All Young Women lessons in February are on the Plan of Salvation. Here I offer a few thoughts on What happened in my premortal life? While this lesson focuses on the very beginning of the Plan’s narrative, I think that it could be helpful to start class discussion with a brief overview, 1) to learn where the girl’s are at in their knowledge and comprehension, and 2) to keep in mind how all of the parts fit together. I would also testify, very early on, that the Plan of Salvation is meaningful, and that the questions it addresses are not made up missionary questions, but real questions, that many real people have. Philosophers refer to them as existential questions, because they are about life and existence. They are questions like
- Where did I come from?
- Why am I here?
- Where am I going?
The lesson at hand deals with the first of those questions, concerning where we came from. It also addresses what happened while each of us was there.
So, where did we come from? The short answer is that we came from God. We lived with God the Father and God the Mother in Their home of heaven. We were, and are, Their spirit children. While we were with Them, we learned and learned. In Our Search for Happiness, Apostle M. Russell Ballard explained that
Families on earth are an extension of the family of God. …every person is a child of heavenly parents as well as mortal parents. Each individual was created spiritually and physically in the image of God and Christ (Moses 2:27; 3:5)… Everyone, before coming to this earth, lived with Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, and each was loved and taught by them as a member of their eternal family.
We know more about the fact that we were there because of scriptural passages like Abraham 3:22–26 and D&C 138:55–56, which record prophetic visions of the “noble and great” spirits that were with God before the world was. Perhaps even more significantly, D&C 138:38-39 specifically includes women:
Among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation of the righteous were Father Adam, the Ancient of Days and father of all, and our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God.
What happened next? Beloved Chieko Okazaki answers in part in Sanctuary, “Walking through the Valley of the Shadow.”
Every human being who was ever born on the earth—you, me, all of our parents, all of our children, everyone—assembled in a great council in heaven before the creation of this earth to discuss the next step. We believe that a central core of personality, identity, and self-awareness is eternal and has always existed, but already we had experienced one major change. We had received spirit bodies by being born into the eternal family of our Heavenly Father and our Heavenly Mother as their spirit children; their firstborn in the spirit was Jesus Christ. We know that we understood more during the council in heaven than we do now. We know that we saw differently, saw with clarity how the trials of mortality were linked to a love of the Savior and of our Heavenly Father.
What was that big family meeting about? What did we understand, then, and what did we see? We saw and heard a loving God offer a loving plan that would enable us to increase our knowledge and joy. It would also bring about our salvation. One of our siblings didn’t like it very much, because there would be risks. We would have real agency, which would enable us to make real mistakes. He wanted to take away the mistakes by taking away the agency, and said, “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it, wherefore give me thine honor.”
This sounds pretty good, but isn’t. Why not? (Aside from the stealing honor thing.) One possible answer may be that important things like love cannot be coerced; they have to be chosen. One of our other siblings–the very oldest–said, “Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” This was Christ. He is the heart of the Plan of Salvation. Each of us chose to follow Him at that time.
Why did we need to? What else did we need to learn? And, why did it require leaving Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother if our goal is to return to Them? Heber J. Grant highlights two reasons
The doctrine of pre-existence pours a wonderful flood of light upon the otherwise mysterious problem of man’s origin. It shows that man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents and reared to maturity in [their] eternal mansions… , prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal body to undergo an experience in mortality.
We needed a body, and we needed to undergo experiences. Both parts make us more like our Heavenly Parents, who themselves have glorified, immortal bodies. The second part, concerning experiences, may be explained easily by using an analogy. When the young women eventually leave their parents’ homes for college, work, missions, or marriage, it is not because their parents do not love them anymore. It is just that there are some things they can’t learn until they are on their own. It is like that with us. Earth is our going away; heaven is our coming back, our celebration. As Presidentess Eliza R. Snow wrote in her poem-turned-hymn, each of us has “wandered from a more exalted sphere.”
I might close by stating that the veil is thin and that many parts of the Plan of Salvation are still fluid. We know that is true with death, but it is also true with birth and “pre-mortal existence.” One Primary song says, “I lived in heaven a long time ago,” but it wasn’t so long ago, really. For me it was 29 years. For the young women it was between 12 and 18 years. For my daughter it was 3 months. Remembering where we came from, and the brave choices we made when we were there, can help us here. Chieko Okazaki testified, “When I encountered Mormonism, it answered in a satisfying way my hungry questions: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? Answers to such questions in the gospel make it easier to accept and live through our painful moments.”