Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Presidency of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke about the complementary principles of agency and responsibility at the BYU Education Week Devotional.

Elder Robbins said that some gospel principles are incomplete without their pair, such as agency and responsibility, faith and works and mercy and justice. These principles when divided from their pair can confuse people. The devil uses this division to keep people from learning more about God and therefore “growing in the light,” said Elder Robbins.

Elder Robbins focused on two of these gospel pairs.

Agency and Responsibility

Complete freedom of choice comes with complete responsibility for one’s choices, said Elder Robbins.

“Responsibility is to recognize ourselves as being the cause for the effects or results of our choices—good or bad,” said Elder Robbins. “On the negative side, it is to always own up to the consequences of poor choices.”

He noted that the devil’s strategy is to separate responsibility, especially negative consequence, from choice. Elder Robbins gave the example of how freedom of speech without responsibility is used to create and protect pornography. The devil also tries to dull feelings of responsibility.

“The natural man rejects accountability in his attempt to sedate his conscience,” said Elder Robbins.

Elder Robbins listed common ways the devil tempts people to avoid responsibility:

  • Blame others
  • Rationalize or justify disobedience
  • Make excuses (Which never equal results.)
  • Minimize or trivialize sin
  • Hide or cover up sins
  • Run from or abandon responsibility
  • Deny or lie about sins
  • Rebel
  • Complain
  • Find fault with others and get angry at them
  • Make demands and entitlements
  • Doubt, lose hope, give up and quit
  • Pity yourself and develop a victim mentality
  • Stop making decisions
  • Procrastinate
  • Be fearful
  • Enable others to avoid responsibility

“The day a person eliminates the list from their life is the day they regain control over positive outcomes from that point on, and they begin moving forward in the light at an accelerated pace,” said Elder Robbins.

Elder Robbins said this list ultimately destroyed Laman and Lemuel, who did not follow Christ. This list is so destructive because those who do the things on the list are not repenting of their sins.

“Agency without responsibility is one of the foremost anti-Christ doctrines, very cunning in its nature and very destructive in its results,” said Elder Robbins.

Difficult situations give people the choice to accept responsibility, or not, and to act with faith, or not.

The Savior is our perfect example of always being responsible for thoughts and actions.

“The more we are like Jesus Christ the less likely we are to judge unrighteously, to give up on someone, or to quit a worthy cause,” said Elder Robbins. “Even though we sometimes give up on ourselves, the Savior never gives up on us because He is perfect in His long-suffering.”

Justice and Mercy

It is natural to want fairness and justice, including revenge. But it is up to God to mete out justice. Forgiving others is how to become free from negative consequences, and it is how to give justice to God completely. 

“Having faith in Jesus Christ is to trust that because of His atoning sacrifice He will correct all injustices, He will restore all things lost, and mend all things broken, including hearts,” said Elder Robbins. “He will make all things right, not leaving any detail unattended.”