Friday, November 4, 2011

Of Greeks, Banks, and Economic Imperialism

The Euro was a bad idea from the get go. I know that's no revelation for most people who follow this. You can't take the tool of currency manipulation away from sovereign nations and expect them all to hold hands and play nice. One is always going to try to benefit at the expense of another. A unified Europe was an ambitious plan, one that if successful would have equalized the international trade markets and given Europe the purchasing power of the US, but carried such inherent risk that the only predictable beneficiaries would be the banks, who set themselves up to win regardless of the score at the end of the game.

Since the economic torture room called the great recession has prodded the truth out of its Greek prisoners - that the party is over - there is a choice to be made and it's really the same choice that just about every struggling middle class family facing foreclosure needs to make. Do we continue burning through our productive capacity to support a mountain of debt or do we hit the reset button? The average person faces the specter of poor credit for a period of time where they will be forced to rent their home and live below their means in order to scratch and claw their way back to fiscal responsibility. Greece faces the same decision, on a much larger scale of course, but essentially comparable. What Iceland proved is that you can say "Yes!" to all the offers of credit coming in the mail, then flip your creditors the bird when it comes time to pay. A couple banks will bear the brunt of the blame/pain - in this case MF Global, while others will exercise credit default swaps and move on to the next sucker. Furthermore, creditors will not stay away nearly as long as they threatened. Once a country is no longer burdened by a crippling debt service, they are actually more likely to pay a small debt, so the first creditor in the door would be fairly secure and can earn a healthy return by lending to a formerly irresponsible borrower at high rates.

While I do think Papandreiu's referendum move was political, it was also smart to, like Pontius Pilate, give his people a say in their future so he could wash his hands of whichever decision is made. I don't think anyone wants to be the guy in charge when faced with two bad alternatives. If I was a Greek citizen I'd vote to go back to the Drachma and reinstate the Greek central bank, break from the Euro, default on the debt, and start from scratch. Creditors would come back eventually and the Greeks could pat themselves on the back for pulling one over on the economic imperialists running the show in Brussels.

Of course, I don't believe this will happen as I think the relentless pressure of the EuroZone partners will scare Greeks enough to make them adopt wicked austerity, in which case, they're just delaying the inevitable collapse long enough to pay back some well-connected bankers and give the Germans more economic and political power than they already have, which is considerable. In other words a more orderly, long-term default is still a default but at least it doesn't trigger dominoes and allows the Euros to build their "firewall".

Regardless of the decision made, the Dollar is only going to get stronger because it is the least bad alternative, not because of any fundamental strength in the US economy. This bodes well for precious metals and commodities in general in the long run, but I think it will be a wild ride in the short term, with several dives to come and plenty of opportunities to beef up the portfolio with real strength.

It's also a good time to reconsider what prophets and apostles have told us for years about being prepared personally for the inevitable collapse of Babylon. Get your house in order. Beef up your personal security portfolio with food, fuel, medical supplies, tools, and guns. With these five categories covered you'll survive any Mad Max scenario and give yourself and your family a feeling of comfort and peace.

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Take on President Obama's "Job Speech" - 09/08/2011

In the president's speech last night, he conceded the following:

1) America was founded on rugged individualism.
2) We need to tax cuts to stimulate spending and hiring.
3) We need to shrink the size of government.
4) We need to do away with onerous and redundant regulations to free up businesses and give the market more certainty.
5) We need to close loopholes, which implies simplifying the tax code and moving away from the lobbyist-controlled corporatocracy that exists now, where his own buddies, Warren Buffett and Jeff Immelt (GE), pay almost no taxes as a pro rata share of income.

I, and every other, conservative/libertarian American should be encouraged that the President has become aware of the above truths. It is a testament to just how far we've fallen as a result of the failed policies of both parties.

However, not to be overly conciliatory, President Obama was quick to qualify all of his concessions with a "double down" on big-government, Keynesian, labor theory of value fiscal policy, which almost immediately negated any respect he seemed to have for the idea of limited, constitutional government:

1) We have a shared fiduciary responsibility for the financial well-being of all Americans.
2) We need to spend more money at the federal level on infrastructure. (additional stimulus)
3) By ignoring the Constitution we now have Social Security, Medicare, Interstate Roads, Railroads, National Parks, etc. Therefore, we can't be so stingy about our adherence to the Constitution.
4) Government is better at creating jobs than the private sector and needs to do more of it.
5) Collective bargaining is a right that needs to be protected.

The assumptions that must be granted for the above proposals to be effective/true are many and varied, but can basically be reduced to the following statist maxims:

Those in government are smarter than you. Government is the source of your rights and has the authority to define them, so there is no need for a code of law to enumerate those rights. Profit belongs to labor, not entrepreneurs. Government is better at educating children, creating jobs, organizing large scale projects, judging the worthiness of charitable pursuits and administering charitable funds.

President Obama demonstrated last night that he is an exceptional speaker who wields considerable power over an audience and has mastered the debate tactic of softly conceding small points to win larger arguments and delivering rhetorical darts with precision. He will be very formidable in a general election, not because he is a capable executive, but because he knows how to speak what the people want to hear... I'll feed you. I'll clothe you. I'll keep you safe.

Bread and Circuses...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A government created job is like...

...hitting into a double play.

...choosing a cup of pee over a cup of tea.

...killing a single dandelion in a pristine yard with Roundup.

...putting a Picaso in a single-wide trailer.

...cutting down a tree to make a pencil.

...filling a hot air balloon with a Bic.

...brushing your teeth with pumice.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Notice To My Creditors

To Whom It May Concern:

I hereby demand that you increase my line of credit. The reason for this is that I want to be able to make the existing minimum, interest-only payments on all my other debts from the increased line amount you give me.


Brock O'Bombya

Dear Mr. O'Bombya,

We received your letter from last week regarding your credit limit. This is an unreasonable request to give someone with your spending history more money to blow through. For this reason we are denying your request.


FRB Card Services

Dear FRB Card Services,

This is not an unreasonable request. You see, my credit report shows I have an 800 score, so there's no way I can default. I know what you're thinking; I don't make enough money to pay all my debts. Again, I don't see this as a problem. As long as I can keep that great credit score and other companies keep giving me larger lines, all is well. You'll get your payments and so will my other creditors. I've never missed a single payment to you or anyone else, and have been a good borrower ever since joining the Federal Reserve Bank. I ask you to reconsider before my next payment deadline.

Best Regards,

Brock O'Bombya

Mr. O'Bombya,

We realize you've been a long-time customer but what you've described above is called a Ponzi scheme. Now if it was up to the FRB you'd have the line extension already. In fact, they'd probably pay you for some of your debt as well. However, our department is an independent arm of the company and must make decisions based upon your ability to pay the PRINCIPAL, not just the interest. We're sure you understand. Perhaps you'd do better just to cut back your personal spending a little. Whatever you decide, we wish you only prosperity.

A. Paulista
Customer Service Representative
FRB Card Services

Dear Mr. Paulista,

Thank you for your kind response, but since you have been intractible and are threatening my life by putting a gun to my head like a terrorist, I can't help but go over your head. Therefore, I am contacting your supervisor, Mitch Peloski, an old comrade of mine that I've always been able to count on for a reasonable compromise. I'll be speaking with them privately this afternoon to solve this crisis before my payment due date. I'm sure he'll understand that interest payments are better than a total default. I do ask, however, that you not share this conversation with the credit bureaus or my other creditors. Remember, we all sink or swim together!


Brock O'Bombya

Dear FRB Card Services,

I can no longer stand to be a part of the sort of gamesmanship I detailed above. I will not seek to extend my current contract in the service department. I've been blowing the whistle into your deaf ears for too many years and will be moving on. I'm taking my case directly to the shareholders of this company and will be attempting an un-hostile takeover.


A. Paulista

Friday, July 29, 2011

Luddism Is Alive And Well

I came across this comment on the investing message board of a certain Silver ETF today. This is standard conservative/liberal fare and is the reason why I can't stand either side.

"Politicians do not have any principles. The problem plain and simple is shipping all the jobs out of the country yo [sic] get cheap Walmart goods and high profits for the rich. The American worker was sold out by the politiians. Stand up for America and stop globalization."

Here's my reply:

"Yeah! I wish we still had those awesome wood console TVs too. I wouldn't mind paying $2000 for them, because it helps the American worker and kicks Wal-mart in the shins! Death to all those who make our goods less expensive!!!

Come on...the consumer shipped jobs overseas, not bureaucrats. Globalization is the natural effect of consumer demand in the market economy. If you can buy a blender for $19 made in China that would cost $80 made here...are you telling me you're going to buy the $80 blender? Give your pretense of patriotism a rest already.

Our future as a nation does not depend on employing millions of widget makers on an assembly line, that is a job for emerging economies. Furthermore, since all men are my brothers, I rejoice no less in improved well-being for a peasant farmer in Laos who gets a leg up than I do for a service rep in Texas who becomes a manager of an Indian call center. America's future is in innovation. We need to spend less time collectively doing tasks that other countries will eventually do cheaper and focus our efforts on 'what's next'. That doesn't mean our sole export should be finance...we all know that's a house of cards. Technology, improved business process development, enhancement of delivery channels, replication & augmentation, media, etc. A society concerned solely with subsistence level survival has no time for idea development. The great benefit of globalization is the amount of leisure time, surplus cash, and resources available to the innovator.

Nevertheless, Primitivist Neo-Luddites still bark loudly the refrains, 'Low tech or no tech!' 'no ware before its time!'. Seriously folks...get on the flying car or get left in the jetwash."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ruminations on Civil Disobedience

I took a little time the other night and read Henry David Thoreau's, Civil Disobedience.  The key insight among many that I gleaned from the essay was that a man (or woman) living in a despotic regime can only be wealthy at the expense of their honesty.  The reason being that we become so protective of our treasure, like Golum with the ring of power, that we are willing to sacrifice our conscience to maintain our financial security...knowing that a coercive government has the ability to take it away from us if we fall out of line.  In this way, an autocratic or despotic regime continues to grow in power as the people become more prosperous.  Our possessions inevitably become the source of our greatest fear. 

Now wealth is not as big an issue if the society we live in proclaims peace and good will.  If we are not threatened with loss of property for speaking our mind, the possessions do not hinder a good conscience.  This seems to be the state of affairs in previous Zion societies.
ALMA 1  “…and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength. 27. And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely. 28. And thus they did establish the affairs of the church; and thus they began to have continual peace again, notwithstanding all their persecutions. 29. And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceeding rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need-and abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also abundance of grain, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things, and abundance of all manner of good homely cloth. 30. And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need. 31. And thus they did prosper and become far more wealthy…”
MOSES 7  "And the Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish. 18. And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteoiusness; and there was no poor amond them."
While I love the spark of thought that was generated by Thoreau's premise, I was nevertheless halted by another logical conclusion that must be likewise drawn from such a line of reasoning.  What if our treasure lies not in temporal wealth, but is nevertheless still vulnerable to seizure or destruction?  In this case, I'm referring to our families and our freedom.  If we peacefully resist that which is legal, yet unjust, we run the risk of separation from our families through extended imprisonment.  Is it then "dishonest" for a man to either have a family or treasure his family above resisting injustice?  The Declaration of Independence states: 
"...all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."
Sometimes, despite conscientious objection to certain government policies, we make calculations about the cost of resistance (non-violent or otherwise) and decide that the risk is not worth taking action.  Is this then "dishonest" or can it be in some instances wise and prudent?  I guess it all depends on where you draw your line in the sand.  I look at this like the functioning of a market economy.  In the Misesian tradition of individualism, value is not a fixed quantity but instead a personal preference.  When an individual decides that injustice outweighs continued inaction they will act.  When many individuals feel likewise you have the beginnings of a popular uprising.  Again from the Declaration of Independence:
"But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government."  
It is also interesting that Thoreau has become a liberal hero since he largely proclaimed an anarchic state of individualism, while acknowledging the necessity of governments, citing potential loss of private property as a hindrance to civil disobedience, the very acknowledgement of which implies the right to hold and direct that private property, something liberals would prefer to redistribute according to the wisdom of an anointed intelligentsia, putting them solidly in the camp of despots, and unworthy of the obedience outlined in the 12th Article of Faith and D&C 134.
"12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law." 
"2. We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.  5. We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while preotected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments..."
A government tending towards anarchism (if such can even exist) would be travelling in the opposite direction of the centrally planned, coercively egalitarian utopias envisioned by today's liberals.
"'That government is best which governs not at all and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have."
I couldn't agree more with Thoreau here.  At the present moment I recognize, as did Thoreau, that this state is far from practical, yet it should be the ideal of every man to live in a society which abides natural laws (which are, fundamentally and naturally, God's laws), not by coercion, but voluntarily according to justice and wisdom, choosing "the better part" as a consequence of their own "mighty change of heart". 

Having stated a minor objection in Thoreau's very black and white logical sequence, it is also requisite that I express my agreement with his opinion of material wealth and express my absolute agreement with the undergirding principle of esteeming freedom and conscience above money, such as expressed here:
"The opportunities of living are diminished in proportion as what are called the "means" are increased. The best thing a man can do for his culture when he is rich is to endeavor to carry out those schemes which he entertained when he was poor." 
This brings to mind Christ's likening of the rich man to a camel passing through the eye of the needle, and reminds us to place our treasure in that which does not tarnish or fade. 

I've largely focused in this article on Thoreau's treatment of wealth and freedom.  I'll probably revisit his concepts of non-violent resistance, in the context of the Book of Mormon, to highlight not only the effectiveness of the tactic, but its potential for lasting righteous outcomes as well.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Keeping Our Second Estate

"...and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.”
Abraham 3:26

Understanding Our Second Estate

Mormons are taught from a young age about the heavenly council and war over agency that highlighted our pre-mortal existence, or First Estate.  These events, taken along with the millennial reign, resurrection, and subsequent judgment, form the bookends of our mortal existence, or Second Estate.  This life on Earth is the proving ground that will determine our eternal inheritance, or Third Estate.  Therefore it is of singular importance to understand what it means to "keep (our) second estate".

It would seem that the answer would be relatively simple to understand.  Keeping our Second Estate is obeying the will of our Heavenly Father in all things; easy enough.  Yet, it is the quest of a lifetime to put into practice the ideals that form the basis of the eternal plan of happiness; to truly know his will and make it our own through individual human action, despite the temptations of immediate gratification.  Some, including:  Enoch[1]and the city of Zion[2], Elijah[3], Moses[4], John the Beloved[5], Alma the Younger[6], and the Three Nephites[7] have been able to reach that point, referred to as translation, where they can no longer be forcibly kept within the limited bounds of the telestial kingdom, as they have mastered the principles and practices of higher kingdoms; being brought into the bosom of the Father, or themselves given power over death to await a general resurrection.  This state of translation highlights the possibilities of positive or righteous human action versus negative or destructive human action.  As we abide certain laws of nature and principles of righteousness our understanding and hence the scope of our agency is enlarged. 

It makes one wonder how these individuals (or in the case of Enoch’s Zion, a whole city) were able to reach this higher state while in the flesh.  Did they have special knowledge?  Did they possess exceptional ability?  Did they create conditions conducive to obedience and progression?  If so, what were these conditions and how could they be recreated?

Considering the central battle of our First Estate was over agency, i.e. the freedom to act for ourselves with the attendant responsibility for the consequences of our actions, it is not so great a leap to assume that agency plays a central role in our progression towards Zion, having our calling and election made sure through the confirmation of the royal anointing we receive in the Holy Temple, and, ultimately, receiving the greatest of all gifts:  eternal life and exaltation.  President Benson recognized the ongoing battle over agency,

“It was the struggle over free agency that divided us before we came here. It may well be the struggle over the same principle which will deceive and divide us again."
                   Ezra Taft Benson, BYU Speeches of the Year

Acknowledging the importance of agency[8]in the struggle between good and evil is pivotal.  All God-given rights are derived from agency.  Agency is an a priori right that precedes all human action outside of involuntary, chemical body function.  It was in our affirmation of God’s plan for individual agency, with its resultant actions and consequences, that we received our bodies and live a mortal life in the first place.  Hence, even life itself is a result of our acknowledgment of the importance of agency.  Contemplating, then exercising our agency through individual human action to merit further blessings or curses is the exclusive province of mortal man as opposed to the animal or plant kingdom which operates primarily on instinct and environmental triggers.  Consequently, our charge in mortality is be agents unto ourselves, not to be acted upon or commanded in all things[9]. 

"Usually the Lord gives us the overall objectives to be accomplished and some guidelines to follow, but he expects us to work out most of the details and methods. The methods and procedures are usually developed through study and prayer and by living so that we can obtain and follow the promptings of the Spirit. Less spiritually advanced people, such as those in the days of Moses, had to be commanded in many things. Today those spiritually alert look at the objectives, check the guidelines laid down by the Lord and his prophets, and then prayerfully act—without having to be commanded in all things.' This attitude prepares men for godhood.”
                          Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson

Given the fact of God’s deference to self-determinism and human action, it then becomes the goal of the man interested in eternal progression to understand the Plan of Salvation (the “what”) and then prayerfully act (the “how”) according to our several desires for the promised blessings.   

Agency and Accountability

When it comes to eternal inheritances (heavens or degrees of glory) I believe we go to the heaven we choose; that we judge ourselves according to the understanding we possessed at the time we made our decisions.  In those instances where we made judgments in ignorance of consequences, the Savior atones for our lack of knowledge as we accept his offer to do so, and enter into a covenant relationship with Him (with its own attendant consequences).

At various times in our lives we are confronted with a choice whose consequence has been purposely augmented to achieve a different result.  This is commonly done by parents and governments to call attention to a particular action, when the natural consequence doesn’t achieve the level of significance that the authority figure desires for it.  More nefariously, the alteration of consequences is intended to inculcate behaviors with the stamp of moral approval or disapproval, which otherwise the actions would not justify, thereby changing completely the natural cause and effect expectation.  It is in these increasingly more common instances that we see the usurpation of the Father’s prerogative and glory.  It is through this operation that Satan subtly leads the children of men captive to his will, by blinding them to the real consequences of their actions; giving them a choice that appeals to their pride, in contrast to what the Father would have them do; ultimately causing them to establish a habit of spiritual deafness through transgression.

How difficult it must have been for the father of the prodigal to indulge his son’s profligate request![10]  Unfortunately, that’s what it took for the boy to experience his mighty change of heart.  Even more instructive for us is the reaction of “the good son” upon his brother’s return.  His anger revealed a personal longing for the chance to “live it up” like his brother had.  He’s angry that he did what he was supposed to and yet now, with the return of his brother, his own inheritance was subject to possible reduction.  However, if we take the rich father as a type of our Heavenly Father we realize that there is no end of his possessions (or power, or knowledge), and no need for us to increase only at the expense of another. 

In my early twenties I served as an Elders Quorum President of a low-income ward in South Salt Lake, Utah.  The demand for church welfare assistance was so great that my bishop at the time, Bro. Weaver, requested my help.  He asked me to pre-screen all requests for church welfare by fielding calls and doing interviews in the home of the requesting individual or family, then preparing a report to assist the bishop in making the final determination privately on Sunday.  He asked me to go so far as to look in cupboards and pantries, if necessary, to determine need, but also, to be attentive to the trappings of “the world” that may exist in the homes.  Frequently, in conducting the interviews, I was struck by the manifest contradictions.  Some folks had cable TV, but no food; $400 truck payments, but no rent money; couldn’t buy diapers, but had ashtrays full of cigarette butts.  I remember thinking, as a young married father struggling to pay bills, that these people weren’t without agency, they were just getting more of what they treasured most.  Nevertheless, I performed my duties, prepared the reports, and left the rest to the bishop. 

I remember him telling me once that it isn’t merciful to shield people from the natural consequences of their actions.  It’s been 11 years but that has stuck with me, not because it agreed with my own feelings at the time, but because I watched one after another of those people walk out of his office with rent paid and pantry orders in hand.  When I remarked on the apparent contradiction, he told me he was willing to be taken advantage of once by anyone for the opportunity to teach people at their most humble moments.  He opened up the scriptures and read the following to me:  “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore as wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”[11] 

We had several baptisms and countless opportunities for fellowship that came as a result of those interviews.  What words were spoken in his office, I’ll never know, but the standards of provident living he held them to, tempered appropriately with a bit of mercy, ultimately led to the changes I saw repeatedly in the circumstances of some who visited with him.  In all cases along with the mercy came the accountability of knowledge.  Eventually, we will all approach the bar of The Judge as beggars. 

The Plan Of Progression - Coming To Zion

I wouldn’t pretend to fully understand the operations of a Zion society, but I believe it will require quite a paradigm shift, one which we can learn more about in another terrestrial habitation: the Holy Temple.  There, between our washings, anointings, and covenants, we begin to understand the necessary preconditions for abiding Zion.  One of the most important principles of Zion, mentioned in the temple and in scripture is unity.  In one aspect of temple worship Hugh Nibley suggested, “the purpose of the prayer circle was to achieve total unity of minds and hearts, keeping in mind the absent ones".[12]  The injunction for participants to have no unkind feelings towards another in the circle means “the good son’s” jealousy and my begrudging sense of charity would disqualify us for participation in Zion, a society built on the same “total unity of minds and hearts”.  Likewise, anyone who covets has lost sight of the unity which is the hallmark of a Zion family or society. 

The first chapter of Alma contains an example of the surplus that can result from not esteeming ourselves above another, but instead striving for righteous desires together.

“…and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength. 27. And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely. 28. And thus they did establish the affairs of the church; and thus they began to have continual peace again, notwithstanding all their persecutions. 29. And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceeding rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need-and abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also abundance of grain, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious things, and abundance of all manner of good homely cloth. 30. And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need. 31. And thus they did prosper and become far more wealthy…”

Agency is a tool for prosperity or destruction.  When exercised properly through righteous human action, devoid of idolatry and covetousness, it can provide us with surplus (“enough and to spare”), even luxuries (“abundance of gold, silver, and precious things”); which state, though short of the spontaneous provisions provided without labor in the Garden of Eden, nevertheless demonstrates faithful stewardship[13]over that which we’ve been entrusted, and justifies our appointment as “lord over many things” which may lead to the reestablishment of Zion.  Book of Mormon communities frequently, though always temporarily, enjoyed the peace that comes with economic prosperity and mutual consideration, i.e. no poor amongst them.  Pride, covetousness, jealousy, and lust for power were the enemies of prosperity and Zion.  The lesson for us should be that we cannot approach Zion with pride in our hearts. 

Latter-day Saints acknowledge the part that contrasting choices play in exercising our agency.  Heavenly Father, in allowing Lucifer to tempt Adam and Eve in a terrestrial sphere, did so with the understanding that He cannot reclaim his children (or in Satan’s case, lure them away) without consent, and consent requires agency.  In the temple we are told that we must partake of the fruit so as to comprehend that everything has its opposite:  good and evil, virtue and vice, light and darkness, health and sickness, pleasure and pain…that our eyes may be opened to the ultimate choice between liberty and captivity that we each must make alone. 

We fought to protect our agency pre-mortally, so that we would have the inborn right to choose Him who is “mighty to save”[14] in mortality.  However, we need to look beyond simply securing our agency. 

"We who hold the priesthood must beware concerning ourselves, that we do not fall in the traps he lays to rob us of our freedom. We must be careful that we are not led to accept or support in any way any organization, cause or measure which in its remotest effort, would jeopardize free agency, whether it be in politics, government, religion, employment, education, or in any other field. It is not enough for us to be sincere in what we support. We must be right!"
                                                                          Elder Marion G. Romney

It is most important, in the context of keeping our Second Estate, that we learn how to act, not just how to choose.  Our choices are not made one time for all future decision points; they are the impetus for actions not yet performed and must be made repeatedly.  I’ve often thought on this principle that is taught frequently in the church, i.e. that we can determine who we are going to be many years from now if we just make all the important choices now, such as: mission, temple marriage, word of wisdom, celestial kingdom, etc.  While going through this practice of envisioning future goals and setting one’s bearings on those future goals is a healthy and important one, these choices we make only matter if they are followed by repeated actions, often in the face of stiffer-than-anticipated opposition. 

I’ve been playing guitar for a number of years and I’ve acquired a good ear for music.  I’ve come to appreciate a guitar with new strings because the sound is so crisp and sonorous.  Unfortunately, new strings constantly have to be adjusted so any purity of pitch is short-lived.  So, I prefer playing on older strings that I don’t have to tune up every single time I play.  The older strings aren’t as bright and flashy, but they have more tensile consistency because they’ve been through everything from heavy strumming in campout-cold air to sticky-fingered kids, being recalibrated slightly with each new experience.  Our goals, like the initial tuning of new strings, may set the ideal, but without the steeling, sometimes harsh, experience of choice, action, and consequence, they won’t be realized. 

I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else…all hell knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty…"
                                            Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304

This is the process of sanctification that must precede any sojourn in Zion.  It is made, one decision…nay, one action at a time.

[1] D&C 107:49; Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5
[2] Moses 7:21,31,69; D&C 38:4; D&C 45:12
[3] D&C 110:13; 2Kings 2:11; Matthew 17:3
[4] D&C 84:25; Alma 45:19; Deuteronomy 34:5-6; Matthew 17:3
[5] D&C 7:1-8; John 21:20-24; Matthew 16:28
[6] Alma 45:18-19
[7] 3 Nephi 28:4-9, 36-40; 4 Nephi 1:14; Mormon 8:10-11
[8] I’ve chosen not to bother here with semantic arguments about the appropriate usage for what I refer to in this essay interchangeably as: agency, free agency, moral agency, free will, liberty, etc.  Instead, I’d like to focus on agency, properly manifest in righteous human action, as an essential ongoing characteristic of and precursor to Zion, and restrictions on agency as the trademark of bondage.
[9] D&C 58:26-28; 2 Nephi 2:27
[10] Luke 15:11-32
[11] Matthew 10:16
[12] The (italics added)
Christian Prayer Circle
, Hugh W. Nibley
[13] Matthew 25:14-30 Parable of Talents
[14] Alma 34:18