This is the third in our five-part series titled "Mormonism, Agency, and Politics." In the first post we discussed the importance of agency in Mormon doctrine. In the second we addressed Satan's strategy of limiting our agency. In the third, we addressed the view that agency can be restricted simply by restricting freedom. In the fourth, we will examine the idea that agency can be restricted by removing differences between good and evil and explore its political implications.
As we discussed previously, one popular view of agency is that it can be decreased any time freedom is restricted. As Mormon liberals, we are frequently presented with the argument that a particular government intervention is bad because it limits our agency. This is most frequently repeated when dealing with taxes: "if I want to help the poor, let me exercise my agency and do it. Don't force me to be charitable, because that's Satan's plan." While we obviously don't appreciate being told that our political ideals are the spawn of the devil, we also disagree for doctrinal reasons.
In the view that restricting freedom also restricts agency, anything that decreases an individual's freedom gives Satan a victory. God clearly wants us to have agency, and if agency is this easy to limit then Satan will win quite a bit. Let's walk through a few examples of how this view of agency plays out in some real life situations:
Government asks for certain % of money, throws you in jail of you don't pay. Taxes = Satan wins
Government imposes environmental regulations, take your money if you don't play along. EPA = Satan wins
Government restricts certain types of firearms. Gun laws = Satan wins
Government steps in and tell you how fast you can drive. Speed limits = Satan wins
Government makes a law saying you can't take a candybar. Ban on shoplifting = Satan wins
Government bans and jails users of certain chemicals. Drug criminalization = Satan wins
Parent doesn't allow you to play with your friends tonight. Satan wins
Church won't let you into temple if you don't pay your tithing. Satan wins
Obviously we don't endorse this view of agency. Something as important to our eternal progression as agency cannot be limited or infringed simply by restricting freedoms. A straightjacket does not remove moral agency. Scriptures and church leaders teach that agency is not just simple freedom. In our next post, we will explore the political implications of the alternative view, which is that agency can only be decreased if the barrier separating good from evil is removed.
Part 1: The Importance of Agency
Part 2: Restricting Agency
Part 5: Freedom vs. Agency