When I was little, I loved choose-your-own-adventure books. The idea is you take on a character and, as that character, you have to make choices. Some of these choices will bring you closer to your goal, be it the princess or bringing down a villain. However, some of these choices can lead you in the opposite direction.
In a way, each of us is living a choose-your-own-adventure story. God has given unto every person the gift of free agency. This means that each person has the right to choose for him or herself what to do. We each get to choose whether to live a chaste life or whether to drink or not drink alcohol, and countless other things. However, we do not get to choose the consequences of our actions.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also called the Mormon Church) teaches that God has given us, his children, commandments for the purpose of securing our happiness. He doesn’t give us commandments because He wants to control us or because He wants us to be miserable. He gives us commandments that, if followed, will lead us toward salvation. If we choose not to obey His commandments, He will not force us to follow Him, but we must accept the repercussions. We will not be protected from the negative consequences of sin. The consequence may not seem to come right away, but it will always come.
To some people, agency might not seem like a blessing, but think of the wonderful things it means: if our parents did not raise us correctly, we can overcome that; if we have been hurt or insulted, we can choose not to retaliate, to let it go, and to be happy. We never lose our free will unless we make choices that will take it away, as developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol will do, or becoming enslaved in debt. Even if we find ourselves in a situation where we find our agency limited by past choices, we can always choose to turn around. No matter what our situation is, we can choose to do better, and we can always choose in the way the Lord wants us to.
Mormon doctrine teaches that we are all God’s children and that we lived with Him before we came to earth. In this so-called pre-existent state, God presented to us a plan by which we could gain bodies, learn, eventually become perfect, and return to Him and become like Him. It was necessary to be separated from Him in a state of opposition so that we could learn to discern and choose right from wrong, to grow. Satan presented another plan, by which he would force us to all choose correctly. By guaranteeing all of God’s children would return, he felt he deserved the glory. All men and women born on this earth chose God’s plan, which included a Savior to come and make it possible for us to return to God. Those who followed Satan were cast out of heaven and became the devil and his angels. Thus we see that our agency came at a high price.