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Dear Gramps,

Recently I heard someone ask a question about Judas Iscariot and his free agency which I would like to hear your opinion about since I couldn’t give this person a satisfying answer.

Since Jesus Christ already knew in the pre-existence that it was his mission to atone for the fall of Adam, I wonder if it was necessary that he had to be betrayed by someone? If that was necessary then someone had to be the unlucky one to do that job, and Judas Iscariot was set up to do this nasty job in this case. If that was the case, I wonder were Judas’ free agency was? Did he have free agency in this at all or was he just a pawn? If he was just a pawn in a plot he was also just a chanceless victim and that doesn’t seem very righteous to me, does it?

Also since God already knew about the betrayal (Isaiah as well), couldn’t God have prevented Judas from doing such an awful deed? Did Judas have a full awareness of the impact of his betrayal? Could it not be possible that Judas really didn’t understand, that he was misled or something? I really hope you can shed some light on this, because I kind a feel sorry for Judas too now. Thank you Gramps,

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Billy, from Europe

Dear Billy,

You seem to imply that just because God knows that something is going to happen he is therefore responsible for its happening. Further, you seem to imply that just because God knows that something is going to happen that there is no free agency associated with the experience. Neither of these suppositions is correct.

Where do we get our knowledge from of such things as free agency and accountability? From the revealed word of God found in the holy scriptures and announced by the prophets. How strange it is that so often when we consider the revealed word and don’t fully understand it, we attempt to apply our poor powers of rationalization to prove that God is wrong. Consider the following scripture-

The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born (Matthew 26:24).

It was prophesied that the Savior would be crucified. That selfless act of infinite atonement is at the very center of all existence. The Savior was pure and innocent, yet he must be treated as if he were responsible for all the sins of all mankind, and suffer an infinite amount in payment to the demands of an eternal justice for all the sins ever committed by all mankind. So he came into an environment of wicked men, who by their wicked nature had placed themselves under the influence of the Adversary, and they put him to death. Judas was among them. They are all as responsible for their actions as you are for yours. Judas was not “set up” in any way. This was his initiative and his evil plan. We can try to explore what went through his mind-how much he really knew of the consequences of what he did-but all that is mere supposition on our part, and there is absolutely no way to verify any conclusions that we might make.

Free agency is one of the greatest gifts of God to man. The gift of free agency makes man responsible for his own behavior. He is no way a pawn in some chess game played by whimsical gods. Agency has been a gift to man from the very beginning. Here’s what the Lord told Enoch,

Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency (Moses 7:32).

Associated with free agency is accountability, or if you will, responsibility. Again, the word of the Lord,

A commandment I give unto you, that ye shall organize yourselves and appoint every man his stewardship; That every man may give an account unto me of the stewardship which is appointed unto him. For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures (D&C 104:11).

You ask, could not God have prevented Judas from doing such an awful deed? Of course he could have. But what would have been the result? God would have frustrated his own plan for the redemption and salvation of all mankind, and incidentally, he would have robbed Judas the free agency that he had previously given him.

It is no doubt possible for God to control all the actions of every person, and manage the universe according to his own pleasure. In fact, such a plan was proposed in the councils of heaven when the plan for mankind was being considered. One suggestion that was given-

And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying–Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor (Moses 4:1).

Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice (Moses 4:3-4).

Gramps

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