Lesson 4: I Have the Ability and Freedom to Choose

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 3, (1995), 11–14


Objective

Each young man will understand that he is a spirit son of God, that he wisely exercised his agency and agreed to his accountability in the premortal existence, and that he was foreordained to the priesthood.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully study Genesis 1:26–27; Malachi 2:10; Matthew 11:28–30; Acts 17:28–29; Revelation 12:7–9; 2 Nephi 2:25–30; Alma 13:3; 30; 41:10; Helaman 14:30–31; Doctrine and Covenants 29:36–38; 93:2, 30–31; Moses 4:1–3; and Abraham 3:22–23.

  2. 2.

    Materials needed:

    1. a.

      Copies of the scriptures (each young man should bring his own).

    2. b.

      Pencils for marking scriptures.

  3. 3.

    Show “Man’s Search for Happiness,” on the videocassette Come unto Me (53146) if it is available in your area.

Suggested Lesson Development

Agency—The Freedom to Choose

Chalkboard and quotation discussion

Write on the chalkboard Agency is. Ask the young men to suggest words to complete the sentence.

After a brief discussion, tell the young men that Elder Bruce R. McConkie defined agency by mentioning two important aspects of this principle. Complete the sentence on the chalkboard by writing the ability and freedom to choose good or evil (see Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], p. 26).

  • What are the two aspects of agency that Elder McConkie mentions? (The ability to choose and the freedom to choose.)

Underline the words ability and freedom on the chalkboard.

  • What does ability mean? (Ability means being able. To be able we need to have enough power and knowledge to do something.)

Scriptures and discussion

Ask a young man to read Doctrine and Covenants 93:2. Explain that the ability to choose involves some knowledge of the alternatives—good and evil, or right and wrong. Each individual who comes into the world has been given the Light of Christ that enables him to distinguish good from evil. Explain that the ability to choose between good and evil can be increased by an increased knowledge of Heavenly Father’s laws.

  • In Elder McConkie’s definition of agency, what does the word freedom mean? (Freedom means being able to make choices without being forced or coerced.)

Write Helaman 14:30–31 on the chalkboard. Have the young men turn to this passage, mark it, and follow along as you read the scripture aloud. Emphasize the idea that the ability to choose involves knowledge and that God has given us the freedom to choose.

Agency Is an Essential Part of the Plan of Salvation

Scripture and discussion

Have a young man read Moses 4:1–3. Suggest that the young men mark this scripture if they have not already done so. Help them understand that (1) Satan was in reality proposing a rejection of the Father’s plan and that (2) a key element of God’s plan is the freedom to choose.

  • Why do you think there was a conflict or war fought over this principle of agency? (Satan wanted to control people and receive recognition and glory for it. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ wanted us to be free to choose because without choice genuine righteousness and happiness are not possible.)

Explain that Satan still wants to gain control of as many of Heavenly Father’s children as he can; thus, the war that started in the premortal life is still raging. The location of the battlefield has shifted to the earth.

Scripture

Have the young men read and mark Doctrine and Covenants 93:30–31. Emphasize that agency was given to us in our premortal life as an essential part of the plan of salvation and that there would be no existence without it.

We Are Responsible for the Consequences of Our Acts

Scripture and chalkboard discussion

Write 2 Nephi 2:25–30 on the chalkboard. Have the young men read these verses silently and mark the key words.

  • What does Nephi tell us about the ultimate consequences of our choices? (We will reap either joy, liberty, and life; or misery, captivity, and death, depending on our choices.)

Write Liberty and Eternal Life and Captivity and Death on the chalkboard. Ask the young men which of these they want. As they silently think, draw a question mark and arrows on the chalkboard as shown:

liberty or captivity

Explain that many people today believe that there are no consequences for evil because there is no evil. If Satan can convince people that there is no such thing as evil or that Heavenly Father does not exist, they will think there is no reason to be moral or righteous.

Scripture and discussion

Ask if any of the young men know who Korihor was. Allow them to relate what they remember about him. Help them as needed. (See Alma 30.) If they do not remember how his activity as an anti-Christ ended, have the young men read Alma 30:59–60.

Be sure to point out that Korihor taught that there was no evil and therefore no consequences for doing wrong.

  • What consequences will result for those who deceive themselves and deny the existence of good and evil? (They will ultimately be abandoned by Satan and be miserable.)

Explain that another belief common in the world is that people are the victims of circumstances beyond their control and therefore are not responsible for what they do in this life. Emphasize that while many circumstances may be beyond our control, we can still choose how we respond to them. It is sometimes easy to blame friends, society, or even Satan himself for our mistakes.

Story

Tell the following story:

Ron was nervous as he awaited sentencing from the judge. Ron had been in trouble on several occasions. He had been before the same judge but had always received a light sentence. But this time the judge was taking his time and had a stern look on his face.

Ron realized that this time he could expect a stiffer penalty than usual.

After a while, the judge lectured him on the poor choices he had made to get him into trouble and then gave what Ron felt to be a very harsh sentence.

“It’s not fair,” Ron thought. “I’ve been through a lot in my life. My home life isn’t happy. My teachers don’t understand me. My friends aren’t as friendly as they used to be. Life has been hard for me. Times have been tough. Why can’t the judge understand?”

Discussion

Though it is difficult to judge another, consider the following questions in order to generate discussion:

  • Can Ron’s problems be blamed on his circumstances?

  • Did Ron ever lose his agency?

  • How should we react to adversity?

  • How can we exercise our agency to be happy even though our circumstances may be challenging?

Quotation and discussion

Emphasize that we are free to do what should be done regardless of our circumstances. There may be times when we believe that our circumstances are an excuse for a poor choice. There may be times when we wish to blame Heavenly Father, Satan, or others for our mistakes.

Explain that Joseph Smith said that if Heavenly Father or Satan forced us to do good or evil we would not have our agency. Then read the following account of a sermon given by Joseph Smith on 16 May 1841:

“He commenced his observations by remarking that the kindness of our Heavenly Father called for our heartfelt gratitude. He then observed that Satan was generally blamed for the evils which we did, but if he was the cause of all our wickedness, men could not be condemned. The devil could not compel mankind to do evil; all was voluntary. Those who resisted the Spirit of God, would be liable to be led into temptation, and then the association of heaven would be withdrawn from those who refused to be made partakers of such great glory. God would not exert any compulsory means, and the devil could not” (History of the Church, 4:358).

  • Why can’t Satan make us do things we do not wish to do?

  • Why won’t Heavenly Father force us to do things we do not want to do?

Emphasize that Satan cannot and God will not force us to do anything. Remind the young men that we should always remember that our test in life is to choose good over evil no matter what the circumstances. In fact, we should constantly seek good.

The Faithful Were Foreordained to Receive the Priesthood

Scripture and discussion

In a vision, Abraham saw many souls while they were yet in their first estate. Have a young man read Abraham 3:22–23.

  • What does it mean that Abraham was chosen before he was born? (He was foreordained, or appointed, to perform a mission on earth, which the Lord knew Abraham had the ability to do.)

  • What else can we learn from these verses? (Many other spirits were foreordained to be prophets and spiritual leaders.)

  • What is the relationship between agency and foreordination?

Help the young men understand that when a person is foreordained to a certain responsibility he is given the opportunity to serve God by living up to the standards that the Lord knows he is capable of living. The individual still has his agency and is free to choose whether he will be faithful and fulfill his foreordination.

Scripture and discussion

Have a young man read Alma 13:3.

  • Who receives the priesthood on earth?

Help the young men understand that ordination to the priesthood on earth comes to those who were called and prepared from the premortal life (foreordained according to God’s foreknowledge). Receiving the priesthood on earth comes as a result of our faithfulness and worthiness.

Testimony

Testify that Heavenly Father has known each Aaronic Priesthood holder for a long time. Each young man has been chosen by Heavenly Father to help him do his work. This includes going on a full-time mission and many other priesthood callings, the most important of which is to be a father and patriarch in the home.

Quotation

Read and discuss the following statement from the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. I suppose I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938], p. 365).

Conclusion

Challenge and testimony

Challenge the young men to fulfill their foreordination by staying faithful to their priesthood callings and by preparing for the Melchizedek Priesthood and other responsibilities.

Testify that the young men are not ordinary young men but rather sons of God foreordained to be priesthood bearers on earth. Explain that this does not mean Heavenly Father thinks they are better than his other children but that he is counting on them to be leaders and to help him save his other children. They have been chosen to lead out in righteousness and be responsible for spreading the gospel. How tragic it would be if they let anything get in the way of fulfilling their foreordained responsibilities.

Quotation

Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone compared our lives to a race. Read the following:

“The average runner runs until the breath in him is gone,
But the champion has the iron will that makes him carry on.
For rest the average runner begs when limp his muscles grow,
But the champion runs on leaden legs, his courage makes him go.
The average man’s complacent when he’s done his best to score,
But the champion does his best, and then does a little more.”

(“The Champion,” quoted in A Generation of Excellence [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1975], p. 52.)

Challenge

Express your confidence in the young men, and tell them that you know they were valiant and chosen before they came to earth. Challenge them to be valiant here as well and to make up their minds to seek the Spirit and let nothing interfere with achieving their divine destinies.