2 Nephi 2:13
13 And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.
2 Nephi 2:14
14 And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; 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.
2 Nephi 2:26
26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.
Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.852 YEARS OF ACCOUNTABILITY
See ACCOUNTABILITY, AGENCY, BAPTISM, INFANT BAPTISM, ORIGINAL SIN THEORY, SALVATION OF CHILDREN, TEMPTATION. When a child reaches the age at which he has sufficient mental, spiritual, and physical maturity to be held accountable before God for his acts, he is said to have arrived at the years of accountability. He then knows right from wrong and can exercise his agency to do good or evil. Accordingly he must pay the penalty for his sins, unless he gains a remission of them through repentance and baptism, "For all men must repent and be baptized, and not only men, but women, and children who have arrived at the years of accountability." (D. & C. 18:42.) "No one can be received into the church of Christ unless he has arrived unto the years of accountability before God, and is capable of repentance." (D. & C. 20:71.)
39 And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet--
28 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.
17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.
56 And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves, and I have given unto you another law and commandment.
JST Genesis 6:58
58 And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore, they are agents unto themselves.
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section One 1830B 34, p.12
You, no doubt, will agree with us, and say, that you have no right to claim the promises of the inhabitants before the flood; that you cannot found your hopes of salvation upon the obedience of the children of Israel when journeying in the wilderness, nor can you expect that the blessings which the apostles pronounced upon the churches of Christ eighteen hundred years ago, were intended for you. Again, if others' blessings are not your blessings, others' curses are not your curses; you stand then in these last days, as all have stood before you, agents unto yourselves, to be judged according to your works.
John Taylor, Mediation and Atonement, Ch.11
And further, in regard to agency; if man had not had his agency, or if he had been deprived of his agency, he could not have been tempted of the devil, or of any other power; for if they will of God prevailed, and was carried out without man's action or agency, it would have been impossible for him to have done anything wrong, for he would have been deprived of the power of doing that wrong. This was the position that Satan desired to place not only the spirits in the heavens, but also mankind upon the earth. And Satan said, "Surely I will save every one of them, wherefore, give me thine honor." But God's plan was different from this, and, as stated above, had been decided upon in the Councils of heaven; and the Father had made a decree as to how these things should be done; and that both the inhabitants of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth should have their free agency. It was against this that Lucifer rebelled; and he could not have rebelled against a plan or commandment that had not been given; for rebellion signifies a violation of law, command, or authority; and he was cast out of heaven because of the rebellion. This rebellion could not have existed without a free agency; for without a free agency they would all have been compelled to do the will of the Father. But having the free agency, they used it; and Lucifer and a third part of the angels were cast out because they rebelled and used this agency in opposition to their Heavenly Father. And not only because they rebelled, but because, as stated, "they sought to destroy the agency of man," and their agency would have been used in opposition to the interest, happiness and eternal exaltation of mankind, which were proposed to be accomplished through the atonement and redemption provided by Jesus Christ. In accordance with this we find the following statements in the revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith:
The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, p.8 - p.9
FREE AGENCY MEANS RESPONSIBILITY. 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.C MS 51:642 (1889).
Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, p.4
Free agency is needed for godhood. Now, I believe in the independence of men and women. I believe that men and women have the image of God given themC are formed after the image of God, and possess deity in their nature and character, and that their spiritual organization possesses the qualities and properties of God, and that there is the principle of God in every individual. It is designed that man should act as God, and not be constrained and controlled in everything, but have an independency, an agency and the power to spread abroad and act according to the principle of godliness that is in him, act according to the power and intelligence and enlightenment of God, that he possesses, and not that he should be watched continually, and be controlled, and act as a slave in these matters. (19 October 1879, JD, 20:367.)
Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, p.58 - p.59
AGENCY AND PROGRESSION IN PRE-EXISTENCE. God gave his children their free agency even in the spirit world, by which the individual spirits had the privilege, just as men have here, of choosing the good and rejecting the evil, or partaking of the evil to suffer the consequences of their sins. Because of this, some even there were more faithful than others in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Some were of greater intelligence than others, as we find it here, and were honored accordinglyY .
Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, p.59
SOME SPIRITS GREATER THAN OTHERS. The spirits of men had their free agency, some were greater than others, and from among them the Father called and foreordained his prophets and rulers. Jeremiah and Abraham were two of them. . . . The spirits of men were not equal. They may have had an equal start, and we know they were all innocent in the beginning; but the right of free agency which was given to them enabled some to outstrip others, and thus, through the eons of immortal existence, to become more intelligent, more faithful, for they were free to act for themselves, to think for themselves, to receive the truth or rebel against it.
Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, p.62
PRE-EXISTENCE OF ALL CREATURES
ALL LIFE CREATED IN THE SPIRIT. Every creature had a spiritual existence. The spirits of men, beasts, and all animal life, existed before the foundations of the earth were laid, and are living entities. As death, through the fall, has passed upon all, so the resurrection, through the mission of Jesus Christ, comes to all.
Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, p.63 - p.64
FORM OF ANIMAL SPIRITS. The fish, the fowl, the beasts of the field, lived before they were placed naturally in this earth, and so did the plants that are upon the face of the earth. The spirits that possess the bodies of the animals are in the similitude of their bodies. In other words, the bodies of animals conform to the spirits which possess them, and which existed before they were placed on the earth; "that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal; and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual; the spirit of man in the likeness of his person, as also the spirit of the beast, and every other creature which God has created."
Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, p.64 - p.65
FREE AGENCY IN PRE-EXISTENCE. If there had been no free agency, there could have been no rebellion in heaven; but what would man amount to without this free agency? He would be no better than a mechanical contrivance. He could not have acted for himself, but in all things would have been acted upon, and hence unable to have received a reward for meritorious conduct. He would have been an automaton; could have had no happiness nor misery, "neither sense nor insensibility," and such could hardly be called existence. Under such conditions there could have been no purpose in our creation.
Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.2, p.2
FREE AGENCY ESSENTIAL TO SALVATION. We are subject to temptation; but the Lord never intended that we should yield to it and thus become subject unto sin, and fall and lose the reward that otherwise would be ours. He knew that on no other terms, only through our free agency and the opportunities which would come to us in this life by knowing good from evil when we no longer walk by sight but by faith, would we be able to come back into his presence and be worthy of exaltation. Without free agency we would amount to very little, and the Lord granted unto us our agency, that we might act for ourselvesC to choose the good, or to choose the evil if we desireC with the understanding that we would reap the reward of our labors in this life. Those who do good shall come forth in the resurrection of the just and receive a place of exaltation in his kingdom, while those who do evil shall come forth in the resurrection also, but the resurrection of damnation.
Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol.2, p.20
When Christ comes, he will set up a political kingdom which will include all the inhabitants of the earth, no matter what nation they may belong to or what may be their religious faith. The Lord gave to man his free agency in the pre-existence. This great gift of agency, that is the privilege given to man to make his own choice, has never been revoked, and it never will be. It is an eternal principle giving freedom of thought and action to every soul. No person, by any decree of the Father, has ever been compelled to do good; no person has ever been forced to do evil. Each may act for himself. It was Satan's plan to destroy this agency and force men to do his will. There could be no satisfactory existence without this great gift. Men must have the privilege to choose even to the extent that they may rebel against the divine decrees. Of course salvation and exaltation must come through the free will without coercion and by individual merit in order that righteous rewards may be given and proper punishment be meted out to the transgressor. Therefore, when the great day of the Lord shall come, the wicked who have merited banishment from a righteous government will be consumed, or the privilege of continuance on the earth will be denied.2
Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 3, p.125
In answer to the second question the simple answer is that if our Eternal Father refused to permit evil to exist in the world, he would destroy one of the greatest gifts ever given to man--the gift of free agency. Take this great gift away and there could be no rewards or punishments; no exaltation and no condemnation. The result would be chaos, confusion. This is indeed the very plan that Lucifer presented in the great council in heaven. It is absolutely necessary to permit evil as well as it is necessary to reward good. Without the great gift of free agency, heaven would be destroyed and hell and Satan would gain the victory. There is a divine law that will bring rewards and punishment.
Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., The Way to Perfection, p.27-28
Intelligences Organized Before the World Was Formed
This much we know of the inhabitants of the universe but the Lord in his wisdom has limited our knowledge largely to our own little speck of a planet. "But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you," said the Lord to Moses. The knowledge of this earth and its inhabitants is not confined to the present mortal existence. The Lord informed these ancient prophets that there were many intelligences (spirits of men) and that they were organized before the world in which we now live was formed. Among these intelligences "there were many of the noble and great ones." Moreover, as there is to be found among the many "worlds without number" perfect obedience and order, each performing its mission according to law, so also among these spirit intelligences order and obedience prevailed. In the pre-mortal world we were taught in all things pertaining to life that could be given us in the pre-existence. Men were organized in some such way as we are organized here in the kingdom of God. Among the spirits of men there were superior intelligences chosen to act in authority. Free agency was given unto man that he might act for himself, yet we walked by sight in the presence of our Eternal Father. By him, and by his Son Jesus Christ, we were taught and knowledge was given us.
Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, p.96
The basic gospel law is free agency and eternal development. To force us to be careful or righteous would be to nullify that fundamental law and make growth impossible.
Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.80-81
Basic to this all-important plan is our free agency, the right of choice. Free agency is an eternal principle. We enjoyed freedom of choice in the spirit world as spirit children. In fact, a counterplan to the gospel of our Lord was presented by Lucifer, a plan of force that would have robbed man of his freedom of choice. Lucifer's plan was rejected, and the scriptures tell us that he, with one-third of the hosts of heaven, was cast out; and they continue their opposition to God's plan, which is based on the freedom of the individual.
Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life, p.312
All things, including man, were created spiritually before they were created temporally. We lived in the spirit world as intelligent beings and as the spirit children of God had free agency, were endowed with the capacity to choose, but we were and are now warned, as was Adam, that we must take the consequences of our choice.
Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p.664
In this connection, let us say that unless there is absolute freedom of religion and of worship, there is no salvation. Unless men have their agency -- given of God in preexistence, given anew in the garden of Eden, and given again after the fall -- unless men are free to choose, they cannot gain liberty and eternal life through the great Mediator of all men.
Dallin H. Oaks, Pure in Heart, p.11
We have flee agency. We exercise that free agency not only by what we do but also by what we decide--what we choose to will or desire. Restrictions on freedom can deprive us of the power or freedom to act, but no one can deprive us of the power to will or desire. Free agency is an eternal principle. So is accountability for its exercise. Accountability must reach and attach consequences to our motives, desires, and attitudes.
B.H. Roberts, The Seventy's Course in Theology, Fourth Year, p.iv
The doctrine of the Atonement through the expiatory suffering and death of Christ, can only be rightly understood when considered in its relationship to the IntelligencesC i.e., menC that are affected by it. Hence this treatise opens with a consideration of Intelligences as related to the Atonement. Necessarily this will involve the restatement of some of the matter of the Seventy's Year Book No. II, dealing with the "Outline History of the Dispensations of the Gospel, Part IC , "Prelude to the Dispensations" where such subjects as "Intelligences and Spirits," "The Relationship of the Intelligences;" "The Purposes of God in Relation to Man;" "The Free Agency of Intelligences," and the like are discussed. But as the present use of the principles there set forth will be different from the former use of them, the repetition necessary to a clear understanding of the great theme to be developed may not be amiss, but, on the contrary, positively helpful to a fuller appreciation of the principles them selves, as well as a right appreciation of the bearing they have upon the subject of the Atonement.
I. Free Agency of Intelligences.*
1. The moral freedom of Intelligences did not begin with earth-life.*
2. Freedom, an inherent quality of Intelligences.*
3. Freedom follows them through all estates, and in all spheres in which they are placed by God.*
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.1, AGENCY
Agency is such that men and women not only can choose obedience or rebellion but must (B. Young, JD 13:282). They cannot avoid being both free and responsible for their choices. Individuals capable of acting for themselves cannot remain on neutral ground, abstaining from both receiving and rejecting light from God. To be an agent means both being able to choose and having to choose either "liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator" or "captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil" (2 Ne. 2:27-29; 10:23). A being who is "an agent unto himself" is continually committing to be either an agent and servant of God or an agent and servant of Satan. If this consequence of choosing could be overridden or ignored, men and women would not determine their own destiny by their choices and agency would be void.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.2, FATE
Fate, as usually interpreted, is the antithesis of self-determination and responsibility. Latter-day Saints reject on scriptural grounds all appeals to precausation whether as "fate," "the stars," "blind chance," or even the predestination of man by God. Fate in these forms implies a precaused outcome of one's life. Instead, man is seen as having innate autonomies and capacitiesC the gift of agencyC that the divine will guarantees all men: "I the Lord God make you free, therefore ye are free indeed: and the law also maketh you free" (D&C 98:8; cf. 2 Ne. 2:25-27; Alma 12:31; Moses 4:3). People are free to choose obedience or disobedience, good or evil, and most other aspects of their lives, and they are accountable for their choices. The belief that all is fated, stifles, discourages, and hinders the progress and growth possible for the children of God. Fate is considered a negative term in the gospel. Even one's own momentous decisions influence one's so-called fate or destiny only as long as the decisions are maintained. The gospel of Jesus Christ opens to all mankind the opportunity to rise above chance fate in this life and choose eternal life with God.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.2, INTELLIGENCES
The word "intelligences" (plural) occurs frequently in LDS literature, having reference to the period of the premortal existence of mankind. The term has received two interpretations by writers within the Church: as the literal spirit children of Heavenly Parents and as individual entities existing prior to their spirit birth. Because latter-day revelation has not clarified the meaning of the term, a more precise interpretation is not possible at present.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.2, INTELLIGENCES
The scriptural source for the word "intelligences" is the book of Abraham 3:21-22. The Lord instructed the patriarch Abraham regarding the premortal experiences of all who have been or ever will be upon the earth. Among those events was the Council in Heaven, at which the Father's Plan of Salvation for his children was discussed. Abraham wrote of this, "Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; Y for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them" (Abr. 3:22-23). The Prophet Joseph Smith spoke of intelligences as follows: "God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them" (TPJS, p. 354).
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.3, SOUL
Consistent with the idea that all spirits (or souls) existed prior to their mortal life, LDS doctrine holds that all vegetable and animal life was created spiritually before the physical creation (Moses 3:5; cf. Gen. 2:5). In this sense, every living thing (plant, animal, human) is spoken of as having a soul (Moses 3:9, 19).
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.3, SPIRIT
The existence of both good and evil spirit beings is a prominent doctrine in LDS theology. Spirits are intelligent, self-existent, organized matter and are governed by eternal laws. Moreover, all living things had a pre-earthly spirit existence. LDS understanding on this subject is formulated by biblical and latter-day scripture and the teachings of latter-day prophets.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.3, SPIRIT
Although the Lord has revealed much in ancient and latter-day scripture about spirit matter and spirit beings, many unknowns remain, especially the full meaning of such terms as "intelligence," "light," and "truth," which are used in the revelations in association with the word "spirit." Spirit matter is identified with intelligence or the light of truth (D&C 93:29). Joseph Smith taught that elements were not created or made, but can be organized into a spirit being. This spirit, intelligence, or light has always existed, being coeternal with God. It can act and be acted upon; it can be organized, but it cannot be destroyed. Spirits exist upon a self-existent principle, and "allY spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement" (TPJS, pp. 351-54), meaning that they are capable of intellectual growth and maturation and that "there is never a time when the spirit is too old to approach God" (TPJS, p. 191).
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.3, SPIRIT WORLD
The spirit world is the habitation of spirits. The earth itself and the living things on the earth have spirit counterparts that existed before the physical creation, and a living soul consists of a spirit body united with a physical body. This spirit existence, where living things are composed of organized, refined spirit matter, extends beyond the human family and includes animals and plants. Little is revealed about plant spirits beyond the fact that all living things, including plants, were created as spirits before they were created with physical bodies (Moses 3:5, 9). However, latter-day revelation indicates that human and animal spirits are living, active, intelligent beings and that spirits do not need physical bodies for existence (see Spirit). Since spirits exist before mortality, as well as afterward, there is both a premortal and a postmortal spirit world.
Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: The Influence of Lehi's Admonitions on the Teachings of His Son Jacob, p.46
Jacob instructed, "Remember that ye are free to act for yourselves-n to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life" (2 Nephi 10:23). He evidently had his father's teachings in mind when he wrote, "Remember, to be carnally-minded is death, and to be spiritually-minded is life eternal" (2 Nephi 9:39). Like his father, he spoke of the captivity that comes from surren dering one's agency to Satan:
Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.7, Ch.12, p.349 - p.350
Free agency, according to the Book of Mormon, belongs to everybody. Again it is Mormon who reminds us of this: "For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night. For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge" (Moroni 7:15-16). At last man is allowed to judge--himself! This free agency was given to us in the preexistence as a basic principle of the plan of life; no mortal can give it to another or take it away from another: "Whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself," said Samuel the Lamanite to the benighted Nephites--apparently their living under a bad government deprived none of them of free agency--"and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free. He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good . . . or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you" (Helaman 14:30-31). This is an absolute law and operates regardless of the type of society in which one lives (Alma 41:7-8, 42:7, 26-28). It is true that some environments favor virtue as others do sin, that "an unrighteous king doth pervert the ways of all righteousness" (Mosiah 29:23), and sometimes "the voice of the people doth choose iniquity" (Mosiah 29:27), but that is no excuse for an individual; he is not thereby deprived of his knowledge of good and evil or his free agency: in a telling passage Alma reports how "because of the exceedingly great length of the war . . . many had become hardened . . . and many were softened because of their afflictions" (Alma 62:41). The same cause produced a hardening in the one case and a softening in the other--who could blame the war for his bad behavior? No person or thing can force another to sin, for a sin is only a sin to that degree to which one participates of his own free will.
Lowell L. Bennion, An Introduction to the Gospel, p.48
Free agency is not a gift of God in the ultimate sense; it is part of man's very eternal nature. God, who is also a free agent, and who knows the meaning and worth of freedom, is doing everything in his power to guard, vouchsafe, and increase the freedom of men. He is on the side of freedom, and he respects it as innate and essential to man's eternal nature. He who works to diminish or destroy the freedom of man is an enemy to God because freedom is inherent in man and essential to the realization of his purpose in life. If man, in his original state, had capacity for freedom, he may well have had other powers of mind and a measure of individuality. We do not know more of this original state of man.
Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.9, Ch.5, p.134
Which claimant do we recognize? The one says: "The earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves" (D&C 104:17). Help yourself but be careful of one thing. It is all free on this condition: "If any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel [contained in Deuteronomy, the New Testament parables, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants], unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment" (D&C 104:18), which of course refers us to the story of the rich man and Lazarus.
Journal of Discourses, Vol.24, p.174 - p.175 - p.176, Joseph F. Smith, April 8th, 1883
There are blessings which pertain to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the world to come, which cannot be secured by personal influence nor be bought with money, and which no man by his own intelligence or wisdom can obtain except through compliance with certain ordinances, laws and commandments which have been given. And it is well, in my judgment, for the Latter-day Saints to continue to bear in mind that the inestimable blessings of the Gospel have been bestowed upon them through their faith, that a remission of sins has been obtained by baptism and repentance, and that it is only through continuing faithful that they can retain the gifts and blessings which pertain to eternal life. There are many blessings, however, which are common to the human family, which all enjoy, without regard to their moral status or religious convictions. God has given to all men an agency, and has granted to us the privilege to serve Him or serve Him not, to do that which is right or that which is wrong, and this privilege is given to all men irrespective of creed, color or condition. The wealthy have this agency, the poor have this agency, and no man is deprived by any power of God from exercising it in the fullest and in the freest manner. This agency has been given to all. This is a blessing that God has bestowed upon the world of mankind, upon all His children alike. But He will hold us strictly to an account for the use that we make of this agency, and as it was said of Cain, so it will be said of us: "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door." There are, however, certain blessings which God bestows upon the children of men only upon the condition of the rightful exercise of this agency. For instance, no man can obtain a remission of his sins but by repentance and baptism by one having authority. If we would be free from sin, from its effects, from its power, we must obey this law which God has revealed, or we never can obtain a remission of sins. Therefore, while God has bestowed upon all men, irrespective of condition, this agency to choose good or evil, He has not and will not bestow upon the children of men a remission of sins but by their obedience to law. Therefore the whole world lies in sin and is under condemnation, inasmuch as light has come unto the world and men will not avail themselves of that light to put themselves in a proper position before the Lord. And this condemnation rests with tenfold force upon all those that have yielded obedience to this law, and have once received a remission of their sins, but have returned unto sin, and have forgotten or disregarded the covenants they made in the waters of baptism. All men are blessed with the strength of their body, with the use of their mind, and with the right to exercise the faculties with which they are endowed in a way that seemeth good in their sight, without regard to religion. But God has not and will not suffer the gift of the Holy Ghost to be bestowed upon any man or woman, except through compliance with the laws of God. Therefore, no man can obtain a remission of sins; no man can obtain the gift of the Holy Ghost; no man can obtain the revelations of God; no man can obtain the Priesthood, and the rights, powers and privileges thereof; no man can become an heir of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ, except through compliance with the requirements of heaven. These are universal blessings, they are great and inestimable privileges which pertain to the Gospel and to the plan of life and salvation, which are open and free to all on certain conditions, but which no creature beneath the heavens can enjoy, but through walking in the channel that God has marked out by which they can obtain them. And these privileges and blessings when obtained may be forfeited, and perhaps lost for all eternity, unless we continue steadfast in the course that is marked out for us to pursue. It is well, in my judgment, that the Latter-day Saints do not lose sight of the great privilege that has been bestowed upon them. No man can become a citizen of the Kingdom of God but by entering in at the door: there are thousand and tens of thousands, aye millions of people who will never become citizens of the Kingdom of God in this world, because they fail to exercise the agency and the power that has been given to them in the right direction. Nevertheless, they enjoy many of the blessings that are bestowed upon the world in common. The sun shines upon the evil and the good; but the Holy Ghost descends only upon the righteous and upon those that are forgiven of their sins. The rain descends upon the evil and upon the good; but the rights of the Priesthood are conferred, and the doctrine of the Priesthood distills as the dews of heaven upon the souls of those only that receive it in God's own appointed way. The favor of heaven, the acknowledgment of the Almighty of His children upon the earth as His sons and His daughters can only be secured through obedience to the laws which He has revealed. Riches or the wealth of the world cannot purchase these things. Simon Magus desired to purchase the power to cast out devils with money, but Peter said unto him, "Thy money perish with thee." These blessings, powers and privileges are not to be purchased but by the atonement of Christ; they are not to be obtained by personal influence, wealth, position or power, or in any other way but the direct way in which God has decreed that they should be obtained. Now, so long as the Latter-day Saints are content to obey the commandments of God, to appreciate the privileges and blessings which they enjoy in the Church, and will use their time, their talents, their substance, in honor to the name of God, to build up Zion, and to establish truth and righteousness in the earth, so long our heavenly Father is bound by His oath and covenant to protect them from every opposing foe, and to help them to overcome every obstacle that can possibly be arrayed against them or thrown in their pathway; but the moment a community begin to be wrapt up in themselves, become selfish, become engrossed in the temporalities of life, and put their faith in riches, that moment the power of God begins to withdraw from them, and if they repent not the Holy Spirit will depart from them entirely, and they will be left to themselves. That which was given them will be taken away, they will lose that which they had, for they will not be worthy of it. God is just as well as merciful, and we need not expect favors at the hand of the Almighty except as we merit them, at least in the honest desires of our hearts, and the desire and intent will not always avail unless our acts correspond. For we are engaged in a literal work, a reality; and we must practice as well as profess. We must be what God requires us to be, or else we are not His people nor the Zion which He designs to gather together and to build up in the latter days upon the earth.
Journal of Discourses, Vol.26, p.188 - p.189, George Q. Cannon, September 28th, 1884
We must remember, to begin with, that God our Eternal Father has given unto each of us our agency. There is no human being born on the earth from whom God has withheld his or her agency. We have as much right to exercise our agency in our sphere as God the Eternal Father has to exercise His agency in His sphere; just as much. It is not sacrilege, it is not any infringement upon the power of our God to indulge in this though or to have this belief. It does not detract in the least from His glory, from His power, nor from our dependence upon Him as an infinite and almighty Being to entertain this view of ourselves. Jesus said when He was upon the earth: "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." How could we be if man did not have the power within him, through the agency which God has given him, to be thus perfect: Everywhere throughout the divine record where God has communicated His mind and His will to men, this principle is plainly manifest: that man has had given unto him, in the greatest freedom and without limit, the power to exercise his own agency. It was so in the beginning--in the very commencement of the work of our God upon the earth when He placed Adam in the garden and gave Eve unto him for a wife. He set before them the principle of knowledge--that is, He told them what they should do; He told them what they should refrain from doing. He told them that if they did certain things, certain penalties should follow. Had such a thing been possible and consistent with the purposes of Heaven, He might, at the very beginning, have prevented Adam from exercising His agency. Instead of saying to him, "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat except the tree of knowledge of good and evil," and leaving him free to eat of the fruit of that tree, He might have put it out of his power to touch or taste it. But not so; He gave him the opportunity of exercising his agency; He told him he could eat of every tree freely, except the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but that he should not eat of it, "for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." There was no attempt on the part of our Father to interfere with the agency of Adam in this respect. He left him perfectly free and in the exercise of that freedom Adam did partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. His wife, Eve, was deceived in eating of the fruit; she partook of it, being beguiled, yet in the perfect exercise of her agency, and after she had partaken of it, and become subject to the penalty that God had pronounced--the penalty of death and expulsion from the garden--then she came and told Adam what she had done. Adam was fully conscious of all the consequences that had attended this act. He knew perfectly well that the penalty would be executed--that that Eve had become mortal, that death had entered into her tabernacle, and the penalty that God had pronounced would be fully executed; that she would be thrown out of the garden and that they would be separated forever--that is, so far as this life was concerned. He knew this, and, fully conscious of all the consequences which should follow his partaking of the fruit, he partook of it. In doing so he was not deceived. He partook of it because of his desire to fulfill the commandments of God. God had given unto him this woman for a wife; they were bound together by immortal ties; but because of this act of hers there must necessarily have been a separation that would have endured as long as her mortal life endured. Adam understanding this, partook of the fruit, and as is said by the Prophet Lehi, "Adam fell that man might be, and men are that they may have joy." If he had not fallen; if he had not partaken of that fruit, there would have been no human race on the earth. He understood this, therefore he partook of it and accompanied his wife. It was a part of the plan that was understood in the heavens before Adam was placed in the garden. God by His foreknowledge understood perfectly that Adam, in the exercise of his agency, would fall. Therefore He prepared a Redeemer in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, who we are told was "a lamb slain from before the foundation of the world." God having seen that Adam would fall, that death would come upon him, and that a Redeemer would be necessary in order to redeem man from the effects of the fall--for unless there had been a Redeemer provided, Adam and all his posterity would have slept an eternal sleep, they would have been consigned to the tomb, and there would have been no redemption therefrom because of the penalty that had been pronounced by the Father upon him if he committed this act--God knowing all this provided a Redeemer. That Redeemer was the Son of God, Jesus our Savior, in whose name we all approach the Father, in whose name salvation is given unto the children of men. It was arranged beforehand that He should come and perform His mission in the meridian of time--lay down His life, as it was known that He would do through the wickedness of bad men.
Hugh B. Brown, Conference Report, April 1956, p.105
Man faces a vista of limitless development, eternal progression, if he will cooperate in winning mastery over himself and the universe. We believe that man's earth life was made possible by Adam's role in a foreordained plan which included the provision for man to come face to face with both good and evil and, under the eternal law of free agency, elect good or evil without compulsion, knowing however that under the immutable law of the harvest he must abide the consequences of his choice, must reap as e sows. Free agency is prerequisite to any character-building plan, and while with free agency any plan is inevitably crammed with risk, we, with all the sons of God, accepted that risk and shouted for joy at the prospect of earth life. The Lord said to Job,
Benjamin Johnson Ltr to Gibbs, 1903 in E. Dale LeBaron (1967), p.331
And then you would have "further truths from the teachings of the Prophet". And where shall I commence? And how shall I write to your understanding even the little I may have retained in memory? You will not forget that the march in science through the last seventy years has in many things reversed the world's thought, changed its modes and almost its face, and is fast exploding the dogmas of outside theology. Well, the keys to all this knowledge were first committed to the Prophet Joseph, as a part of the gospel, for the world's benefit, for all of which he was derided. He was the first in this age to teach "substantialism", the eternity of matter, that no part or particle of the great universe could become annihilated or destroyed; that light and life and spirit were one; that all light and heat are the "Glory of God", which is his power, that fills the "immensity of space", and is the life of all things, and permeates with latent life, and heat, every particle of which all worlds are composed; that light or spirit, and matter, are the two first great primary principles of the universe, or of Being; that they are self-existent, co-existent, indestructible, and eternal, and from these two elements both our spirits and our bodies were formulated, and he gave us to understand that there were twelve kingdoms, or planets, revolving around our solar system, to which the Lord gave an equal division of His time or ministry and that now was His time to again visit the earth. He taught that all systems of worlds were in revolution, the lesser around the greater. He taught that all the animal kingdoms would be resurrected, and made us understand that they would remain in the dominion of those who, with creative power, reach out for dominion, through the power of eternal lives. He taught us that the saints would fill the great West, and through Mexico, Central and South America we would do a great work for the redemption of the remnant of Jacob. Of what he taught us relating to the Kingdom of God, as it would become organized upon the earth through "all nations learning war no more", and all adopting the God-given constitution of the United States as a Palladium of Liberty and Equal Rights.