From the Life of Spencer W. Kimball
Church members all over the world love the Primary song “I Am a Child of God,” with its simple but profound message of who we are, why we are on the earth, and what the Lord promises us if we are faithful. Sister Naomi W. Randall wrote the text to the song in 1957, when Elder Spencer W. Kimball was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. At that time, the song’s chorus concluded with the words “Teach me all that I must know to live with him someday.”
While visiting a stake conference, Elder Kimball listened to a group of Primary children sing “I Am a Child of God.” Soon after that, he commented on the song in a conversation with a member of the Primary General Board. “I love the children’s song,” he said, “but there is one word that bothers me. Would Sister Randall mind if the word know were changed to the word do?”1
Sister Randall agreed to change the song. Now the chorus ends with the words “Teach me all that I must do to live with him someday.”2 These words reflect a principle that President Kimball emphasized throughout his ministry: “Celestial life may be had by every soul who will fulfil the requirements. To know is not enough. One must do. Righteousness is vital and ordinances are necessary.”3 He taught that the gospel is “a way of life, the plan of personal salvation, and is based upon personal responsibility. It is developed for man, the offspring of God. Man is a god in embryo and has in him the seeds of godhood, and he can, if he will, rise to great heights.”4
Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball
In our premortal life, Heavenly Father taught us His plan for our exaltation.
When we were spiritual beings, fully organized and able to think and study and understand with him, our Heavenly Father said to us, in effect: “Now, my beloved children, in your spirit state you have progressed about as far as you can. To continue your development, you need physical bodies. I intend to provide a plan whereby you may continue your growth. As you know, one can grow only by overcoming.
“Now,” said the Lord, “we shall take of the elements at hand and organize them into an earth, place thereon vegetation and animal life, and permit you to go down upon it. This will be your proving ground. We shall give you a rich earth, lavishly furnished for your benefit and enjoyment, and we shall see if you will prove true and do the things that are asked of you. I will enter into a contract with you. If you will agree to exercise control over your desires and continue to grow toward perfection and godhood by the plan which I shall provide, I will give to you a physical body of flesh and bones and a rich and productive earth, with sun, water, forests, metals, soils, and all other things necessary to feed and clothe and house you and give to you every enjoyment that is proper and for your good. In addition to this, I will make it possible for you to eventually return to me as you improve your life, overcoming obstacles and approaching perfection.”
To the above most generous offer, we as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father responded with gratitude.5
The Lord clearly outlined the plan and its conditions and benefits. … Agency would be given man so that he could make his own choices.
Life was to be in three segments or estates: pre-mortal, mortal, and immortal. … Performance in one estate would vitally affect the succeeding estate or estates. If a person kept his first estate, he would be permitted the second or the mortal life as a further period of trial and experience. If he magnified his second estate, his earth experience, eternal life would await him.6
While we lack recollection of our pre-mortal life, before coming to this earth all of us understood definitely the purpose of our being here. We would be expected to gain knowledge, educate ourselves, train ourselves. We were to control our urges and desires, master and control our passions, and overcome our weaknesses, small and large. We were to eliminate sins of omission and of commission, and to follow the laws and commandments given us by our Father. …
We understood also that after a period varying from seconds to decades of mortal life we would die, our bodies would go back to Mother Earth from which they had been created, and our spirits would go to the spirit world, where we would further train for our eternal destiny. After a period, there would be a resurrection or a reunion of the body and the spirit, which would render us immortal and make possible our further climb toward perfection and godhood. This resurrection has been made available to us through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of this earth, who performed this incomparable service for us—a miracle we could not perform for ourselves. Thus the way was opened for our immortality and—if we prove worthy—eventual exaltation in God’s kingdom.7
We understood well before we came to this vale of tears that there would be sorrows, disappointments, hard work, blood, sweat, and tears; but in spite of all, we looked down and saw this earth being made ready for us, and we said in effect, “Yes, Father, in spite of all those things I can see great blessings that could come to me as one of thy sons or daughters; in taking a body I can see that I will eventually become immortal like thee, that I might overcome the effects of sin and be perfected, and so I am anxious to go to the earth at the first opportunity.” And so we came.8
Mortality is the time to prepare to meet God.
We mortals who now live upon this earth are in our second estate. Our very presence here in mortal bodies attests the fact that we “kept” our first estate. Our spirit matter was eternal and co-existent with God, but it was organized into spirit bodies by our Heavenly Father. Our spirit bodies went through a long period of growth and development and training and, having passed the test successfully, were finally admitted to this earth and to mortality.
One definite purpose of our spirits coming to this earth and assuming the mortal state was to obtain a physical body. This body was to be subject to all the weaknesses, temptations, frailties and limitations of mortality, and was to face the challenge to overcome self.9
You are sent to this earth not merely to have a good time or to satisfy urges or passions or desires … and have what the world calls “fun.”
You are sent to this world with a very serious purpose. You are sent to school, for that matter, to begin as a human infant and grow to unbelievable proportions in wisdom, judgment, knowledge, and power.10
One of the most serious human defects in all ages is procrastination, an unwillingness to accept personal responsibilities now. Men came to earth consciously to obtain their schooling, their training and development, and to perfect themselves, but many have allowed themselves to be diverted and have become … addicts to mental and spiritual indolence and to the pursuit of worldly pleasure.11
This mortal life is the time to prepare to meet God, which is our first responsibility. Having already obtained our bodies, which become the permanent tabernacle for our spirits through the eternities, now we are to train our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. Pre-eminent, then, is our using this life to perfect ourselves, to subjugate the flesh, subject the body to the spirit, to overcome all weaknesses, to govern self so that one may give leadership to others, and to perform all necessary ordinances.12
The gospel of Jesus Christ charts our course back to our Heavenly Father.
To pinpoint a destination not previously visited we usually consult a map. … The Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Savior, has given us our map—a code of laws and commandments whereby we might attain perfection and, eventually, godhood. This set of laws and ordinances is known as the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is the only plan which will exalt mankind. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the sole repository of this priceless program in its fulness, which is made available to those who accept it.13
The Lord restored his kingdom in these days, with all its gifts and powers and blessings. Any church that you know of may possibly be able to take you for a long ride, and bring you some degree of peace and happiness and blessing, and they can carry you to the veil and there they drop you. The Church of Jesus Christ picks you up on this side of the veil and, if you live its commandments, carries you right through the veil as though it weren’t there and on through the eternities to exaltation.14
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the eternal plan of salvation. It is the plan devised and announced by God, the Eternal Father, for the salvation of all who will believe and obey.15
In order to reach the goal of eternal life and exaltation and godhood, one must be initiated into the kingdom by baptism, properly performed; one must receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of authoritative hands; a man must be ordained to the priesthood by authorized priesthood holders; one must be endowed and sealed in the house of God by the prophet who holds the keys or by one of those to whom the keys have been delegated; and one must live a life of righteousness, cleanliness, purity and service. None can enter into eternal life other than by the correct door—Jesus Christ and his commandments.16
Jesus perfected his life and became our Christ. Priceless blood of a god was shed, and he became our Savior; his perfected life was given, and he became our Redeemer; his atonement for us made possible our return to our Heavenly Father.17
The great and wonderful and miraculous benefit of the Savior’s atonement cannot have its full saving impact on us unless we repent.18
We are so grateful that our Heavenly Father has blessed us with the gospel of repentance. It is central to all that makes up the gospel plan. Repentance is the Lord’s law of growth, his principle of development, and his plan for happiness. We are deeply grateful that we have his definite promise that where there has been sin and error, they can be followed by sincere and sufficient repentance that will in turn be rewarded with forgiveness.
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” said the Master. (Matt. 11:28.)
The glorious thing about the whole matter of repentance is that the scriptures are as full of the Lord’s assurances that he will forgive as they are full of his commands for us to repent, to change our lives and bring them into full conformity with his wonderful teachings.
God is good. He is eager to forgive. He wants us to perfect ourselves and maintain control of ourselves. He does not want Satan and others to control our lives. We must learn that keeping our Heavenly Father’s commandments represents the only path to total control of ourselves, the only way to find joy, truth, and fulfillment in this life and in eternity.19
The treasure house of happiness is unlocked to those who live the gospel of Jesus Christ in its purity and simplicity. … The assurance of supreme happiness, the certainty of a successful life here and of exaltation and eternal life hereafter, come to those who plan to live their lives in complete harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ—and then consistently follow the course they have set.20
Only the valiant and faithful will be exalted.
If we are true and faithful, we shall rise, not alone in immortality but unto eternal life. Immortality is to live forever in an assigned kingdom. Eternal life is to gain exaltation in the highest heaven and live in the family unit.21
One man said the other day, the only thing he didn’t like about the Mormon Church was that it claims to be the only one through which a man could be saved. I said, “Oh no, we make no such claim. We say that every good religionist and every good man who is not a religionist will be saved but there are degrees of salvation. …”22
Those who have lived after the manner of the world shall go to a telestial kingdom whose glory is as the stars.
Those who have been decent and upright and who have lived respectable and good lives will go to a terrestrial kingdom whose glory is as the moon.
Those who have believed in Christ, who have forsaken the world, who have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide and been willing to lay their all on the altar, those who have kept the commandments of God—they shall go to a celestial kingdom whose glory is as the sun.23
The road of life is plainly marked according to the divine purpose, the map of the gospel of Jesus Christ is made available to the travelers, the destination of eternal life is clearly established. At that destination our Father waits hopefully, anxious to greet his returning children. Unfortunately, many will not arrive.24
Why will only a few reach exaltation in the celestial kingdom? Not because it was not available to them, not because they did not know of its availability, not because the testimony was not given to them, but because they would not put forth the effort to pattern their lives and make them like the Savior’s life and establish them so well that there would be no deviation until the end.25
There are … many members of the Church who are lax and careless and who continually procrastinate. They live the gospel casually but not devoutly. They have complied with some requirements but are not valiant. They do no major crime but merely fail to do the things required—things like paying tithing, living the Word of Wisdom, having family prayers, fasting, attending meetings, serving. …
… The Lord will not translate one’s good hopes and desires and intentions into works. Each of us must do that for himself. …
Only the valiant will be exalted and receive the highest degree of glory, hence “many are called, but few are chosen.” (D&C 121:40.) As the Savior put it, “… strait is the gate, and narrow the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” And conversely, “… wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.” (Matt. 7:13, 14.)
It is true that many Latter-day Saints, having been baptized and confirmed members of the Church, and some even having received their endowments and having been married and sealed in the holy temple, have felt that they were thus guaranteed the blessings of exaltation and eternal life. But this is not so. There are two basic requirements every soul must fulfill or he cannot attain to the great blessings offered. He must receive the ordinances and he must be faithful, overcoming his weaknesses. Hence, not all who claim to be Latter-day Saints will be exalted.
But for those Latter-day Saints who are valiant, who fulfill the requirements faithfully and fully, the promises are glorious beyond description:
“Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.” (D&C 132:20.)26
When one realizes the vastness, the richness, the glory of that “all” which the Lord promises to bestow upon his faithful, it is worth all it costs in patience, faith, sacrifice, sweat and tears. The blessings of eternity contemplated in this “all” bring men immortality and everlasting life, eternal growth, divine leadership, eternal increase, perfection, and with it all, godhood.27
Suggestions for Study and Teaching
Consider these ideas as you study the chapter or as you prepare to teach. For additional help, see pages v–ix.
Review the third paragraph on page 2 and the third full paragraph on page 3, in which President Kimball describes our premortal response to Heavenly Father’s plan. Why do you think we responded that way?
Review the second and third full paragraphs on page 4. What do you do to find enjoyment in life without losing sight of your “serious purpose”?
Study President Kimball’s teachings about the purposes of mortality on pages 3–5. In light of these teachings, why do you think procrastination is “one of the most serious human defects”? How can we overcome this tendency?
President Kimball taught that the gospel of Jesus Christ is like a map that leads us to exaltation (pages 5–7). Ponder where you are on this journey and what you can do to continue to progress.
What do you think it means to be valiant in the gospel? (For some examples, see pages 7–9 and the story on page 1.) Why is Church membership and knowledge of the gospel not enough to assure exaltation in the celestial kingdom?
In Robert D. Hales, “Friend to Friend: I Am a Child of God,” Friend, Mar. 1978, 9.
Hymns, no. 301.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1964, 94; or Improvement Era, June 1964, 496.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball (1982), 28.
“Absolute Truth,” Ensign, Sept. 1978, 5.
The Miracle of Forgiveness (1969), 4.
The Miracle of Forgiveness, 5–6.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 31.
The Miracle of Forgiveness, 5.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 31.
The Miracle of Forgiveness, 7.
“Beloved Youth, Study and Learn,” in Life’s Directions (1962), 177–78.
The Miracle of Forgiveness, 6.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 49–50.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1978, 108; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 71.
The Miracle of Forgiveness, 6.
“President Kimball Speaks Out on Profanity,” Ensign, Feb. 1981, 5.
“The Gospel of Repentance,” Ensign, Oct. 1982, 5.
Ensign, Oct. 1982, 2.
The Miracle of Forgiveness, 259.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1978, 109; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 72.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 50.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1978, 109; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 72.
The Miracle of Forgiveness, 19.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 51–52.
The Miracle of Forgiveness, 7–8, 9.
The Miracle of Forgiveness, 311.