Not Commanded in All Things by Ezra Taft Benson

by Ezra Taft Benson. General Conference Talk – April 1965. Not Commanded in All Things.

In 1831 the Lord said this to his Church:

For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned. (D&C 58:26-29.)

The purposes of the Lord—the great objectives—continue the same: the salvation and exaltation of his children.

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Free Agency vs. Moral Agency

I often find myself in conversations with people who advocate against legislating morality in an attempt to "preserve the agency" of others. They say, "I would never do [xyz wicked things], but it’s not my place to make it illegal for others to do it. We should preserve their ‘agency’ and let them choose on their own whether to indulge in those acts." I understand the logic of the argument, but through my studies I have come to strongly favor legislating morality.

In summary, I’ve learned that agency is the power God has given us over the bodies that He created, owns, and maintains by His priesthood power. Agency could be compared to keys to someone else’s car. We’ve been given the keys but we are in no way free to do whatever we want with that car, although once we have the keys we have complete control over how it will be used. God hasn’t given us the rights or permission to sin, but He gave us the power to do so. If God gave us the right to sin and then punished us for sinning, he would be unjust and would cease to be God.

A much more comprehensive discussion on this topic will soon be posted and linked here. In the meantime, here are some great quotes that have helped me to come to this position. (Update: I have found so many incredible quotes on this subject its overwhelming to try to either use all of them in an essay or to neglect to use any of them, so here’s the link to my archive of quotes while I work on the essay.)

LDS General Authorities

President Boyd K. Packer

"Covenants"

"Life is meant to be a test to see if we will keep the commandments of God. (See 2 Ne. 2:5.) We are free to obey or to ignore the spirit and the letter of the law. But the agency granted to man is a moral agency. (See D&C 101:78.) We are not free to break our covenants and escape the consequences.”

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Confidence in Voting

This has been a very interesting election, for all of us I’d imagine.  We can safely say that one theme of this election has been: "Must we vote for ‘the lesser of two evils’?"  Most say "Yes, in order to prevent the worse of the two evils from gaining an office of immeasurable power", and some simply say "Never".

This morning while mowing the lawn, instead of considering the candidates and the issues, I considered how people on either side of this theme have presented their arguments.  Many people I’ve spoken with have expressed their confidence that they could gladly give an accounting of their vote to God at His judgment bar.  That general statement has been on my mind a lot, and I have some feelings I’d like to share on what a comment like that means to me.

Accountability to God

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Rights, Agency, and Free Will

Unalienable Rights vs Vested Rights

The concept of human rights is widely misunderstood. Humans have two kinds of rights; unalienable rights come from God and are eternal while vested rights are civil agreements that have no eternal significance (however, our obedience to civil laws do have eternal significance—a topic for another article).

Unalienable rights establish the freedom to own weapons, such as guns, for use in defense or sustaining of life, but vested rights allow us to use the guns recreationally in designated ranges or to hunt on land we don’t own.  Vested rights are applications of unalienable rights, meaning that we can only claim rights we first received from God and then gave to the government.  The government can’t exercise any power or use any rights the people don’t have individually.  Let me restate that: The government cannot do anything the people cannot do individually.  Something doesn’t become moral or just simply because a group of people created a government to do it for them.

Now, when we talk about unalienable rights, we usually refer to the three main categories, "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness".  This phrasing in the Declaration of Independence came from Thomas Jefferson.  Thomas Jefferson took only one day to write down the list of the 27 complaints against the King. However, he spent 16 days studying what rights mean in Deuteronomy and Exodus.  He came up with a great list of unalienable rights which found fit well into the three aforementioned categories or themes of rights. (more…)

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