Thursday, April 26, 2012

Force and the Agency of Man

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."

Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life
ROBERT D. HALES, Ensign, October 2010

Discusses how definition of agency in the dictionary is inadequate

ELDER JAMES E. FAUST, ENSIGN “The Great Imitator” NOV. 1987

PRESIDENT JAMES E. FAUST, ENSIGN "The Forces That Will Save Us" JAN. 2007

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

"The first basic principle is agency. The central issue in the premortal council was: Shall the children of God have untrammeled agency to choose the course they should follow, whether good or evil, or shall they be coerced and forced to be obedient? Christ and all who followed him stood for the former proposition--freedom of choice; Satan stood for the latter--coercion and force. The war that began in heaven over this issue is not yet over. The conflict continues on the battlefield of mortality. And one of Lucifer's primary strategies has been to restrict our agency through the power of earthly governments."

These four wonderful talks popularized the saying that it was "Satan's plan to destroy the agency of man by forcing us to be obedient". However , that's not exactly what Pres. Faust says. Pres. Faust simply labels Satan's Plan, a "plan of force." Pres. Benson is more specific on this point. In this post I wish to explore, compare and contrast Christ's plan of agency with Satan's plan of force and discuss how LDS teach and understand force.

Heavenly Plan
LDS understand that in the beginning there was a Heavenly Council where the plan of salvation was presented. Gods plan through Jesus Christ would make man free to choose right and wrong, allow us to learn from our mistakes, and provide a Savior for us to repent and choose righteousness. By choosing Christ, and His righteousness man is empowered to return into the presence of our Heavenly Father. The Saving power and mercy of Jesus Christ empowers our repentance and eventual necessary obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Choosing Christ and the resultant empowered obedience qualifies the individual for heaven where no unclean thing can dwell.

However, because of the rules and commandments, and because of the requirement of accepting Christ, repentance, and obedience; God's plan would run the risk of some choosing not to return to heaven. However, in return, Gods plan promises that the obedient believer could become exalted like our Heavenly Father.

Satan's Plan
Now when LDS teach about Satan's plan we usually say something like: its Satan's plan to force us to do good so we can return into the presence of God. And because we are forced to be good, there is no risk of anyone being lost and we all come back into Heaven. However, because we are forced and not allowed to choose good, we would all return not much better than we left except Satan only would be exalted over God. Satan's plan was enticing because of the promise that not one soul would be lost. However, by accepting Satan's plan we would be sacrificing our eternal liberty for security.

While I don't think anything in this explanation of Satan's plan is necessarily incorrect, I do think we could do a bit better explaining more what Satan's plan really was. The reason it's important to understand this is because this understanding shapes how we view, understand and value the concepts of agency and force .

Here is what LDS Scripture says on this point:

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

Now this passage of scripture doesn't say exactly how Satan proposed to destroy the agency of man. Pres. Faust suggests that it was via a "plan of force." I agree, Satan's plan was coercive and oppressive, but force is probably not how Satan sold his plan during the War in Heaven (Rev 12:4, D&C29:36, Isa 14:12-14).

How Satan Sold and Sells His Plan?
During my residency training, I was working in the emergency department one evening when it was my pleasure to evaluate and treat 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.

First off I asked this man where he stayed. It turns out this homeless man lived in a hole in the ground down by the river. He even had 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 in the ground 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.

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. If you deny what you desire, you are setting yourself at odds with the universe. However, of you use all the strength of force and power to obtain the object of your desire, even it belongs to another, that your strength benefits the human species which is better able to survive because of your strength and fitness.

Korihor in the Book of Mormon sums up Satan's plan of force:

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."

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. Furthermore, as you can imagine, in Satan's pyramid scheme there is theoretically 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.

But what about force itself? Is it all bad? Because of Satan's misuse of force some claim any use of force is evil. Well, of that is the case, then any government is evil because government = force.

Gods plan of liberty and freedom has a place for both religion and government. God's plan is not a theocracy or socialism. In the Bible Israel during the time of the Judges had both religious and secular authority. In the Book of Mormon the Nephites recognized the dangers of a wicked king and created a system of judges and managed their affairs by the voice of the people. In time Alma who was both the religious (prophet) and secular leader (chief judge) recognized the value in a separation of church and state giving up his position as chief judge to another so he could devoted all his energies in the work of the ministry and building up the church.

The LDS people believe and it is revealed in our scripture that the Constitution of the United States is given by God. The Constitution says that with regard to secular power that the people retain all the rights and secular government is given specific privileges. When it comes to spiritual power and religion, God has all the rights and bestows upon man religious privilege. The US Constitution is based on the principle of separation of church and state and self-government where criticizes are to be taught correct religious principles and govern themselves.

On one side, Religion and Priesthood operate through pure persuasion and love. Religion provides strict expectations and a code of moral conduct. Religion also provides a culture and community of likeminded individuals who support each other in living up to a high moral standard which is the "golden rule" to never do unto others what you wouldn't want someone to do to you.

As part of this persuasion, If a man sins, religious authority can take away his religious privileges by denying him participation in religious rites and ordinances and fellowship in the religious community. Religion cannot violate secular rights to property or life. Even when providing correction and reproof, religious authority is administered with pure love, meekness, patience, long suffering, kindness, faith, and persuasion. Religious authority is never based on fear, force, coercion, blackmail or intimidation.

If the persuasion and love of Religion is not enough, there is room for the force of government in a free society. Government = force by definition and Law = morality by definition.

Many people falsely believe that freedom is a system without rules or even force. They say "You can't legislate morality", or "it's Satan's plan to force people to do good". The Book of Mormon teaches exactly the opposite. The Book of Mormon says that if a person is not enticed by both sides they are not free. Therefore, because Satan is always enticing to do evil, if there is not strong enticement by society to do what is right, the people are are not free. Parents who say they are not going to impose their religious and moral values on their children but let them decide for themselves when they are older are very mistaken on what freedom really means. By being in the world children are automatically subjected to continual evil. With no teaching of what is good and true, their children are not free.

2 Nephi 2:16 "Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other."

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."

Furthermore, the Book of Mormon says a free society government should use to power of fear and even the death penalty to force/persuade the people to do right through fear of punishment. There should never be a law against a man's belief or even pretended belief. But if a person violates the rights of others, if they lie, cheat, steal, thieve, rob , or murder, they should be forcibly punished.

How does this apply to the issue of illicit drug legalization?

I am glad that LDS can be a moderating force in all political parties including Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian. All of these have some truth, but none are without flaws. in a sense, all political parties are false religions at the moment. But since there is not a perfect political party, LDS can moderate the ones we have. That said, I would beware of the Libertarian view of freedom. I do not believe it necessarily fits the LDS view in scripture.

Libertarian claim drugs should be legalized because laws shouldn't dictate what I do with my body as long as it doesn't violate the rights of others. I agree with that. I agree that those who abuse and harm themselves should be encouraged to voluntarily seek rehabilitation and treatment and not be prosecuted. I am going to make the case that illicit drug distributors violate the rights of others and therefore should be prosecuted. However, Other libertarian arguments say that individuals should be free to contract with one another. I will address this argument as well.

Physiologic and Psychologic highs are designed to reinforce productive behavior. People that use drugs to artificially achieve that "high" without earning it are stealing it, and they are lying, cheating, abusing and harming themselves. Lying to yourself is not a punishable crime but the drug dealer becomes a guilty accomplice in the fraud. The dealer/distributor should be held to account for enabling the user to lie to himself, and steal an unearned and unnatural "high."

Using psychoactive drugs to get high must be distinguished from using apropriate substances to moderate uncontrolled stress and pain. Prov 31:6

To Clarify, the distribution of illicit drugs is not freedom to contact because:

1. Drug use = lying to yourself, stealing a "high" not earned, and abuse. Abusing yourself is not a punishable offense.

2. However, If an physician cannot help someone kill themself (e.g. Dr Kevorkian), they shouldn't be able to help someone lie, cheat, and steal or abuse themselves.

3. Illicit drug distributors become accomplices, enablers, facilitators in a fraud and abuse.

4. Liars, cheaters, robbers, theives, murders are to be punished in a free Society. Alma1:17-18.

5. A free society is not free without rules and punishment and consequences against sin to entice via fear of force away from sin. 2Ne2:16, Alma1:17-18. Free criticizes should be made to fear the consequences of Illicit drug distribution.

6. Law is morality. Government involves force and fear to persuade to do good. Priesthood involves persuasion and love to entice to do right. There is place for both

7. Satan wanted to take away the agency of man. What he wanted was too take away the rules of right and wrong. Satans doctrine is and has aways been "do as you will". Without choosing to obey the rules and instead doing our own will we could never become like our Father in Heaven. Satan told us if we followed his plan we could all do whatever we wanted and none would be lost because there was no rules. No rules = no choice. No right and wrong, no agency, no exaltation. We are blessed by obeying the rules. Consequences for sin makes us free.

The rules empower us to become like God. Christ empowers us to repent and keep the rules. Satan wanted to destroy our agency by destroying the rules and removing the consequences of sin. A free society rewards righteousness and entices against and punishes sin.

Satan removes the consequences of sin so he can use sin to enslave and control us. Satan's plan is not just a force system, it's a slave system that cannot pay.

No comments: