Monday, September 29, 2008

I Believe in Agency and Consequence

Articles of Faith #2
[I] believe that [I] will be punished for [my] own sins, and not for Adam’s (or Eve's) transgression.

Many Christian churches believe that we are being punished in our mortal life as a result of Adam and Eve's choice in the Garden of Eden. When I was young, and investigating many other religions, one thing that drew me quite strongly to the LDS faith was the understanding of individual agency. Rather than denigrating Eve, we venerate her for her bravery. Rather than believing this earth is a punishment for someone else's choices, we take responsibility for our own behavior. We are not ones to claim "the devil made us do it" or to blame Adam for our own misery.

I learned from LDS doctrine that woman does not hold the guilt of the world on her shoulders. Rather, informed or not, she made a conscious choice to embrace pain in order to learn joy. She chose to experience the full depth of depression in order to more perfectly see beauty. She chose to learn from her own experience to know good from evil. She explained to Adam, and he chose also to eat of his own will and they became partners in mortality.

I found this empowering not only from a female perspective, but from a human one. By our parents' choices, we have been given power to make mistakes, to think, to analyze, and to change. We can exercise our intelligence and choose our own path. We have truly gained the potential to be better, like our Father.

As a mother, I have felt this even more empowering. My children have their own lives to live and their own choices to make. So long as I do all I can to love them, teach them, and bring Christ into their lives (and mine!), I may leave their guilt between them and their Savior. I do not have to live vicariously through them. I am liberated from responsibility for their choices. Watching my beautiful daughter begin to exercise the agency given her in part by Eve's choice, but feeling the precariousness of her mortality, I begin to catch a little of the feeling God must have as He watches me struggle, agonize, and learn. Eve's choice is echoed every time we women face mortality, pain and death to bring life into this world. I would never dull that experience and the ones after it, nor dull the deep connection and love I enjoy with my children as a result.

My experiences with this principle have drawn me closer to my first parents. Whether they were apprehensive, frightened, or faithful when they took their first steps into the harsh world, I honor their bravery and the price they paid to give me agency. Rather than severing my connection with them, freedom from their choice has left me able to thank them for it.

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