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Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Song of the Righteous: Part 7

Now in the last few "Song[s] of the Righteous", hymn 7 on the list is #240, Know This, That Every Soul is Free.

"Know this, that ev'ry soul is free to choose his life and what he'll be;
For this eternal truth is giv'n: that God will force no man to heav'n.

He'll call, persuade, direct aright, and bless with wisdom, love, and light,
In nameless ways be good and kind, but never force the human mind.

Freedom and reason make us men; take these away, what are we then?
Mere animals, and just as well the beasts may think of heav'n or hell.

May we no more our pow'rs abuse, but ways of truth and goodness choose;
Our God is pleased when we improve His grace and seek his perfect love."

Though this one is relatively short, it is packed with wonderful messages about the second of two forces that make God's plan possible.  The first is the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the next is our Agency, our ability to choose.

This concept goes all the way back to the reason I began blogging in the first place.  I gave a talk on agency in church, I think... 4? 5 years ago? Preparing my comments changed my perspective completely on the importance of agency in relation to the Atonement of Christ and helped me want to be like Christ enough that preparing that talk wasn't enough.  I had to do more.  Since I can't give a talk in sacrament meeting whenever I want, I thought I would just write about my thoughts elsewhere and just share them with the world.  Doing so has been such a huge help to me and I hope to my readers.

The most profound thing to me about agency is that it is the gift that will either damn us or, because of Christ, save us.  Not even God in all His mighty power can intervene with that.  As the hymns says "God will force no man to heav[e]n."  Instead He "call[s out to us], persuade[s us], and direct[s us] aright, ... bless[es us] with wisdom, love and light."  In other words, He follows the very word He gave us in Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-43, to lead by "persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge,"

Choice is part of what makes us children of God.  He entrusted us with the same ability that makes Him God, the power to choose.  Of course, the reason it makes Him God is because He uses that ability perfectly, but, it's value is still incalculable.  "Freedom and reason make us men; take these away, what are we then? Mere animals..."  We humans are the race of God and in order for us to become like Him (note that "become" is a verb) we must choose so and coupled with the Savior's power, granted us because of His atonement, we can!

But only if we learn to use it perfectly, like He does. "May we no more our pow[e]rs abuse, but ways of truth a goodness choose."  Citing Cecil B. De Mille, "[God] did not create man and then, as an afterthought, impose upon him a set of arbitrary, irritating, restrictive rules.  He made man free and then gave him the commandments to keep him free.  We cannot break the Ten Commandments.  We can only break ourselves against them or else, by keeping them, rise through them to the fullness of freedom under God."

Do you know why God called Christ His "Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased"?  Well, of course there are many reasons why, but one of them for sure is that He was totally obedient to His Father.  There is a part of the missionary manual Preach My Gospel where a story is told by one missionary of a man who had "hemmed and hawed" about baptism, delaying it as much as possible for fear of what everyone else would think of him.  Eventually the missionaries read the account of the Savior's visit to the Americas as the resurrected Lord in 3 Nephi, where the Father uses that phrase, "well pleased".  According the the manual, conversation was as follows. "...he looked up at me and said 'Heavenly Father was really proud of His Son, wasn't He?' 'Yes,' I said. [The man] looked back at his book again and stared at the open pages as if in deep thought.  Finally he said, 'I would want Heavenly Father to be proud of me too.  I wonder how He would introduce me.  I guess, if I ... well, if I want Him to be proud of me then I had better do what He wants me to do.' 'Yes, I think that would be important,' I replied. 'Well', [the man] continued. 'I think I've been worrying too much about what everybody else thinks and not enough about what God thinks.'  After a brief pause [the man] nodded and with a determined look said, 'I think I had better be baptized.'"

No wonder the hymn ends with "Our God is pleased when we improve His grace and seek his perfect love."  He is pleased when we use our agency correctly because it brings us closer to the happiness that He enjoys.  Using agency the way God asks us to is the best way to happiness, no matter what anyone else says.