“We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” 2nd Article of Faith
A basic belief of the LDS church is that we are all responsible and accountable for our own individual actions and choices, not for anyone else’s. The Savior’s plan that was presented to us in the pre-existence hinged on allowing us to make our own choices. While Satan wanted to compel us to keep the commandments, Jesus wanted us to choose to follow the commandments of our own free will. We are free to determine our own destinies. David O. McKay said, “Next to the bestowal of life, the right to direct that life is God’s greatest gift to man.” Of course, with that free agency also comes consequences.
One of my favorite lines in Gone with the Wind is when Rhett and Scarlett are visiting shortly after Frank Kennedy’s death and Scarlett says she’s so sorry for what she’s done, that Frank was Sue Ellen’s beau and that she should never have married him. Rhett replies that she’s just like the thief who isn’t the least bit sorry he’s done something wrong, only that he’s been caught.
Our society is all about evading consequences. We continue to develop vaccines to protect against sexually transmitted diseases so that people don’t have to be chaste. We support school programs that teach our kids to be “safe” when it comes to sexual behavior so that they can avoid AIDS or other STDs rather than teaching our kids to be sexually moral. Many lawyers constantly look for ways for their clients to avoid doing time for their crimes. We allow drunk drivers who kill innocent people to receive probation, thus avoiding paying the price for their choice to drink and drive. Even many of our politicians practice this same ideology. President Clinton was the epitome of trying to escape consequences for his actions. Our society teaches us that it’s fine to do whatever we want, just don’t get caught. This is man’s philosophy, not God’s.
Every day we are faced with choices and each of these choices has a consequence. If we choose to keep a commandment we receive the blessing for keeping that commandment. “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21).
However, when we choose to break a commandment, we must pay a price. At the very least, we will lose the accompaniment of the Holy Ghost. At worst, a choice we make may take the life of another, lead someone away from God, or destroy our own chance for exaltation. Regardless of what our society teaches, there is a consequence to every action and/or choice. If we aren’t prepared to accept a consequence, we should not make that choice.
We must also keep in mind that we are only blessed or punished for our own individual choices.
As we seek to teach others about our faith, we must clearly communicate what we believe about the freedom to choose. We choose our lifestyle. We can choose whether or not we’re honest. We make choices each day that show others whether or not we are trustworthy, dependable, or have integrity. We write our own story, compose our own melody, and are the architects of our own lives. As we do so, we will either enjoy the blessings from our choices or suffer the consequences.
Our choices determine not only our life’s path, but our eternal destiny. And, we will only be held responsible for our own individual choices, not for anyone else’s.
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