Mormons do believe that agency, the ability of each person to choose right or wrong and to act freely, is a marvelous gift from God. Mormonism teaches that all individuals here on earth are being proven to see if they will use their agency to show their love for Heavenly Father by keeping His commandments (”Agency and Accountability,” For the Strength of Youth).
Joseph Smith taught that the concept of agency brings with it the concept of consequences. Although people on Earth are able to choose for themselves, they cannot choose the consequences of their actions. Right choices lead to happiness. Wrong choices halt one’s progression and bring sorrow. These are eternal facts. All children of God have great strength to make decisions for themselves, and they should not blame any choices they make on others. Mormons believe each child of God will stand accountable to God for every thought, word, and action engaged in while on earth. If these are not in accordance with the commandments, they must be repented of so the person can become clean and forgiven before God. Mormonism teaches that people should do many good things of their own free will.
Mormons believe that accountability begins at age eight. Mormonism teaches that, until age eight, children cannot sin. Any transgressions committed by a child under the age of eight are covered by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The parents of a child too young to be accountable are themselves accountable for the child’s behavior, and God holds them responsible. (See Doctrine and Covenants 68:25.)
An account in the book of scripture the Book of Mormon provides information about the concept of accountability of little children. The prophet Mormon records the words of the Lord that he received after prayer and through revelation: “little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them . . .”(Moroni 8:8).
Mormons believe that men and women are not held accountable for the transgression of Adam, referring to his fall from the presence of the Lord in the Garden of Eden. As Joseph Smith, the first president of the Mormon Church, stated in the second Article of Faith, “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” Mormons believe that men and women are held accountable for their individual sins only.
“Opposition in all things” is a principle explaining that both good and bad exist in the world. Mormons believe that opposition is necessary: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so . . . righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11). Without the good and the bad in this world there would be no choices; none of God’s children would understand-nor be able to use-his agency. And the Lord must see His children use their agency righteously in order to prove them.
At times it is difficult to withstand the evils and sadness in the world. But Mormons believe that this opposition is necessary, and suffering is a part of the test of mortality. During such trying times, we can remember that peace and comfort are promised to those who obey the commandments of the Lord: “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another” (Doctrine and Covenants 90:24).
Mormonism teaches that accountability is a necessary aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ and of the Lord’s plan of salvation for each of His children. In order for us to return to live with Heavenly Father, we must prove ourselves as servants of the Lord who humbly choose to be obedient. We can be rewarded for the service we perform on earth only if we are held accountable for it.