Friday, April 27, 2012

Agency and Force

Gal 5:1 "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,"

I have never felt so humiliated in my life over anything as that the State of Utah voted for the repeal of Prohibition.
- President Heber J. Grant, Conference, Oct. 1934

From this very stand he pleaded with us not to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. He didn't speak as Heber J. Grant, the man, he spoke as the President of the Church and the representative of our Heavenly Father. And yet in a state where we could have retained what we had, there were enough Latter-day Saints . . . who paid no attention to what the Lord wanted . . .and what is the result? Such delinquency as we have never known. .
- George Albert Smith, Conference, Oct 1943

One of the saddest days in all of Utah's history was when the people, including the Latter-day Saints (for it could not have been done without them), rejected the counsel and urging of the Lord's prophet, Heber J. Grant, and repealed Prohibition long years ago--yet many of those voters had sung numerous times, "We Thank Thee, O God, For A Prophet."
- The Teachings of Spencer. W. Kimball

I believe there is a clear relationship between the historical issue of repealing prohibition and the current issue surrounding marijuana legalization.

A inspired saying is: "God gave man his agency to choose good over evil while it was Satan's plan to destroy agency by forcing us to be obedient". The following post seeks to explore how Satan sought to destroy the agency of man.

[President Ezra Taft Benson, BYU Speeches of the Year, "The Principle of Agency" Sept 1986.]

The purpose of the post was inspired by someone who was using the "it was Satans plan to force" to argue in favor or drug legalization. Notwithstanding, it being Satan's plan to force to obey. That doesn't mean force/government is bad. Government has no business forcing people to be obedient (police state), but they do have a role in forcing people to stop when they are violating the liberties of others. The Book of Mormon (Alma 1:17-18) says this specifically. Therefore, when it comes to the issue of drug legalization, using drugs should not be criminalized, but distribution of drugs should be illegal based on the Kevorkian principle.

Could a misunderstanding of this principle, "Satan's plan was to force us to be obedient" cause some to falsely believe:
1. All force is bad.
2. Since Government = force, therefore all government is bad
3. Any force destroys agency
4. Agency = "do as you will" or "do whatever you want"
5. Anything that stands in the way of choosing or doing evil is evil.
6. A free society must establish equal and unfettered acess and opportunities to sin in every way for all people.
7. I am exercising my agency when I sin or succumb to the passions of the flesh?

2 Ne 2:16 "man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other"

Agency depends on being enticed by good and evil. Misguided parents may think that not teaching their children morals, values, religion and letting them decide for themselves about religion when they are older is a good thing. However, since Satan doesn't take a vacation in enticing evil, if parents don't entice for good, their children are not free because they are subjected to unapposed evil enticements.

With this in mind. The Righteous don't need to do Satan's work for him. We don't need to help Satan out making sin accessible and enticing. If we are on Gods side, there is nothing wrong with making a society were righteousness is enticing and accessible and sin is not enticing and not accessible. Let Satan and his followers do their work, and let us do our work by making sin unenticing and not easily accessible. Furthermore, 2Nephi 2:16 Doesn't say you have to be equally enticed by good and evil. So, there is nothing wrong with Gods people making righteousness much more enticing and evil much less accessible and inviting.

Also, we should remember the reason Lehi is talking about agency here. Lehi is explaining why there is adversity and evil in the world and why there needs to be opposition in all things for us to have agency. Lehi is not suggesting we have to help evil do it's job. Again, a free people can use agency to make evil less accessible and less enticing.

Additionally, Lehi's words are explaining why God's commandments provide necessary opposition to the appetites of the flesh and temptation. What Satan wanted was a plan without rules. And without rules, there would be no choice and man would be completely captive to the flesh and to temptation. However what sets a free man apart from animals is he can exercise his agency and not eat when he feels to eat. What sets a free society apart is their exercise of agency to protect themselves with just laws from sin, corruption, and evil.

3. Moroni 7:17 "for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him."

According to the Book of Mormon, Satan doesn't persuade, anyone to do anything good. Despite Satan's plan of force, force itself is not intrinsically evil. By extension, government which exercises fear of the threat of force and force isn't necessarily or intrinsically evil and has a place in a free society.

Alma 1:17-18 "Nevertheless, they durst not lie, if it were known, for fear of the law, for liars were punished; therefore they pretended to preach according to their belief; and now the law could have no power on any man for his belief. And they durst not steal, for fear of the law, for such were punished; neither durst they rob, nor murder, for he that murdered was punished unto death."

Religion/Priesthood = Persuasion and Love. Government = Fear and Force. While there is no place for coercive force in religion, there is a righteous role of government and force in maintaining a free and righteous society. Many LDS mistakenly believe that there is no ultimate place for government/force in a perfect Zion or Millennial society. In reality, republican limited government operated in the Bible. Moses was advised by Jethro to appoint Captains to judge the people which continued during the times of the Judges. In the Book of Mormon, Alma recognized a need for a separation of church and state when he gave up the Chief Judge seat in order to devote his energies to his religious ministry. In the Millennium, there are 2 capitals: Zion and Jerusalem. Zion will be the religious capital and Jerusalem will be the seat of government. A perfect society is not a theocracy. Remember in the heavens Oliblish stands next to Kolob.

Constitution = self government. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that the US Constitution was given by God. Accordingly Joseph Smith recognized the importance of self government when he taught: "I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves." In a free society, the force of government is only necessary when religious persuasion fails. Therefore, religion has an indespensible role in a constitutional government to teach righteousness, discourage evil, and call the people to repentance. There is also an indispensable place for disfellowshipping and excommunication.

Furthermore, according to the Book of Mormon, government created fear of the threat of force was also important to a free society. When citizens violate the liberties of others, the government has the duty to forcibly punish and rehabilitate the offender.

What is the role of government for those who choose to use drugs? Illicit drugs used to get "high" harm the survival of the species. Humans have been designed with a physiologic and psychological reward system to reward productive behavior. If a person finds and uses a chemical that artifically stimulates the reward centers without paying the price of productive behavior, they are lying to and cheating themselves. Individuals who abuse drugs to "get high" have stolen the "high" without earning it.

Imagine a person who climbs a mountain. When he gets to the top, he enjoys the rush that goes along with achieving his goal of reaching the summit. Now imagine that that same person can sit on the sofa at the base of the mountain and smoke or inject some chemical and experience the same psychologic and physiologic rush of neurotransmitters? How much more likely is that individual to climb the mountain if he can get the same reward sitting on his couch? In this way, widespread use of illicit drugs decreases the fitness and productiveness of the human species independent of its potentially harmful direct and indirect health effects.

Now, it is true that the individual's choice to use illicit drugs is not violating the liberties of others. Therefore, there is no role for government fear or force against the drug abuser. Religion has a role to encourage repentance, and voluntary rehabilitation. Religion can disfellowship and excommunicate.

However, the distribution of illicit drugs is another matter. While the drug user is lying, cheating, stealing, and abusing himself; he is doing it to himself. On the other hand, the distributor of illicit drugs to the drug abuser, become an enabler, facilitator, and accomplice in a lie, fraud, thrift, and abuse. Distributing drugs is more than just an issue of private contracting and informed consent. Consequently, for this reason the government can and should exercise prosecutory force against illicit drug distributors. This principle here is exactly why Physician assisted suicide is illegal and immoral. The government doesn't prosecute a person for attempted suicide, but they will and should prosecute a physician for being an accomplice to suicide. I call this the Dr. Kevorkian principle. If you don't recall, Dr. Kevorkian was prosecuted for engaging in physician-assisted suicide.

That said, there remains a potential acceptible use and role for drug distribution for medical purposes of relieving suffering. Prov 31:6-7 "Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.". That said, any drug according to the Word of Wisdom should be used with "judgement and skill". Also, those worthy of the temple were never to partake. (Lev 10:9).

Moses 1:1-4 "Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, ... he became Satan"

Now that we have discussed what Satan's plan is not. It is important to discuss what was and still is Satan's plan. How did Satan plan seek to destroy the agency of man? The best way to understand Satan's plan is to meet someone living it. A few years ago, I met one.

During my residency training, I was working in the emergency department. One evening, I evaluated and treated a homeless man who was rather alcohol intoxicated, had been violently assaulted, and who had suffered a rather large laceration to his scalp and face. While I was repairing this man's wound, I got to know him and his circumstance.

While sewing up this man's wounds, I asked this man where he stayed. He calmly revealed that he was "living in a hole in the ground down by the river." The situation seemed not unlike the late comedian Chris Farley's SNL "motivational speaker" character. This SNL sketch character bombastically warned that doing drugs would cause you to end up like him; "living in a van down by the river". Too bad Chris Faley didn't take his own advice because a few years later he died of a cocaine overdose. Anyways, this homeless man said he lived with a hole-mate who he said had turned on him and bashed him in the head, and had stolen some money from him to buy drugs. This man considered the betrayal by his longtime friend and hole-mate to be worse than his injuries or the loss of the money.

So, I asked this man. What he liked about living in a hole. I mean why not live at the shelter at least. He told be he much preferred the hole to the shelter because in the hole, he had no rules. He claimed could do what he wanted when he wanted without anyone telling him what to do. For this man, living in a hole down by the river was the ultimate freedom. This interaction really helped me understand the nature of Satan's plan.

Now is this homeless man free: No rules, no wife, no kids, no job, and no responsibilities? Tragically, this man was diluted into thinking he was free. But agency has nothing to do with "doing whatever you want" and having "no rules". The real definition of agency is having the power to act and not be acted upon. In reality, my hole-living friend had no agency, because he had no power to do anything. On the other hand, God gives His people rules that empower their action.

2Ne2:14;16 "And now, my sons,... for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.... Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. "

Korihor sums up Satan's philosophy:
Alma 30:17 "every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength; and whatsoever a man did was no crime."

According to this, It is my opinion that it was not Satans plan to force us to do good. What his plan was to get rid of any rules about right and wrong. Satan's entices people to his plan now as well as then with the deception. "do as you will" which runs in opposition to Gods plan of "not as I will but as thou wilt". Satan convinces people that if they follow his plan, they can do whatever they want. In fact, this philosophy goes on to say that if there is a desire or appetite in you, that the universe has put that desire in your heart, and you must devote yourself to having or taking whatever it is you desire; whatever the costs. Furthermore, If you deny yourself what you desire, you are setting yourself at odds with the universe. In Satan's plan man is expected to use all the strength of force, any means necessary, and any deception to obtain the object of their desire; even it belongs to another. Furthermore, this false morality claims that this manifestation of strength benefits the human species which is better able to survive because of your strength and fitness.

Can you imagine a world filled with people who are all trying to do whatever they want whenever they want it and taking whatever they want whenever they want it. It's pure anarchy and chaos on one hand or deception and slavery on the other. Furthermore, as you can imagine, in Satan's pyramid scheme there is only room for one person at the top of the pyramid who can do and have whatever he wants. Everyone else in the pyramid is subservient to the one at the top. The key therefore is for the person at the top to maintain their position via fear, force and deception by getting those below to accept and be pacified in their subservience and captivity.

The deception in Satan's philosophy of "do as you will" is what you want is so easily and artificially manipulated. This manipulation is illustrated in the recent Hollywood movie "Inception". Only God really knows what we truly want and will want. Because of the veil over our minds, the fulness what we want hasn't even entered into the heart of man. To illustrate, think of the car or truck you wish you owned. Now think about what went in to creating that want: advertising, city planning, employment, peer status.

Using illicit drugs has nothing to do with "exercising agency" but losing our agency and limiting our power and motivation to act; subjecting ourselves to and enslaving ourselves to Satan. Many people use drugs to deal with stress or boredom. In a healthy advanced and civilized society, a free people who enjoy the rare blessing of "free time" manage their stress and boredom engaging in productive stress-relieving activities. Again, we see in this explanation, how the act of self-medicating with illicit drugs directly inhibits our motivation and power to act.

The only people who are truely exercising their agency, seek to do the will of our Father in Heaven in all things. Christ summed up God's plan when he declared, "not as I will, but as thou wilt". As we fall short of doing Gods will, we accept the Savior Jesus Christ whose sacrifice promises to empower our repentance and obedience. God, Our Heavenly Father, has promised us that if we will accept His Son, and seek to do His will, that we will be empowered to do all that is necessary in this life, and we will be blessed with all the creative powers of God in the next life.

This is how agency is the power to act and not be acted upon. The agency of man is what sets us apart from animals who are totally ruled by their appetites and instincts. Humans are distinct from animals because we can feel hungry and not eat, we can feel anger and still forgive. Spiritual power over the appetites of the flesh is what the agency of man is all about. Again, free men do not exercise agency by choosing to sin. Free men exercise agency through the commandments of God that empower us to fast when we are hungry, to be patient when we feel hurried, to be silent when we are angry, and forgive when we are offended. Agency is the power to choose the right even when our flesh wants to choose the wrong.

Remember that the reason Satan's plan is a grand pyramid scheme is because Satan has no power to create. Therefore, for Satan to have power, he must steal, deceive, and enslave others; subjugating them beneath him. This is why there is only room for one person at the top. But in God's plan, God not only has the power to create, but God can bestow the creative power upon others. Therefore, in God's plan, there is infinite room at the top as all of God's children can have dominion over their own creations as The Most High God rules over Us.

■ “With regard to the rights of the human family, I wish to say that God has given unto all of his children of this dispensation, as he gave unto all of his children of previous dispensations, individual agency. This agency has always been the heritage of man under the rule and government of God. He possessed it in the heaven of heavens before the world was, and the Lord maintained and defended it there against the aggression of Lucifer and those that took sides with him, to the overthrow of Lucifer and one-third part of the heavenly hosts. By virtue of this agency you and I and all mankind are made responsible beings, responsible for the course we pursue, the lives we live, the deeds we do in the body” (Wilford Woodruff, The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 8–9).

"agency has always been the heritage of man under the rule and government of God. "

This seems to say to me that man has always had agency because we have always had rules and commandments and we have always been free to break those commandments. But we are not free from the consequences as Satan was not free from them and was forcibly prosecuted for violating those commandments. Satan was forcibly cast out of heaven in consequence of breaking the commandments of God.

Accordingly, government should not force it's citizens to obey what it thinks is right (police state), but it is correct for government to forcibly stop its citizens after they are violating the liberties of others and use the threat of force to dissuade crime. With regard to illicit drugs, drug distribution can be prosecuted because the distributors become an accomplice to self-abuse, self-deception and theft.

"Agency is the power to choose the right even when our flesh wants to choose the wrong."

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