I actually attended Gospel Doctrine yesterday (don’t fall over in shock, anyone), and there was much discussion of this scripture:
“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abraham 3:25)
I’ve heard all my life that life is a test. But I’m not entirely comfortable with that way of talking about it, and I’ve been thinking about why that is. Maybe it’s that a “test” sounds to me like something being given by a neutral, disinterested party– as if God were a scientist running us through mazes and observing whether we or not we succeed. It strikes me as rather similar to the notion that God is responsible for all the trials in our lives, an idea which I’ve always found tremendously disturbing. (To clarify, I do believe that God can bring good out of even awful situations, but I don’t think that’s the same as saying that God is the one responsible for such situations.)
Perhaps I also dislike the metaphor because it sounds so external. I do think our choices matter, but I think they matter because they make us into the people that we are– not because God is going to assign us a grade at the end. “Sorry, you almost made the 90 percent cut-off for the Celestial Kingdom, but unfortunately you sometimes skipped your visiting teaching.” (Minus the 90 percent bit, I actually once heard a statement along those lines in Relief Society.)
But I think my biggest objection is that life seems less meaningful somehow if its most fundamental purpose is about passing or failing. I believe that our experiences here have some kind of intrinsic value, that they’re more than just lines to be added to a celestial resumé. It seems to me that the purpose of this life must be closely tied to experiential learning, in that we have experiences here that we couldn’t have in the premortal world– such as being embodied, or having to make decisions in a situation of ambiguity. And perhaps my problem with the test idea is that I don’t really associate tests with learning; I see them more as a kind of arbitrary hoop-jumping. My sisters and I have often discussed that feeling of wishing you had the time to genuinely learn the material you were studying in school, instead of frantically choking it down. Is it possible, I wonder, that focusing on life as a test which you have to get right could lead you to miss out on a lot of what is actually most rich and valuable about this experience of mortality?
- 9 January 2006