Excerpt from You Are a Master!
Life’s most profound questions about our identity and destiny have been mulling around in man’s brain for centuries. David and Job asked these questions. I have. And, so have you.
“What is man?” or in other words, Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? And how will I get there?” These queries ring in our ears, words as familiar to us as the lyrics to Jingle Bells or Shakespeare’s soliloquy, To be or not to be.
Mankind has struggled through the ages to answer such inquests and, at best, replies with uncertainty, incompleteness, and sometimes in total ignorance. We’ve heard from church leaders we were put into God’s plan to fulfill the measure of our creation, and, sometimes, we scratch our heads and ask, “What does that mean, anyway?”
Too often, we believe that somehow, at some future time, if we are good enough along the way, God will finally reward us with understanding and with exactly what we need to become like Him. In other words, we must prove ourselves first, before we will even see and realize our divine potential. With such an incomplete picture of who we actually are, we can fall to misunderstanding and discouragement.
If someone asked you who you are, most likely you would answer in a different way than somebody else. You may say you are a student, a mother or father, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an athlete, an accountant, or some other description that portrays only a part of who you are. We need to rely on a more complete definition, one that would prove true in every circumstance.
In the document The Family: A Proclamation to the World it states, “ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”
Notice the phrase, “ALL HUMAN BEINGS.” This qualifier includes everyone who ever lived or will live upon the earth and in every situation—whether rich or poor, bond or free, male or female, even righteous or unrighteous. EVERYONE is created in the image of God. Most of us believe that because we were created in God’s image, we look like Him in body and physical characteristics. But it means much more than that. Joseph Smith said, “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.” Those God-inspired qualities that makes us who we are, have been inbred within us from the beginning because we are His spirit children. We are like Him in more ways than we can comprehend.
Although, we don’t know how long we lived with Heavenly Father before we came to the earth, if we assume our sojourn in His presence was for a substantial amount of time, then most likely God has already given us and taught us everything we need—all the wisdom, all the knowledge, all the skill—to live our divine potential now and not in some future time. Yet, because we are born into the world through earthly procreation, the veil draws over our minds and we lose the knowledge we acquired when we walked in Heavenly Father’s presence. It doesn’t take long for us to see the weaknesses of our earthly bodies and learn attitudes and concepts contrary to that of God. We stumble through the challenges, inadequacies, and our rebellious attitudes, so prevalent in the natural man of our hearts. We begin to doubt ourselves and our origins. And no matter how many times the Spirit, the scriptures, and our leaders remind us of the divine potential inherent within our souls, we continue to revisit these same attitudes, falling down and bumping our heads, as if we were toddlers taking our first steps.
But God isn’t cruel, nor is he a great comedian in the sky. His plan is perfect. What would we learn in life if we had all the answers from the beginning without any effort to acquire that knowledge? Logically, we can grasp that He cuts off our previous knowledge and identity, so we will desire and choose for ourselves who we want to become and to avoid being acted upon by some unwelcomed force. Agency is essential to our progression because obedience comes first before we can access the complete light and knowledge he has already given us. Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Without the agency which is given to all men, there could be no rewards or punishments. Take away the power of freedom to act, and man would be a mere machine without responsibility.”
Taking responsibility has its rewards. For one, our previous education isn’t totally shut off from us. I have often felt familiar glimpses of what I experienced or heard in my pre-mortal life. I love Wordsworth’s poem that reminds us of this spark of recognition:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The soul that rises with us, our life’s star
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God who is our home.
(Ode on the Intimations of Immortality)
These words remind us that we leave home with all the glorious bits necessary to be successful. Isn’t that the kind of send-off we earthly parents desire for our own families? Before we nudge our children off to school, we make sure they have their backpacks, their homework, and their lunch. We remind them of what we’ve taught them, so that they’ll know how to behave and what to do when challenges get in the way of their progress. Sometimes we add a note to their lunch pail, just a reminder that we love them and to fortify them against the bullies in the course of their day.
I believe God does the same for us. He gives us everything, and though our minds and maturity may not be perfect yet to ward off the dangers beyond our front door, He often gives us reminders along the way and little love notes to encourage us to be strong. Yet, with his instruction, we still are responsible for how we behave while we are away from home, sometimes requiring loving rebukes when we get out of line.
An Italian proverb reminds us “Call upon God, but row away from the rocks.” Heavenly Father will be there for us, but we must also do everything we can to act for ourselves. The hard work and sweat on our brows show our development and growth in progress. And our effort unearths the great treasures within, just waiting for us to pull them into full view. Some talents and abilities will be obvious. Those are the gems gleaming from the topsoil of our lives. Others will require a hardier dig beneath the layers of sludge and grime. But the treasures are there. They always have been. The only requirement God asks of us is that we abide this earthly existence according to His standards. This allows us to access everything that he has already freely given.
The Lord says, “And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom … Yea, even the wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations. And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven; (D&C 76: 7-10)
That sounds wonderful. I crave it! Yet, too often, all we can see is our faults and shortcomings or the mistakes of others. We condemn ourselves and our family and friends, the whole world, for that matter, for falling short. Why do we do this? Do we want to be as miserable as the adversary, whom I might add, is constantly whispering into our ear to join his club of misfits? Do we hate our fellowman that much? If you are like me, this isn’t what I have in mind for myself or my friends at all. I want to become more like God and help others do the same.
Reason cries out, “Remember who you are.