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This blog is a journal of our assignment in Chicago, IL as missionaries for The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We will be missionaries for twelve months starting in January 2014. It is a public blog so that our family and friends can share our experience with ease. The writings here are not intended to be a political, religious or social commentary. They are the memories, thoughts and "light bulb' moments we have as we serve. We welcome you the reader.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Letter #18 Free To Choose

When Bret reached high school age, and had a tall body and a longer than average arm span and large hands, the high school basketball  team gained an asset. To play the game he needed basketball shoes. That meant shoes that easily cost a hundred dollars a pair, even back then, rather than the bargain priced sneakers normally worn in the Abbott household. Off to the mall we went. Every possible shoe was tried, tied and walked in. Sadly, none seemed to be the perfect fit-----long enough but too wide, narrow enough but too short and way too expensive to be ill-fitting. It was the Goldilocks saga but shoes instead of beds. He just could not choose the pair that would be best. Eventually a purchase would be made and the game played-----but to this day when someone in the family can't make up their mind, someone will say, " Come on now Bret, pick some shoes".
Having choices does not guarantee that a wise choice is always easy to make. All choices come with results or consequences. Having choices was of ultimate importance to a Heavenly Father who loves us and hopes that we will love him enough to choose to return to live with him again. He wanted this return to be by choice. He wanted each and every one of us to ultimately arrive in a place and circumstance we had chosen. To Mormons everywhere this is known as the "Great Plan of Happiness". Why am I talking about this? Why am I exploring a subject I have internalized and live with as a guiding principle?  Being on my mission and being surrounded by hundreds of young missionaries who walk the streets daily endeavoring to teach this simple truth has provided me with an altered perspective on this concept we call agency. The way I'm looking at it is this. We have a vast array of options before us in our lives. This plan of choices was not designed with the idea in mind that we would invest in shoes that gave us blisters and left us crippled and unable to run down the court just because we wanted to.The hope was not that we would choose lifestyles and engage in actions that would enslave us with addictions, abuse, imprisonment and other consequences that interfere with our happiness because we didn't know better. I feel that we were extended freedom to choose so that we could choose Him. That opportunity has always existed. Free and clear of any other choices we are always able to choose Him and a lifestyle and actions that keep us free to return to his presence. He made the plan to satisfy justice, but he hoped we would never choose anything but Him. Here in Chicago and all over the world the missionaries meet those who have not chosen Him. Everyday people come to realize that what they have chosen does not provide what they really want. They feel the draw to go back to their Heavenly Father. They make new choices that ultimately change their opportunities. Some people on the other hand feel no desire to return to live in his presence and have all that he has. What they feel they want is limited to what mortality has to offer. They feel content to continue with that into the next life. They do not choose Him. And that is allowed--we learn in the scriptures that God will "force no man to Heaven". And yet he loves them and provides a state in the next life that will provide an existance they are comfortable with. For those who choose "The Great Plan of Happiness", it feels appropriate to share the choice that has brought good to their lives. In this choice to share, they are able to serve God's desire that all mankind have immortality and eternal life. Sometimes when they share people choose to close the door on their message. Sometimes when they share people choose Him and the purpose of agency is fulfilled. I am grateful for the freedom to choose, the freedom to share, the freedom to move forward without consequences that make life difficult. I'm grateful for agency.

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