Hint: It’s not goodness or righteousness or even the salvation of His children.
I saw this post on Twitter the other day, and it got me thinking.
Here’s my response:
The ensuing discussion I had with this man (who engaged with me generally without hostility) was very enlightening. I realized that we had fundamentally different views on what freedom is and what it entailed. Hence the huge disagreement in our political views.
Now, the point is not those political views. The real point is my initial response. I can want an America where you are free to choose poorly and I can also want my fellow Americans not to choose poorly at the same time. I can want people to be free to make their own choices and also attempt to persuade them not to make those choices at the same time. I can see people do stupid things and elect poor leaders and also not want to make those decisions for them at the same time.
This is the principle and priority of agency. And I do my best to maintain it—a part of me DOES want to make those choices for them, because all of us are convinced we’re right and that we’d make a good king—because I try to take God’s view on the matter, and prioritize certain elements of this world the way He does.
Our Heavenly Father is a God of love, first and foremost. The grand purpose for everything He does in this world is our salvation and our exaltation, the immortality and eternal life of His children. He lives, He works, He creates, He shapes, for us.
But is our salvation, the grand end He has in mind for us, the fruit for which He is doing so much planting and cultivating with His omnipotent power—is it His first priority?
If it is, why do so many fall away?
We can know how God prioritizes by observing the events of the pre-mortal realm: “A third part of the hosts of heaven turned…away from me because of their agency,” God says (D&C 29:36). A third part of the hosts of heaven will remain in hell, away from God’s saving and transformative power—by their own free will and choice.
God did not interfere to stop them. He did not put a wall on that path to hell, and force those eternally young spirits to come back to heaven, to agree to His plan, and come to Earth with a goal to partake of the Atonement’s power and become Christlike and Godlike.
Human beings are not chess pieces. Rather, we are of the race of gods. And agency is that race’s most defining characteristic. It’s been said that a free agent is a god in embryo, like how a seed that will one day grow into a tree. The difference is that we can choose to grow and transform, or we can choose not to. The choice to achieve exaltation, by definition, cannot be made by anyone but the being itself, for a god is not merely a biological being, but also a spiritual one.
The biological part of our godlike beings is our physical body, like God’s in shape and form, but not like God’s in perfection until we are resurrected. That part, the biological perfection, is taken care of for us by the Savior. But we are responsible for the perfecting process of the spiritual half. Being spiritual, that process is reliant on personal choice and accountability. If we don’t choose it, it might as well not happen for it reflects nothing of who and what we are.
Neither goodness nor evil are possible without agency. If God took away ten percent of our income—as is technically His right—then the tithing we contribute would be the result of an amoral act, insignificant of who we have decided to be because it has nothing to do with us. There would be no point to it, because God’s purpose is a spiritual progression, and our souls are tied to and defined by our choices. God wants our wills far more than He wants our possessions.
This spills over into political philosophy, particularly where socialism is concerned. Communism and its shadows are satanic counterfeits of Zion’s economy of consecration. Both envision a utopia of economic equality. But in communism (and socialism) the government simply takes your money and, theoretically, redistributes it evenly to everybody, making all equal. Let’s put aside the fact that no mortal government could do this effectively, and that any mortal government run by frail human beings with that kind of power would boil over with corruption and tyrannical uprisings. Instead we can make a moral argument: this kind of society prevents its citizens from making choices. This kind of society compels equality, coerces its citizens to give to the poor, foists “good” choices upon the people. If you’re thinking, Hey, that sounds like Satan’s alternative plan to God’s plan of salvation—you’re absolutely right. And that’s why Satan’s plan wouldn’t work, why it wouldn’t actually produce exalted beings. We would be nothing! Absolute zeroes.
In Zion, meanwhile, no man or woman lives above another by choice. We do not get Zion by overthrowing a government and passing laws that all must live by or go to prison, but by simply choosing to live that way ourselves. God does not compel anyone to live in Zion. We go there, we live God’s law, and remain on an equal plane with our fellow man and sacrifice for one another out of love and by our own free will and choice.
There is no other path to growth and godhood but through our own choices and choice-making. And that’s why, though God sends His servants to persuade us to do good, He allows us to make those choices without coercion or compulsion. He does not generally punish us in this life, but allows us to learn by natural consequence alone. That is why there is both good and evil in this world, this testing ground, and why it is essential to God’s plan. Without agency and its resulting effects, no one in this life could ever be like God, and His work would be for naught.
Salvation and exaltation are not possible without first a foundation of free beings to choose them. There is no other way.