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Dear Gramps,
Re your answer to “Hurting in Grant Pass,” do all things happen because God has planned them, or do things happen because men exercise free will, and God allows things (even bad things) to happen that occur as a result of men exercising free will. According to Mormon theology, is God a “deist” as believed by the founding fathers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, in that He created the universe, and the universe operates in accordance with principles established by God but God does not interfere in the operation of the universe (just like a watchmaker who constructs an watch then winds it up and lets it run), or does God intervene and alter the outcome of events, in spite of man’s free will. Is there any Mormon theology or teaching regarding these questions?
Shane, from San Francisco, California

Dear Shane,
The agency of man has been a part of his make-up from the very beginning. Man, as an intelligent being, and as the offspring of Deity, has the power to make choices that will alter his course throughout the eternities. But man is always responsible for the choices that he makes. Concerning the agency of men in the pre-mortal spirit world we have the following scripture—

And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil–for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency (D&C 29:36).

And the following scripture refers to the agency of many during his mortal sojourn—

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 (D&C 101:78).

So the course of history is not fixed, as is the course of a watch, but it may be modified, or directed both by the acts of men and the acts of God. God, as the Supreme Being, has a certain agendum for the universe, and as the organizer and the controller of the universe, His will shall always be obeyed. God operates by the power of His word–i.e., what He articulates happens– inevitably without any exception—

For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure? (Jacob 4:9)

Who shall say that it was not a miracle that by his word the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was created of the dust of the earth; and by the power of his word have miracles been wrought? (Morm 9:17)

What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same (D&C 1:38).

So it is apparent that when men, with authority, articulate the words of God, they come to pass as if God, Himself had spoken them.
Now, there may be supposed by some to be a conflict between the will of God and agency of man. The question could be formed as, does the foreknowledge of God preclude the agency of man? There is no causal relationship between the thoughts in one being’s mind and the actions of another being. When those thoughts are expressed as actions or words, they impact the external world. Although we may not have the power of rhetoric to fully explain to other rational beings that foreknowledge does not preclude agency, yet it is true, because the contrary would preclude the fulfillment of the word of God. Therefore, if it cannot be rationally defended, it must be accepted on the principle of faith, because it is the truth. God’s complete foreknowledge is voiced in the following scripture—

The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord (D&C 130:6-7).

We will learn more about the things of eternity when the things of time are behind us.

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