 – one of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon!)  Choice is agency in action. 

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To be a true follower of Christ I must have the option to reject Him.  This is why there is bad in the world.  This is why Satan is permitted to tempt God’s children, making it difficult to yield our will to God’s will.

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It is hard to always remember my purpose on this earth is the same as it’s been from the beginning… to return with honor.  It is often hard to remember the acting for myself is when I grow.

C.S. Lewis put it this way: “Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. … You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down.  A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.  Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means” (Mere Christianity [1960], 109-10).

Overwhelmed by choices and temptations, we begin to feel the burden of agency.  Often, we fight to keep one foot in the world while fighting to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Choosing which way we will turn determines our blessings or our burdens.

Being agents unto ourselves places uncomfortable burdens on us.

We don’t need to carry our burdens alone.  Christ invites us to cast our burdens upon him.  He offers to sustain us (Ps. 55:22).  “The devil will not support his children” (Alma 30:60).

I am learning more and more each day, that obedience sets me free.  I do not blindly follow God’s commandments.  I choose to follow them.  I see the commandments of God as protections.  God cares about what I choose to entertain my mind.  God cares about what I eat and drink.  God cares about how I dress and how I present myself to the world.  God cares about what I do and what I don’t do.  God cares about my lasting happiness.

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William Law, a 18th-century clergyman is reported to have said, “If [we] have not chosen the kingdom of God [first], it will make in the end no difference what [we]have chosen instead.”

The “big” things are easy… relatively.  I haven’t been tempted to kill anyone.  I don’t have a desire to take the Lord’s name in vain.  I’ve made a commitment to be a disciple of Christ through baptism and temple covenants.  I understand the need to choose the right.  The plethora of “right” choices I can make throughout the day to be Christ-like in all ways, are more difficult.  These little choices matter… becoming burdens or blessings.

Life throws some curve balls.  We may face loss of a loved one, personal illness, and disappointment.  “Prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:25).  This is why we are here.  Challenges may not be within our control, our reaction to these challenges can be as we exercise agency righteously and follow the example of the Savior.

I was thinking about the day the Savior of the world faced His most difficult day, His most difficult use of agency.

The Savior bore the cost of agency with the completion of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  Agency must be honored… thus the plan includes a Savior, to save us from ourselves.

I thought about how on a day that included taunting, abuse, scourging, and the final torture of a crucifixion, the Lord choose to be silent and submissive to His Father.

The Creator of this world could have walked away from that day.  Instead, He said, “I lay down my life that I might take it again.  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18).

I realize that there have been many men before and after the death of the Savior who have willingly sacrificed, their lives for others.  They are heroes.  However,  Christ is the only person to do so while carrying the guilt of all mankind. Through if His act of self-less love, the demands of justice and mercy were met; His eternal laws were fulfilled.  He choose to accept the penalty for the sins and burdens of all mankind… of all wickedness… of all brutality, immorality, and corruption… for all addictions, disappointments, sadness and suffering we could possibly endure.

I will not pretend to understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  It’s too big.  I can say that I have experienced the effects of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  Through my experience I can say that no wickedness, no darkness, can quench out the light that is Jesus Christ.  I can say that because I believe Him, because I believe in Him, because I do my best to approach Him with a humble and repentant heart, the ransom has been paid.  Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, death and hell no longer may lay claim on those who truly repent.  We are free.  Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all who are obedient to His laws and ordinances may obtain exhalation… all may find salvation in Christ.

“And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring to about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also” (Alma 42:15).

There are no words to truly describe how I feel about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  My gratitude for this, the greatest act of mercy, is deep.  I, like many of others I respect, find no shame in kneeling down in worship of the Father and His son.

Agency is mine.  It is the first first gift.  I choose to honor this gift.

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