Hi Good Afternoon, My name is Briana Bergener. I chose to come to Earth, I am a spiritual being, having an earthly experience. We all have this in common, and another thing that we hold dear to our hearts… the gift of moral agency, it's eternal, it’s ours. We will fight wars to keep it, we will fight anyone to keep it, it is ours. We had agency before we came to earth, we had agency during the war in heaven. We had agency as we entered the world, we could scream our heads off if we wanted to. When someone tells me what to do, the first reaction I think is “don’t tell me what to do” The second thought might be considering making that choice, maybe it was a helpful suggestion? I understand that my agency is mine, and ultimately I get to choose my reaction or action. Some may take this stance with the scriptures. Maybe I don’t want God telling me what to do, I want to make my own choices. But if we consider the scriptures as containing the most helpful suggestions from a loving Father in Heaven. Then maybe we will consider these things. There is so much we can learn from the scriptures.
So… I have my agency, it’s mine. I don’t, however, have the freedom to choose the consequence, that is sometimes another’s choice, or sometimes a built in natural consequence. I think that’s why we are taught to agree with others when in the way with them. You know, be agreeable during an argument…. Especially with loved ones and strangers, okay with everyone. As we read the scriptures we are taught that “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; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ wherefore ye may know wth a perfect knowledge it is of God.” Moroni 7:16.
We can't take other’s agency from them either. Let’s not get this confused with parenting. Our children need rules and guidance. No matter how much energy we put into protecting and concealing our children from evil, temptation is always there. We need to make certain choices for them along the way, we need to teach them how to repent, we need to teach them how to pray, we need to teach them the natural consequences of certain choices, and even with all the teaching, they may still choose a different path, and we need to love them no matter what… I’m not telling you what to do….
Our interactions with strangers is beautifully illustrated by an unknown poet, “I met a stranger in the night, whose lamp had ceased to shine; I paused and let him light his lamp from mine. A tempest sprang up later on, and shook the world about, and when the wind was gone, my lamp was out. But back came to me the stranger- his lamp was glowing fine; He held the precious flame and lighted mine.”
This week as I read in Come Follow me I was so curious about the scripture at the end of John 9, after Christ heals the blind man, vs 41 Jesus said unto them, if ye were blind, ye should have no sin; but now ye say, we see; therefore your sin remaineth. This is talking about spiritual sight and accountability. But how does it apply to me? Maybe I want to be blind so as not to have sin. Though it isn’t so, we see and our sin remaineth and we need a Savior.
The poet Minnie Louise Haskins wrote, “And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year; “Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!” And he replied: “go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me toward the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.”
President Monson said, “we know many who have their eyesight but who walk in darkness at noonday. These may not be physically blind, but blind they surely are. Some have been blinded by anger, others by indifference, by revenge, by hate, by prejudice, by ignorance, by neglect of precious opportunities. Of such the Lord said, “Their ears are dull of hearing and their eyes they have closed; lest at anytime they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”
Elder Boyd K Packer once told a story about a four star general and his wife who came to his office, they were impressive people. They admired the church because of the conduct of our youth. The general’s wife expressed a deep concern, “tell me,” she said,” how are you able to control your youth and build such character as we have seen in your young men?” Elder Packer was interested in her use of the work ‘control’. The answer he told them, centered in the doctrines of the gospel. They were interested; so he spoke briefly of the doctrine of agency. He said we develop control by teaching freedom. Perhaps at first they thought we start at the wrong end of the subject. A four-star general is nothing if not a disciplinarian. But when one understands the gospel, it becomes very clear that the best control is self-control. He continues to explain this so well, “it may seem unusual at first to foster self control by centering on freedom of choice, but it is a very sound doctrinal approach. While either subject may be taught separately, and though they may appear at first to be opposites, they are in fact parts of the same subject. Some who do not understand the doctrinal part do not readily see the relationship between obedience and agency, and they miss one vital connection and see obedience only as restraint. They then resist the very thing that will give them true freedom. There is no true freedom without responsibility, and there is no enduring freedom without a knowledge of the truth. The Lord said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32
We are obedient because we know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of our own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God.
President Monson spoke of the fisherman called Simon, better known to you and me as Peter, chief among the Apostles. Doubting, disbelieving, impetuous Peter, in fulfillment of the Master’s prophecy, indeed did deny Him thrice. Amidst the pushing, the jeers and the blows, “the Lord in the agony of His humiliation, in the majesty of His silence, ‘turned and looked upon Peter’.” As one chronologist described the change: “it was enough. … Peter ‘knew no more danger, he feared no more death.’ … (He) rushed forth into the night… ‘to meet the morning dawn’... this broken-hearted penitent (stood) before the tribunal of his own conscience, and there his old life, his old shame, his old weakness, his old self was doomed to that death of godly sorrow which was to issue in a new and a (nobler) birth.``
Ephesians 4 has some very helpful suggestions vs 22 says “that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” Vs 24 “and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Mosiah 3:19) For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
It’s no accident that Jesus was tempted after fasting for 40 days. I was hungry, not even fasting, just hungry the other day and someone said something that crossed me wrong in the parking lot, and I snapped back at her. I could have nodded and waved, or even apologized. That natural man reaction was not a shining moment for me. How grateful I am for the example of Jesus Christ, hopefully next time I will be more patient.
(M. Russell Ballard quoted his apostle grandfather) Melvin Jay Ballard once said, “ the greatest conflict that any man or woman will ever have… will be the battle that is had with self,” explaining that Satan, “the enemy of our souls,” attacks up through the lusts, the appetites, the ambitions of the flesh.” So the primary battle is between our divine and spiritual nature and the carnal natural man. Remember! We can receive spiritual help through the influence of the Holy Ghost that can “teach you all things”
President David O. McKay taught: “man’s earthly existence is but a test as to whether he will concentrate his efforts, his mind, his soul, upon things which contribute to the comfort and gratification of his physical nature, or whether he will make as his life’s (purpose) the acquisition of spiritual qualities.” (Roman 8:5) For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
You are first and foremost and always a spiritual being. And so when we choose to put our carnal nature ahead of our spiritual nature, we are choosing something that is contrary to our real, true, authentic spiritual selves.
With a veil of forgetfulness drawn between the premortal spirit world and this mortal world, we can lose sight of our relationship to God and our spiritual nature, and our carnal nature can give priority to what we want right now. Learning to choose the things of the Spirit over the things of the flesh is one of the primary reasons why this earthly experience is part of Heavenly Father’s plan. It's also why the plan is built upon the solid, sure foundation of the Atonement of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ so that our sins, including the errors we make when we yield to the flesh, can be overcome through constant repentance and we can live spiritually focused. Now is the time to control our bodily appetites to comply with the spiritual doctrine of Christ. That is why we must not procrastinate on the day of our repentance. When we choose to repent, we choose to change! We allow the Savior to transform us into the best version of ourselves. We choose to grow spiritually and receive joy, the joy of redemption in Him. When we choose to repent, we choose to become more like Jesus Christ!”
All of these words are not my own, but I know that they are true, as I read them, and studied them. May we use our agency to see with spiritual eyes, may we use our agency to be obedient and have the freedom promised through putting off the natural man. May we listen to the Holy Ghost who will help us through this mortal experience. We are spiritual beings, having a beautiful earthly experience. I am grateful for the opportunity to share these things I learned. I am grateful for the Atonement of my Saviour Jesus Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.