I'll ever be grateful to my friend's father, Brother Richard Doyle of Glendale, AZ, for inviting me to learn about the gospel and later be baptized. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I learned a concept that changed and is still changing my life. The ideas that true freedom comes from using agency to choose obedience and loss of freedom comes from choosing disobedience, have become life altering revelations. With the help of God and force of will, anyone can overcome weakness and become strong. The idea of choice and accountability is strongly connected with Article of Faith 2: "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression."
As the majority of children do, I was a child of strong emotion, demonstrated by temper tantrums. Top that off with the fact that at every turn neighborhood teenaged boys sexually molested me and 1960s socially correct discipline wasn't exactly kind and gentle, I became an angry, screaming ball of fire. Because they were at a loss as what to do and were following in the footprints of generations before, my parents always said, "Ginger has a bad temper." Instead of teaching me that I could control anger as a matter of choice, they taught me it was an inborn character trait. I continued on embarrassing myself with angry outbursts long after other children gave up these actions.
"'Can ye be angry, and not sin?' The Lord is very clear on this issue “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. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.' This doctrine or command from the Lord presupposes agency and is an appeal to the conscious mind to make a decision. The Lord expects us to make the choice not to become angry...Nor can becoming angry be justified. Anger is a yielding to Satan’s influence by surrendering our self-control...It is the thought-sin that leads to hostile feelings or behavior. Understanding the connection between agency and anger is the first step in eliminating it from our lives. We can choose not to become angry. And we can make that choice today, right now: “I will never become angry again. Ponder this resolution," Anger and Agency, Lynn G. Robbins, 1998.
Doctrine and Covenants 121 teaches correct, loving leadership and general behavior principles similar to Paul's teachings on charity and advice against provoking children: patience, long-suffering, gentleness, kindness, meekness, listening, calm, and loving. With this knowledge it is easier for me to choose to loose the anger even though it is a major weakness for me. On occasion I still choose wrongly in this area, but repentance and surrendering my will to God is helping me get stronger in this area. Brother Robbins resolution intrigues me, and I just might make it today. It will take plenty of constant prayer to meet that goal.