Personal accountability is a right and duty that must constantly be defended, said Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the Saturday morning session of general conference.
“It has been under assault since before the creation,” he said. “We must defend accountability against persons and programs that would — sometimes with the best of intentions — make us dependent. And we must defend it against our own inclinations to avoid the work that is required to cultivate talents, abilities and Christ-like character.”
Elder Christofferson asked listeners, “Who bears responsibility for what happens in our lives?”
“When things turn bad, there is a tendency to blame others or even God,” he said. “Sometimes a sense of entitlement arises, and individuals or groups try to shift responsibility for their welfare to other people, or to governments. In spiritual matters some suppose that men and women need not strive for personal righteousness because God loves and saves us ‘just as we are.’”
But God intends that His children should act according to the moral agency He has given them, Elder Christofferson taught.
“It is His plan and His will that we have the principal decision-making role in our own life’s drama,” he said. “God will not live our lives for us, nor control us as if we were His puppets, as Lucifer once proposed to do. Nor will His prophets accept the role of ‘puppet master’ in God’s place.”
Because God loves all of His children, He does not make people do or become something they do not choose by their actions to become. Rather, he helps and guides His children.
“The real manifestation of God’s love is His commandments,” said Elder Christofferson.
The God-ordained plan permits all to make choices and act for themselves — experiencing the consequences that come from their actions. Crucial to that plan is the Savior’s Atonement.
“Christ died not to save indiscriminately, but to offer repentance,” he said. “We rely ‘wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save’ in the process of repentance, but acting to repent is a self-willed change. So, by making repentance a condition for receiving the gift of grace, God enables us to retain responsibility for ourselves.”
Because individuals have a choice in relying upon the Savior, repentance respects and sustains moral agency, he taught.
“A God who makes no demands is the functional equivalent of a God who does not exist,” he declared. “A world without God, the living God who establishes moral laws to govern and perfect His children, is also a world without ultimate truth or justice. It is a world where moral relativism reigns supreme.”
Whether it is relying on one’s own authority to decide what is right and wrong or believing that anything or everything could be true, individuals must recognize that their opinions do not replace eternal law and justice. Freedom comes not from resisting God’s laws, but from following them.
“If it were not for the reality of fixed and immutable truths, the gift of agency would be meaningless since we would never be able to foresee and intend the consequences of our actions.”
In matters both temporal and spiritual, the opportunity to assume personal responsibility is a God-given gift without which all cannot realize their full potential as daughters and sons of God, Elder Christofferson said. “We must exert ourselves, repent and choose God for Him to be able to act in our lives consistent with justice and moral agency.”