Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that opposition plays an essential role in Heavenly Father's plan of salvation.
Mortal life, he said, offers God's children the experiences needed to progress to perfection and realize the glories of eternal life. Progression comes by being tested to demonstrate one's commitment to keep God's commandments.
“To be tested we must have the agency to choose between alternatives," he said, explining that opposition is essential to provide such alternatives.
The scriptures teach that opposition allows for men and women to exercise agency and act for themselves. It was through opposition in the Garden of Eden that Adam and Eve made the choice that introduced mortality.
From the beginning, agency and opposition were central to Heavenly Father's plan and to Satan's rebellions against it, Elder Oaks said. Satan sought to destroy agency, redeem all mankind and claim the honor for himself.
“Satan’s proposal would have ensured perfect equality: It would 'redeem all mankind, that not one soul would be lost,' ” he said. “There would be no agency or choice by anyone, and therefore no need for opposition. There would be no test, no failure, and no success. There would be no growth to attain the purpose the Father desired for His children.”
Satan's opposition would result in a war in heaven in which all but a third of God's children earned the right to mortal life by choosing the Father's plan and rejecting Satan.
“It is opposition that enables choice, and it is the opportunity of making the right choices that leads to the growth that is the purpose of the Father’s plan,” he said.
Elder Oaks said it is opposition in the difficult circumstances faced in mortality that allows for growth in mortality.
“All of us experience oppositions that test us,” he said. “Some of these tests are temptations to sin. Some are mortal challenges apart from personal sin. Some are very great. Some are minor. Some are continuous, and some are mere episodes. None of us is exempt. Opposition permits us to grow toward what our Heavenly Father would have us become.”
Not all mortal opposition is caused by personal sins — including illness, disability and death.
“The Church in its divine mission and we in our personal lives seem to face increasing opposition today,” he added. “Perhaps as the Church grows in strength and we members grow in faith and obedience, Satan increases the strength of his opposition so we will continue to have 'opposition in all things.'”
Some opposition even comes from Church members who use personal reasoning or wisdom to resist prophetic direction — labeling themselves “the loyal opposition.”
“However appropriate for a democracy, there is no warrant for this concept in the government of God’s kingdom, where questions are honored but opposition is not,” he said.
Elder Oaks added that God rarely infringes on the agency of His children by intervening against some for the relief of others. But He does ease their burdens and gives them the strength to bear such burdens.
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