Interestingly, Lehi chose to focus his words to Jacob on a subject that might seem a little odd – until you consider the challenges Jacob encountered with his older brothers, Laman and Lemuel. Though not stated explicitly, it is most likely true that the older brothers had little or no tolerance for the righteous young Jacob. And as was the case with Nephi, it would not surprise me to find that Jacob was concerned for the older boys and their salvation. Thus, Lehi chose to speak and teach his son, Jacob, the doctrine and principles that help us understand AGENCY.
Agency or the ability to choose is a God-given right, essential to the work of the Father. He has promised that each of His children will always be allowed to make the choices they want, no matter what!!
BUT!!! He also promised that each choice would be attached to a consequence that must be received with the action of choosing. We can’t have one without taking on the other.
There are four parts to having real agency in mortality. Someone, much smarter than I, has created and acronym to help us remember what it takes to be able to exercise agency. It’s simple but has helped me keep things straight.
1. Power to choose – in order to HAVE choices, there must BE choices. Lehi taught it this way:
Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other. (2 Nephi 2:16)
In other words, if there is no second choice, there is really no power to choose.
2. Opposition – choosing good from evil requires that there must be two things to choose and one of the must be better than the other.
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not… righteousness could not be brought to pass… (2 Nephi 2:11)
3. Law – the only way to know right from wrong is to have law that defines each side. God has given us laws that designate which choices we make in life are right and which are wrong. He does not force us to choose, but he expects us to know and follow His law.
And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness… (2 Nephi 2:13)
4. Knowledge of good and evil – with the law, we are able to make choices between good and evil – whether we want to follow Christ or not.
And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. (2 Nephi 2:5)
5. Agency exists – when all the conditions are met (power to choose, opposition, law, and knowledge of good and evil) then we have agency. If any part of this is missing, we are stunted in our growth.
Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. (2 Nephi 2:27)
Jacob needed to know this so he would understand why Laman and Lemuel turned out so different from the rest of Lehi’s children. He grew up with the example of what good and bad choices could do to an individual and Lehi wanted him to remember how to live.
Remember the acronym and remember why we can choose!!
P.O.L.K.A – the dance will never be the same.
P.S. The whole of 2 Nephi 2 is very enlightening if you want to spend some time pondering.