“Strengthening the Family: Our Progress toward Perfection,” Liahona, Feb. 2005, 34
“In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave.”1
If we are to understand our purpose here on earth and reach our divine potential, we must understand that we lived as spirit children of our Heavenly Father before we were born. “When we comprehend the doctrine of premortal life,” said President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “we know that we are the children of God, that we lived with him in spirit form before entering mortality. We know that this life is a test, that life did not begin with birth, nor will it end with death. Then life begins to make sense, with meaning and purpose even in all of the chaotic mischief that mankind creates for itself.”2
In our premortal life we rejoiced at the opportunity to come to earth, obtain a physical body, and gain mortal experience. We knew this was the only way we could become like our perfect Father in Heaven and eventually enjoy the kind of life He lives—eternal life. President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) explained: “Nothing should be held in greater sacredness and honor than the covenant by which the spirits of men, the offspring of God in the spirit, are privileged to come into this world in mortal tabernacles. … The greatest punishment ever given was proclaimed against Lucifer and his angels. To be denied the privilege of mortal bodies forever is the greatest curse of all. These spirits have no progression, no hope of resurrection and eternal life! … Spirits cannot be made perfect without a body of flesh and bones. This body and its spirit are brought to immortality and blessings of salvation through the resurrection. … In no other way, other than through birth into this life and the resurrection, can spirits become like our Eternal Father.”3
Although some of God’s children need only to obtain a physical body and are then called back to His presence, the rest of us come to earth for additional reasons: to learn faith, to develop Christlike qualities in the face of opposition, and to be tried and tested. President Marion G. Romney (1897–1988), First Counselor in the First Presidency, taught: “In our upward climb, this mortal experience through which we are now passing is a necessary step. To obtain perfection, we had to leave our pre-earth home and come to earth. During the transfer, a veil was drawn over our spiritual eyes, and the memory of our premortal experiences was suspended. In the Garden of Eden, God endowed us with moral agency and, as it were, left us here on our own between the forces of good and evil to be proved—to see if, walking by faith, we would rise to our high potentiality by doing ‘all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command [us]’ “ (Abr. 3:25).4
When we speak of reaching our eternal potential, the ideal we have in mind is our Eternal Father. Those who inherit eternal life enter that high and holy station as married couples sealed by the power of the priesthood and enjoy relationships that endure beyond the grave. “That same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there,” taught the Prophet Joseph Smith, “only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy” (D&C 130:2). Although we will certainly rejoice in the eternal fellowship of close friends, the associations that will mean most to us are family relationships that have been sealed eternally in the house of the Lord through priesthood ordinances.
This sealing does not happen automatically. We have the responsibility to search out our ancestors and employ the sealing power vicariously for them in the house of the Lord. President Brigham Young (1801–77) said: “We are called … to redeem the nations of the earth. The fathers cannot be made perfect without us; we cannot be made perfect without the fathers. There must be this chain in the holy Priesthood; it must be welded together from the latest generation that lives on the earth back to Father Adam, to bring back all that can be saved and placed where they can receive salvation and a glory in some kingdom.”5
It is a great blessing to live in this dispensation. We have been taught of our premortal existence and our choices there, we understand our purpose in mortality, we have the priesthood and the temple ordinances necessary to seal families eternally, and we have the resources to move this great work forward. As the Prophet Joseph Smith asked, “Shall we not go on in so great a cause?” (D&C 128:22).