It would be so easy if Heavenly Father just made us to what is right, but that isn’t His plan. We would never grow spiritually without being able to choose between good and evil. It was His plan all along to teach us to want to do what is right.
Elder Dale G. Renlund referred to this agency as the dignity of choice:
The pattern for us is the same as it was for Adam and Eve, wherein “God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption.” (Alma 12:32) Though God wants us to be on the covenant path, He gives us the dignity of choosing (Elder Dale G. Renlund, “Choose You This Day,” Oct. 2018 General Conference).
Choosing to do what is right has always been hard. The natural man is rebellious and lazy. Going along with the world is much easier than standing up and saying, “I don’t care what the world says, this is not right.” We all want to be loved and respected by others. We don’t want to stand out like a sore thumb. We don’t want to be mocked, and we certainly don’t like persecution. We tend to forget that Jesus Christ stood out like a sore thumb, and He was both mocked and persecuted. Isn’t our goal to become more Christlike? Staying on the covenant path and living righteously may very well cause some mocking and persecution, but it is worth it in the end.
In the same talk quoted above, Elder Renlund also said:
Our Heavenly Father’s goal in parenting is not to have His children do what is right; it is to have His children choose to do what is right and ultimately become like Him. If He simply wanted us to be obedient, He would use immediate rewards and punishments to influence our behaviors.
But God is not interested in His children just becoming trained and obedient “pets” who will not chew on His slippers in the celestial living room. No, God wants His children to grow up spiritually and join Him in the family business.
As a parent, I have to admit I had to think about that one for quite a while. When I was raising my kids, I just wanted them to do what was right. I’m not sure I ever thought about the benefits of them actually choosing to do what was right. There is a definite difference, and I wonder how much more successful I would have been as a mother if I had understood that concept. My children needed the dignity of choice. They are all adults now, and I try very hard to keep my nose out of their business. I guess maybe I learned that principle a bit late.
Elder Renlund’s choice of words about Heavenly Father wanting His children to join Him in the family business is really what all parents want for their children. We want them to join us at the family table in the celestial kingdom. We want them to keep covenants and remain part of our eternal family.
Choosing for ourselves is really hard because it means we make mistakes along the way. It’s not easy to be the outcast in the crowd. These days it seems like every gospel principle is being challenged in the world, so living those principles and standards puts us in the firing line. Developing a thick skin is important, and I don’t think that it’s possible without heavenly help. It’s interesting to me that our leaders are constantly talking to us lately about keeping the Sabbath day holy, studying our scriptures daily, attending the temple regularly, and living the higher law and living the gospel in a holier way. All of those things will help us develop a thick skin and stay on the covenant path.
Although choice and accountability are incredibly hard, there is hope and no reason to fear. All we have to do is our best. Heavenly help has been provided. Christ has already paid for all our mistakes. We have the dignity of choice, but the comfort of forgiveness.
Never give up—however deep the wounds of your soul, whatever their source, wherever or whenever they happen, and however short or long they persist, you are not meant to perish spiritually. You are meant to survive spiritually and blossom in your faith and trust in God.
God did not create our spirits to be independent of Him. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, through the incalculable gift of His Atonement, not only saves us from death and offers us, through repentance, forgiveness for our sins, but He also stands ready to save us from the sorrows and pains of our wounded souls (Elder Neil L. Andersen, “Wounded,” Oct. 2018 General Conference).
Don’t be afraid of making choices. You have been given the dignity of choice for a divine purpose. Stay firm on the covenant path, and make the best choices you know how to make. There is a plan in place to take care of you, and you are never alone.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.