(3) Talmage: Agency

Jesus The Christ – Study Guide

(3) Agency

In the Premortal Existence (PME) “the entire human race existed as spirit being…they were endowed with the powers of agency…” (p. 17). If we treat agency as the power to act righteously with the ability to make choices, it adds to the richness of the construct.PME

Elder Talmage explains that God’s omnipotence relates to agency and also provides an answer to the underlying question of how we are able to exercise agency despite His omniscience. He permits us the ability to make choices without infringing upon our desire to act righteously. However, when we choose sin over His commandments we no longer engage in agency. Instead we stray from the strait and narrow and His Spirit is withheld.

A Missionary Paradigm: Using Agency in the Process

The concept of conducting member missionary work usually instills feelings of guilt and fear into members of the church. The traditional approaches to missionary work are:

  • Invite your friends over to dinner and conveniently have missionaries show up.
  • Give the missionaries the names and contact information of your friends and let the missionaries contact them sometimes surprising them.
  • Ask people you know if they have heard about the church and if they want to know more.

Go carts & governors

When I was a young boy my friend had a go-cart his dad fixed up for him. He explained that his dad had put a governor on the throttle so he wouldn’t go too fast. To my 9-year old mind that was foolishness. Why have a machine that can give you all these great thrills and then bridle it. I told my friend that was stupid. In reply he summed up the situation like an adult, “he doesn’t want me to get hurt.”

Every Soul is Free

The hymn Elder Hales quotes in his talk summarizes my thoughts in this manner:

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. (Hymn no. 240)


God gave us the freedom to choose which side we’ll take in the pre-mortal existence. Once we made the choice, we became moral agents unto Him and His law. Furthermore, he teaches us that each person born should be free to act upon their covenant and that action will determine their agency.

2 Definitions of Agency

Prior to Elder Hales talk, I understood freedom of choice as a requisite step to obtain the power to act righteously. In this way, choice and agency are connected. The freedom comes from God, however, when government removes the freedom of choice, the ability to act righteously is also at risk.

Since Elder Hales has chosen to insert freedom of choice into the definition, it seems logical to separate the two as follows:

  1. Agency as a basic tenet of our mortal probation
  2. Agency as an exalting power


Elder Hales expands the definition

In order for agency to be free, there cannot be consequences imposed by nature or by Nature’s Law. Nature’s law, as I understand it, is one and the same with God. Since God has become the law, He is no longer subjected to the law because He can act in no other way except righteousness. He has lost the ability to sin or to act capriciously. Therefore, God is the law.

For many years I have held to a strict definition of agency as: The power to act righteously. In a recent talk Elder Hales explained he could not find the definition of agency in the dictionary as we use it in the church. He then expounded the definition of agency to include freedom of choice.

The Definition of Agency

The Definition of Agency

Within the unique language that is mormon-ese, the term agency carries multiple definitions.  Using the article “The Power and Gift of Agency” as a precursor, the pure definition of agency is:

The power to act righteously.

Within the doctrine of agency comes the most common belief that agency is the freedom of choice.  I have heard it taught very often during Gospel Doctrine, Priesthood, various Sunday school classes, in Young Men’s and Young Women’s lessons, and from the pulpit.