Foreordination: is it fair?
Here’s the official lowdown:
Going along with the last week’s theme of life beyond this life…we touched upon the fact that we believe we were created by God the Father in spirit form and we lived in his presence before we were born to live on earth:
“To carry forward his own purposes among men and nations, the Lord foreordained chosen spirit children in pre-existence and assigned then to come to earth at particular times and places so that they might aid in furthering the divine will. These pre-existence appointments, made ‘according to the foreknowledge of God the Father’ (1 Peter 1:2), simply to perform mission which the Lord in his wisdom knew they had the talents and capacities to do.”
--Bruce R. McConkie (Sorry, I use him a lot, but he gives really concise definitions.)
The scriptures are full of examples of the Lord having a specific purpose in mind for his children. McConkie and Alma are careful to point out the role of agency in this principle:
“In all this there is not the slightest hint of compulsion; persons foreordained to fill special missions in mortality are as abundantly endowed with free agency as are any other persons. By their foreordination the Lord merely gives them the opportunity to serve him and his purposes if they choose to measure up to the standard he knows they are capable of attaining.” –Bruce R. McConkie (see also Alma 13:3-9)
I can accept all of that just fine. It seems logical that God, knowing us so well, would have specific “tasks” in mind for us, if we choose to do so. This principle is not to be confused with FATE or DESTINY. It’s a little more subtle than that. Maybe I’m uncomfortable with the idea that fate or destiny takes away my agency somehow, but we are ALL foreordained to return to our Heavenly Father.
My previous issues with foreordination are somewhat related to that idea although they are a little more on a tangent; they stemmed from the ponderings of why I was born to the family I was born to, in this time, in this country, yada yada yada. I consider myself to be EXTREMELY fortunate: I have a great family, I have a wonderful husband, we have plenty of food, clothing, and more than adequate shelter…so why did I deserve to be born here and now when so many billions of others were born into poverty and ignorance. I felt that I did not deserve the millions of blessings that have been granted to me because of my unworthiness to receive them. This isn’t to say that good things can’t happen to bad people, and bad things can’t happen to good people. There is SO much in life that is put into motion through random acts of agency… On a bigger scale, I wondered “why me”?
It was during a self-pitiful conversation with my dad just a few months ago when he shed some light on the topic for me. I was expressing my foreordination quandary of “why me” and “it’s not fair” when my dad gave me a new perspective on the topic. He explained that our existence can be broken down into a three-legged journey: pre-existent life with God our creator, mortal life here on earth, and life after death. We believe that we had certain strengths and weaknesses in the pre-existence according to our unique creation by God. The scriptures tell us that some spirits were “noble and great” (Abraham 3:22-23) and some spirits were weak and/or disobedient and were cast out of God’s presence along with Lucifer.
In the LDS faith, we believe there was a “war” in heaven: one “team” supported Heavenly Father and his plan to send Jesus Christ to be an example and a savior, the glory being reserved for the Father, and the other “team” supported Satan and his plan to “compel” us to be obedient, keeping all of the glory for himself and giving none to God. (Moses 4:1-4) We, as spirit children had the opportunity to participate in this “war” (most likely it was a war of words and influence seeing as how none of us had bodies yet). Some spirits were valiant and strong supporters of God’s plan, others were just as strong for Satan, which left a lot of fence-sitters and lukewarm believers in either camp.
We had the chance in the pre-existence to show our devotion and faithfulness to God, which is part of our eternal progression. I kind of always had the impression that we all started with a clean slate when we were born, things had been “reset”, and that was why I thought it was so unfair that I was foreordained to come here, now.
My dad patiently pointed out that it would have been unfair after all the chance we had to prove our loyalty and obedience, for everyone to start out at the same place. That would have invalidated the purpose of the great plan, which is choice/agency and progression. How I live my life here on earth will put me further along, or further away, from my goal of returning to God. When I die, that simply ends the second leg of the three-leg journey.
Would it be fair if I strove to live the commandments the best I could in this life only to be “reset” after death? No. Neither would it have been fair to do that after the pre-existence leg.
So can I sit back and enjoy my privileged life because I earned it? Heavens, no! We also believe in the LDS faith that “unto whom much is given, much is required.” Those of us who were born into “wealth” and a knowledge of the Gospel have a responsibility to share both with others. We must! We are commanded to, just incase we are not inclined to do so naturally. My responsibility in life toward my fellow men is that much greater because of the blessings I have been given. I have made some decisions in my life directly based on that principle serving a full-time mission, for example.
The point is that this isn’t a race, and we’re not being compared to one another. We are not being graded on a curve here. There is room in “heaven” for everyone. We were all created with the potential and foreordained to do what we need to do to make it back. I hope and pray that we all do…