If you live in a house or apartment with multiple rooms, have you ever gone into a room and forgot why you went there? If I were a betting man, I would wager it has happened.
Not only is this an experience common to millions of people reaching back decades if not centuries, but it also typifies another experience, this one universal to humankind.
It has been said that death is like stepping from one room into another. Then why would birth not be the same? Many ask, “What happens after I die?” Couldn’t we complete the symmetry of our existence by asking, “What happened before I was born? Where did I come from?”
The experience we all share as human beings is that when we stepped out of the room of our previous state into the next room, mortal life, we forgot everything about where we came from. And because we forgot that, we also forgot our purpose.
The Parable of the Lost Representatives tells of a group of agents sent into a foreign country to conduct business on behalf of the directors of a non-profit organization. They immediately became distracted by the sights and entertainment that their surroundings had to offer, to the point of neglecting their assignments.
Initially, our own forgetting isn’t due to our surroundings as much as it’s part of the plan of that God who made us to bring about our salvation. Before He set His plan in motion by creating the earth, the Lord said of our planet: “we will prove them [God’s children] herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:25). But it wouldn’t be a proving ground if we remembered being in His presence before. So He has withheld from us our memories of that time and place, of living with Him and learning the reason for our existence, so we can truly prove ourselves.
But if we’ve forgotten, how do we come to remember? Usually, when forgetting why I enter a room, I will go back in order to spark again the thought that took me there the first time. Unfortunately, when it comes to remembering the purpose of life, going back for a brief visit isn’t an option.
Throughout the history of the world, Heavenly Father has sent certain individuals to find us and remind us of our purpose. Paul introduced his letter to Titus thus: “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour” (Titus 1:1–3). In other words, before the world began, God established a promise that we can inherit eternal life and a plan through which it can occur, and at various times He has sent His servants, the prophets and apostles, to teach the rest of us how to obtain the fulfillment of the promise and the plan.
Samuel, the agent whom the non-profit directors sent to find their other representatives and remind them of their duty, is a type of such servants of the Lord. Not only are we born having forgotten our premortal existence, but many of us also become enamored with the things that this life has to offer. We don’t pass thought on the One who sent us, let alone “phone home” to speak with Him about our progress. It takes the word of God, spoken through those He sends, to remind us of what He sent all of us here to do. In a sense, though the memories are hidden, we can remember.
In the parable, the representatives listened to Samuel, and they got serious. God’s children don’t always do so. But this is one of the great lessons of the scriptures. I taught an adult Sunday School class from the Old Testament about 15 years ago, and one of the principles reinforced to me during my study was that God takes very seriously how we treat the teachings of His prophets. The children of Israel ran into more than one difficulty in the wilderness when they disregarded Moses’s instructions.
By contrast, another ancient prophet, Abinadi, described the reward of those who place value on God’s words through His servants: “Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord—I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 15:11).
Our Heavenly Father and Savior have not left us to find our way alone in the twenty-first century. They have called prophets and apostles as they did in ancient times to spark a remembrance that we came from God’s presence and remind us how to qualify for eternal life—and to help us navigate the challenges that our age presents. (You can find some of their recent teachings in the October 2021 general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) We can know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost that they are sent by God.
It’s just as important now to listen to the prophets and apostles as it was in Bible times. It’s every bit as important now as it was then to remember where we came from and why we’re here, and to remember that God who sent us.
Photo (forget-me-nots) by Philipp Fahlbusch on Pexels.com
On commenting: Please share your thoughts! You can leave an email address, but it’s not required. Leaving an email address may prompt you to sign in with a social media or WordPress account.