Selected Teachings on
Agency & the Atonement

2 Nephi 2:26-27

And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they 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; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

Boyd K. Packer (Quorum of the Twelve)

Had agency come to man without the Atonement, it would have been a fatal gift. (Mine Errand From the Lord [2008], p.19)

D. Todd Christofferson (Quorum of the Twelve)

We must always remember that agency would have no meaning without the vital contribution of Jesus Christ....

It was necessary in God’s plan for our future happiness and glory that we become morally free and responsible. For that to happen, we needed an experience apart from Him where our own choices would determine our destiny. The Fall of Adam provided the spiritual death needed to separate us from God and place us in this mortal condition as well as the physical death needed to provide an end to the mortal experience....

Without more, however, these deaths would have defeated the plan after having made it possible. Death had to be permitted, but it also had to be overcome or we could not return to the presence of God....

Thus, if our separation from God and our physical death were permanent, moral agency would mean nothing. Yes, we would be free to make choices, but what would be the point? The end result would always be the same no matter what our actions: death with no hope of resurrection and no hope of heaven. Good or bad as we might choose to be, we would all end up, in Jacob’s words, “devils, angels to a devil.” [see 2 Ne. 9:7-9]

With resurrection through Jesus Christ, the Fall can achieve its essential purpose without becoming a permanent death sentence. “The grave must deliver up its captive bodies,” “hell must deliver up its captive spirits,” and “the paradise of God must deliver up the spirits of the righteous” so that “the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect” (2 Ne. 9:12-13)

But there was one more thing that Christ needed to accomplish so that moral agency could have a positive potential. Just as death would doom us and render our agency meaningless but for the redemption of Christ, even so, without His grace, our bad choices or sins would leave us forever lost. There would be no way of fully recovering from our mistakes, and, being unclean, we could never live again in the presence of the “Man of Holiness” (Moses 6:57; see also 3 Nephi 27:19).

We cannot look to the law to save us when we have broken the law (see 2 Nephi 2:5). We need a Savior, a Mediator who can overcome the effects of our sins and errors so that they are not necessarily fatal. It is because of the Atonement of Christ that we can recover from bad choices and be justified under the law as if we had not sinned....

Professor C. Terry Warner stated:

Human agency was purchased with the price of Christ’s suffering. This means that to those who blame God for allowing human suffering, Latter-day Saints can respond that suffering is less important than the gift of agency, upon which everything else depends, and that none of us has paid a greater price for this gift than Christ. (C. Terry Warner, in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1992), s.v. “agency,” 1:27) [BYU Speeches, 31 January 2006]

David A. Bednar (Quorum of the Seventy)

Brother and sisters, we have received a precious gift. Agency is available in our lives through the Savior's atonement. The only gift you and I can ever give Him is a voluntary surrender of our hearts through that agency. As we make covenants, we yield to Him a portion of our agency and basically say, "Precious Savior, dear Redeemer, do with me what you will." I testify that so doing brings happiness. ("Gain Spiritual Intelligence," Ricks College Devotional, September 9, 1997)