Free Agency vs. Moral Agency

Mormons tend to have a very robust, though unsophisticated, belief in free will.  Most will refer to this free will as free agency.  This term agency seems to add an element of accountability to God for the choices that are made, while maintaining the freedom of the will.

There has been something of a subtle movement within the church to change the phrase ‘free agency’ to ‘moral agency’.  A few of the local members in my home ward are quite fond of pointing this out every time anyone mentions free agency in a lesson discussion.  They feel the need to correct some error on the part of the individual who uses the more common term free agency.  These good folks will point out that the phrase ‘free agency’ is not a scriptural phrase (although they never mention that the phrase ‘moral agency’ isn’t scriptural either). – [Update:  D&C 101:78 does use ‘moral agency’.  I was wrong.]

But these few local members are not the only one’s getting into the act.  A search on the phrase ‘moral agency’ at will bring up several recent conference talks.  It does appear that some church leaders are beginning to prefer the term ‘moral’ to ‘free’ when describing our agency.  Why should this be, and what is at stake?

There is a long history of philosophical and religious debate regarding free will.  There is a pretty good wikipedia entry that seems to be a good introduction to the basics of this debate.   I think it would do us well to be somewhat familiar with this history without getting bogged down by it.  This will help us know what is at stake when considering the terms ‘free’ and ‘moral’ with regards to agency.

It is my opinion that the term ‘free’ will push us toward being in the same camp with those who believe in Libertarian Free Will.  These people will reject determinism altogether, and maintain that our futures will have some aspects that are truly open, and that all the philosophers, scientists, and even God himself, will not be able to perfectly predict or perfectly know every detail of our eternal future.

It seems that the term ‘moral’ would eventually push us toward the camp of the compatibilists.  These people may accept determinism, yet maintain accountability for individual behavior since there is a lack of coercion on the part of God.   Thus even if we are not free in the libertarian sense, we can still be held accountable.

Those who forward the phrase ‘moral agency’ will justify this by expressing the need to emphasize the accountability aspect of our agency.  Personally, I do not feel that this emphasis is necessary within Mormonism.  Mormonism takes a strong stand on personal choice, behavior, and keeping the commandments.  The concept of the degrees of glory also force something of a merit judged level of salvation. 

Additionally, I think the term ‘moral’ could place us on the wrong side of the debate over free will.  Emphasizing accountability at the expense of emphasizing the freedom of the will could give ourselves and others the impression that we are compatibilists rather that libertarian free willers.

I feel that the term ‘moral agency’ brings with it an unnecessary emphasis on accountability and an unfortunate implication that we are compatibilists.  For these reasons I prefer the term ‘free agency’ to ‘moral agency’.

41 Responses to “Free Agency vs. Moral Agency”

  1. 1 J. Stapley July 16, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Actually, “moral agency” is a term championed by Elder Packer and various folks in CES. Not to be crass, but after he passes away, I suspect that the term will fairly quickly (a decade or so) disappear.

  2. 2 Eric Nielson July 16, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Thanks J.

    Are you aware of anyone who has looked at the history of the terms we use for agency?

    I hope you are right about the term dying out, I do think free agency is the superior term. I would actually prefer just plain ‘agency’.

  3. 3 Eric Russell July 16, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Eric, I disagree that the term moral agency inclines one towards compatibilism and I still don’t understand why that would be so.

    In any case, I think the word shift has nothing to do with LFW/compatibilism. I think the problem is that too many members of the church don’t understand agency at all. Right leaning folks start talking about freedom from the government and left leaning people start talking about freedom from church rules and regulations. It’s all nonsense, but even smart people sometimes have a hard time grasping what agency means if this is the framework they understand it in.

    I tend to think the term moral agency does a slightly better job of conveying the actual concept of agency and, as such, brings people closer to the concept of LFW if anything.

  4. 4 Eric Nielson July 16, 2010 at 11:28 am


    I may be making to much, and reading to much into this.

    I think were I am coming from is the change in terms. If we relied on the term ‘free agency’ for so long, and then change it to ‘moral agency’, it is clearly deemphasizing the ‘free’ and reemphasizing ‘moral [accountability]’. This seems to me to potentially trend from LFW to compatibilism. I don’t think Mormonism will allow it to get there, but I think it is an unnecessary diversion even if temporary.

    I agree that much of common Mormon thought on this is nonsence (including my own).

    I do feel we disagree in the tragectory of such a change. I do not quite see how deemphasizing ‘free’ and emphasizing ‘moral’ would lead to LFW instead of compatibilism.

  5. 5 Last Lemming July 16, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Mormons tend to use the term “free agency” when they mean “free will” and then end up conflating the concepts in their minds (which leads to the aforementioned nonsense). I think “moral agency” is the better term because it forces people to recognize that it is not the same thing as free will. But then I reject LFW, so feel free to ignore my opinion.

    Another point is that “free agency” has a distinct meaning outside the Church. It is what LeBron James just gave up by signing with the Miami Heat. And, one can argue, we similarly gave up our free agency (but not our free will or our moral agency) when we were baptized. So the term is simply inaccurate as applied to Church members.

  6. 6 Eric Nielson July 16, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    I am one who want to equate fre will and free agency. But then I am a LFWer.

    I like your sports spin. I had not thought of that aspect before. Very interesting.

  7. 7 Paul July 16, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Interesting. Until reading your post, I would not have assumed that free agency (what I refer to simply as “agency”) and moral agency are the same, nor that they are used interchangeably. And if they are not, then your ward members are just wrong.

  8. 8 SilverRain July 16, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    I use just “agency”. Why add an adjective?

  9. 9 Eric Nielson July 16, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Paul: In religious contexts at least, I usually use them interchangeably. What would you see as the difference?


    Unless we are willing to commit to either free will or compatibilism, that is probably the most wise way to go.

  10. 10 Paul July 16, 2010 at 2:52 pm


    I’m pretty simple. Agency is described at

    Agency is the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and to act for ourselves. Agency is essential in the plan of salvation. Without it, we would not be able to learn or progress or follow the Savior. With it, we are “free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil” (2 Nephi 2:27).

    To me, agency is the ability to choose. It does not denote or connote a particular choice; the choice may be a good one or a bad one, but it is mine to make (and the consequences are mine to take).

    I had assumed that “moral agency” suggested either agency limited to moral questions (of right and wrong) or implied that there was a right answer to those questions. Alternatively, I might have assumed that “moral agency” is offered as an alternative to “free agency,” which some might think suggests that we are free of consequences from our choices.

    That said, you’ve spurred me to to do ten minutes of research. It appears that 1990 was the earliest conference I could find that uses “moral agency” — Elders Packer, Nelson and Faust all used the phrase.

    And Elder Christopherson’s quote from last year’s Ensign provides the fodder for the “not in the scriptures” comment of your ward members:

    “In years past we generally used the term free agency. That is not incorrect. More recently we have taken note that free agency does not appear in the scriptures. They talk of our being “free to choose” and “free to act” for ourselves (2 Nephi 2:27; 10:23; see also Helaman 14:30) and of our obligation to do many things of our own “free will” (D&C 58:27). But the word agency appears either by itself or with the modifier moral: “That every man may act in doctrine and principle … according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment” (D&C 101:78; emphasis added). When we use the term moral agency, we are appropriately emphasizing the accountability that is an essential part of the divine gift of agency. We are moral beings and agents unto ourselves, free to choose but also responsible for our choices” (“Moral Agency,” ENSIGN, June 2009, pp. 45-53, from a BYU devotional delivered January 2006).

    That said, Elder C. also says it’s not wrong to use the phrase “free agency,” either.

    And, for the reasons you cite in the OP, I prefer the simpler, “agency.”

  11. 11 Eric Nielson July 16, 2010 at 3:27 pm


    Well done. I had skimmed Elder C’s talk, I should have read closer. I had not realized the D&C 101 verse used ‘moral agency’. Thanks for the reference.

    I am still surprised that some feel a need to emphasize accountability within Mormonism. I would think that was something we do very well – even to well for the taste of some.

    It is my impression that in the big, long term, historical picture, it is the freedom of the will that is in serious doubt, and a fundamental question. Moral accountability is the question for those who deny the freedom of the will – both religiously and ethically.

    It is well and good that the church take a strong stand on moral accountability. But I think we also need to acknowledge that the freedom of the will – that phenomenon we call choice – is in serious doubt and denial amongst many philosophers and theologions. If we as a church are on the side of free will (which I think we are and should be) we should not lose that emphasis.

  12. 12 Eric Nielson July 16, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    From TTTF:


    Your Heavenly Father has given you agency, the ability
    to choose and to act for yourself.

    This is the first line from the entry. This to me seems to indicate and equivalence between agency and free will.

  13. 13 Paul July 16, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Yes, well at least you had skimmed the talk. Until you asked me your question, I don’t ever remember seeing it. (Must have exercised my agency poorly that month…)

    I agree with your emphasis on free. It is just as easy to teach accountability with either expression (as we have done for years), or with the simpler “agency.”

    That said, until events in my life realigned to teach me that others will make choices regardless of what I want them to do, I’m not sure I really grasped this principle, either. It is not so much that we have a right to agency as we simply are agents. And as agents we are accountable for what we choose.

    I am not of the camp that suggests “free agency” translates into, for instance, less government in my life or fewer commandments at church. What it really means is that despite what the government does, or despite the number of commandments God gives me, I get to choose how I act.

  14. 14 Eric Nielson July 16, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Well stated again, Paul.

  15. 15 Geoff J July 16, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    As is pretty obvious from the definitions above, “agency” is Mormon short-hand for libertarian free will.

    Mormon compatibilists (what few there are) are completely out to lunch.

  16. 16 Eric Nielson July 16, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    I agree Geoff, but explaining the phenomenon of choice to their satisfaction would be quite a feat.

  17. 17 Matthew Andreasen July 16, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Agency does not mean free will. Look it up in the dictionary. We do not need to redefine Agency in order to show that we believe in free will. There are plenty of scriptures that are clear on the idea of free will, choosing, etc.

    Agency, Free Agency, and Moral Agency all have real historical meanings and we should try to understand them and use them correctly, rather than redefining and reinventing them and mixing up their definitions.

  18. 18 Geoff J July 17, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Alright Matthew Andreasen, what are the differences between Agency, Free Agency, and Moral Agency then?

    Also, I assume you know as well as I do that Mormonism has its own set of idioms. Whether or not your think Mormonism “should” have these idioms is beside the point.

  19. 19 L-d Sus July 17, 2010 at 8:38 am

    Thanks for the intro. I have been wondering what all the fuss was about. None of the semantic battles have changed my understanding of free/moral/agency/will, which as you wrote in your first sentence is unsophisticated. The professional sports term “free-agency,” as mentioned by LL’s comment, has shaped my understanding more than anything else.

    I have recently seen the YM in my ward focus on the “free” part and twist it into a justification for not following rules and not being subject to authority. They also abuse the term “its a free country” in the same way.

  20. 20 Matthew Andreasen July 17, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    On the 20th of January, 1842, Joseph Smith, “attended a special conference of the Church at 10 o’clock a.m., concerning Dr. [Isaac] Galland,” a member of the church. The record states that, “The conference voted to sanction the revocation of Dr. Galland’s agency….” (History of the Church, Vol.4, Ch.29, Pg.500).

    Two days previous, Joseph Smith had revoked Galland’s agency, and this conference sanctioned that revocation.

    If we use Mormonese to interpret the above account we will misunderstand it. Did the church really take away his freedom to choose or his free will? Wouldn’t that be Satanic? Could they even do that? Maybe this is some type of ‘code word’? Did they excommunicate him, or maybe throw him in jail? What’s going on here?

    When we equate agency with free will, we lose the real meaning of the word agency. Look it up in a dictionary or a thesaurus. Agency are Free Will are not synonymous. Like Faith and Belief there is a relationship between the two, but they are separate concepts. If we started defining faith as belief, we would soon lose the meaning of faith.

    In the church, we have been defining Agency as Free Agency for years (but not necessarily in the early history of the church). Free agency is a certain type of agency. It comes from Philosophy and Protestant debates about the freedom of the will. It was quite common in Joseph Smith’s day, yet strangely, that common term was not used in any of the revelations.

    We have been defining scriptural Agency in terms of a philosophical concept called Free Agency. What would happen if we defined all ice cream as vanilla ice cream, or all faith as blind faith? We would lose the meaning of the original thing by focusing on a certain type of that thing. Can you fully understand the concept of a tire by only discussing the idea of radials?

    Our revelations do talk about free will, choosing, freedom, etc., so we absolutely believe in that idea. Our scriptures also talk about agency. If the scriptures correctly use the idea of free will or choice, why the need to redefine an existing word (agency) to mean the same thing? The words agency and agent are correctly used in our scriptures, so the Lord is aware of their correct meanings.

    Here are the basic definitions from dictionaries and early 1800s usage as I see it: 1) agency in its simplest form is the ability or capacity to act, 2) moral agency is the ability to act in a good or evil manner, and is usually spoken of in terms of accountability, and 3) free agency is the ability to voluntarily act according to one’s own will. The opposite of free agency in the early 1800s is sometimes referred to as necessary agency–being controlled by necessity, fate, or being predestined by God, not controlled by Satan.

    Another definition of agency used in early church history and in scripture is the ability to legally represent another. This is the way it is used in the Church History quote I opened with above, and in at least one instance in the D&C.

    Free Agency as it is used in sports has some interesting parallels to the gospel, but since the concept is fairly new (originating around the 1950s), and does not appear to even be related to the original meaning of free agency, I do not think it was the idea the Lord was trying to convey.

    I don’t mind at all if we lose the term ‘free agency’. The scriptures talk about free will, choice, etc., so without that term, we would still understand the importance of free will in LDS theology.

    If you’d like to discuss more, feel free to contact me through my blog or by email. Trying to explain everything through typing takes too much time and is open to too much misinterpretation.

  21. 21 Paul July 18, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Matthew: I think the scriptural phrase “agents unto themselves” as given here:

    “And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves, and I have given unto you another law and commandment” (Moses 6:56)

    is what drives people to equate agency and free agency. That is, we are, as the scriptures teach, authorized to act for ourselves and to bear the consequences of those choices (good or bad).

    The agency of Dr. Gallard which was removed was his agency to act for the church, just as any priesthood holder who is subject to formal discipline has his agency to exercise his priesthood curtailed.

  22. 22 Matthew Andreasen July 18, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    That’s my point.

    I would say that the scriptures use the words agent and agency following the dictionary’s definition, and I think we should understand it in that way. Instead we transfer the philosophical, Protestant definition of free agency into our understanding of the scripture (even though our scriptures do not use that language) and get mired down in debates about free will, libertarianism, compulsion, whether the church has the right to tell us what to do, etc.

    I think you explained the idea of agency using the dictionary’s definition very well, but I’d bet you are the exception in the church rather than the norm.

    The way you explained agency above (applying the dictionary’s definition to the actual scriptural text) is not the way it is usually taught. Is that the way you have always understood scriptural agency, or how did you come to that idea?

  23. 23 Rob Osborn July 18, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Agency is a very tricky word, especially as it applies in Mormonism. I have done some searching myself and have found that often times we mix up similar meanings and come up with alternating ideas that cause some conflict. For instance- because we have the Pearl of Great Price we have the oft quoted passage in Moses Ch. 4 dealing with Satan seeking to destroy our agency. Because of our slightly misaligned view of “agency” we have gone on to assume that Satan was seeking to force us to be obedient, that he would take away our choice. But if we go to the real intent of the word and couple it with God-like ability we begin to understand its real meaning and also the implications of Satan’s plans.

    “Agency” is a word that best describes the “actions” of individuals. What we have to include here in describing this is the justice of God. The book of Mormon describes this well as being “free to act” and the opposite- “to be acted upon”. When we are obedient we are free from the “chains” of sin. What this means is that agency is only enabled upon an individual who is righteous in some degree or another. As we sin, we lose that ability to “act for ourselves” through both the justice of God coming down upon us and the fact that we have submitted our will to the cause of another being or thing. In some cases the “thing” can be a substance such as methamphetmines. I recently saw a sign a teenager made about meth and the person in the picture had these little puppet strings attached to her thin weakened limbs. The signe read- “Meth, Who’s really controlling you”. This is a case where “agency” has been surrendered in some degree and the individual is no longer in a position to “act for themselves”. Here is where the implications of Satan’s plans come into play.

    Satan seeks to destroy our agency by submitting to his will. His will is for us to sin. Sin is the “chains” spoken of in the Book of Mormon. Only through repentance and the atonement can we escape the justice of God and retain our agency as a right given to the faithful. Itr is kind of confusing because it can be debated that Satan has full use of his agency. But again we are missing the correct interpretation in the god-like quality of the words meaning. Yes, it is true that Satan has full use of making his own decisions and recieving the end results of those decisions. But is he truly “free to act”? No, he is obviously limited or held in the chains of hell to some degree. He is thus not free to act. The justice of God is acting upon him limiting his decisions. I have often equated this to prison- how much freedom do the prisoners incarcerated have? Not very much. They are constantly bombarded with forces and justice that tells them what decisions they will make with very little to choose from. Us on the outside of the prison walls do not have that force acting upon us, instead we are free to act for ourselves.

    This also tells us then that agency is a priveledge given tot he righteous to see how they will act and choose- wheter they will make good choices that retain that agency or make bad choices that take it away and thus destroy it. The implications of Satan’s work is to make the whole world groan under and in the chains of darkness.

  24. 24 Paul July 18, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I’m trying not to play with these words so much that I break them, but…

    My understanding of agency is in the church is from my comment above:

    Agency is described at (and I think from _True to the Faith-):

    Agency is the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and to act for ourselves. Agency is essential in the plan of salvation. Without it, we would not be able to learn or progress or follow the Savior. With it, we are “free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil” (2 Nephi 2:27).

    The verse I cited above in Moses says that men are ‘agents unto themselves’, since they know good from evil, meaning (I think) that they are capable of choice.

    I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive, and I think my understanding is pretty consistent with church teachings (since I’ve quoted the church’s website). What everyone else thinks, I don’t know.

    I completely agree that suggesting that a new federal statute robs us of our “free agency” is just stupid.

    As for Satan in the pre-mortal existence; I think there were two problems with his plan — one was that he would somehow get us all back (never clear how, but I guess we assume we don’t get to choose for ourselves), and the other was the he was to take the glory instead of God. Could be just me, but if I were trying to get the CEO to accept my proposal over someone else’s, I wouldn’t be demanding my bonus up front…

  25. 25 Matthew Andreasen July 18, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    If Satan is not “free to act” because he is limited by law and justice, then the same goes for God. If God cannot do evil, then He has no agency, and if He ever does anything other than that which is right, He will lose His agency too. Satan’s wickedness restricts him from being righteous; God’s righteousness restricts Him from being wicked. So who has agency? This is that philosophical agency stuff we keep falling into. I say throw it away.

    One definition of agency from the dictionary is that an agent legally represents another. The scriptures testify in five out of five places that men are agents unto themselves; therefore, they are their own principals. In law, the principal directs his agent and is legally bound by the actions of his agent.

    Now, if scriptural agency simply describes the ability to legally represent yourself — act for yourself, be an agent unto yourself — then it is neither increased nor decreased by your actions. You are still able to act for and legally represent yourself regardless of what you do. Satan can be as wicked as he wants, and God can be as righteous as He wants. Both have equal agency. They can both act as they desire, and both are held accountable and reap the rewards of their actions.

    A person who is an agent unto himself can direct his own actions as a principal directs the actions of his agent, and at the same time becomes legally bound to the consequences of his actions as a principal is bound by the actions of his agent. I see agency as the foundational principal upon which accountability rests. If agency were diminished in this sense, we would become less accountable. God’s plan relies on agency.

    By the way, I believe Lucifer proposed that men should not be accountable. He could claim that none would be lost, and all would retain their free choice. I think that’s an easier sell than the compelled righteousness idea.

    I also don’t believe that Satan is trying to destroy our agency–I think he’s trying to use it against us. He doesn’t want us to sin to destroy our agency–he wants us to sin so we will reap eternal damnation. He’s not trying to implement his original plan–he’s trying to use God’s plan against us.

  26. 26 Rob Osborn July 18, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Just something to think over but- Who said that Satan ever wanted to bring us all back? Isn’t he a liar?

  27. 27 Matthew Andreasen July 18, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    I don’t think he could do it. I just think he could sell it. And a third fell for it — literally!

  28. 28 Paul July 19, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Since I can’t remember any firsthand knowledge of the Great Debate in the pre-mortal exisitence, I’m left with just a few scraps of scriptures that refer to it (and Milton’s remarkable treatment in Paradise Lost).

    One way to destry the agency of man is to keep them from being agents unto themselves. Ironically, of course, Satan is the one who introduced agency in a way, by giving Adam and Eve the choice to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and exposing them to Good and Evil. We are led to believe that without his temptation, things would have chugged along as they were, for it is only after they knew good from evil that they were agents unto themselves in this life.

    (Of course in the premortal existence we had the opportunity to choose God’s plan or Satan’s — again a choice made possible by Satan’s opposition.)

    How is Satan not free to act?

    The agency spoken of in Moses 4 and Moses 6 refers to man’s agency — that is in this mortal state. It does not speak of our agency in the pre-mortal world, nor of Satan’s nor of God’s.

  29. 29 Eric Nielson July 19, 2010 at 8:25 am

    L_D Sus:

    I think this ‘twisting’ is a result of improper understanding and is part of what is at stake:


    I think your definitions are pretty good, and helpful. Yet I wonder how much of these definitions are distinctions without difference. Free to act, free to act in good or evil ways, free to act according to our will, still seem quite equivalent to me.


    I think part of what you are getting at is the ‘libertarian’ associated with free will. What we are at liberty to do. Our choices can result in less future liberty – we may still have as much free will as ever I suppose, yet what we are at liberty to do with it can diminish as a result of the consequences of our choices.


    I like your comment about satan’s plan. I wrote a pst once on just that idea – that Satan wanted to take away accountability, not force obedience. Seems much more his style, and easier to pull off. Also an easier sell.

    Thanks for the great comments everyone.

  30. 30 Matthew Andreasen July 19, 2010 at 11:34 am


    Here is something I wrote several years ago. It is similar to your observation:

    Four out of the five verses which use the word agency in a doctrinal manner either define it as the, “agency of man,” or link it to man in some way. By specifying that agency applies or belongs to man, the scriptures may be speaking of agency only as it applies to the mortal existence, and not to agency had during any other state or sphere of existence.

  31. 31 Matthew Andreasen July 19, 2010 at 11:46 am


    Thank you for your observations as well.

    When I view agency through the definitions of the dictionary I do see similarities to our common “freedom of choice” definition too. But other things are a little different as well. The idea of accountability takes on a deeper meaning. Too often it seems like it’s almost an afterthought in many of our discussions today. There are other insights that using the dictionary open up as well.

    I’d rather base the idea of scriptural agency on the dictionary instead of on a borrowed term (free agency) and the baggage that comes with it. The Lord said “agency’ even though He easily could have said “free agency”. I’d rather take His word and try to understand it instead of viewing it through someone else’s tinted glasses.

  32. 32 Paul July 19, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Eric, thanks for the discussion here. I’ve written my own piece on my blog on this subject, spurred by the discussion here. Thanks.

  33. 33 Eric Nielson July 19, 2010 at 12:41 pm


    At some level we all wear glasses.

    Nice job.

  34. 34 Dusty May 15, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    When looking at consequences, I think it’s important to look at the source of the consequence when determining if that consequence destroys or strengthens agency.

    When a consequence comes naturally as a result of the choice, it helps the agent learn more of right and wrong and have greater agency in the future. If you hit your thumb with a hammer, it hurts. If you refuse to have children, you die alone when old.

    This would include the consequences involved with church membership because that relationship is voluntary, and the agent knew what that consequence would be prior to making the choice. The agent can avoid that consequence by withdrawing from that voluntary relationship.

    But the imposition of artificial consequences with no freedom to decline does destroy agency. Not only is the agent deprived of the benefit of making the choice freely, but they are no longer held accountable as they naturally would have been for that action. There are things people only avoid doing for fear of the artificial consequences rather than out of moral initiative.

  35. 35 Defender April 12, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    You take away accountability to God, you take away one of the crucial pillars of our existence and condem society to the same fate EVERY deceased nation has experienced. So for heaven’s sake – don’t hyperventilate when we use the term “moral agency” to emphasize that importance!!

  36. 36 Ken R. March 24, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    What happened to the nuance that by adding “free” to agency, we are emphasizing only choosing truth and righteousness will ultimately make us free?

  37. 37 Eric Nielson March 24, 2015 at 5:39 pm


    Thanks for the comment. That is an interesting spin, but it seems to me that would skim over the more fundamental question of the will. I think the free you are using is consequences related rather than the phenomenon of choice.

  38. 38 Kevin December 11, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    Interesting. I feel Moral agency show a limited use of “free will.” It shows that we do not have control of most circumstances, but usually only in the way we react. To each their own.

    Moses 6: 56
    And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves, and I have given unto you another law and commandment.

    D&C 101:78 That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.

    Only uses of free will:
    Mosiah 18: 28
    And thus they should impart of their substance of their own free will and good desires towards God, and to those priests that stood in need, yea, and to every needy, naked soul.

    Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
    28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

    D&C 64:29 Wherefore, as ye are agents, ye are on the Lord’s errand; and whatever ye do according to the will of the Lord is the Lord’s business.

    124:69 by their own free will and act, if you will do my will, saith the Lord your God

  39. 39 Eric Nielson December 13, 2016 at 7:58 am

    Thanks Kevin. I do think that replacing free agency with moral agency is a step toward compatibilism. And not a particularly good step.

  40. 40 free stuff May 26, 2017 at 2:15 am

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  1. 1 A Latter-day Voice: On agency Trackback on October 19, 2010 at 2:35 pm

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