Life is a glorious journey! Our Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness allows us, His precious sons and daughters, the chance to come into mortality, receive a physical body, learn and grow, gain experience, unite in families, and exercise our agency. We’re here to work out our own individual salvation and to learn obedience to the laws of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This earth was created for us as a testing ground. We’re in a divine tutorial to see whether or not we will follow our Savior and, by so doing, return to our Heavenly home from whence we came.
Long before our life on this earth began, we existed in our Father’s presence. We are His children. He is the Father of our spirits. We are literally the offspring and family of the God of all creation! “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16).
We were there “from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, [we were] brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills [were we] brought forth . . . When [God] prepared the heavens, [we were] there . . . Then [were we] by him, as one brought up with him: and [we were] daily his delight, rejoicing always before him” (Proverbs 8:23-30). Yes, when our Father revealed His Plan of Salvation and, through His Firstborn Son Jesus Christ, created this beautiful earth, “all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7).
Our first lessons were given by our Father and remain locked away in our special spirits, waiting to be unlocked piece by piece when we faithfully follow the spiritual promptings He is always attempting to give us. As we grow in spiritual stature, the veil that separates us from our Father, and the veil that conceals our precious pre-earth memories from us for this brief testing season, begins to thin. We begin to realize who we are, that we are of a royal lineage, and that we’re here for the specific purpose of gaining a body, learning by our own experience, and proving ourselves worthy of external exaltation by showing we are obedient children.
While in the pre-mortal sphere, a clash of ideas took place. The Apostle John says there was “was in heaven” (Revelation 12:3-9) when Lucifer rebelled against our Father’s perfect Plan and sought to claim His throne (Isaiah 14:12-14). We were there for those momentous events. Each of us participated – the Dragon (Lucifer) and his followers and Michael (Adam) and his angels (you and I).
We who are privileged to come to earth are those who chose to follow Jesus Christ and reject Lucifer’s scheme to control our lives – a counterfeit plan that would have led to the destruction of our agency and free will. The Gospel Plan, by contrast, is one of Freedom. Our Father’s program exalts the principle of individual choice and accountability. We are each given a stewardship through which we can demonstrate how well we understand and can apply correct principles of charity, thrift, honesty, industry, self-control, Liberty, and so forth. We supported these ideas and pledged ourselves to uphold them when it was our turn to dive in mortality, though we don’t now remember those sacred vows.
For their rebellion, Lucifer and a third part of our brothers and sisters lost their chance to come to earth, receive bodies, and realize their place in the Kingdom of God. Instead, they were cast out; or, perhaps more accurately, they marched into self-slavery. In their miserable condition, they spend their time tempting us and trying to make us miserable like they are. Those who give themselves over to their venomous influence have introduced the horrors of global communism, tyranny, child abuse, abortion, murder, plunder, drug use, infidelity, profanity, lying, and false religion into the world. It is the challenge of life to reject these agency-destroying, faith-corrupting, society-annihilating ideas and practices and instead cleave to the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ.
When it’s our appointed time to come to earth, we receive a physical body to house our immortal spirit. Our bodies have been compared to temples (1 Corinthians 6:9). They are sacred. They are essential to God’s eternal Plan. Learning to properly use and master our bodies and their appetites is one of the key challenges in life.
When our mortal body dies, “the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Until the day of judgment, our spirits reside in the spirit world where they will continue to grow and learn and teach and enjoy associations in much the same way earthly beings do now. Those who died without a knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ will have an opportunity to be taught and accept the Gospel. Essential saving ordinances like baptism can then be vicariously performed on earth for them by those holding the correct Priesthood authority given by the Savior (1 Corinthians 15:29; 1 Peter 4:6).
When the day of the great Resurrection comes, our immortal spirits will be reunited with our physical bodies which will become perfected and incorruptible. In this, as in all things, the Lord is our Exemplar. When He was resurrected from the grave three days after suffering and dying for the sins of the world, He received again His physical body. It was perfected and glorified, yet contained flesh and bones. The resurrected Redeemer stated: “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39). Perhaps to emphasize the point, the Lord then ate “a piece of broiled fish . . . and an honeycomb” with His awestruck disciples. All who come into mortality qualify to receive a similarly perfected physical body in the eternities.
More incredible than receiving a perfected body that will not feel pain or sickness or fatigue, will be the happy state of our souls if we have followed the Gospel Plan. Central to that Plan is the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the person of our Savior. Because mankind figuratively fell into a pit and beyond the ability to save ourselves, we needed one to come along and let down a ladder so that we could climb out to safety. Jesus Christ is that One. He was the only One who could do it, being the “Only Begotten” Son, in the flesh, of our Father in Heaven.
Because of His Parentage, Jesus inherited power over death (John 10:17-18). He was the only One who could voluntarily lay down His life as an offering for sin and then take it up again. This He did because He loved His brothers and sisters – you and I – and because our Father’s Plan required it in order to blot out the sins of all humanity (John 3:16-17). Thus, Jesus allowed His blood to be spilled, first in the Garden of Gethsemane, and then on the cross, to atone for you and for me; to ransom us from the power of death and hell (Isaiah 44:22; Ephesians 1:7; Matthew 20:28).
During His ministry, the Savior taught what we must do to have His sinless atoning blood apply in our lives:
“If ye love me, keep my commandments. . . .
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. . . .
“. . . If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:15, 22-23).
Those who love God, adore His Son, and follow Their laws to the best of their ability and in full sincerity of heart, are loved and received by Them. If they have entered into the covenants and ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and remained faithful, they will be exalted with their own families in what the Apostle Paul called the “third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2). They will enjoy a state of never-ending happiness, having inherited all that the Father has to give to His precious sons and daughters as Christ, our Elder Brother, did before us (Romans 8:16-17).
We can have faith and confidence in the Atonement of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. He fulfilled His word. He completed our Father’s Plan. He burst the bands of death. He secured for us an unimaginably glorious future if only we reach out and grasp it. With childlike trust, we can walk in Jesus’ footsteps. We all must “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). When we do so, the Savior clasps us in His arms, the Father surrounds us with His love, and we begin our ascent back to God and glory.
This life is not the genesis of our journey, but it is the deciding moment. This life is the time for us to choose God. This life is the time to show that we really do love the Lord and want to serve Him and be like Him. This is the time for us to put into action those things we spiritually learned before mortality and that we’ve gradually relearned here. This life is the time, dear reader, for you and I to remember who we are and to rise to the stature of the sons and daughters of the Most High God, our literal Father in Heaven.
In a wonderful sermon entitled “Decisions for Eternity,” Russell M. Nelson spoke of this all-important moment of time that we have here in mortality to choose our Savior and prepare for eternity. Speaking both as a chosen man of God and as a former heart surgeon of international renown, President Nelson outlined the grandeur of God’s Plan, the beauty of earth life, the magnificence of the human body, and the superlative opportunity we have to undergo this mortal testing period and potential exaltation with our Savior. He explained:
“We are eternal beings—spirit children of heavenly parents. The Bible records that “God created man in his own image, … male and female created he them.” Recently I heard a chorus of children sing the beloved song “I Am a Child of God.” I wondered, “Why haven’t I heard that song rendered more often by singing mothers or faithful fathers?” Are we not all children of God? In truth, not one of us can ever stop being a child of God!
“As children of God, we should love Him with all our heart and soul, even more than we love our earthly parents. We should love our neighbors as brothers and sisters. No other commandments are greater than these. And we should ever revere the worth of human life, through each of its many stages.
“Scripture teaches that the body and the spirit are the soul of man. As a dual being, each of you can thank God for His priceless gifts of your body and your spirit.
“My professional years as a medical doctor gave me a profound respect for the human body. Created by God as a gift to you, it is absolutely amazing! Think of your eyes that see, ears that hear, and fingers that feel all the wondrous things around you. Your brain lets you learn, think, and reason. Your heart pumps tirelessly day and night, almost without your awareness. . . .
“With your body being such a vital part of God’s eternal plan, it is little wonder that the Apostle Paul described it as a “temple of God.” Each time you look in the mirror, see your body as your temple. That truth—refreshed gratefully each day—can positively influence your decisions about how you will care for your body and how you will use it. And those decisions will determine your destiny. How could this be? Because your body is the temple for your spirit. And how you use your body affects your spirit. . . .
“Your spirit is an eternal entity. The Lord said to His prophet Abraham: “Thou wast chosen before thou wast born.” The Lord said something similar about Jeremiah and many others. He even said it about you.
“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. . . .
“A strong human spirit with control over appetites of the flesh is master over emotions and passions and not a slave to them. That kind of freedom is as vital to the spirit as oxygen is to the body! Freedom from self-slavery is true liberation! . . . .
“The Savior’s way of life is good. . . .
“My dear brothers and sisters, each day is a day of decision, and our decisions determine our destiny. One day each of us will stand before the Lord in judgment. We will each have a personal interview with Jesus Christ. We will account for decisions that we made about our bodies, our spiritual attributes, and how we honored God’s pattern for marriage and family. That we may choose wisely each day’s decisions for eternity is my earnest prayer in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
Yes, the Savior’s way of life is good! It’s excellent! It’s true liberation – Freedom from death, sin, and hopelessness. It’s the fire that fuels our spirits and propels us to greatness. Life is a miracle!
We have so many opportunities here in mortality for which we ought to thank our Father in Heaven. He is our Father. We are His children. We were selected to be held back until this specific time in earth’s history. This is our time to shine.
We have unprecedented opportunities to help people, influence others, lift the downtrodden, share the Gospel, and learn about our Lord. When we use these opportunities, and keep our focus on Christ, we become masters of our souls. As children of God, our potential is limitless. As sons and daughters of the great Elohim, we have the chance to use this miracle of mortality, this miracle of a physical body, this miracle of the modern age with its outpouring of Heavenly power upon the heads of the humble, to boldly approach the throne of grace and advance the Kingdom of God. In our hearts, our homes, and communities, we can create Zion!
When we stop and think about it, we’re compelled to acknowledge that our Father’s Plan is perfect. And one of the things that makes it so amazing is that it accommodates so many billions of people who are so unique and different. Though many of us look similar and like some of the same things, we are each unique. We are each eternally different from every other person on earth. There is only one of me and only one of you. We each have a part to play in the Plan. We each have something to contribute that only we can contribute at this time and in our way. We – individual human beings – are the truest miracle of life!
An inspired man once wrote:
“[A]lthough there are millions and millions of people in the world, no two are exactly alike in appearance, in personality, in intelligence, or in the way they think or respond. How true this is, though we are all humans and spirit children of God. When we realize who we are, where we came from, why we are here, and what our future can be, surely we must agree that the greatest miracle in all the world is YOU, the individual. It is YOU and what YOU do that will affect YOU eternally. . . .
“Emerson once made this meaningful statement: “Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is to you.” How true! What wise counsel! We cannot get away from ourselves. We must continue to live with ourselves, and what we do every day and how we respond to life determines the kind of YOU we are going to be and live with and how successful and happy we will be with the YOU we are. . . .
“The importance of man—YOU—cannot be more greatly emphasized than it is in Genesis when God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” . . .
“This means that man—YOU—is the greatest of all God’s creations, and everything was created for him, over which he will have full dominion. He is blessed with the ability to think, to know good from evil; and a spirit by which he can communicate with God, and a physical body with which he is able to do the daily things he wants to do.”
Dear reader, we are miracles! Each individual that comes to this earth is a Heaven-sent miracle. We each have the right to decide our own place in eternity, whether we will return to our Father in honor or not. We each can decide whether we will live up to our heritage and lineage as children of God or whether we will live far below our privileges. We each have been placed here by a loving Father who not only wants the best for us and who is always by our side even when we don’t realize it, but who has sent His Son Jesus Christ to complete His Plan for our salvation and happiness.
It would be well to remember the words of Ezra Taft Benson and to allow gratitude to swell our hearts for all that which our Father has done for us:
“We once knew well our Elder Brother and His and our Father in Heaven. We rejoiced at the prospects of earth life that could make it possible for us to have a fulness of joy. We could hardly wait to demonstrate to our Father and our Brother, the Lord, how much we loved them and how we would be obedient to them in spite of the earthly opposition of the evil one.
“Now we are here. Our memories are veiled. We are showing God and ourselves what we can do. Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar His face is to us.
“God loves us. He is watching us. He wants us to succeed. We will know some day that He has not left one thing undone for the eternal welfare of each of us. If we only knew it, heavenly hosts are pulling for us—friends in heaven that we cannot now remember who yearn for our victory. This is our day to show what we can do—what life and sacrifice we can daily, hourly, instantly make for God. If we give our all, we will get His all from the greatest of all.”
No, He has not left one single thing undone in our lives. He has arranged everything so that our lives can be the miracle they were intended to be. He has not sent us here to fail, but to conquer and rise above all challenges. He and numerous friends we do not now know both here and in the world beyond are “pulling for us.” If you take nothing else away from this article, please be assured that your Eternal Father loves you, as any good father loves his children.
I’ve recently learned something of a father’s love. In fact, that’s the reason for this article – this testimony. Three days ago, my first child, a lovely little girl, was born to my wife and I. My little Emma Viktoria is a gorgeous, sweet, and special soul! Her smile makes me smile. Her eyes make mine water. Her sweetness soothes my spirit. I’ve felt a love in my heart that is different from any I’ve ever felt before. It’s a pure, total, flowing love; a Christ-like love. I love you, little Emma!
Though I am only at the very beginning of my parenting journey, I can at least honestly say that I understand my Heavenly Father’s love a little better than I did just days ago. Holding my own little girl in my hands and seeing her with my own eyes and feeling love and joy like I’ve never felt before, has bolstered my sure witness that my Father in Heaven also loves me with a pristine and powerful love, that He is truly interested in every moment of my life, and that He will do everything in His power to effect my happiness and success in this miraculous mortal journey.
I know that my Heavenly Father lives. I know that my Savior, Jesus Christ, died for me and lives for me, too. I know that They care so deeply about me and about you. This earth is Theirs. And we are Their greatest joy, work, and glory. If we unflinchingly put ourselves in Their hands as children trust their welfare so freely to their earthly parents, we will be led right and our life will be, in every sense of the word, a miracle. As a son of my Father, and now as a father of my own precious little one fresh from His presence, I thank my God for the majestic miracle of life!
August 4, 2020