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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Liberty in Law

I’ve been considering the differences between liberty and freedom recently. By talking with my good friend Carter about this, I was able, with plenty of help from him, to piece together my thoughts and hone my ideas into the visual depiction you see before you. I’ve come to believe that liberty is a really special, even sacred, experience within the spectrums of both government and freedom (Note that the government spectrum is not the freedom spectrum. Government influences freedom, obviously. But so do cartels and other forms of anarchist organizations.). I’ve come to understand through my study that freedom needs to be restrained, and when it is perfectly bridled, the people all experience liberty. But when powerful people have more freedom, the rights of others are trampled.

I was recently struck by the profound ideas contained in the incredible hymn, “America The Beautiful”. This is the chorus of verse 2:

America! America!
God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

(emphasis added, America the Beautiful)

Liberty is freedom restrained by moral self-government. It is the golden state of a nation that lives under People’s Law, where all people are guaranteed the full exercise of their unalienable rights and is based on discipline and personal restraint. Former LDS apostle Marion G. Romney said, “Obedience to the law of Christ is liberty” ("The Perfect Law of Liberty", Marion G. Romney, October 1981). This form of government is so good and just that the Lord has said: (more…)

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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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