The Choices, the Death, and the Verdict

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Michael Joseph JacksonPerhaps one of the most talked about news stories following the death of Michael Joseph Jackson,  who was referred to by many adoring fans the world over as the “King of Pop”, was the verdict that was reached on Monday, 7 November 2011, by a jury in the trial of Dr. Conrad Robert Murray, the doctor who was attending Michael at the time of his death on 25 June 2009.  Michael Jackson’s death was caused by acute propofol intoxication after suffering from cardiac arrest. The jury found Dr. Murray guilty of involuntary manslaughter. He was officially sentenced on Tuesday, 29 November 2011 to four years in prison, and is due to be released in early October 2013.

Prince, Catherine, Blanket, and Paris Jackson

The entire episode and the circumstances surrounding it are heart breaking. Michael Jackson had so much to live for, especially being a loving father to the three children – Prince, Paris, and Blanket – that he left behind, as well as, a family who loved and supported him. In retrospect, we have to look at the entire picture and realize that in some ways Michael was on his own course of destruction and helped to bring about his own demise by even asking for the drugs that he was being given. Being a physician, Dr. Murray knew the risks and the dangers that were involved in administering diprivan and other drugs to Michael. However, I believe that greed caused him to lose focus, and he became more interested in getting paid instead of being concerned about Jackson’s physical well-being. With that being said, I think that justice has been served with the verdict of guilty. In some ways I sympathize with Dr. Murray because he was not the only doctor that had administered harmful drugs to Michael during his lifetime, but he was the one that administered the drugs that ultimately claimed his life.

Joseph Addison, an English essayist, poet, playwright and politician, once said,

There is not any present moment that is unconnected with some future one. The life of every man is a continued chain of incidents, each link of which hangs upon the former. The transition from cause to effect, from event to event, is often carried on by secret steps, which our foresight cannot divine, and our sagacity [wisdom] is unable to trace. Evil may at some future period bring forth good; and good may bring forth evil, both equally unexpected.

In other words, as this author firmly believes, with every action there is a consequence – be it good or bad. To know what is the right thing to do, but yet willingly choose to do that which is perhaps easier, more convenient, or even more pleasurable, is to bring one’s own fate upon oneself – a fate that is determined by the consequences of one’s own actions. In the end, there is really no one left to blame for the outcome but oneself. Applying the words of Sir Josiah Stamp, a British civil servant, industrialist, economist, statistician, writer, and banker, to the case of Dr. Conrad Murray, it may have become easy for him to dodge his responsibilities as a doctor, but he could not dodge the consequences of dodging his responsibilities. He could have avoided his fate by doing what he knew to be the right thing to do, but he did not.

In Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 we are taught,

There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of the world, upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

What is obedience? President Boyd K. Packer taught, “Obedience is a powerful spiritual medicine. It comes close to being a cure-all” (“The Balm of Gilead,” Ensign, November 1977, p.60). President Joseph F. Smith taught, “Obedience is a requirement of heaven and is therefore a principle of the gospel” (JD, 19:193).

Sometimes we are called upon to do difficult things or to make hard decisions. Each of us has been given the agency to make those choices or decisions for ourselves. What is this agency? President Joseph F. Smith answered the question in this manner:

God has given to all men an agency and has granted to us the privilege to serve him or not, to do that which is right or that which is wrong, and this privilege is given to all men irrespective of creed, color or condition. The wealthy have this agency, the poor have this agency, and no man is deprived by any power of God from exercising it to the fullest and in the freest manner. This agency has been given to all. This is a blessing that God has bestowed upon the world of mankind, upon all his children alike. (JD, 24:175).

However, because of our understanding of the doctrine of agency and obedience, we know that our true peace, happiness, and power come only when we subject our will to the will of the Father, and exercise faith by consistently obeying the commandments of God. President Lorenzo Snow taught,

Let us be like little children, ready and willing to do as we are commanded by the powers that we should obey. Let us be obedient to the voice of truth, and ever be found in the path of duty; and there let us continue.

The Prophet Joseph Smith summed up the matter when he said, “I made this my rule, ‘When the Lord commands, do it.’” (History of the Church 2:170).

God granted each of us the gift of free agency as a part of His eternal plan. The question is how will we use it? – To obey God or to disobey God? The freedom to choose is inseparably tied to the consequences associated with the choices we make. If we choose to obey God, blessings will follow. If we choose not to obey God, we do not put ourselves in a position to receive those blessings.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught that, for agency to be in effect, the following four principles must apply:

  1. Laws must exist – laws ordained by an Omnipotent power, laws which can be obeyed or disobeyed;
  2. Opposites must exist – good and evil, virtue and vice, right and wrong – that is there must be opposition, one force pulling . . . the other;
  3. A knowledge of good and evil must be had by those who are to enjoy the agency, that is, they must know the difference between the opposites; and,
  4. An unfettered power of choice must prevail.  (Mormon Doctrine)

These principles are taught clearly in the Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ). Lehi taught in 2 Nephi 2:11-13:

11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.  If not so, my first–born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.  Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation.  Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.

13 And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin.  If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness.  And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness.  And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery.  And if these things are not there is no God.  And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.

Helaman expressed these principles as follows in Helaman 14:30-31:

30 And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.

31 He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you.

Consistent obedience is required of all who receive baptism (Mosiah18:10), the Sacrament (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77), receive the Priesthood (Doctrine and Covenants 84:44), or the blessings of the Temple. However, this obedience is not “blind”. Elder Boyd K. Packer taught,

Those who talk of blind obedience may appear to know many things, but they do not understand the doctrines of the gospel. There is an obedience that comes from the knowledge of the truth that transcends any form of external control. We are not obedient because we are blind; we are obedient because we can see. (“Agency and Control,” Ensign. May 1983, p.66.)

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught, “Obedience is the first law of heaven, the cornerstone upon which all righteousness and progression rest.” We are obedient to God’s commands because we have faith, we love the Lord ( See John14:15), and because we have committed to do so. This is our offering to Him.

The words of 2 Nephi 9:41 sum up this discussion appropriately:

O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous.  Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.

Michael Joseph JacksonMichael Joseph Jackson, at the young age of 50, was gone too soon. Although he fell victim, he was not found guiltless of some of the choices that he made during his short lifetime. Neither was he able to escape the consequences of those choices, especially those choices that helped to bring about his own demise. However, let us not rush to be so critical or judgmental of Michael Joseph Jackson or Dr. Conrad Robert Murray, or any others. The fact of the matter is that we all have our free agency, and if it were not for the love, grace, and mercy of Almighty God, some of us, given similar situations and circumstances, may have made similar choices.

One day, when this mortal life is over, we shall stand before the judgment bar of God and will have to give an account of the choices that we made and the things that we did and receive His verdict. Therefore, in every situation and circumstance, let us choose to do what we know to be right and be obedient to the commandments of God. When we do, we will be showered with His blessings from above.

I leave these thoughts with you humbly in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.