Sunday, November 6, 2016

Alma 2:5-6 -- On Robots and Choice

"And it came to pass that the people assembled themselves together throughout all the land, every man according to his mind, whether it were for or against Amlici, in separate bodies, having much dispute and wonderful contentions one with another.
And thus they did assemble themselves together to cast in their voices concerning the matter; and they were laid before the judges."
Alma 2:5-6

In this chapter, the people get together to vote on whether they should give up their freedom and appoint Amlici king.  It's weird to me that there were a lot of people who wanted that, and the idea of "wonderful contentions" also seems strange.  After all, 3 Nephi 11:29 says, in part, "... he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another."  On the other hand, some good discussion is probably a good thing, and can help us learn to understand other people's opinions, rather than ignoring anyone with a differing opinion.

Sometimes we think that an ideal society is one in which everyone agrees, and behaves similarly.  And to a certain extent, that is true, insofar that in a Zion society we would all be united in supporting God and lifting each other.  But on the other hand, let's remember that free agency is one of the main reasons why we are here.  It is an integral part of God's plan, designed to help us learn and grow and become so much more than we could ever be otherwise.  Trying to imagine a life without the ability to choose is pretty tough, actually.  We love our freedom, and we learn each time we make choices.  The people in this chapter did too, for the most part, and they voted him down.  However, Amlici and his followers decided they wanted a kingdom anyway, which they set up, and then started a war with the rest of the people who still had judges... trying to *force* people to obey them, since they would not agree with them.  After reading that, I think the contrast with God is very clear.  God is the one who gave us free agency in the first place.  Why give it and then force us into something?

God isn't out to turn us into Stepford wives, or any other sort of less-convincing robot or android pre-programmed to obey.  The whole point of choice is learning.  Brainwashing us or taking our choices away would negate the whole reason we are here... to increase our capacity and potential, and to choose for ourselves who we want to be.  We're not just making black and white choices between good and evil.  We're learning to recognize all of the colors, and all of the many choices that are good and bad in different ways and amounts and percentages.  We're learning to deal with ambiguity, and to understand that so many of our capacities and choices are not just yes/no, but spectrums and rating scales that sometimes exceed our capacity to completely understand.  Those things don't make us into cookie-cutter versions of one another, even if we are all focused on the gospel.  Choosing to be a doctor, teacher, or parent, or liking puzzles, running, or pottery don't make us better or worse than each other... they make us unique, while still allowing us to be "one" with each other and with God in a totally different way.

God requires our hearts and willing minds in order to work with us and teach us all the things that we need to know in order to be prepared for eternity.  But he isn't going to take them by force, and he isn't always going to tell us what to do.  His commandments are clear, but he isn't going to compel obedience.  Most of the time, he'll help us study and learn, and then remind us that it is our choice.  That's why sincerity and faith and trust are so important.  Not to fuel God's worship-hungry batteries, but because *we* need to learn those things in order to truly let go of our pride and resistance, and let God into our lives.  Choices are essential to our education.

As we make choices today, let's try to remember Amlici and his followers.  Let's embrace our positive differences but remain true to God, and when our choices don't work out, let's accept that and recover, rather than trying to force the issue.  Let's listen to God and allow him to help us make better and better choices every day.

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