I thought I would share a quotation from a book that certainly influenced my thinking years ago – especially on the principle(s) of agency and the importance of freedom. Hopefully you enjoy it, and I would be interested in your thoughts and arguments on the matter. The intended audience was definitely to the LDS people of his time, but that does not mean that there is no benefit to others – including any non-believers.
This is from pp. 18-20 of the book The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil. This is the entire section found under the heading: “The Reign of Law and Its Relationship to the Use of Intelligence”:
Civilized man has learned that he lives in a universe governed by unchanging physical law. If he desires to accomplish any result whatsoever, he knows that he must discover and precisely obey those laws upon which the result depends. This reign of law in the physical world is not questioned by intelligent men. Scientists, as well as others, have proven over and over again the unvarying nature of the rules which govern changes relating to energy and matter such as the laws of gravity, electricity, and thermodynamics. All reliable evidence proves the existence of immutable laws in the physical world, and nothing man has ever done or observed has disproved their existence; therefore, there is general agreement on this matter among those who are informed.
Logical minds also agree on the fact that the existence of law is indispensable to the use of intelligence. A dictionary definition of intelligence is:
The ability to apprehend the interrelationships of presented facts in such a way as to guide action toward a desired goal.
Yet no one can work toward any goal unless he can foresee the results of his actions, and no one can foresee the results of his actions unless laws exist which assure that the same results will follow the same causes. From this we must conclude that intelligent conduct is possible only in the presence of law. Only when a person can predict the consequences of what he does can he “guide action toward a desired goal.” Where law prevails and is understood, one is able to anticipate the results which will flow from any given course of conduct, and thus he can choose that course which will accomplish the goal he seeks.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to visualize an environment wherein law does not exist, but if such were possible, chaos would reign. Nothing could be depended upon to happen the same way twice. Past events and conditions would bear no relation to occurrences in the future. One could not survive under such conditions. He could not even feed and clothe himself. He could never work toward a goal because he could never know what to do to accomplish it. Knowledge, judgement, foresight, reason, memory, and all other qualities of the mind would be of no avail. In the absence of law, intelligent conduct would be impossible and intelligence unusable.
Obedience is the first law of intelligent existence. Anyone who allows himself to be deceived into assuming that there is no need to obey specific laws in some particular field such as religion or morality has in effect concluded that it is impossible for anyone to reach a goal in that field. Man is continually striving to bring about change; but every change occurs in strict accordance with natural law. Therefore, to produce any desired change, those laws which govern its occurrence must be discovered and obeyed. This constitutes the purpose of intelligent life. To attain goals in the spiritual realm, obedience to law is as necessary as in the physical. The Lord has assured us that this is so:
There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated – And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated. (D&C 130:20-21)
We must also conclude that to obtain the full benefits of compliance, obedience must be precise and complete. If one complies only partially or imperfectly, he may expect no more than a partial or an imperfect result, because we have been told:
For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; (D&C 1:31)
Broad is the gate, and wide the way that leadeth to the deaths; and many there are that go in thereat, because they receive me not, neither do they abide in my law. (D&C 132:25)
One final comment regarding the reign of law is that it applies to all people without any exceptions. God is just; He is no respecter of persons; He will not play favorites even if He could. For anyone to attain a specific goal, exact compliance with law is essential. We are told:
For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory. And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory. (D&C 88:22-23)
In reaching these hard and fast conclusions regarding the inviolable nature of laws, one should not lose sight of the fact that repentance and the atonement of Christ are among them. While every violation of the laws of God inevitably results in suffering, it is not inevitable that the violators do the suffering if there is seasonable repentance, and a reliance on the atonement. In a manner which is difficult to comprehend, the law of God’s mercy operates to permit One to suffer for the transgressions of all.