There's a concept in Mormonism
that deserves to be expounded on, as it is essential to the salvation of every person. It is a gift that each person who has ever existed has been endowed with at birth. Given to us by God, it is our's to keep, and we decide how we'll use it. It's called "agency". Agency is a similar concept to "free will", but with a subtle difference. Free will denotes the fact that we as people have the right to do whatever we choose. Agency on the other hand, refers to our very ability to choose.
We practice agency in every choice that we make. Not every choice is a big one, but we have the ability to choose, resist, embrace, or act upon any external influence, and that in itself is amazing.
It doesn't just apply to Mormonism; its an all-encompassing principle that touches everyone. In the tests and trials of life, agency
is the most valuable measuring stick with which we can be judged. If you think about it, without the ability to choose for oneself, a test would be meaningless. We would would all pass with flying colors, but none of us would grow. We would remain stagnant beings, choosing right because that is what we were forced to do, not because we actually were righteous. It would be like taking a child through school and giving them all the answers along the way, all the way through med-school and then asking them to perform brain surgery. What was the point in testing if you knew the outcome?
It is therefore of the utmost importance that we are able to choose for ourselves how we will act. An important thing to remember is that, although we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences. It is within our capability to choose evil, but we do not get to choose what happens to us because of that evil. Others can use their agency, and their choices more often than not, effect us, and our's them. Such is the way of this test we call life. Even if some outside force, be it the choice of another, or pure chance, effects us for the worse, we still have the choice of how we will move forward. We can react, build, adapt, create, improve, and much more. It ultimately boils down to choice between two masters and two paths; God, Jesus Christ, and all that is good, or Satan and all that is evil. This is our choice, this is everyone's choice. And I feel privileged to be able to make it.
For a similar article on agency, read this post
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an "open canon" of scripture. This means that the LDS Church teaches that God's revelation of divine principles to mankind did not end with the conclusion of the Holy Bible. It is a fundamental belief in Mormonism
that God has not shut the door on mankind, that the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth, and that God speaks to us today through the mouths of His prophets and through personal revelation in answer to prayer.
Officially, there are four books which the LDS Church has declared "canon". Together, these books of scripture constitute the "Standard Works". Here they are in no particular order.
Newel K. Whitney (left) is an extremely important figure in the history of Mormonism
. While somewhat obscure, many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are familiar with story of his first encounter with Joseph Smith, in which the Prophet famously said, "Newel K. Whitney, thou art the man." But a story like this one needs a little background.
Born in 1795, a full ten years before Joseph Smith Jr., the first Prophet of the Church, Newel Whitney grew up in Vermont, but as an adult would move to Kirtland, Ohio and open a general store having some success in business.
In the late 1820's, Newel and his wife, Elizabeth Ann Whitney were on a spiritual journey of sorts. They were looking for a church to join, and for a while were active in the Campbellite
movement, though eventually returned to their search. In late 1830, just months after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had officially been founded, the Whitneys were visited by the missionaries, who brought with them a copy of the Book of Mormon
. Elizabeth Whitney heard the missionaries' message first, and was deeply moved, getting baptized into the Church November of that year. Newel still wasn't convinced though, and continued to pray for an answer.
In February of 1831, Joseph Smith himself journeyed to Kirtland, Ohio and showed up unannounced to Newel K. Whitney's store. Joseph marched right up to Newel and proclaimed, "Newel K. Whitney, thou art the man!"
Whitney had never seen Smith in his life, and didn't know what the Prophet was talking about, or how he knew his name. Smith explained, "I am Joseph the Prophet. You prayed me here; now what do you want of me?" This was exactly the witness that Whitney needed.
Soon Newel K. Whitney would join the Church, and in time became one of the greatest leaders in the history of Mormonism. When he died in 1850, he was the Presiding Bishop of the Church. He left a great legacy, and one that continues to today. His family and descendants shared his trait of hard work and faith, and continue to bless the world through their service.
Technically, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism
) has been in my family for several generations. I grew up in a family of people who grew up in the Church. It has always been in my life. I imagine this is true of many different people in many different religions; Their faith is in their blood, a hereditary trait almost.
While the above scenario describes myself and many others, it is not true of everyone in my religion. Many among our number were born into other churches or belief-systems, worshiping in other ways, and following different rules. For a myriad of reasons, these people took their own spiritual journeys, and found for themselves something the rest of us grew up with.
While I am ever grateful for my upbringing in the beautiful Gospel of Jesus Christ, I have always had a certain respect for converts, those who sought for the truth, and found something wonderful that I was practically handed. They had to work for it, and they might have had to overcome obstacles and baggage along the way that I was never burdened with. I always joy in hearing their stories, who they used be, or what they had to face on the road to Christ. I look up to these people for their hard work, and their faith.
It got me thinking about my own story. Though I was very thankful for the generous blessings that have been bestowed on me, I couldn't help but feel a little bit jealous of converts. These are men and women who worked for something I sometimes take for granted. The Gospel of Christ
really means something to them, because they know what it's like without it. When I think about it, my logic is all backward. It's like a man who's inherited great riches that envies a once-poor man who worked hard and became rich by the sweat of his own brow.
I had it all wrong though. I am still on a road to Christ, and so are those people I envied. I was mistakenly viewing conversion as a destination, a one-time event. I have come to realize, however, that conversion is not a stop along the road, but the road itself. I had thought of myself as a man who was born at the destination. I liked where I was, but felt a little robbed of the journey that others got to take. But that was not the case at all. It was more like I had been born at the trailhead, in the company of men and women who know the the road, and can give me directions when I need them. I have companions to share the adventure with, and protectors to keep me safe from the perils of the journey. Others may have had to search for the path, and as I've met them on the road, I've welcomed them into my convoy excited to learn about my new fellow traveler.
We are all travelers on the road of conversion. This road leads to Jesus Christ. It is a bumpy road, and not always the easiest road, and we might occasionally try alternate routes. But this long, bumpy road is the only one that leads to true happiness. Other roads may offer a more comfortable journey in the short-term, but they lead nowhere. Why sell an eternity at a wonderful destination at the end of a winding mountain road for a fleeting detour down Easy Street, a wide, smooth freeway that offers nothing but a dead-end in a bad neighborhood?
In this sense, I am a convert to Mormonism, a convert to the gospel of Jesus Christ and His teachings. I may have had certain advantages on my journey, but I, along with everyone else, must take the journey all the same. I look forward to seeing you on the road.
Unless you live in a nation that outlaws proselytism, you probably have at one point in your life, had some sort of contact with one of the Mormon missionaries. Maybe you've seen them handing out copies of the Book of Mormon on the street. Perhaps you've seen them on their bikes, on the way to some appointment. Maybe they've even knocked on your door.
Though they may know of
them, people might not always know a whole lot about
these these missionaries who spread Mormonism
throughout the world.