The Right of self governance is essential to our growth as individual’s both in the secular sense and spiritually. The concept of being able to choose for ourselves that path we will go and have self-determination is a principle that I cherish and one that I believe is lacking in our society in a large way. We have become 2 dependent on the state to dictate to us how we are to live and what we are or are not allowed to do with out own lives. We must teach our children the importance of self governance and help them understand how their choices can help or hinder them.
When Joseph Smith was asked how he manages to keep control of such a large group of people so effectively he responded by saying “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves” The principal of self governance is central to the libertarian philosophy that I have come to embrace. It is also a principal that Joseph smith strove to teach the saints in the early days of the church and an integral part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Because our God and father loves us he gave us the gift of free agency. This gift allows us to choose for ourselves that path that we will take in this life. This free agency does not negate or remove the consequences of choice but it does allow us to make decisions for ourselves.
Elder Richard L Evans said in the October 1971 General Conference
“Essentially this is what the gospel is: counsel from a living Father who says to his children, “You have limitless, everlasting possibilities. You also have your freedom. It’s up to you how you use it. This is what you can become if you take my advice—and this is what will happen if you don’t. The choice is yours.”
As a father of 3 Girls one of which is baptized, this principle is something that I am trying to teach my girls. My Eldest daughter who is 10 years old is at a point in her life where she does not want to hang out with her sisters but with her friends. She has begun to seek to be more independent and is wanting to go to places on her own without me or her mother. With this new freedom that she has begun to explore as a father I cannot help but worry about her safety. Not just physically but spiritually as well. Is she making good choices while she is out without us. Will she seek us out for guidance and counsel when faced with a hard choice. Will she call when she needs help.
Being a father I can only now imagine what our father in heaven must be thinking and feeling. Before he sent us to earth he gave us guidance and counsel and has provided it again and again through the scriptures, prophets and other leaders. He is hoping that we will turn to him in our time of need and make the right decisions. But like my daughter and my self I won’t interfere in her choices unless it becomes absolutely necessary.
That is the key to true liberty and freedom. As parents, leaders and members of the church we have the obligation to teach our children, co-workers and those we associated with and preside over in our employment, church or personal lives, correct principles. Once they have been taught it is not up to us to govern them but rather they are responsible for governing themselves. Like our heavenly we must let them make their own choices and either reap the blessing or suffer the consequences of said choice but we are not to compel, or force others to make those choices.
How then can we teach correct principles and how do we respond when others self governance leads to self destructiveness.
Teaching correct principles is much more than just telling people what they should do and how they should behave. These are certainly important especially when teaching children the gospel. It is important to use the scriptures, church leaders and other materials within the church to teach correct principles.
To illustrate what I mean I will replay a conversation I had with my daughter the other day while at church.
Daughter: Walks out of church grumpy and angry after speaking irreverently to her mother and my self
me: come with me we need to talk
Daughter: OK fine
We walk out to the temple which is in the parking lot of the church and take a seat on the temple steps
me: What building is this?
Daughter: The Temple
me: Do you want to go into the temple when you are 12?
me: when the bishops asks you if you honor your father and mother in your recommend interview can you honestly say that you have done that today?
daughter: No, I’m sorry daddy for talking to you and mom that way
We will have so many teachable moments as parents. It is imperative that we take the time to teach them correct principles. In Proverbs 22:6 we learn this principle “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. ” It is through teaching of correct principles that children will learn to choose between good and evil. It is through this teaching that we give them the tools to decide for themselves.
Our Loving father in heaven sent us to this earth to learn, grow and progress and knew that our free agency was essential to his plan for our happiness. Without free agency and the ability to govern our selves we can not come to know happiness. Our loving father in heaven knew that it would be better for us to pass through the pain and sorrow of bad choices so that we would come to know the joy from the pain, the happiness from the sorrow. The good from the Evil
Life is about growth and it is through our choices that we grow.