I Choose the Good, But Not Because God Wants Me To

It's important to be able to recognize and choose the good.  While it's okay to choose good because God wants us to, ultimately, we can't aim to please God or anyone else with our choices.  We've got to become able to choose good simply because we want to.

One of my two favorite musical groups is Rush. Why they are not in the rock and roll hall of fame yet, I'll never know. Nearly every one of their songs is a sermon.  On of the best of their sermons is entitled "Free Will".  Part of it goes like this:
You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill;
I will choose a path that's clear
I will choose freewill.
For sure, God, the "celestial voice," wants us to use our free will to choose good. But if we choose good because he wants us to, we're not completely using our free will, or what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints calls our "agency".

Heber C Kimball, an apostle in the LDS Church, taught:
The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand?

For a time it's okay for us to rely on the testimonies of our parents and church leaders as to the truthfulness of the LDS Church and gospel. But if that's all we ever do, we'll never reach our full potential.

LDS Church president John Taylor once said that "As man is God once was. As God is, man may become."

Joseph Smith taught this doctrine in greater detail:
[God] was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did... Here, then, is eternal life: to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, the same as all Gods have done before you-namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace...

To become Gods ourselves, we can't choose the good simply because God wants us to. We have to choose it because the potential God within us wants to. That's why I choose free will.


  1. But if we choose good because he wants us to, we're not completely using our free will

    I'm not sure this is true. We are using our free will in making that choice. We are willingly submitting to the Father's will, as Christ repeatedly said He did while on the earth.

    Neal A. Maxwell said, "Only by aligning our wills with God’s is full happiness to be found. Anything less results in a lesser portion. ... So many of us are kept from eventual consecration because we mistakenly think that, somehow, by letting our will be swallowed up in the will of God, we lose our individuality."

    He continued:

    "The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give! Consecration thus constitutes the only unconditional surrender which is also a total victory!"

    Of course, we have to submit because we want to submit, because, Mormon says, if we give a gift grudgingly, it is the same as if we never gave at all. However, making the choice to submit to the will of the Father, because we desire to do His will, is fully using our agency, and in the highest degree possible. It is choosing, as an act of free will, to turn over to God the only thing that is really ours to begin with.

    If the Savior Himself, who is God made flesh, submitted in all things to the will of the Father, so can and should we. The goal is not to stand independent of God, but to recognize and acknowledge our complete dependence on Him. If we are ever to stand independent of God (as an adult is independent of his or her parents), it won't be in this life, nor should we strive for it.

  2. I think this is absolutely true. I think the whole point of the Gospel, the entire thing God is trying to teach us, is to train ourselves to *want* to be good. Through the process of following the example and precepts of Christ, we undergo the (albeit slow) process of reprogramming our soul to want what is good.


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