The right to own and control private property is not only a human right; it is a divine right. We will largely be judged, if I understand the Savior’s teachings correctly, by how we use our property voluntarily for the blessings and benefit of our Father’s other children. President McKay continually teaches us that this right of free agency is our most precious heritage. It is our greatest gift in this world and is to be valued even more than life itself. . . If you deprive a man of his right to fail in the righteous use of his property, you also deprive him of his right to succeed. If you remove from a man his right to “go to hell,” you likewise remove his free agency to go to heaven. Satan’s entire philosphy is based on a “something for nothing” philosophy: salvation without effort – a free gift. This counterfeit doctrine was rejected by God our Father. Our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ, accepted our Father’s plan and agreed to pay the infinite price to become our Savior and Redeemer and to show us the way back to the Father. The way is often the hard way. It is the Law of the Harvest. It is the same basic law in the spiritual realm which the farmer must obey in the physical realm. He plants in the spring and cultivates, waters, weeds, and nourishes the ground and its new life and then harvests in the fall.
Opposition and agency. A word of caution: in aerodynamics, gravity and drag work in opposition to lift. This same important principle has been an integral part of the plan of salvation from the beginning. As Lehi explained, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things”. And as the angel taught King Benjamin, “For the natural man is an enemy to God … unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit”. This leads us to God’s great gift to His children: agency. Lehi taught this most important doctrine to his children. He said: “The Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. … And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself”. You have agency, and you are free to choose. But there is actually no free agency. Agency has its price. You have to pay the consequences of your choices. Human agency was purchased with the price of Christ’s suffering. The power of Christ’s Atonement overcomes the effect of sin on the condition of wholehearted repentance. Through and by the Savior’s universal and infinite Atonement, all have been redeemed from the Fall and have become free forever to act for themselves. Agency is a spiritual matter. Without awareness of alternatives, you could not choose. Agency is so important in your lives that you not only can choose obedience or rebellion, but you must. During this life you cannot remain on neutral ground; you cannot abstain from either receiving or rejecting the light from God. By learning to use the gift of agency to make right decisions, you will increase your spiritual lift and altitude. You will also quickly recognize one other prime source of spiritual truth: the written word of God.
Agency is essential to the plan of happiness. It allows for the love, sacrifice, personal growth, and experience necessary for our eternal progression. This agency also allows for all the pain and suffering we experience in mortality, even when caused by things we do not understand and the devastating evil choices of others. The very War in Heaven was waged over our moral agency and is essential to understanding the Savior’s earthly ministry. . . We all long for peace. Peace is not just safety or lack of war, violence, conflict, and contention. Peace comes from knowing that the Savior knows who we are and knows that we have faith in Him, love Him, and keep His commandments, even and especially amid life’s devastating trials and tragedies
It is also time we realized that these are all Satan’s ways of destroying mankind. Now, what must we do? If there is pornography or obscenity in bookstores, on television or radio, or in places of entertainment, if there are those who would make more easily available to the young and inexperienced alcohol and its attendant evils, including drunken driving, highway fatalities, broken homes, and if we are threatened with the passage of laws which violate the commandments of God, it is our duty and responsibility as individuals to speak out, to organize, and to protect ourselves and our community against such encroachments. We have seen how people react to the high price of food. It is far more important that we react effectively against the immorality and evil in our communities which threaten the morals and the very lives of our children. As President Nixon has said, the only way to attack crime in America is the way crime attacks the people—without pity. People who argue that they have constitutional rights and want to use what they call their free agency to accomplish unrighteous ends abuse the idea of free agency and deprive others of their constitutional rights. While many of our problems are caused by those who are deliberately trying to further their own selfish and devilish interests, there is also a vocal, misled minority which is responsible for other problems as they exist in our country and in our communities. We must be equally vocal and firm in our efforts to maintain the quality of our surroundings, where we can enjoy family solidarity, which is the strength of any nation. We must take a firm stand against the concerted efforts in many areas to destroy the family unit. As we contemplate these devastating conditions rampant in the world today—the wars, death, suffering, poverty, and disease—and while many question why God permits such troublous conditions to plague us, let us remember that man himself is responsible. Even though the innocent suffer with the wicked in many instances, all the strife and contention and wickedness abroad in the land today is because man has chosen to follow Satan instead of accepting and living according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. From the beginning we have been told that there must be opposition in all things in order that we might progress according to God’s plan for us.
Each worshipper at the conference could extract their own personally satisfying and needed messages from the talks, but I got mine in three words that took me back to a previous time. A young man whose beginnings in the Church had not been auspicious or helpful and who said he knew nothing about the gospel had been sent to me for help in learning about it. I asked him how he would like to go about learning or where he would like to start. He said that he didn’t know enough to know, so how about starting with the alphabet. I said, “Okay, we’ll start with the A’s.” And in the conference this time, those three A’s that I talked to him about came immediately to the fore: atonement, agency, and accountability. . . Without the Atonement we could not have what we have of assurance, and we could not have the wonderful privilege of responding through our agency, moral agency, which is not only our privilege but our inescapable responsibility to carry and respond to.
The achievement of some important goals in our lives is subject to more than the timing of the Lord. Some personal achievements are also subject to the agency of others. This is particularly evident in two matters of special importance to young people of college age—missionary baptisms and marriage. Last summer Sister Oaks and I were in Manaus, Brazil. I spoke to about a hundred missionaries in that great city on the Amazon. As I stood to speak, I was prompted to put aside some notes I usually use on such occasions and substitute some thoughts on the importance of timing—some of the scriptures and principles I have been talking about today. I reminded the missionaries that some of our most important plans cannot be brought to pass without the agency and actions of others. A missionary cannot baptize five persons this month without the agency and action of five other persons. A missionary can plan and work and do all within his or her power, but the desired result will depend upon the additional agency and action of others. Consequently a missionary’s goals ought to be based upon the missionary’s personal agency and action, not upon the agency or action of others. But this is not the time to elaborate on what I told the missionaries about goals. Instead I will share some other applications of the principle of timing, giving illustrations from our personal lives.