In writing the commentary for the 2017 Relief Society and Priesthood manual lessons, I came across a quote from a First Presidency message by President Hinckley. He made one simple statement that stunned me for some reason. He said, “We come into the world not of our own volition.” This stopped me dead in my tracks. It caused me to think about and rethink everything I ever learned about our premortal life and the plan of salvation. This is what I would like to talk about today.

 

The quote

 

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Gordon B. Hinckley

Here is the full quote from President Hinckley. Everything I talk about will refer back to this quote, so you may need to read it a few times. I will quote it again near the bottom of the article.

 

If we would claim to worship and follow the Master, must we not strive to emulate his life of service? None of us may rightly say that his life is his own. Our lives are gifts of God. We come into the world not of our own volition. We leave not according to our wish. Our days are numbered not by ourselves, but according to the will of God.

 

So many of us use our lives as if they were entirely our own. Ours is the choice to waste them if we wish. But that becomes a betrayal of a great and sacred trust. As the Master made so abundantly clear, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” (Mark 8:35.)

 

(Here is the reference) https://www.lds.org/liahona/1986/12/the-gift-of-self?lang=eng

 

The questions

 

Let’s start with the first bit that caused me to raise an eyebrow. “None of us may rightly say that his life is his own. Our lives are gifts of God.” Are we not eternal beings? If so then what is meant by our lives are not our own? It took me a while before I realized he must be referring to earth life (but even our spirit life we received because of Him).

 

But even then, how is earth life a gift from God? Let’s look at what happened in the premortal world as the Lord prepared to present his plan for us to become like him. Here is Abraham 3:25-26. I would say this is an abbreviated account of the Great Council in Heaven, but there are no exhaustive accounts. They are all abbreviated.

 

25. And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;

 

26. And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.

 

Let’s take a small detour and talk about our two estates. Our first estate was our premortal life. If we honored the commandments and whatever covenants we made there then we would be allowed to move on. The glory to be added to us for successfully passing our tests in our premortal life, our first estate, was to come to earth and receive a physical body.

 

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Pre Earth Life

But the body is just the first half of the reward for keeping our first estate. Just by virtue of our receiving a body that also means that because of Christ’s atonement we will also receive a glorious resurrection, no matter how badly we mess up in mortality. These are two things Satan and his followers will never have. They cannot ever get a body, and therefore they cannot receive a resurrected body that comes with at least some degree of glory. Satan and his followers will forever remain as spirits.

 

Mortality is our second estate. Abraham 3:25-26 is preceded by the Savior saying he will go build an earth for us to go to so we can be proven to see if we will do everything the Lord commands us to do. Earth life, mortality is the second estate. This is our proving or testing ground. This is the time and place to see if we are willing to continue our obedience, so our Father in Heaven can add glory upon our heads for ever and ever.

 

In a nutshell, this is our purpose for mortality. This is the plan our Father in Heaven presented to us in the Grand Council in Heaven. To facilitate this plan He needed a Redeemer to work out an atoning sacrifice that would allow all of us to repent. He chose Jesus to be our Redeemer. That is when Lucifer rebelled, there was war, and those who followed Lucifer failed the requirements for passing their first estate. They were expelled from heaven and cast down to earth to try and tempt the rest of us when we came to try to keep our second estate.

 

Our lives are not our own

 

Does this sound like we are in charge of our own destiny yet? Hardly. So far we are following our Father in Heaven’s plan. He designed it. He implemented it. He controls it. Our Father is the one who decided when we would come to earth, whether it was in the first century or the last. He was also the one who decided where we would be born.

 

In Acts 17:26 we are told that before we came here he appointed our times in mortality, as well as where we would live, the “bounds of [our] habitation.”

 

26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.

 

Does that sound to you like we have control over our lives? Our Father in Heaven planned out the entire earthly experience for all of us. He did it so we would have the best possible opportunities to grow and develop and have the best chance to come back to him. This is the plan we accepted. This is what we all looked forward to with such anticipation. This is the plan for which we all shouted for joy.

 

Accepting this plan, as it was presented to us, was one of the final tests of our first estate. Once we agreed to accept our Father’s plan, and a Savior was chosen, we were ready to get to work and prepare ourselves to come to mortality.

 

The covenants of mortality

 

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We make covenants in the Temple.

Everything about mortality is wrapped in covenants. Our Father promised to provide a Savior, but we had to promise to answer to our Savior for our behavior in mortality. It was a package deal. If He was going to open the door back to living with God, and pay the ultimate price to do so then he received the right to be our judge for how we behave in mortality.

 

In the last few years the Brethren have been telling us that we don’t have “free agency” we have moral agency. We are not free to do anything we want. We are only free to make any moral choice we want, but we have to accept the consequences of those choices.

 

So our lives really aren’t “ours.” We didn’t decide when or where we were going to be born. We covenanted with our Father to come when he said it would be best for us to come. We promised to obey the commandments he would give us through our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. We agreed to Jesus being our judge at the last day. We agreed to the whole mortal package before we ever came here.

 

Here is the initial quote again. Please read it through one more time.

 

If we would claim to worship and follow the Master, must we not strive to emulate his life of service? None of us may rightly say that his life is his own. Our lives are gifts of God. We come into the world not of our own volition. We leave not according to our wish. Our days are numbered not by ourselves, but according to the will of God.

 

So many of us use our lives as if they were entirely our own. Ours is the choice to waste them if we wish. But that becomes a betrayal of a great and sacred trust. As the Master made so abundantly clear, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” (Mark 8:35.)

 

Why are we here in mortality? It is to prove our obedience to our Father in Heaven so he can add glory upon our heads for ever and ever. Our time on earth is a sacred trust given only to those of God’s children who said they would come and prove themselves to him. Our lives really are a sacred trust.

 

Does that mean we have the right to do whatever we want in mortality? No, it does not. We have the ability, but not the right. If we had the right to do whatever we wanted then we would not be answerable for the things we did. But we are answerable for everything we do. The Lord will not excuse our misdeeds. We will have to answer for all of them.

 

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When the prophet says we are to emulate the Master’s life of service, that is exactly why we are here, and precisely why He came. He came to show us the way home. Our responsibility is to learn to be like our Savior, to think like Him, to act like Him, and to feel like Him. This is what it takes for us to keep our second estate.

 

With all that said, I no longer have any problems with the idea that my mortal life is not mine to do with as I please. A great deal of thought and effort has gone into making my time in mortality special, even if it often seems mundane to me. I trust that my Father in Heaven has put me right where I need to be to have the best experience I can have, to learn the most necessary lessons I need to learn, even if they are difficult ones. My time in mortality is a test, and one I intend to do better at from here on out.

About Kelly P. Merrill
Kelly Merrill is semi retired and writes for https://gospelstudy.us. He lives with his wife in Idaho. His strength is being able to take difficult to understand subjects and break them down into understandable parts. He delights in writing about the gospel of Christ. Writing about the gospel is his personal missionary work to the members of the Church and to those of other faiths who are wanting to know more about Christ's gospel and His Church.

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