In a vision of Adam and Eve’s experience in the Garden of Eden, during their conversation with Heavenly Father regarding the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Moses teaches us about moral agency:
And I, the Lord God, commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Moses 3:16-17)
Moral agency has three parts: 1) choice (“thou mayest choose for thyself”), 2) stewardship (“for it is given unto you),” and 3) consequence (“remember that I forbid it”). Adam and Eve were stewards whose choices were subject to God’s judgment.
Faithful Latter-day Saints are not “free” agents. We are moral agents in the service of God. The efficacy of any human choice rests squarely on the eternal and infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ. Without His sacrifice, any action that brought pleasure or pain to a human being would dictate good or evil, respectively – limiting choice to animal instinct. With His sacrifice, God determines good and evil, giving deeper, richer meaning and efficacy to our choices. Choice is bounded but not limited or pre-determined.
Choice has an innate eternal value tied to stewardship and consequence. These bonds are what make agency moral and not simply “free.” Faithful Latter-day Saints are agents of God the Father and His Beloved Son. In this context, choice exists for human beings to conform their lives to the Divine, or not.
Next: Opposition and Conflict