Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still.
As much as we can teach correct principles, our friends and loved ones will always have agency to choose for themselves.
I don’t know about the many other families across the United States who have children, but in my family, trying to get my kids to eat vegetables is not only a chore but it’s nearly impossible. I can tell them how important it is to eat nutritious foods until I am blue in the face, but they just won’t follow my counsel. I have withheld privileges, not allowed them to eat other things, shown them the reasons why we need these nutrients and went on mom-strike. None of these things helped. Until they learn for themselves and make the choice without being pushed or forced, nothing is going to change.
As much as we can teach correct principles, our friends and loved ones will always have agency to choose for themselves. It is common to hear someone talk about how their parents pushed something, like piano lessons for example, and those children grew up to either resent it or embrace it. The odds don’t feel very comforting sometimes when we are trying to teach and strengthen our children.
In my home, I ask my children to read for a certain amount of time each day. I know it’s good for their brains and imaginations and that it helps with other important skills they will need in the future. Even though I can see what would benefit them, they cannot yet. They tend to roll their eyes and try to get out of it. My oldest son always tells me how he will do things differently when he is an adult. I just wish him luck and smile to myself. Someday they will be teaching a person about the gospel and my son will be able to see how the gospel will benefit their investigator, but the learner may not be able to see it.
The Prophet Joseph said, “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.”1 That’s all we can do.
With the mandate of the Lord to share the gospel with everyone, I think we often assume we are failing if we don’t see baptism as the result. The Lord didn’t say baptize everyone, just share the gospel; give them a chance to find out for themselves. It’s not our responsibility to force anyone into the Church. If anyone is forced into the church, then they will not have a solid foundation. Without that foundation, their spiritual state could end up far below where they had started.
Use the Force?
So, is it better to force a decision or invite someone to make a decision? We all know whose plan involved the lack of agency and there was a reason why we needed to be able to choose.
Brigham Young recorded, “The Council… said…Who will redeem the earth, who will go make the sacrifice for the earth and all things it contains?” The Eldest Son said, “Here am I,” and then he added, “Send me.” But the second one, which was Lucifer, Son of the Morning, said, “Lord, here am I, send me and I will redeem every son and daughter of Adam and Eve that lives on earth, or that ever goes on the earth.” “But,” says the Father, “that will not answer at all. I give unto each and every individual his agency; all must use that in order to gain exaltation in my kingdom; inasmuch as they have the power of choice they must exercise that power. They are my children; the attributes which you see in me are in my children and they must use their agency. If you undertake to save all, you must save them in unrighteousness and corruption.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, pp 53-54)
We can’t take another’s agency by choosing on their behalf, we can only invite with a spirit of love and kindness then allow the Lord’s spirit to work in them.
- “Teach Them Correct Principles”, Elder Boyd K. Packer, General Conference, April 1990