Viewpoint: Being Grateful for Spiritual Amnesia
“How grateful we should be that a wise Creator fashioned an earth and placed us here, with a veil of forgetfulness on our previous existence, so that we might experience a time of testing, an opportunity to prove ourselves and qualify for all that God has prepared for us to receive.” —President Thomas S. Monson
Based on a true story, the movie The Vow describes the marriage of Krickitt and Kim Carpenter. In 1993 they had a whirlwind romance and married. But just 10 weeks after their vows, Krickitt and Kim were involved in a terrible auto accident. She suffered a severe head injury that caused her to forget everything that happened over the past 18 months. She had no recollection of her courtship or marriage; she couldn’t remember her husband at all. After years of working together, the couple found love again, relying on the marriage vows they promised. Krickitt told Mail Online, “Our one hope is simply that it will inspire our children, and other children, to do what they promise to do, to grow up to be men and women of their word.”
The children of God who come into this world pass through a veil of forgetfulness, or spiritual amnesia. They forget who they were, what they did, and why they came to earth. Part of this mortal journey is for men and women to discover their true identities and act accordingly.
President Brigham Young said: “It has also been decreed by the Almighty that spirits, upon taking bodies, shall forget all they had known previously, or they could not have a day of trial—could not have an opportunity for proving themselves in darkness and temptation, in unbelief and wickedness, to prove themselves worthy of eternal existence. The greatest gift that God can bestow upon the children of men is the gift of eternal life; that is, to give mankind power to preserve their identity—to preserve themselves before the Lord” (Journal of Discourses, 6:333).
When Alma the Younger was struck dumb after seeking to destroy the Church, he underwent a transformation in a short period of time as the Lord taught him about his true identity. Alma says, “And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters” (Mosiah 27:25).
The process of discovering a spiritual identity in life can be difficult and requires spiritual guidance, study, and perseverance. The philosophies of the world are numerous. For example, the Guardian newspaper reported that the self-help book genre is now an $11 billion-a-year industry with a myriad of opinions on the best way to understand life.
The anti-Christ Korihor preached a popular sermon among the Nephites, arguing that men and women had no need for the Savior Jesus Christ. His humanistic approach taught that “every man fared in this life according to the management of the creature; therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength” (Alma 30:17).
The result of this teaching led people to forget who they were and to commit sin. “And thus [Korihor] did preach unto them, leading away the hearts of many, … yea, leading away many women, and also men, to commit whoredoms” (Alma 30:18).
President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, told a story from his childhood about the importance of identity. He said when he was a teenager, he awoke one morning and received a distinct impression. The Spirit instructed, “Someday, when you know who you really are, you will be sorry you didn’t use your time better” (“Child of Promise,” BYU devotional, May 1986).
The need for spiritual guidance in our second estate is imperative to combat the worldly philosophies that permeate this mortal existence. But where do the truths of God exist?
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “We must understand the basic doctrines and receive the saving ordinances that are essential for our eternal exaltation and happiness. … But even though our present long-range view of eternity is limited, the Lord has not left us without direction. He has provided scriptures and Apostles and prophets through whom he has revealed his plan for our exaltation and eternal life. And we have the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, to guide us” (“Answers to Life’s Questions,” Ensign, May 1995, 23).
One of the things actors and actresses do to better understand a role is to do character research. The New York Times reported that British actor Daniel Day-Lewis prepared an entire year for his role as President Abraham Lincoln in the movie Lincoln. He reported that he read many books and studied old photographs. The children of God must remember to do their own research as well to discover their identities.
“Jesus Christ is the greatest example of one who understood who He was. His success during His mortal probation is, in part, a reflection of this understanding,” said Elder Robert C. Oaks, then of the Seventy, in a devotional address given at BYU on March 21, 2006. “Christ’s ministry is filled with statements highlighting His complete understanding of His mortal and His eternal destiny. For instance, in John 18:37, we read the interchange between Pilate and Christ: ‘Pilate … said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.’”
To arrive at a divine destination, the sons and daughters of God must know and develop the divine attributes necessary for the journey to divinity. President Thomas S. Monson said, “How grateful we should be that a wise Creator fashioned an earth and placed us here, with a veil of forgetfulness on our previous existence, so that we might experience a time of testing, an opportunity to prove ourselves and qualify for all that God has prepared for us to receive” (“Invitation to Exaltation,” Ensign, June 1993, 4).