Paul, an apostle for The Lord Jesus Christ, has made one of the largest contributions to the Bible we read today. From his writings in the New Testament we get a feel for his passion and devotion to the work of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Many plain and precious truths Paul taught regarding repentance, charity, and what we need to do to be saved have been preserved for our benefit.
One truth that I find personally relevant is found in the 17th chapter of the Book of Acts. While in Athens, Paul began to be concerned with the abundant practice of idolatry (worshiping statues, offering sacrifices to images, etc.). The Athenians were so careful in their worship to the gods that they even constructed an altar to “The Unknown God” so that no god would go unnoticed. Paul declared that this unknown god is the same who created the world and gave breath to all that are living. He taught that we are God’s offspring and that as we seek for Him, we find that he is not far from us. I love this message. We are children of God who knows us and watches over us.
There is one particular verse in this chapter that reveals even more about our relationship with God. Acts 17: 26:
“And [he] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;”
What does it mean that God determined the times before appointed? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often mistakenly called the Mormon Church) teaches that before we were born on Earth, we lived with God in a pre-mortal existence. We did not have physical bodies at this time, but we were intelligent and had the capability of making choices. As members of he Church of Jesus Christ, we believe that in this pre-mortal existence “God appointed certain spirits to fulfill specific missions during their mortal lives” (True to The Faith, p. 69). We call this “foreordination.” Basically, we believe that God determines when and where a spirit will be born. So if I apply that to myself, I can know that it was not an accident that I was born in 1988 to Karsten and Nancy Brooks. Our current prophet, Thomas S. Monson has said this regarding foreordination:
“You, the youth of the Church, are a glorious group, a chosen generation. … I plead with you, my young brothers and sisters, to remember who you are. You are sons and daughters of Almighty God. You have a destiny to fulfill, a life to live, a contribution to make, a goal to achieve. The future of the kingdom of God upon the earth will, in part, be aided by your devotion.” –President Thomas S. Monson, “The Lighthouse of the Lord,” New Era, Feb. 2001, 4, 7.
Even though he said this in 2001, it applies to every person who has ever or will ever walk this earth. We are all sons and daughters of God and we all have a contribution to make. The world is changing and we come to earth at the time that we can make the most difference. My mother compared this concept to strategy in war. When we are young and strong we fight on the front-lines. In her day the battle the youth were fighting were drugs and changing moral standards. When I was growing up, many of my friends were fighting depression. Girls my age were hiding eating disorders, cutting themselves, experimenting with drugs, and discovering their sexuality. I thought it was bad then. I work for The Church in a program called Seminary. Every day I teach high school students who use a free period in their school schedule to take a scripture study class. Every day I can see that not only was it bad when I was growing up, but it’s getting worse. I see my students battling pornography, video game addiction, bullying, and many other challenges that seem to isolate them from friends, family, and the God that loves them. They are a chosen generation, our future leaders. God has saved those spirits who have the strength to withstand the temptations of today that would distract them from the life God would have them live. They will not pass through the front-lines without getting hurt, but they have a mission to fulfill. True to the Faith continues on the topic of foreordination by saying,
“Although you do not remember that time, you surely agreed to fulfill significant tasks in the service of your Father. As you prove yourself worthy, you will be given opportunities to fulfill the assignments you then received.” (p. 70)
It is important to understand that in the true gospel of Jesus Christ, “foreordination” is not the same as “predestination.” Religions that believe in predestination believe that we are destined for certain things, even salvation, before we are born, and we cannot change these things. This sort of plan would rob us of our “agency,” the opportunity to choose. Agency is one of the most important principles of the gospel of Christ, and God’s plan for us guarantees that our agency will never be taken away. Therefore, even though we might be foreordained to perform certain acts of service on the earth during our mortal lives, this does not mean we cannot fail, or choose not to follow that path. And the Lord has prepared a way for salvation for all of His children, not just a few who some think might be predestined.
Our lives are not a script that we are acting out, but I do know that God has a plan for every one of his sons and daughters. As we seek for The Lord through prayer and study we can begin to know his plan. We can have faith that our lives have purpose. We can believe in ourselves that we have the power to overcome the challenges we face as a result of the ever changing world around us. We truly are chosen, in that we all are sons and daughters of God. This is a noble birthright.
This article was written by Joy Nardini, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Joy takes a logical, no-nonsense approach to life and is passionate about the gospel of Jesus Christ, Joy enjoys long-boarding and Sudoku. Raised in Woodland, CA, she earned her undergraduate degree in Nutrition & Food at California State University. After graduating, Joy served for 18-months as a missionary in the Washington DC North mission, and DC Temple Visitors’ Center. After returning home, she moved with her family to the Mesa, AZ valley. A blessing associated both with her missionary service and relocation to Arizona was finding an awesome man to marry, whom she can’t really complain about, even when she tries. Currently, she is working as a seminary teacher seeking to help fortify youth in the Church as they apply the gospel to their life.