Question: What is the difference between agency and freedom?

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Question: What is the difference between agency and freedom?

Introduction to Question

Many confuse the difference between agency and freedom from a Gospel perspective. For instance, some complain against the Church’s strong discouragement of its members getting tattoos by saying that such “takes away a person’s agency” and that taking away agency was “Satan’s plan."[1] This article seeks to outline the true meaning of agency and freedom.

Response to Question

Definition of Freedom

The Webster’s 1828 Dictionary (contemporary to Joseph Smith) defines freedom as “[a] state of exemption from the power or control of another; liberty; exemption from slavery, servitude or confinement. freedom is personal, civil, political, and religious.”[2]

Definition of Agency

The Webster’s 1828 Dictionary teaches that agency is “The quality of moving or of exerting power; the state of being in action; action; operation; instrumentality; as, the agency of providence in the natural world.”[3]


Thus agency is the capacity to make an undetermined decision whether or not a particular freedom is given to you. Freedoms can and are stripped rightfully at times. The freedom to kill an innocent person is not one that is granted by basically anyone. Religious organizations have a right just like anyone else does to take away and give certain freedoms that define the parameters within which one must remain in order to be counted as members/full participants in those organizations.


Hopefully this will serve as a point of clarity for those that are wishing to gain added insight into this vital concept. Additional reflection may yield more insight.


  1. The reference to the plan of Satan refers to the scene portrayed in the Book of Moses where the gods take counsel with one another before sending spirits into the world and Satan presents a plan for the spirits that was rejected. See Moses 4 in the Pearl of Great Price.
  2. ”Freedom,” Webster’s Dictionary 1828, accessed August 31, 2021,
  3. ”Agency,” Webster’s Dictionary 1828, accessed August 31, 2021,