by Kari Diane Pike
Our thirteen-year-old son, Levi, has been working on a project on the computer. He discovered some free lectures on an MIT website that teach how to use the programming language Python. One particular lecture assigns the student to create a program using Python that will generate the first one thousand prime numbers. Levi plunged head first into the assignment, despite the fact that he had yet to learn about sine and cosine, and logarithms. He had every confidence that one of his parents (his Dad, obviously) could answer his questions and fill in the gaps where his knowledge lacked. Sometimes Dad would make suggestions with which Levi didn't agree and he would choose a different approach to the program. The computer, of course, only does what it is told. More than once, Levi discovered he was caught in an infinite loop -- where the computer would get stuck running forever and never be able to reach an answer. He had to shut the program down and start over. After many attempts -- and several days of "debugging," Levi wrote a successful program. He literally jumped out of his chair and shouted a great big "Hurrah!"
Later that night, Dad made a comment to me about how nice it was to have the computer tell Levi when he made a mistake. Dad could show Levi his choices but once made, the consequences of those choices fell in Levi's lap. He couldn't argue with the computer. In order to successfully reach his goal, Levi had to take responsibility for his choices and take the steps needed to make corrections. In this process, he learned a great deal about math, programming and using the programming language. If Dad had forced Levi to do things without giving him choices, Levi would not have learned nearly as much.
I couldn't help but recognize the analogy in this experience. Heavenly Father created this earth so that we could have the opportunity to learn and become more like Him. Through our inherent agency, we choose our individual paths. Each twist and turn, each direction we choose to follow, creates a pattern. Sometimes we create patterns of progression, and sometimes we find ourselves stuck in crazy, destructive infinite loops that lead us no where. In order to get out of that pattern we have to stop where we are and hold ourselves accountable and check the program we have been creating. We are the only ones that can make the change. Oftentimes, we may feel the need to place blame on someone else. Indeed, there are times when we experience challenges due to other people's choices, but careful attention to the goal we wish to obtain will help us "debug" and continue on. Just as Levi had to ask for help from his dad, we can prayerfully ask our Father in Heaven to help us create a pattern of love and joy. Where our knowledge and abilities lack, through the Atonement, the Savior steps in to make up the difference.
I recognize these lessons in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Mosiah 20 and 21 tells about the people of wicked King Noah. They rejected and burned a prophet of the Lord (Abinidi) and tried to destroy Alma and his followers. Abinidi prophesied that King Noah would suffer a similar death and that the people, unless they repented and changed their ways, would suffer great hardships. King Noah did indeed suffer death by fire and his people were conquered and driven as slaves by the Lamanites. Mosiah 21: 4 says "Yea all this was done that the word of the Lord might be fulfilled." It wasn't until the people, now ruled by King Limhi, humbled themselves and submitted themselves to that yoke of bondage -- and cried mightily to God -- that the Lord began to soften the hearts of the Lamanites. He didn't free the people from their bondage right away. They had more to learn. The Lord let the people choose their path. They continued to work and pray. By degrees, they become more prosperous and unified. They learned to serve each other and care for the widowed and the poor. They watched and they prayed some more and entered a covenant with God to serve him and keep his commandments. They studied how they could deliver themselves out of bondage. By changing their way of thinking they came up with a plan that broke them out of that infinite loop of slavery and despair and made their escape possible without the fighting and killing they had relied on before. They lived their lives after the manner of happiness and created the joy and peace they were seeking.
We can do the same thing with our lives. We have the scriptures and modern prophets to teach us and explain our choices. We have a Father in Heaven who loves us and is anxious to help us, if we will but ask. We have a Savior who selflessly gave everything he had to make our salvation possible. We have all the tools we need to create lives of happiness and joy. How we choose to use those tools is up to us. We decide if we will one day be able to stand up and shout a big "Hoorah!"