The next step in our Plan of Salvation Study is The Veil of Forgetfulness. Between the Pre-mortal realm and earth life, we pass through a veil, which causes us to forget all that we once knew while in the pre-mortal world. This is why we can’t remember our lives before earth.
I will have to admit – this doctrine is one that requires a lot of faith from me. Studying more about the veil was helpful.
In preparing this day’s topic, I had trouble finding much about the veil of forgetfulness in the scriptures. There are hints, and we know we can’t remember life before. Thankfully, we also have modern revelation to help us understand more about this significant part of the Plan of Salvation. Of course, the concept of “a veil” is not foreign to religion – as there are different types of veils mentioned in the scriptures. Studying each type of veil will help us to learn a little bit more about the veil of forgetfulness.
The Veil of Forgetfulness
We cannot remember life before our arrival to earth. Our memories don’t work that way. Yet it doesn’t mean that a pre-mortal life didn’t happen!
Elder Neal A. Maxwell explains:
“Agreeing to enter this second estate, therefore, was like agreeing in advance to anesthetic—the anesthetic of forgetfulness. Doctors do not de-anesthetize a patient, in the midst of what was previously authorized, to ask him, again, if it should be continued. We agreed to come here and to undergo certain experiences under certain conditions.” – “Premortality, A Glorious Reality,” Neal A. Maxwell
I love this example Elder Maxwell gives – likening the Veil of forgetfulness to anesthetics. Maybe it is because I had a surgery three weeks ago, and the idea of being anesthetized is fresh on my mind. I think about that experience: I knew that I would be having surgery, and prior to the surgery the Anesthesiologist would give me a few drugs. He explained it to me, but the details are fuzzy. In fact, I remember being wheeled out of the area where I was prepped for surgery, and everything became fuzzy. While I can recollect a few things, like the anesthesiologist talking to me, I have no idea what he was saying. I was drifting off. Finally, much later, I was awake/ish. Even though I don’t remember the surgery, I knew it happened! And it is true, I was never awakened during the surgery to make sure I still wanted to go through with it. Our acceptance to pass through the veil is similar. We agreed to do it pre-mortally, even if we can’t remember it.
As much as I like this relationship made by Elder Maxwell, I admit I’m still somewhat troubled by the doctrine of the veil. Yet, as I think about it, I realize our brains are more powerful than we know. We don’t know how to access many memories. For example, I cannot remember the day I was born, I don’t remember what being a baby felt like. I don’t have a recollection of most of my very early childhood. A few memories swirl in my brain from my young years. When I was 4 years old, I was adopted by my dad. I can remember the day. I remember going to a judge, and he held me up so I could see her (or maybe it was him…I can’t remember that part!). I remember that I got a new dress, and that my dad got me gum from the gum ball machine, and it was yellow. I don’t remember another detail from that day. It is a memory etched in my brain, but I can’t even recall all that I would like. However, even though I can’t recall the event, it doesn’t mean that it never happened. I suppose that thinking of our inability to remember the events of our Pre-mortal lives requires the same logic.
The Physical Veil that Covers Sacred Objects or Separates Sacred Places
In the Old Testament, there are many mentions of veils – ones that separate parts of the temple, ones that cover sacred objects. For example, Moses was instructed to place a veil over the ark of the covenant. (See Exodus 40:1-3.) I suppose that the veil emphasized the sacredness of the ark of the covenant. It was also a physical denotation that this sacred object was separated, or set apart, from the world.
The veil of forgetfulness, while not the same as the physical veil that covered the ark of the covenant, is related. The Pre-mortal existence, our memories of that time, are sacred and separated from our earthly experience.
The Veil of Unbelief
The veil of unbelief and forgetfulness are very closely related, but aren’t the same. As we go through our mortal lives, and turn to the Lord – with genuine intention and a pure heart, then there are times that the veil that separates us from him can be lifted – and we receive revelation.
“Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel.” – Ether 4:15
The veil of unbelief causes us to remain in our carnal, natural state. It inhibits us from growing spiritually. Unlike the veil of forgetfulness, we have power to rend this veil. It is done as we exercise faith in Christ and obedience to His laws. When we rend ourselves from this veil, our minds are open to understanding and growth. (See Doctrine and Covenants 110:1). And though we cannot remember the events of our pre-mortal lives, we can come to “remember” the principles taught before. Often, as we learn the truths of the gospel, they feel familiar. Even if we can’t recall the details of our pre-earth life, it is comforting to know that every doctrine and principle of the gospel resides somewhere in our Spirits, and this knowledge can be accessed as we rend the veil of unbelief.
I don’t know if we’ll ever have a perfect memory of our lives before coming to earth. It is as if by going through the veil, we experienced some kind of Amnesia. Will this memory one day be restored? I’m not totally sure. But I know that the veil exists, and that it does for good reason. It is a protection for us. And, since I know that Heavenly Father loves me, and that his work and glory is my safe return to Him, I will also assume that the veil aids in my progression. The veil is a part of the Plan of Salvation that propels us forward, rather than holds us back. Even though we don’t have power over the veil of forgetfulness during this mortal life, we can go forward, trying to rend the veil of unbelief whenever possible.
What are your thoughts on the veil of forgetfulness? Why do you think that it was wise and needful to go through this veil before coming to earth?