I understand that men do evil because of their misuse of agency and that God allows evil to happen so that he can hold people accountable for their actions. Why isn’t praying for protection from the evil person not a violation of that person’s free agency if God answers your prayer and blocks the evil person from harming you?
The agency we have been given by our Father in heaven is “moral agency.” What then is moral agency? Moral agency is derived from three main principles. The first principle is that there must be alternatives or opposites from which to choose from. This principle is clarified through the following verse: 2 Nephi 2:11, 16:
11, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; where, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.”
16, “Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by one or the other.”
The second principle of moral agency is connected to our knowledge of these alternatives. We must have knowledge of the alternatives in order to be enticed and thus choose one option or the other.
The third principle highlights our ability to choose while accepting the consequence of our choice (we cannot choose the consequences of our choices).
Will then protecting an individual from another person’s choice be a violation of their agency? The answer appears to be clear. No, this will not be a violation of a person’s moral agency. Person “A” decides to harm another person. Person “B” is aware of person “A’s” desire to harm another person. Person “B” decides to protect this individual from the actions of person “A.” Was agency violated? No, person “B” has every right to act according to his knowledge by protecting this individual from person “A.” Agency has not been removed, nor violated, only the object of their desire has been removed not their agency. If the faith of another person is sufficient that God is able protect them, then he has every right and responsibility to act according to his promises — for God cannot lie.
In the Bible we learn of a prophet, Balaam, due to his desire for filthy lucre, decided to curse Israel rather than bless them. He was informed that he was to bless. Balaam was enticed through earning money or through honoring God (alternatives). He had knowledge of the alternatives. He could not choose his consequence. As he went to curse Israel, the Lord (due to promises he was to keep with Israel, Isaac, and Abraham) thus commanded one of his angels to smite Balaam if he continued his course. Was Balaam’s moral agency violated — No. He made a choice, and was presented with a consequence of his choice.
The Pharaoh of Egypt wished to keep Israel as slaves. That was his choice. He was provided with several opportunities to allow Israel to go free. After much time, and sad consequences, he finally let them go and then sought after them with the intent to kill and bring them back. Does a promise to another person violate anyone’s agency? No. What if I protected my sons from a pedophile, would I have violated the pedophile’s agency by using my agency? No. Do police officers violate criminals of their agency when they provide protection? No.
The Book of Mormon teaches us on how the Lord protected Nephi from Laman and Lemuel. The object of their agency (their beating Nephi with a rod) had been removed, not their agency. They still could have chosen to attack; although, they would not have been able to choose their consequence of attacking Nephi. The consequence of their attack is that an angel was sent. An angel reprimanded, and the angel gave promise.
Agency is not violated when protecting another person from an attacker with the intent to do harm.