It is a privilege for me to write to children who read the Friend and to tell them about a thrilling and important gospel truth, one that all of us should understand and remember throughout our lives.
This great truth is contained in the words of the song “I Am a Child of God,” written by Sister Naomi W. Randall with music by Mildred W. Pettit. The fact that each one of us is a child of God is not known to everyone. We come to understand this and all principles of the gospel by studying the scriptures and by listening to our prophets.
In the Pearl of Great Price we learn that long before we came to this earth we lived as spirit children with our Father in heaven where a great council was held. We were told then that our Heavenly Father would make it possible for our spirits to come to earth to inhabit physical or mortal bodies. Here we would have experiences and temptations; but because He loves us so much, He would make it possible for us to return and live again with Him. All of our Heavenly Father’s children were there. We were so happy with our Father’s plan that we “shouted for joy.” However, we had to make a decision about which one of His spirit children should be chosen to come to earth and carry out that plan.
Lucifer was one of Heavenly Father’s most brilliant spirit sons. He asked to be sent to earth where he would force all of us to return to our Father’s presence without choosing for ourselves whether or not we wanted to do right.
Lucifer was vain and very selfish, for he desired all the honor and glory for the success of Heavenly Father’s plan. Because his plan was rejected, Lucifer became angry and rebellious. He and one-third of the spirit children who chose to follow him were cast out of heaven. Lucifer, whose name means the “shining one,” was told that he would now be known as Satan or the devil.
Satan and his followers were permitted to come to earth to tempt us and to try to influence us into doing wrong, but none of them have mortal bodies. They are jealous of ours and do everything in their power to keep us from returning to Heavenly Father’s presence.
Jesus, the eldest Son of God the Father, offered to carry out the plan used in many worlds before ours that would allow us free agency or the opportunity to choose for ourselves how we wanted to live. Because Jesus, our Elder Brother, loves us so much, He wanted to take upon Himself a mortal body like ours to show us the right way to live. And then He agreed to sacrifice His life so that in some heavenly way we could all be forgiven of our sins if we repent of them and choose to live righteously while here.
Jesus wisely knew that sometimes temptations would be so appealing that we would choose to do wrong. But under His plan we could recognize our wrongdoing, repent, and be forgiven. To repent means to be truly sorry, to change or turn away from that wrongdoing, to seek forgiveness, and then to try with all our hearts to live better lives.
As spirits we realized the wonderful blessing of receiving physical bodies and of choosing for ourselves what to do. We also knew that each time we chose to do right we would grow in knowledge and develop in character and leadership so that we could become perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect.
And so we chose to follow the way Jesus offered to carry out the plan of our Heavenly Father.
Because we know that each one of us is a child of God, the beautiful thoughts contained in the song by that title are especially meaningful. When we come to truly understand the words “I am a child of God,” our testimonies grow. Then, hopefully, we become more determined to have the courage to say “no” when we are tempted to do wrong.
Our Father in heaven loves us more deeply than we can understand. He has said that He “numbereth his people” and that each one of us is important to Him. He wants us to return to live with Him and Jesus again. He wants us to communicate with Him in prayer, to tell Him of our love, and to show our love by obeying His commandments. Through obedience we can become more like Him, developing those qualities of character that He wants His children to have.
This earthly life is an important step in our progression where as brothers and sisters we can know the joy of serving each other and preparing for eternal life together.
Adam and Eve were the very first parents on earth. They used their free agency to decide what laws they would obey. They chose to become parents and to have children come into their home where they could lovingly teach them the gospel. Your parents, too, chose to bring you and your brothers and sisters into the world so that other spirit children of our Father in heaven could also come to earth.
Our memories of the preexistence (living in heaven as spirit children) are forgotten when we are born physically. However, the Holy Ghost can bear witness to everyone that they are truly spiritual children of God as well as earthly children of our fathers and mothers. It makes us happy and gives meaning to our lives to know who we are, what we should do, and where we are going.
Heavenly Father planned for our kind and dear earthly parents to also be with us in heaven where we will live together as eternal families. Just as we show love for our Father in heaven by obeying His laws and commandments, we honor our earthly parents by loving and obeying them.
To return to the presence of our Heavenly Father, we must use our free agency in always choosing the right. Only through obedience to His commandments and through truly repenting if we do wrong is this possible. By listening to and accepting the advice and teachings of our parents, Primary and Sunday School teachers, and others who love us, we can be led and guided to do right. Although it is not possible for them to actually walk beside us throughout our lives, we can feel their love and prayers. Their only desire is for our happiness. They know through experience that this is not possible unless we live righteously.
We can also receive guidance from the Holy Ghost if we live worthy of that Spirit. Each week we partake of the sacrament to remind us of Jesus Christ and what He did for us. We are told that if we keep His commandments and always remember Him, we shall always have His spirit to be with us. With the guidance of the Holy Ghost, we can find the way back to the presence of our Heavenly Father.
When “I Am a Child of God” was first written it read: “Teach me all that I must know to live with Him someday.” However, Sister Randall changed the words because of a suggestion made by President Kimball.
Several years ago, before Spencer W. Kimball became president of the Church, he was visiting a conference in California where Primary children sang this song. Later, he said to a visiting Primary general board member, “I love the children’s song, but there is one word that bothers me. Would Sister Randall mind if the word know were changed to the word do?”
The change was made, for President Kimball had pointed out a very important truth—that while it is important to know what is right, it is more important to do what is right. Only in this way can we be sure of returning someday to our heavenly home to live always with our Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and our loved ones.
What joy comes to us when we understand the full meaning of the words “I Am a Child of God!”