Have you ever had an experience where you meet someone and feel you’ve known them forever, or heard a new religious idea and it seemed familiar somehow? Throughout the ages, people have had first time experiences that felt familiar and wondered how that could be. The Bible gives us clues as to the answer to this question of whether or not there was life before life.
In the Old Testament, the prophet Job was asked:
4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38)
What an unusual question to be asked. Where was Job when the Earth was being created? And who were those sons of God who shouted for joy? God didn’t wait for an answer because, obviously, He knew that Job knew the answer already. In Job’s time, people of faith did know the answers to these questions, but the answers were lost during the apostasy, even though the scripture makes the answer clear.
When God created the Earth through Jesus Christ, we were there, watching and cheering. God had created our spirits and then allowed us to live with Him. This was a time of becoming for us. Although we didn’t have bodies, our spirits had the shape of bodies. We had the essential elements that would help to form us when we came to Earth. Our personalities, our intelligence, our talents, and perhaps most important of all, our agency (the right to choose) were all available to us during this time. We used this spiritual childhood to learn the gospel, to develop a two-way relationship with God, and to decide how much we loved God and trusted Him.
God came to know us during this time. Probably much like today, some were rebellious, some were extraordinarily faithful, and most were average in their faith and obedience. Jeremiah, the Bible tells us, was among the few highly faithful—so faithful God knew that even life on Earth would change him:
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations (Jeremiah 1:5).
God knew, even before Jeremiah was born, that he would grow on Earth into the person he already was, someone worthy to be a prophet.
The Bible tells us that someday we can return to God—not go to Him, but return, signifying we have been with Him before.
“The spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7).
The question may be though—why did we leave in the first place? Why would we ever choose to leave God’s presence?
We know as mortals that when we leave our parents’ home, we make choices for our adult lives. Some young adults continue on the path their parents chose for them; others fall away and choose new, and often less desirable paths. Being away from the presence of parents causes us to make choices. It was the same for us in our Heavenly home. We’d learned all we could, grown as much as we were able, and it was time for the final exam. How would we do when we were out on our own?
We had always known this day would come. We knew how it would work. However, a few were not happy with God’s plan for us because it involved risk and some people are risk-averse. They wanted guaranteed safety and non-stop happiness. These people found their leader in Lucifer, described in the Bible as a Son of the Morning. God does not create anyone to be evil, and Lucifer had great potential, potential which he, like so many others, chose to use for evil instead of good. He used his agency to harm instead of to bless. He tried to overthrow God’s perfect plan.
God’s plan for us was that we would come to earth as part of a family. We’d receive our bodies, imperfect and unglorified versions of His own, and families. We’d lose our memory of our time with God, but we’d bring with us whatever we’d developed in our lives with God—those gifts, personalities, characters, and choices we’d made before. We would also have the Spirit of Christ and promptings from the Holy Ghost to help us find the truth again. Our mission was to find truth, recognize it, and accept it. God would give us everything we needed to make that happen. Those who died without an opportunity on earth would receive it later, but would still benefit from whatever light they did receive.
There were risks in this plan. Some of us would rebel and never make it home again. In order to return, we would have to be perfect, and perfection would be impossible. While justice required perfection, God always balances justice and mercy. Mercy would come in the form of a Savior who would volunteer to come to earth, half mortal and half divine, and serve a mission here. He would live a sinless life, possible because of his divinity, and then take our sins on Himself. He would atone for our sins, die on the cross, and be resurrected.
This gift made it possible for everyone to be resurrected and to live forever. It made repentance possible. It would allow us to return to live with God if we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, took His name on ourselves, and kept the commandments.
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 7:21).
We would have to humble ourselves to know we could not return to Heaven on our own—the atonement of Jesus Christ was the only path to salvation.
Most of us were willing to accept these terms. We’d known them, weighed the risks and found we were prepared. We understood the trials of mortality would help us grow and progress if we chose to let them.
However, there were still those who wanted a no-risk trip to Earth. Lucifer saw a chance to wrest power from God by promising what He could not promise—a trip to Earth with no dangers. There would be no trials, no suffering, no sins. He’d take charge, control our every move and thought, and make sure we came back perfect. You’ll note Lucifer had no intention of suffering on our behalf by making atonement. His attempt to overthrow God was based on selfish desires for power, not the love that prompted Jesus Christ to volunteer to be our Savior. Sadly, one-third of God’s spirit children chose to follow Lucifer. They were removed from Heaven (explaining why the Bible calls Lucifer a fallen angel) and denied the benefits of the atonement they had rejected. Lucifer, now Satan, and his followers devote every moment to trying to make us as miserable as they are.
The rest of us set out for the journey of a lifetime. We’re here…and how our personal story ends depends entirely on the choices we make while we live on Earth and our commitment to asking God what church is true—and then acting on the answers.