*This post discusses LDS theology. For more background or information, visit mormon.org*
There are a few subjects that make me twitch, but none of them as thoroughly as the topic of agency. I dread this topic. Any time it comes up at church I become very interested in the backs of my hands. I tap my feet and shift in my chair and think of excuses to leave the room.
It makes me crazy. Even more so than our once-a-year habit of slogging through the hymn "Ring Out Wild Bells" as if the past 365 days were a rotting corpse in a coffin.
"Satan's plan was to force us to be righteous," somebody will say. And then everyone will nod in agreement because that's what they've heard all their lives and have accepted it without thinking it through.
There's just one little problem. It's not true. And not only that, but if you think about it, it makes ZERO sense.
In Moses 4:3 we learn that in our pre-mortal life, Satan rebelled against God and "sought to destroy the agency of man." Check. By forcing us all to be righteous, right? Well, not exactly... Verse 1 says that Satan wanted to "redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost..."
For some reason Latter-day Saints have spent decades assuming (and being taught - this idea has even made its way into a few church manuals) that this means Satan's plan was to force us all to be righteous (after all, how many ways are there to make sure everyone gets saved?). But it's just that -- assuming. Nowhere in the entire Standard Works does it say a single word about this being the case. And since nothing answers questions like going to the source, let's look at what the scriptures do say, starting with the subject of truth:
In Doctrine & Covenants 93:30 we learn that "All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence." In other words, truth is truth, regardless of what we think about it. It is unchangeable. It is unaffected by what people say (even brilliant, incredibly knowledgeable people) what they do (even very nice and well-intentioned people), and what they wish it were. It cannot be changed by royal scepter, government edict, or even popular vote. It is truth. And it is eternal.
Continuing in verse 31, we read that herein -- the fact that there is absolute and unchangeable truth -- lies our agency. If there were no truth there could be no agency. There could be no choice because there would be nothing to choose -- no truth or lies, no good or evil, no right or wrong.
So what would you do if you were Satan and you wanted to save everyone? You wouldn't force them to be good; that's ridiculous. You'd destroy truth by doing away with the rules. You'd save everyone regardless of what they do.
No truth = no law = no sin = no choice = no agency. (And, conveniently for Satan, no God).
Sound familiar? Probably because you've heard Satan's minions spouting versions of it before:
Nehor (Alma 1:4) telling people that "all mankind should be saved."
Korihor (Alma 30:17) preaching that "whatsoever a man did was no crime."
The Amalekites (Alma 21:6) saying "we do believe that God will save all men."
The Lamanites (Alma 18:5) supposing "that whatsoever they did was right."
And you're still hearing it now. Satan's fingerprints are everywhere: Moral relativism. Situational ethics. "Find your own truth."
The only sin these days is calling truth truth and a sin a sin. But the good news is that, through it all, truth is still truth.
No matter what you call it.