God has so many children, spanning the entire history of the world. Do you ever wonder if He can remember to love you out of so many others, others who might seemingly be more important, more successful, or more perfect? Have you ever wondered how He could possibly understand your needs, your fears, your hopes, and your longings? Have you ever wondered how He feels about you personally—and how He came to know you anyway?
I’ve written before about an extraordinary Mormon belief concerning something we call premortal life. Today, I’m going to explain how that belief affects me personally as a Mormon who fully believes it is true.
What is premortal life?
In case this is the first you’ve heard of this doctrine, I’d like to introduce you to it. It is a foundational part of Mormonism because no other Mormon doctrine really makes sense unless you understand it.
Mormons believe that God created our spirits. Most Christians believe that, but what is different to the Mormons is that we don’t believe He tucked it into a body and sent it straight on to Earth. Instead, we believe we stayed in Heaven for a little while (or possibly a very, very long while—we don’t really know.) We stayed as spirits, and it was an amazing part of our eternal lives. We lived right there in God’s own presence, building a personal relationship with Him. You may have spent time at His feet, listening as He taught eternal truths or even had long, personal discussions with Him about the person you were becoming. You had agency and the ability to grow there. You were becoming yourself and deciding who you wanted to be. You were choosing your relationship with God.
He knew us personally, just as mortal parents know their children—although He knew us even better than we know our children, because nothing is hidden from Him. He knew your heart, your longings, your commitment to Him, and your hopes for your life on Earth. He knew you had chosen to come here voluntarily, to accept the conditions of your mortality, whatever they were, and to try to find God and the Savior once here, because your memory of them would be taken. The search to gain faith was part of your test on Earth.
What Does Premortality Mean to a Mormon?
So, here I am now, on Earth. I’ve been here a long time and it’s been decades since I sat at God’s feet and listened to Him give a sermon or had a personal two-way chat in His physical presence. I haven’t done all I was sent here to do, but I did find Him and His Son Jesus Christ. I accepted them as an essential part of my life when I was just a teenager. I found their Church and joined it.
I knew I’d lived before my birth even before I became a Mormon. I began to have experiences that could be explained no other way in seventh grade. I just couldn’t figure out how I’d lived before—under what circumstances. The idea of reincarnation didn’t work for me. When I finally learned about the Mormon view of Premortality—of living with God, not on Earth, before my birth, I knew instantly I had found my answer.
Besides providing answers to those puzzling experiences, knowing I lived with God before my birth has profoundly changed my relationship with God. Before becoming a Mormon, my relationship with Him was rather formal and distant. Although my family didn’t attend church, I often attended various churches with my friends. I had been taught to recite a simple prayer each day and learned basic Bible stories. However, He seemed more like the elderly relative you’re supposed to visit each Sunday but that you never really get to know.
When I became Mormon, I was encouraged to develop a close and personal relationship with God. Over time, I realized that knowing I had lived with God before I was born made that easier. I came to understand that He and I had spent many hours together—in person—before my birth. He knew me not just as one child among many, but as an individual. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I do know that I would have felt safe telling Him anything, so I am certain I revealed my heart to Him—and He remembers.
Think of the purest, most all-consuming love you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount—that is the measure of God’s love for you—Dieter F. Uchtdorf, The Love of God, October 2009 General Conference, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
God knows me. He loves me and He has since long before my birth. I am real and individual to Him. I’m not just one of His children. I am Terrie, the child He knows and loves. When I feel alone or afraid or misunderstood, I know I am understood and loved by Him, my Heavenly Father who once held me close and listened to me as I talked to Him and who will again hold me close someday. He is a real Father, as real as my mortal Father and He loves me even more.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.