My daughter-in-law, Terry, told me of a special experience before her youngest child, Grant, was born. It was a spiritual impression that her mother shared, regarding a final interview between her own father, Cecil Grant Ash, and his great-grandson Grant Billikopf, before the boy was born:
“She knew I had gone to the hospital to have the baby that morning,” Terry explained. “She was sitting in her chair and she just thought, ‘I wonder if Terry has had the baby yet?’ Then the Holy Ghost told her, ‘Not yet. He is waiting for your father to come to talk to him.’ Grant was born about twenty-five minutes later. When my mom told me her story, I felt the Holy Ghost witness to me that what she was saying was true.”
If we truly forgot entirely everything, there would be little purpose for such a meeting between a great-grandfather and his great-grandson on such a momentous instant: a son of God who had returned to the presence of the Father speaking to a family member who was about to embark in that special experience we call mortality.
What is it that we most remember about of our Church meetings such as Sacrament meeting, and General Conference? Besides all the wonderful lessons learned, is it not also what we felt? A great desire to have our spirits triumph over our bodies. A deep longing to be true disciples of Jesus Christ.
Like Grant, we waited for a long, long time to experience mortality. And now, finally, it is our turn to be here. This is our time. In each of our pre-mortal lives we received much instruction. While in some ways we may truly say that we have forgotten our pre-mortal lives, in another we have not.
We are spiritually wired. From O My Father we have”
“For a wise and glorious purposeHymn 292
Thou hast placed me here on earth
And withheld the recollection
Of my former friends and birth;
Yet ofttimes a secret something
Whispered, ‘You’re a stranger here,’
And I felt that I had wandered
From a more exalted sphere.”
When we come across certain truths we are filled with joy. These are the eternal truths that are brought to our remembrance through both the light of Christ and through the Holy Ghost. These feelings and truths are all-important, especially in relationship to those moments when we are most fully engaged in the “Struggle for the Soul,” as Elder Melvin J. Ballard called it.
Elder Melvin J. Ballard taught: “When the first of the Father’s faithful sons and daughters were about to come into earth life, they were undoubtedly warned and cautioned; for we were to have two new experiences. First, we were to come into possession of a mortal tabernacle. Never having had one before, it was all strange to us. We were charged that we were to take possession of that mortal tabernacle and make it our servant, and were to be master over it, to honor it and yet to subjugate it.”
“[Second,] we were to be in the presence of the enemy who was now a majority. If our eyes were only opened to see the powers that are about us, that seek to influence us, we could not have the courage to walk alone and unassisted. These powers are about us, using their influence for the accomplishment of certain well-defined ends to win the coveted place for their chief, the fallen son of God. When he fell the heavens wept over him, and he became Lucifer, the devil.”
It is our turn to make use of the moral agency each one of us has been given, beginning with the pre-existence, and now here upon earth. I am thrilled!
Elder Ballard continues: “It surely is a good time for every man and woman to examine themselves and discover whether we are on the Lord’s side or not. I should like to say to you, my brethren and sisters, that all the assaults that the enemy of our souls will make to capture us will be through the flesh, because it is made up of the unredeemed earth, and he has power over the elements of the earth. The approach he makes to us will be through the lusts, the appetites, the ambitions of the flesh.”
Elder David A. Bednar uses different but equally powerful language: “Men and women are to act and not be acted upon,” based on the Book of Mormon: “And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon. And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents … it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter. Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other” (2 Nephi 2:14–16).
Our life will permit us to decide, at the end, what is it that we truly, really want: “And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the restoration of which has been spoken; for behold, some have wrested the scriptures, and have gone far astray because of this thing. And I perceive that thy mind has been worried also concerning this thing. But behold, I will explain it unto thee. I say unto thee, my son, that the plan of restoration is requisite with the justice of God; for it is requisite that all things should be restored to their proper order. Behold, it is requisite and just, according to the power and resurrection of Christ, that the soul of man should be restored to its body, and that every part of the body should be restored to itself… The one raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh. And so it is on the other hand. If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness. These are they that are redeemed of the Lord; yea, these are they that are taken out, that are delivered from that endless night of darkness; and thus they stand or fall; for behold, they are their own judges, whether to do good or do evil” (Alma 41:1–2; 5–7).
And from Isaiah: “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil” (Isaiah 33:14–15).
There is no compulsion at all. This is our moment. This is the time that we anticipated for so long. May we be valiant in our testimonies of Jesus Christ. May we act and not be acted upon. May we, with the gift of the Holy Ghost, clearly stand with the Holy One of Israel.
Photo credit: Michael Busch, unsplash
Gregorio Billikopf belongs to the Llanquihue Branch, Puerto Montt Stake, in the south of Chile. He is the author of Isaiah Testifies of Christ and an emeritus academic of the University of California and professor of the University of Chile; author of Party-Directed Mediation: Facilitating Dialogue between Individuals and other books. Gregorio’s paternal grandparents are Lithuanian Jews and German Jews and on his mother’s side of the family he is Chilean. He found Christ through reading the Book of Mormon. You may contact him through firstname.lastname@example.org.