Agency and Self-Reliance - Elder Van Reenen

Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saint praying

What in life is really free?

We often talk of a free gift or an item that we do not have to pay for. But the question must be asked; 'Is it really free?'.

Let us take a closer look at this question.

When we purchase an item at a price, the seller sometimes gives another free item that comes with the purchase. In simple economic terms the free item came at no extra charge to the buyer, but in reality, the free item did come at a cost. The expense of the free item was not realized by the receiver, because the cost was covered by the giver.

In order for the purchaser to receive the free item, there had to be a purchase made which indicated an intention to buy, and so a transaction took place.

Another example is when the giver offers a free item to the receiver, like a free product or some novel item. In this case, there is still a cost, but now also with an expectation. The expectation, or hope, from the giver is that the receiver would return and enjoy more of what the giver has to offer, so an exchange has taken place.

In the gospel of Jesus Christ, we speak of free agency, which refers to the freedom of choice, or the right to choose. We are sometimes misled to believe that this gift of agency is free in every sense of the word, but in reality, this came at a very dear cost to the givers, our Father in Heaven and the Savior, Jesus Christ.

We also discover that the receivers had to make bold decisions to claim this gift. We do not remember what transpired in life before earth, but modern-day revelation helps us piece things together as we look to the scriptures for our answers. In Revelation 12, we read that there was a war in heaven, that there was a plan, and that we had to keep our first estate (Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 3) in order to come to earth to experience mortality. Many did not keep their first estate and were cast down with Satan. On closer inspection, we can see that there were massive decisions and sacrifices made to enjoy the blessings of mortality, the blessings of salvation, and potentially the blessings of eternal life.

Our freedom to choose and to come to earth came at the cost of our Savior, Jesus Christ who gave his life for us, and our Heavenly Father who offered his only begotten Son to die for us.

As Latter-day Saints, we know the cost of the restored gospel when Joseph Smith, and many others, paid with their lives for us to have this very precious gift.

The mission of the Savior is, “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.' (Moses 1:39)

We could say that he already accomplished the first part of his mission because all people born on earth will be immortal, we will all be resurrected and receive new bodies. Off course we know that this is only part of His mission, as he also wants us to enjoy eternal life.

We learn from Doctrine and Covenants 45:8-9 that the Savior gives eternal life, and that he has sent his everlasting covenant into the world to be a standard for all people. This doctrine will free sincere seekers of eternal life, from the lies and falsehoods of the world, free them from the enslaving notion of entitlement, free from the devastating thinking that someone else is responsible to give me things, when I should really work for it myself. The Savior, the giver of eternal life, has a different way, he teaches that, if I want eternal life, I should be self-reliant spiritually as well as temporally, I should work out my own salvation, I should be able to solve my own problems, I should work to move forward in life, I should educate myself, and learn of the perplexities of the nations (D&C88:79), I should reach out to others by lifting up the hands which hang down and strengthening the feeble knees, so they can also help themselves. (Mosiah18:8-10 & D&C81:5)

We should overcome the world and strive to become self-reliant, putting off the natural man and trusting in God. Our Heavenly Father want us to return to him, but we can only do so when we are self-reliant.

When we consider the Savior's mission we learn that because self-reliance is one of the requirements for eternal life, just like having charity, we can also read the scripture in Moses 1:39 as; bringing to pass the immortality and [self-reliance] of man, or bringing to pass the immortality and [charity] of man.

When we substitute the words 'eternal life' in this passage of scripture with the commandments we are to keep, we begin to see how vital it is for each of us to keep the commandments and honor our covenants if we want to inherit eternal life.

As a bishop, I remember some members struggling with self-reliance and the paying of tithes and offerings. They would often say that they cannot afford to pay tithing, I would simply reply that they cannot afford not to pay tithing.

Our Heavenly Father is self-reliant and wants us to enjoy the same blessing. To return to his presence and enjoy all the blessings of eternal life we need to become self-reliant. The atonement of the Savior makes it possible for us to put off the old and take upon us the new, to come out of the world and into his fold, to become more like he is and take his yoke upon us, because his yoke is easy and his burden is light. (Matt 11)

Brothers and Sisters as we follow the area plan, we follow a path that leads to happiness, helping us return to our Heavenly Father.

Following the area plan will focus our efforts on the priorities that will bring everlasting happiness, that will free us from the bondage of the things of this world. I testify of the reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that He lives and through the atonement of Jesus Christ we can return to our Father in Heaven.