My husband and I often disagree on the topic of free will vs pre-destination. He believes that certain people’s lives and events are predetermined by the Lord. I believe that we can be foreordained for something, but that just like blessings we must make the correct choices in life for them to come to fruition. For example, I believe that Joseph Smith was foreordained, but had he have made other choices someone else would have had to fulfill the events to come. What is true?
How could we possibly be predestined to something and still have agency? We know that agency is a principle of the gospel. “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.” – 2 Nephi 2:27
What your husband is suggesting in his theory is that certain men are not free. But we know this is false.
Some confusion may come from not understanding the difference between predestination and foreordination.
Joseph Smith taught,
“Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council in Heaven before this world was.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977, p. 365.)
We also know from Abraham 3:22-23 that:
“Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
“And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.”
However, we also know that God has promised all who come to him, obey His ordinances, and endure to the end will be made rulers. We learn in D&C 132:19-20:
“Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection…and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths…and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
“Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.”
Every one of us was chosen before we were born to be God’s rulers. But that right to rule is contingent upon our obedience.
“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
“And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
None of us achieve anything we are foreordained to without obedience. This is irrevocably decreed. And we know that God is no respecter of persons.
Paul teaches us in Romans 2:5-11:
“But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
“Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
“To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
“But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
“Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
“But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
“For there is no respect of persons with God.”
As we can plainly see, we are foreordained, some to different things in this life than others, yes, and all to salvation and exaltation. But all of these promises, blessings and opportunities are contingent upon our choices.
The entry on foreordination from lds.org explains:
“In the premortal spirit world, God appointed certain spirits to fulfill specific missions during their mortal lives. This is called foreordination. Foreordination does not guarantee that individuals will receive certain callings or responsibilities. Such opportunities come in this life as a result of the righteous exercise of agency, just as foreordination came as a result of righteousness in the premortal existence.”
As we can clearly see, there is a distinct and clear difference between being foreordained, which allows for choice, and being predestined, which does not.