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A Familiar Ring

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We Were Taught the Plan and Truth in Our Premortal Life

Several months ago, my grandson asked his mom, “Why are we here on earth? If God knows everything, then He knows what choices I will make. Why can’t He just send me now to where He knows I will choose to go?” My daughter told him about an institute class she had attended years before. The teacher asked the students, “Why was Abraham commanded to sacrifice Isaac if God already knew Abraham would obey?” After some discussion, the class decided it was because Abraham needed to know that Abraham would obey. My grandson thought about that for a moment and then said, “So, I guess I need to have the experience of choosing for myself.”

Our Heavenly Father knows the choices we will make and who we will become, but He doesn’t predetermine or dictate them for us. Making choices and having experiences shape us into who God knows we will become. He won’t do that for us.

In the premortal realm, we were taught truths by our Heavenly Father and He made it possible for us to rediscover those truths in this life.

President Boyd K. Packer taught: “A teacher of gospel truths is not planting something foreign or even new into an adult or a child. Rather, the missionary or teacher is making contact with the Spirit of Christ already there. The gospel will have a familiar ‘ring’ to them.” [1]

President Nelson shared,

In teaching people of many lands, I have learned that they will respond to the word of their Father regardless of their nationality, race, or language. The fact is, children know the voice of their Father, and they recognize His truth. That connecting communication comes of the Spirit. [2]

Is there any wonder that the Book of Mormon is such a powerful tool of conversion? It is full of truths spoken in the familiar voices of our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ, which awaken premortal memories inside each of us.

President Spencer W. Kimball taught that “if men are really humble, they will realize that they discover, but do not create, truth.” [3]

As we discover truths in this life, we have the chance to choose what we will do with them.

A Probationary State

In our premortal existence, we chose to act on the eternal truths we had been taught by Heavenly Father and trust in His perfect plan for us by choosing to leave His presence and come to earth. Our state here is “a state of probation.” [4]

We might interpret the phrase “a state of probation” as evidence that we were sent here having done something wrong and that this life is a time of supervised parole. But God isn’t some divine parole officer who sees us as erring convicts and who expects us to earn our way back into His presence through good behavior.

We are not on that kind of probation. This life is a time of probation. A realm where we can try, prove, and learn by our own experience.

Many of you are about to complete your schooling and head out into the workforce. You will go through a hiring process with the companies you want to work for. Our premortal life was a bit like being hired. Those of us who kept our first estate chose to come to earth and accept the gift of a physical body. In a sense, we got the job.

After being hired, you most likely will have a period of probation. This time allows an employer to see if you are a good fit for their company. More importantly, this time allows you to see if the company is a good fit for you. To see if the requirements, culture, routine, and values are what you want to align your life with.

As a state of probation, this life can be viewed as a laboratory, a chance to learn by our own experience. A time to feel, taste, see, hear, and choose the type of life we want for eternity.

Elder David A. Bednar has taught, “Our physical bodies make possible a breadth, depth, and intensity of experience that simply could not be obtained in our premortal estate.” [5]

Before this life, we may have learned that the elements in a molecule of water were H2O, but we had no idea what it felt like to catch our breath after plunging into a cold lake or feel the relaxation of sinking into a hot bath. We may have been taught what sodium chloride was but had never experienced how it could transform a stale tortilla into a mouth-watering snack of chips and salsa. We saw that our Father had a body of flesh and bones. He taught us about the bodies we would be given. He may have taught us how to care for them by sharing things like the importance of protecting them from the elements. Despite having this knowledge, we had never experienced consequences like the painful radiating heat and tight skin caused by a sunburn, until receiving our bodies.

This is a time to prove, examine, try, and test in a physical world those things that we were taught in our premortal life as spirits.

Experience Allows Choice

Months ago, I was watching our grandchildren while their parents and my wife were preparing dinner. I turned on a “how to” ski video. There in the middle of the living room, a line of grandchildren and I practiced leaning, making pizzas with our imaginary skis, and planting our imaginary poles. When our grandchildren left the warm comfort of our living room and headed out onto the slopes, it was time for them to apply what we had practiced. They felt the cold biting their noses and the wind rushing in their faces as they raced down a glistening hill. They experienced planting their poles in the stiff, crunchy snow. They felt the snow resisting their skis as they “pizza-ed” their way down the mountain. They now know the exhilaration of gliding effortlessly across the slopes and what it feels like to fall and have their momentum suddenly checked. They had to put their determination and resilience to the test by facing the choice to get up again and again, as they tried to master this new skill. At the end of a day on the cold, snowy slopes, they felt the contrast of returning to their warm homes. Now they had experience and could decide if they enjoyed following the laws associated with skiing down a snow-covered mountain.

President Dallin H. Oaks shared that “[The Father’s] plan gives us the teachings and the opportunity to make the choices that will assure us the destiny and the life we choose . . . all of God’s children will inherit a kingdom of glory whose laws they can comfortably ‘abide.’” [6]

Our choices can be a way for us to test the state of our hearts.

Elder David A. Bednar shared, “An effective test helps us to compare what we need to know with what we actually know about a specific subject; it also provides a standard against which we can evaluate our learning and development.” [7]

Our choices reflect our desires. Righteous desires make it easier to make righteous choices. Are your choices filling your life with the lasting joy that comes from Heavenly Father, instead of the momentary happiness of mortality?

If you make Heavenly Father, our Savior, and eternal truths the focus of your life, you can learn “the why” behind righteous behavior. These truths can guide your choices to help you in the process of becoming, rather than merely doing.

For the Strength of Youth: A Guide For Making Choices teaches that “with these truths as your guide, you can make inspired choices that will bless you now and throughout eternity.” [8]

Our focus on truth influences what we gain through our experiences. When truth becomes our motivation, our experiences can become celestial. The Word of Wisdom for example can simply be a way to stay free from addictions and maintain good health. With an understanding of truth, it can also be the key to accessing promised blessings of wisdom and treasures of knowledge. Another example is the law of chastity. It can simply be another rule on a list of “do not’s.” Or it can be the key to experiencing the beautiful gift, from our Heavenly Father, of intimacy in marriage.

Our choices and our desires influence each other.

Developing Our Appetites for Truth

Receiving our precious physical bodies was a vital part of Heavenly Father’s plan for us. Having a body with appetites, desires, and passions is a wonderful gift.

As President Nelson has said, “God implanted strong appetites within us.” [9]

These appetites can be used to strengthen our bodies, our relationships, and our spirits.

Our choices shape our appetites. All of us have come to earth with an appetite for the truths we learned in the premortal life. Everything we choose to feed our minds, through our eyes, ears, and mouths, can increase our appetites for these familiar truths or weaken them.

Our appetites, in turn, influence our choices. The things we consume the most help determine what we want, which impacts the choices we will make.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “In that cumulative process, today’s small inflection for good adds to what becomes tomorrow’s mountain of character.” [10]

All of us have experienced our taste buds adapting to the things we eat. After enjoying a doughnut, dripping with liquid sugar and dotted with sprinkles, it is difficult to detect the subtle nutty flavors in a slice of golden, crusty homemade bread. A constant diet of music that feeds the desires of the “natural man” can make uplifting music that invites the Spirit more difficult to appreciate. The music you choose to listen to, day in and day out, may have more power to cultivate your desires and shape your choices than anything else.

President Nelson reminds us that, “We can change our behavior. Our very desires can change. How? There is only one way. True change—permanent change—can come only through the healing, cleansing, and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” [11]

Living Christ’s gospel brings real conversion—a transformation that changes who we are and how we want to live. This process of conversion strengthens our appetite for all good things.

In October, President Nelson reminded us that “[our] obsession becomes [our] god.” [12]

Often, we think of all the obsessions that could replace God, but are there things we should obsess over? How can you know what these things are? You find answers to these questions by studying your perfect example, the life and teachings of your Savior. He is the “light . . . the Spirit of truth, who came into the world.” [13]

Living in the World

Here you are on earth at this time, being bombarded by news of all the unfair, painful, and selfish events in this world. It could be easy for you to become discouraged and even to despair as all this darkness is swirling around you, until you notice how brightly light can shine against a dark background.

In art and film, there is a technique of dramatic lighting, chiaroscuro, which uses extreme contrasts in light and darkness. This extreme contrast creates a lot of depth and clarity.

As the world darkens through disobedience, it brings extreme contrast. This contrast creates a unique opportunity for the light of truth to shine with increasing intensity. When our understanding is enlightened by the gospel, decerning between light and darkness becomes easier. You don’t have to choose darkness to know what lives built upon darkness look like. You can see it in the world. Choosing to examine, try, and live truth, while in a world full of opposition, will set truth deeper into your soul. Rather than despairing, you can gain strength from the opportunity of being enlightened while living in a darkening world.

President Nelson said,

Your Heavenly Father has known you for a very long time. You, as His son or daughter, were chosen by Him to come to earth at this precise time, to be a leader in His great work on earth. You were chosen not for your bodily characteristics, but for your spiritual attributes, such as bravery, courage, integrity of heart, a thirst for truth, a hunger for wisdom, and a desire to serve others. [14]

Good gardeners deter weeds by covering every square inch of ground with beneficial plants, crowding the weeds out. The focus is on growing the good, more than rooting out the bad. Rather than getting caught up in all the darkness in the world, you can devote your energy to cultivating truth and light.

Spending our time here in mortality merely avoiding wickedness isn’t enough for us to live up to our full potential.

Elder Maxwell shared, “’Wickedness never was happiness’ . . . but neither is lukewarmness full happiness . . . our active avoidance of wickedness must be followed by our active engagement in righteousness. Then we can come to know true joy.” [15]

In this realm of time, every moment counts in building discipleship, which is simply the process of building the discipline to live as the Savior did. There are so many ways to simply spend our precious time. How we use this resource says everything about what is important to us and what we want. Every moment is a chance to prove to ourselves how real and important the truths we learned in the premortal realm are. A life of real joy is built by investing time in the things that are celestially significant.

When we invest our time into seeking and applying truths, we taste, through our own experience, the fruits of living them. Then these truths feel like ours. We know for ourselves that they are delicious and we passionately live, defend, and share them.

Just by consistently seeking and living truth, you can serve those around you. Others will see who you are becoming through your choices. Those who desire to live the truths that you are living will be drawn to you. As the world follows the popular trends of selfishness and despair, you will naturally and genuinely offer hope just by living truth—truth about who you are, about our loving Heavenly Father’s plan, and about the hope and healing you find through our Savior.

You have already chosen to live these truths in the premortal realm. The evidence that you were valiant there is that you are here. All who are born on the earth have already chosen to act on eternal truths, to exercise faith in Heavenly Father’s plan, and to trust in His Only Begotten Son. Knowing that you have done it once can bolster your hope and confidence that you can choose to live these truths again now.

Who Will You Choose to Be?

One of our purposes in coming to mortality is to come to know God. To know that He is the one and only true God. He sent His Son to show us who He is and the way He lives. The Savior said He has done nothing but what He has seen the Father do.

By choosing to be disciples of Jesus Christ, we are developing the appetites that allow us to truly know our Father in Heaven. Through this process, we are eventually able to consistently live the same laws of celestial glory that He does. Gradually, we can naturally and intuitively see as He sees and want what He wants.

May you find joy in your daily choices and in how you use your allotment of time in this wonderful probationary state. I hope you find real joy as you are rediscovering and experiencing eternal truths for yourselves.

Closing Testimony

I bare witness, friends, that Jesus Christ did come to this earth and did atone so that we could have the experience of trying and proving and testing those things we learned in the premortal life. As a companion, the Holy Ghost will bear witness of those truths and bring them back to your remembrance. It is not new, it will be a familiar ring as they come to your mind and you are reminded again that you embraced them.

President and Sister Meredith love you. We feel that same love. We know that love comes from Heavenly Father, who loves and has provided everything for you to experience the glorious life here on this earth. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Notes:

[1] Boyd K. Packer, “The Light of Christ,” Ensign, Apr. 2005, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2005/04/the-light-of-christ.

[2] Russell M. Nelson, Teachings of Russell M. Nelson (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2018), 213.

[3] Spencer W. Kimball, “Absolute Truth,” BYU Speeches, 1977, https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/spencer-w-kimball/absolute-truth/.

[4] 2 Nephi 2:21.

[5] David A. Bednar, “Things As They Really Are,” Ensign, June 2010, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2010/06/things-as-they-really-are.

[6] Dallin H. Oaks, “Kingdoms of Glory,” Liahona, Nov. 2023, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2023/10/17oaks.

[7] David A. Bednar, “We Will Prove Them Herewith,” Liahona, Nov. 2020, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2020/10/12bednar.

[8] For the Strength of Youth: A Guide For Making Choices (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2022), 4.

[9] Russell M. Nelson, “Decisions for Eternity,” Liahona, Nov. 2013, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2013/10/decisions-for-eternity.

[10] Neal A. Maxwell “The Pathway of Discipleship,” BYU Speeches, Jan. 1998.

[11] Russell M. Nelson, “Decisions for Eternity.”

[12] Russell M. Nelson, “Think Celestial,” Liahona, Nov. 2023, 118, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2023/10/51nelson.

[13] Doctrine and Covenants 93:9.

[14] Russell M. Nelson, Teachings of Russell M. Nelson, 360.

[15] Neal A. Maxwell, “The Pathway of Discipleship.”