I have a question regarding fate. There was an 18 year old boy from our ward who died in an auto accident. He was one of those youth who had a great influence on both adults and children/youth without ever really realizing it. People, including me, are trying to understand why this happened. I started reading a book called “Understanding Death and the Resurrection.” President Kimball believes many die before their time because of various risks that may be taken etc. Also, he said that it is easier for us to shorten our life than it is for the Lord to extend it. That I understand. However, he said the Lord knows our fate. This really confuses me. I thought how we use our free agency decides our fate. How can our fate be known before we are done living here on the earth? It is kind of like our own “Book of Life” has already been written. Please help me to understand.
Suzette, from California
You pose an interesting philosophical question, the gist of which is, Does foreknowledge imply predestination? One aspect of the question could be treated with the following postulation. Let’s consider the circumstance of a two-dimensional person. This person lives on the surface of the ocean, and he is capable of perceiving anything that cuts the surface. However, he has no perception of anything above the surface or below the surface. This man believes in the spontaneous generation and the spontaneous disillusion of matter. If a ship sinks, it completely vanishes when sunk. Fish always occur in pairs. They are observed only while jumping out of the water or while reentering the water. The two dimensional man can always predict when the second fish will appear. The length of its duration while exiting the water, and the direction of motion and the angle with the water that the fish makes while exiting give the two-dimensional man enough information to predict when and where the second fish will appear. What appears to be completely spontaneous to the two-dimensional man are ducks. Ducks just happen without any warning. He can generally predict their disappearance, which almost always occurs right after they start flapping their wings. But their occurrence remains a complete mystery.
One day he is rowing along in his boat when he comes upon a three-dimensional man hanging to a piece of flotsam following his shipwreck. He welcomes him aboard, and in their conversation he explains to the 3-D man his quandary regarding ducks. The 3-D man replies, “I can predict ducks.” Presently a flock of ducks appear and circle about in their approach to landing. As they spread their wings and hold their feet forward as they approach the water, the 3-D man says, “Look over there. One, two, three; Ducks!” The 2-D man is amazed. “You can really predict the future!” he says.
Now the question is, is there any causal relationship between the man’s foreknowledge that the ducks are going to land and their landing? And the answer is, “Of course not.” The ducks are not pre-destined to land BECAUSE OF the 3-D man’s knowledge. In the same way, the foreknowledge of God does not imply the predestination of man. Man is an agent unto himself, with the power to use volition. His past is determined by the choices he makes and the actions he takes, but man, largely un-preprogrammed, is solely responsible for the decisions he makes.
Before we entered into mortality from the spirit world we had a perception of what we here call the future, as we will again have when we leave mortality. When we are born it is as if we entered into a pipe which we travel through during our lifetime. We know by our experience where we have been, and we can usually predict for a short distance where we are going, and the time comes when we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But during this passage we are completely unaware of the reality outside the pipe. But in spite of our inability to see through the walls of the pipe, that which is outside the pipe is just as real as that which is inside. We learn from the scriptures that—
The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord (D&C 130:6-7).
In that realm they look across time as we look across space. And since the future is continually before the Lord, he sees us NOW as we will perceive ourselves THEN. But, how and where we will be THEN is determined by what we think, say and do NOW. Of course we cannot understand what we are talking about because, resulting from our memory loss at birth, we have no concept of the conditions of eternity. It’s like trying to imagine that the color of an object looks like that reflects light at frequencies beyond our field of vision. But the fact is that we are NOW where the Lord sees us all along the path of the future. That may be why it is do difficult to change who we are. We are carrying a lot of baggage of our extended selves along with us. And time, which seems so real and so fundamental a reality to us, is really only an illusion For example, the past is gone; it no longer exists. We may remember it, read about it, but we cannot visit it, because it is no more. It is only a memory. Likewise, neither does the future exist; it has not yet happened. The future, until it is converted into the present, is only a hope. Thus, all existence exists in the present. But define for me the interval of the present. No matter how minuscule a duration that you could imagine the present to be, I can divide into two parts; one part is yet in the future and the other part is in the past. So the present is no more than the dimensionless interface between the future and the past. So there is no future and no past, and oddly enough, also no now.