Free Agency isn’t Free & I’ve Lost All My Future Choices!

Don - December 13, 2005

I’ve never liked the term "Free Agency". It isn’t Free. Some say it’s free because God gave us our agency, so it’s a free gift. First of all, agency is an eternal principle and has existed through all the eternities. Second, for us we had to have a savior to make agency work under God’s plan. Agency means you have a choice and that depending on your choice you will have an outcome.

If we had no savior then no matter what we choose, no matter how we use that "agency" we will still end up going to Hell (non-exaltation). So all choices bring the same results which pretty much means we didn’t have any choice at all.

Think about this: I have lost my future choices, why because future choices are based on current choices. Not just that we have gone down a different path and so the future is different ("Back to the Future" the second best movie trilogy ever). The real reason I feel I have lost my future choices is because every choice I make is based on all my previous experiences. I can’t make a different choice than the one I make. It would be contrary to my personality, against who I am at my core, I have to be true to myself.

When I ask God for help and direction in making choices couldn’t that change the choice I make? No because choosing to ask God is based on my experiences and who I am. Listening to His answer is too.  And so is choosing to follow what He inspires me to do.

So now I ask myself, if I’m right what does that mean?

15 Comments »

  1. While I appreciate the ensuing article, I think that you’re missing the point of the term “free agency”.

    It can’t be subdivided willy-nilly.

    “Agency” is merely the state of being an agent… and there are lots of different types of agents, and therefore many different types of agencies.

    Free agency is the state of being allowed to make one’s own choices — specifically with regards to finding someone to whom you’ll ally yourself.

    Like the free agents of sports, we’re all free agents, looking to become players/disciples of someone or other.

    Anyway, just nitpicking.

    Comment by Silus Grok — December 13, 2005 @ 4:00 pm

  2. I think what it means is that John Calvin really was right!

    Comment by Bret — December 13, 2005 @ 4:36 pm

  3. Don, for what it’s worth, this all means that you’re right in sync with the correlation committee. The term “free agency” began disappearing from lesson manuals and conference talks some years ago. This year’s McKay manual lesson on “agency” is a nice example: all of the editorial comments from the current institutional author use the term “agency,” while McKay himself repeatedly uses “free agency.” Tsk, tsk, President McKay–you didn’t get the retroactive memo!

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — December 13, 2005 @ 4:53 pm

  4. I’m not sure I can agree. You’re excluding the idea that a person can change his or her character. If that were true, I’d not be a member of the LDS Church, as I was an Anti-Christian Agnostic 12 years ago that lived a lifestyle far, far different from what I do now. I drank tons, stole, lied, was in the grasp of addiction and heading toward a life of marital infidelity very quickly.

    My baptism signified that the previous several months I had undergone a serious rewiring of my character. At that point, I wasn’t who I am today, but there was a large enough change in my fundamental personal makeup that I was making new choices, ones I had never made before. And this alteration of my character wasn’t only on the surface, but I truly felt like a new man. You might say I was “born again”.

    After 12 years, I’m still growing and evolving into the person God wants me to be. This wouldn’t be possible by your thesis. I would still be held by my addiction, but I have an Temple Recommend renewal interview this week. I would still have a taste for alcohol, but it turns my stomach.

    “When I ask God for help and direction in making choices couldn’t that change the choice I make? No because choosing to ask God is based on my experiences and who I am. Listening to His answer is too. And so is choosing to follow what He inspires me to do.”

    I have learned this year and a half much more about personal revelation than at any other time in my life. As I’ve truly put myself in Father’s hands, I’ve made decisions that made no sense to anyone, including myself and my wife. But I took a leap of faith and found the right path was opening up before me as I did so. One might look at the idea of God’s will as taking away agency and choices. I feel that Father knows us best, and will steer us to the things that will give us the most long term happiness. Those of us with children do this. We use our broader perspective, great wisdom and deep understanding of our children’s personality to guide them.

    -The Narrator

    Comment by The Narrator — December 13, 2005 @ 5:09 pm

  5. If you are right, then there is a fixed future, which could possibly give God absolute foreknowledge and allow him to accurately and specifically prophecy of future events.

    I think that if you are wrong it is partially in the assumption that people can not make a fundamental change in who they are.

    Comment by Eric — December 13, 2005 @ 5:11 pm

  6. Like the free agents of sports, we’re all free agents, looking to become players/disciples of someone or other.

    Actually, before our baptisms, we were all free agents. Now that we have been baptized, we are no longer free agents because we have become “disciples of someone” (as Silus puts it).

    But,we still retain our free will, which I think is what Don is really talking about. This is indeed a tough one. I have seen arguments that our choices are not fully determined by our experiences, but rather the probabilities of our making certain choices are what is determined by our experiences. The actual choices are then the result of random quantum fluctuations in our brains. This is still speculative, scientifically, but I have a hard time refuting it. And it is not much more comforting that pure determinism.

    Comment by Last Lemming — December 13, 2005 @ 5:12 pm

  7. Don: if I’m right what does that mean?

    It would mean 1) that you are a determinist and 2) that there is no such thing as free will.

    The good news is that you are wrong.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 13, 2005 @ 5:38 pm

  8. Yeah, I’m with everyone else, you’re wrong. Sorry.

    Comment by Rusty — December 13, 2005 @ 5:47 pm

  9. The Narrator: if my speculation/theory is right then there is/was something in your fundamental personality that you used to choose to change and join the church. I would propose that it was something you brought with you from your premortal life. The real you might have had a few sharp edges that needed to be polished and that “caused” you to make choices that put you in your agnostic position. When the right circumstances came (or were put there by God) the real you recognized it – based on who you really are – and chose the church.

    Last Lemming: you said, “The actual choices are then the result of random quantum fluctuations in our brains.” Interesting…but if that is the case then in fact all choices are either random, or random with prequalifications. If random then we really have no choice. If prequalifications are made based on who we really are (as I proposed) then we prequalify down to such a finite level that we in fact did make the choice (based on my proposal).

    Comment by don — December 13, 2005 @ 6:30 pm

  10. Geoff & Rusty, I don’t agree. I think we spent a very very long time in the premortal existence. There I associated with and was taught by God, Jesus and many other noble and great ones. That process helped me become who I am. Now I am on this earth. I don’t think that I’m going to “choose” something contrary to who I am. I don’t think the temptations I’m faced with will change what took and eternity to form.

    Comment by don — December 13, 2005 @ 6:42 pm

  11. Don,

    I think who we were in the pre-existence has a lot to do with who we are now. I believe we have been placed in certain situations according to what happened.

    However, we have not yet gained our “inheritance.” I would believe David, Solomon, Jonah, etc., were possibly a few of the “noble” ones who also made choices that were contrary to who they were.

    However, there was, of course, Saul/Paul who didn’t have much choice but to become a Prophet–but it was still his choice.

    Comment by Tim J. — December 13, 2005 @ 7:10 pm

  12. Don,

    You seem to be flip-flopping between determinism and free will. If we are wholly determined by our past experiences and other external factors (and many people do believe this) then there is no free will — our every action is caused by prior events. If there is even some free will then we must have the ability to make self-caused choices that are independent of all external causes. We must have the ability to act rather than just react to our genes, passions, environment, history, etc.

    BTW — I have posted on this subject in the past by positing that the “natural man” is the causally determined man and that we are only truly righteous when we use our free will to be better than that which comes naturally to us.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 13, 2005 @ 7:20 pm

  13. Geoff, I don’t think it’s the “other external factors”. I do propose that our choices are “wholly determined by our past experiences”. My past experiences, especially those formulated over our vast time in the premortal life is who I am. The eternal me even as I continue to add experiences is still the eternal me. I will always make the same choice under the same circumstance. To do otherwise would be contrary to who I am.

    Comment by don — December 13, 2005 @ 8:19 pm

  14. I thought you might say that Don… Alright here are a few questions then:

    So what were our past choices (the ones before this life) based on? Were they also wholly determined by our prior experiences? If so, when did we ever have choice that was not determined by prior experiences?

    Or are you implying that we had free will prior to this probation but don’t have it here? If we could make choices not caused by prior experiences there why can’t we do so here too?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 13, 2005 @ 8:34 pm

  15. What about the possibility that all events/choices are random? I don’t think the concept of free will is capable of meshing with the concept of prophesy (at least if one is looking for accuracy in the prophesy) without assuming the randomness of existence. Random probability explains why some petitions are “heard and headed” and others are not. It also explains why prophets never (except in retrospect) place timelines on their prophecies. For all we know even salvation may be the result of a stochastic function.

    Comment by Paul Mortensen — December 14, 2005 @ 11:02 am

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