An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Free Agency and Other Myths

I lost my testimony at Utah State Prison—no, I wasn’t an inmate. I taught at USP for five memorable years and met too many guys like Vince—a depressed, suicidal 24-year-old when I began working with him in one of the maximum security units. As a first grader, Vince had been introduced to drugs by his dealer brother. By 4th grade, Vince was a habitual user. Naturally, he resorted to theft to pay for his habit and was in and out of detention through his teens and in prison once he turned 18.

In prison Vince got off drugs, but upon release had no place to go except to a dealer friend’s house. Vince saw old school friends with jobs, cars, wives, kids, houses—while he had nothing. Even a chimpanzee could have predicted Vince would soon be back on drugs and in prison.

Where was Vince’s agency in all this? He didn’t ask to be born into a family where he’d be introduced to drugs before he lost his baby teeth. The deck was stacked against him before he was even born. Where was the God who notices even the passing of a sparrow when Vince needed him?

The idea that Heavenly Father sends us to earth to be tested with exams rigged against many examinees defies reason. And an atonement which forgives those getting the short end of the stick for failing is neither merciful nor just.


Comments on: "Free Agency and Other Myths" (6)

  1. You are not the only heretic. My self-identification is agnostic but really closer to athiest for just the reason you wrote in the last paragraph. I can’t imagine that a “loving” father (Supreme Being) would heap such cruelness on his children, be it natural disasters or dire circumstances. I don’t consider myself blessed for the luxuries and freedoms that I enjoy. I am extremely fortunate.

    Again, another connection. My husband also taught at the USP years ago and currently is volunteering at our local juvenile center with a few young mean teaching Buddhism.

    • Numi,

      I’m not surprised that we are connected in places of experience as well as thoughts–since thoughts are based on experiences.
      I’m so glad your husband is teaching those young men Buddhist principles. Since Buddhism is not judgmental, it can benefit those turned off by more “American” religions.

  2. Great lead on the this post. By the way, I told Carol at the Sunstone Christmas party tonight that this is one of my new favorite sites.

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