Agency is the ability God gives people to choose for themselves. This makes each person responsible for the decisions he or she makes. Agency is one of God's greatest gifts to His children. Rather than force us to obey Him, the Lord offers us choices and lets us decide on our own.
God has allowed the agency of man since before the Earth was created. As spirits in the pre-mortal world, we had the opportunity to choose to follow Christ. When the Lord placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He gave them their agency and provided for them opposing choices to allow them to use it. Many men and women since the beginning of mortal time have used their agency unwisely, limiting their own progress and their opportunity to receive light and knowledge. Beginning with Cain, some have used their agency to inflict harm, abuse, tyranny, slavery, or death upon others, contrary to the will and commandments of God.
That God allows these actions does not mean that He condones them. He allows them because agency is an eternal principle. He has provided the way through the atonement of Jesus Christ whereby men and women can repent of their wrongful acts of commission or of omission, and come back onto the path to further light and knowledge through making right choices. The atonement of Christ and the plan of compassion among men also provides a way whereby those who have been harmed by the sinful actions of others may be healed in a spiritual sense, although this may take great patience and long-suffering, and often requires the help of others.
Satan, the great deceiver, sought during pre-mortal life to destroy the agency of man. (See Moses 4:3) He continues to seek to enslave men, women and children in whatever ways that he can in this world, to "lead them captive at his will." (Moses 4:4) Whatever leads in this world to enslavement, addiction, or forced behavior is ultimately promulgated by Satan. God allows these conditions because of the agency He has given to man, but He expects men to overcome evil by doing good. He holds men and women responsible and accountable in relation to the light and knowledge they have. Every person born into the world is given the light of Christ, a conscience, to guide them in choosing good from evil.
God's plan includes the foreordination of prophets and teachers who have gifts and callings among men to teach and re-teach correct principles, so that agency can be used wisely. (See Jeremiah 1:5) God's plan includes the important role of parents to teach their children the path of righteousness and happiness. (See Deuteronomy 6:7) God's plan provides the blessing of the holy scriptures to give a foundation of gospel knowledge, including the knowledge of the saving role of Jesus Christ and the importance of the ordinances and covenants of the gospel.
Whenever gospel knowledge has been lost or limited among portions of mankind, this has come about because of the unrighteousness of the people and their leaders. The Great Apostasy occurred in this way. However, man can use his agency to call upon God. The Lord answers when His children approach Him. The restoration of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ came about when Joseph Smith exercised his agency, asking God in humble prayer which church was right. Men and women may use their agency today to ask God in faith to guide their lives. As they do this, they and their families will be blessed.
Family and societal relationships train us to use and to allow agency. Unrighteous dominion is never acceptable to God. Selfishness and contention come from the adversary.
Agency and Governments
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught:
"1 We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.
2 We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.
3 We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign.
4 We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul."
"We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied."
"We believe that men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances, where personal abuse is inflicted or the right of property or character infringed, where such laws exist as will protect the same; but we believe that all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends, and property, and the government, from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency, where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded."
Same Sex Marriage, Agency, and Government Role in Protecting Children
Mormon Church leaders support efforts of many Christian organizations to oppose definitions in laws that would allow the recognition of same sex marriages. There are many reasons for this very clear viewpoint. Among these reasons, the following may be surmised relative to agency and governments:
1. One of the many roles of government is to protect the rights of children, including the unborn. Gender identity is a fundamental right that each child should have, including the right to have parents who provide a clear example of gender identity. Example is a God-given role of parents. It is also a role that governments should foster, not confuse. Since marriage laws imply that children will become a part of a family that is created by that marriage, such laws should support gender identity for the sake of the children within that marriage.
2. Another role of government is to act with moral authority based on true principles, so that the society that it governs does not ascribe the government's role as being capricious. To the extent that a government creates laws that contravene divinely revealed truths that are inspired by God to promote the long-term happiness of mankind, such government moves toward having capricious authority rather than moral authority, and this weakens the body politic as relates to trusting and following the laws.
Elder Russell M. Nelson stated the Church's position supporting a constitutional amendment in the following statement on June 5, 2006 in Washington, D.C.:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is pleased to be represented in this significant cause. While those of us here today represent a broad spectrum of religious diversity, we are firmly united in our declaration that marriage of a man and a woman is ordained of God. The sanctity of marriage and family constitutes the spiritual undergirding of lasting and successful societies.
Together we share a duty to preserve marriage and family as established by God. The time has now come when a constitutional amendment is needed in this country to protect our divine inheritance. Such action does not reduce our regard for individuals who choose to live by other standards. But it confirms our conviction that marriage is the foundry for social order, the fountain of virtue and the foundation for eternal exaltation.