“Our stand for freedom is a most basic part of our religion; this stand helped get us to this earth, and our reaction to freedom in this life will have eternal consequences. Man has many duties, but he has no excuse that can compensate for his loss of liberty.” (Ezra Taft Benson, General Conference Talk – October 1966. Protecting Freedom – Our Immediate Responsibility)
… we know from both ancient and modern revelation that Satan wished to deny us our independence and agency in that now forgotten moment long ago, even as he wishes to deny them this very hour. Indeed, Satan violently opposed the freedom of choice offered by the other, so violently that John in the Revelation described “war in heaven” over the matter. (Rev. 12:7) Satan would have coerced us, and he would have robbed us of that most precious of gifts if he could: our freedom to choose a divine future and the exaltation we all hope to obtain …
To fully understand this gift of agency and its inestimable worth, it is imperative that we understand that God’s chief way of acting is by persuasion and patience and long-suffering, not by coercion and stark confrontation… (Howard W. Hunter, That We Might Have Joy, pp. 77-78)
We have all been taught the doctrine of personal free agency and that no individual is ever compelled by force or other means to comply with divine edicts and philosophy. We have been informed that a long time ago in the pre-existence there was a rebellion in heaven, and because one notable character, who had been entrusted with great authority, rebelled and led many away with him, he had to be cast out of the kingdom. However we should remember that every principle and law existing in the celestial kingdom has been proved to be perfect through the eternities through which they have come. If any individual proves himself worthy for the exaltation in that kingdom, it will be by strict obedience to every principle and covenant here existing. Therefore we may be assured that every law and principle thereunto pertaining is perfect and cannot be amended or discarded because of it perfection. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 4, p. 69)
In things that pertain to celestial glory there can be no forced operations. We must do according as the Spirit of the Lord operates upon our understandings and feelings. We cannot be crowded into matters, however great might be the blessing attending such procedure. We cannot be forced into living a celestial law; we must do this ourselves, of our own free will. And whatever we do in regard to the principle of the United Order, we must do it because we desire to do it …The United Order is not French Communism. (Lorenzo Snow, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 19, p. 346, 349-350)
You may wish to know why I make these remarks. I will tell you. Because God himself grants this right to every human being upon the earth irrespective of race or color; it is part of the divine economy not to force any man to heaven, not to coerce the mind but to leave it free to act for itself.He lays before His creature man the everlasting Gospel, the principles of life and salvation, and then leaves him to choose for himself or to reject for himself, with the definite understanding that he becomes responsible to Him for the results of his acts. (Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 23, p. 77)
“…Even in man’s pre-existent state, Satan sought power to compel the human family to do his will by suggesting that the free agency of man be inoperative. If his plan had been accepted, human beings would have become mere puppets in the hands of a dictator, and the purpose of man’s coming to earth would have been frustrated. Satan’s proposed system of government, therefore, was rejected, and the principle of free agency established in its place…. Any form of government that destroys or undermines the free exercise of free agency is wrong.”
We are product of neither nature nor nurture; we are a product of choice, because there is always a space between stimulus and response. As we wisely exercise our power to choose based on principles, the space will become larger.
"No temptation, no pressure, no enticing can overcome us unless we allow such. If we make the wrong choice, we have no one to blame but ourselves. President Brigham Young once expressed this truth by relating it to himself. Said he: “If Brother Brigham shall take a wrong track, and be shut out of the Kingdom of heaven, no person will be to blame but Brother Brigham. I am the only being in heaven, earth, or hell, that can be blamed.” He continued: “This will equally apply to every Latter-day Saint. Salvation is an individual operation."
"Personal unrighteousness can lead toward a welfare state. What is the real
cause of this trend toward the welfare state, toward more socialism? In the
last analysis, in my judgment, it is personal unrighteousness. When people
do not use their freedoms responsibly and righteously, they will gradually
lose these freedoms. If man will not recognize the inequalities around him
and voluntarily, through the gospel plan, come to the aid of his brother, he
will find that through "a democratic process" he will be forced to come to
the aid of his brother. The government will take from the "haves" and give
to the "have nots." Both have lost their freedom. Those who "have," lost
their freedom to give voluntarily of their own free will and in the way they
desire. Those who "have not," lost their freedom because they did not earn
what they received. They got "something for nothing," and they will neither
appreciate the gift nor the giver of the gift. Under this climate, people
gradually become blind to what has happened and to the vital freedoms which
they have lost."
Be careful about your choice of friends. In today’s technological society, we may spend more time with nonhuman companions than we do with our peers. While we may be very careful about our human companions, sometimes we give little thought to the other companions that we allow to influence us. Media of any kind can be a very powerful social influencer. We have all been given three precious gifts for our mortal experience. These include our body, our agency, and our time. If Satan can entice us to use our time in unfocused or unproductive or, even worse, nonvirtuous pursuits and then deceive us into believing that if we do this in private our actions don’t affect anyone, he is victorious. “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we [must] seek after these things” (Articles of Faith 1:13).
Seek the companionship of virtuous friends, not virtual friends. Remember, “virtue loveth virtue [and] light cleaveth unto light” (D&C 88:40). This is a relationship scripture. In your pursuit of friendships and an eternal marriage partner, you cannot just make a list of all the qualities you are looking for in another or in an eternal companion. You must be your list at all times and in all things and in all places.