- Is there more to the meaning of “prove” than we normally think?
- Is there possible predictability in the different natures of our individual “proving?”
- Why does God subject each of us to these life struggles, including atrocities?
- Can being “proven” have the same enabling value as knowing your location on a map?
- Can the process be as important as the product?
1. The meaning of “prove” means more than we normally think.
If “prove” means to test or try, and since God is omniscient, knowing the end from the beginning, then He already knows how we will do on the test. So why is the test necessary? He could save us so much pain and suspense by just telling us how we would do. But then what about agency, would we trust Him that He would know how we would do and just accept that? But then what about becoming, not just doing, or knowing? Perhaps “prove” could mean more than just “testing??” The 1828 Webster’s dictionary, indicating language usage at the time of the revelation to Joseph Smith, gives several definitions of the word, “prove:”
- To try; to ascertain some unknown quality or truth by an experiment, or by a test or standard. Thus, we prove the strength of gunpowder by experiment;
- To evince, establish or ascertain as truth, reality or fact, by testimony or other evidence. The plaintiff in a suit, must prove the truth of his declaration;
- To evince truth by argument, induction or reasoning; to deduce certain conclusions from propositions that are true or admitted. If it is admitted that every immoral act is dishonorable to a rational being, and that dueling is an immoral act; then it is proved by necessary inference, that dueling is dishonorable to a rational being.
- To ascertain the genuineness or validity of; to verify; as, to prove a will.
- To experience; to try by suffering or encountering; to gain certain knowledge by the operation of something on ourselves, or by some act of our own.
- In arithmetic, to show, evince or ascertain the correctness of any operation or result. Thus in subtraction, if the difference between two numbers, added to the lesser number, makes a sum equal to the greater, the correctness of the subtraction is proved. In other words, if the sum of the remainder and of the subtrahend, is equal to the minuend, the operation of subtraction is proved to be correct.
- To try; to examine.
- Men prove God, when by their provocations they put his patience to trial, Psalms 95:9; or when by obedience they make trial how much he will countenance such conduct, Malachi 3:10.
- To be found or to have its qualities ascertained by experience or trial; as, a plant or medicine proves salutary.
- To be ascertained by the event or something subsequent; as the report proves to be true, or proves to be false.
- To be found true or correct by the result.
- To make certain; to show; to evince.
Wow, twelve nuanced meanings, some of which seem redundant to the non-legal mind. Number one seems to be what most of us think when reading this verse in Abraham 3:25.
“we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them”
It says that the purpose in “proving” us is “to see if.” The second definition seems to add that the goal is to evince or manifest, to establish the truth of who we are. This idea is powerful in light of Alma’s description of the purpose and intent of the plan,
“becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering” Alma 13:28
Definition four emphasizes again this idea of ascertaining validity, or verifying who we really are. Along with the experiences of definition five, our validity is being established through our acquisition of knowledge that only comes by the “operation” or “result” of those experiences on us as we become immersed in them as if our very lives depended on our performance…because it does! Few of us would be interested in having a surgery performed by a doctor who skipped school because the school simply awarded the degree, due to his fame, or financial contribution.
Definition six takes me back to my geometry days. I loved doing proofs. It was kind of like putting a puzzle together – the established theorems that when linked appropriately together established a truth, a picture. A triangle that was equilateral was “proven” to so be by the application and puzzling of those theorems.
Rather than geometry, this sixth definition uses addition and subtraction as the example. When 6-2=4 is subjected to the proof of a law that says when the answer is added (the operation opposite subtraction) to the lesser of the two numbers, the 2 plus the answer (4) is equal to the first number, the 6, then the operation of subtraction that yielded 4 is thereby validated or true.
Applying that to our mortal experience we can see that God’s masterful divine tutorials, our life experiences, have the purpose of validating who He already knows we are – (like the equilateral triangle or math equation). Christ, Himself corrected the “appearance focused” Pharisees by quoting their own scripture about His AND their real identity:
“Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods??”
He was quoting Old Testament Psalms 82:6. Certainly this is what Paul had in mind when teaching that we are “the offspring of God.” In Acts 17:29 and what the Savior indicated when responding to Mary’s efforts to embrace Him outside the tomb when he said, “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” John 20:17
The implications are huge when using this definition of “prove.” We are here to discover and establish or validate our very divine being. And if we are willing to accept help and guidance that will never violate our freedom to choose, Christ will enable our discovery and learning…this is hardly a school test where we are policed to see that no one gives us the answers or where mistakes can keep us out of med school.
2. What “proves” one person may be vastly different than another, perhaps there is predictability.
Definition twelve again supports that idea that our purpose in being here is one “to make certain; to show; to evince” our very nature. Yet, our lives and “proving experiences” seem very different from each other. Is that because our very natures are as different as each of the plants or animals on the earth? I was talking to a middle aged less-active returned missionary one day who has decided that God may or may not exist and the research to know is useless because it is all just another man’s opinion.
When I suggested that he could find out by experience, he just shook his head. As we talked more, he confessed that he just didn’t like stress, conflict, etc. That in spite of how laid-back most thought he was, he felt pressured in so many areas of his life. He just wanted to love his family, enjoy their growth and learning, serve in his profession and make a difference in people’s lives. I thought of how I love to know how things work so I am always in the middle of some kind of research and pondering that, to him, seemed too complicated and took too much time from family. We are both so different. What manifests my true nature is totally different from what manifests his. He seems to value family-time, over philosophy and religion? To me, this doesn’t need to be an either-or dichotomy yet to him, both take time, so it is.
But how do we really know, under all kinds of experiences what our true values are? Saying, “I like apples more than kiwis” doesn’t mean that apples are my most valued fruit. Our true natures are exposed as our values are clarified when presented by difficult experiences, but because our natures are different, our personal proving, targets our individuality. For example, a kind and mild-mannered friend found himself in a very pressured situation where everything depended on his being capable of producing results. In one very stressed moment, he lost his temper and swore. Later he apologized and shared that he had wrestled with controlling his temper and language during an earlier stage in life and was surprised to discover his native language and nature emerging under duress.
I watched an eight-year-old who had been clearly told by her mother not to get in the pool, then when no one was watching, she got in the pool. When confronted she explained that she didn’t get her hair wet, so it was OK. This eight-year-old is very bright. Apparently, her quick intellect settled on a reason for the interdiction, “getting in the pool would get my hair wet so if I can keep it dry, getting in the pool is OK.” Her independent nature led her to find an explanation that allowed her to do what she wanted and seem obey her mother at the same time. Her mother was actually preparing to put all the family in the car and so needed everyone to be dry and ready, so getting in the pool would be a problem…and it was. Was this a test of the child’s willingness to be governed? Brigham Young once said of the apostasy that men arranged the gospel so as to be pleasing to their carnal natures. Some see rules as things to outsmart rather than guidelines to keep us safe.
Carl Jung developed a tool to differentiate some of those differences in our natures. Today many institutions use the “Myers-Briggs” or similar evaluation to help individuals understand what career to choose; what career they will find fulfilling to their basic nature and personal preferences. According to the studies over decades, there are sixteen distinctly different temperaments with varying nuances within each. Each temperament is experienced by its owner as the norm and all others as different, even wrong. For some, another person’s different temperament may seem like a manifestation of abnormality, or insanity. Many years ago, when I discovered these studies, it validated these “other norms.” So rather than seeing another’s differentness as a problem or irritation or worse, something that needed to be changed; it opened a whole new understanding and value of differentness. It humbled me and gave encouragement to both tolerate and find value in other’s paradigms. Puzzling those differences into a synergistic interdependent team approach proved far more powerful than even skilled independence.
What if these temperament differences could also help us see and appreciate what is needed to “prove,” “evince,” manifest,” and “validate” our natures so as to give understanding to our individual life struggles and successes? Steel is hardened – tempered, under heat and pressure. To be used for certain jobs hardness ratings are used to select how much and what kind of heat and pressure are needed. Hard but not brittle; malleable but not fragile, etc. Here is a table that combines a brief overview of temperament differences with some possible experiences that each person could find difficult, even refining, as they clarify and self-manifest their real values. The four colors are groupings of temperaments that share at least two characteristics.
There are whole books and websites devoted to temperament differences, stories and examples of each and how to appreciate each for their preference value in teams, families, or marriages. Elder Oaks spoke on, “Our Strengths Can Become our Downfall.” Brigham Young said, “The worst fear that I have about [members of this Church] is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and his people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution, and be true. But my greater fear for them is that they cannot stand wealth; and yet they have to be tried with riches” (quoted in Preston Nibley, Brigham Young: The Man and His Work , 128).
3. God must have good reasons to subject each of us to these life struggles.
This process of “proving” in the context of a veil, producing memory loss, and the divine gift of agency, not only allows us to discover the unfolding divine within us as we follow the unspeakable gift of still small manifestations subtle enough to guide but never to force; it also filters or sorts us. Please let me explain.
We all came with divine potential but with a multitude of reward seeking differences that when embodied in mortal appetite driven flesh, a vetting process results. When the enticing reward of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence – eternal life – is separated from the loving selfless divine nature that gives it purpose, then a “lucifer” results. Were God to bestow upon each of his spirit children, the gift of eternal life without a proving process, wherein every self-serving enticement is “burned off” in the “furnace of affliction,” the potential result would be multiple selfish powerful gods of war, ever seeking more and more power and glory. In premortal conflicts of will, Lucifer acted on his appetite for light and rebelled against Father. He wanted the power without the risky vetting process. Others empathized with his fear in the risk faith requires. They didn’t want to trust in Jesus to help them through because His help was conditional. But they apparently were careful or subtle enough to hold back in acting upon those selfish appetites, sufficient to avoid failing their first estate. As a result, they were sent to earth with those same self-serving appetites for power and glory lucifer displayed. Because of their natures, they responded quickly to the enticements of their real premortal master who shared with them a jealous hatred of Christ and fear of the Father’s plan.
“And the Lord said unto Cain: Why art thou wroth? Why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted. And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door, and Satan desireth to have thee; and except thou shalt hearken unto my commandments, I will deliver thee up, and it shall be unto thee according to his desire. And thou shalt rule over him; For from this time forth thou shalt be the father of his lies; thou shalt be called Perdition; for thou wast also before the world.” Moses 5:22-24
So why was Cain allowed to come to earth having been “perdition” in pre-mortality? The preceding verses indicate that he could have changed this rebellious, self-seeking nature but why was he given that opportunity when Lucifer was permanently and eternally damned before receiving a body? Alma clarified the just and merciful nature of our divine Father:
“He doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.” Alma 14:11
Having acted during the pre-mortal conflict on his evil nature, Lucifer was condemned but apparently Cain and how many others were subtle enough to wait, get a body, and continue the war. For them the “proving” exposes their very nature.
“But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” Isaiah 28:13
Knowing that Father’s purpose and passion is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His creations, we can conclude that trapping some of His sneaky, evil children isn’t His motivation during this proving process. This isn’t just a filter to strain out the dross, but it is also a sorting process to allow each individual the opportunity to establish an eternal home at a level of glory and responsibility that corresponds to their own choices and becoming. He loves us and yearns for the happiness of each and every one of His children.
4. Since using a map to find direction and destination depends on knowing one’s personal location on the map, being “proven” is enabling not disabling.
“Falling backward,” “being snared” are states that should humble the perpetrator. Alma thus wrote of the hoped-for result a merciful Father proffers those so exposed, “because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance,” His promise is then,
“I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them…. even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.” Ether 12:27, 37
But, strangely, some don’t want exaltation and the level of order or law that it portends so the “proving” becomes a sorting process to be certain that all will be comfortable through-out eternity except those of perdition…
21 And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.
22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.
23 And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.
24 And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.
28 They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.
29 Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
30 And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
31 And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
32 And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received. DC 88
“for behold, they are their own judges” Alma 41:7. What more could a loving, just, merciful, and powerful God do to ensure the happiness for each of us?
5. The process is as important as the product!
Thomas Paine wrote, “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods.” The value of something is “proven” by the price one is willing to pay to obtain and retain it. To receive ALL that Father offers we must esteem it above ALL else!
With these many dimensions of the proving process discussed here, it is interesting to return to the context in the third chapter of Abraham to ask what it was that the proving was to ascertain,
“to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” Abraham 3:25
Verses 1-19 set the context of the lesson taught to Abraham so that he could understand the implications of seeing the premortal counsel where each of us as “noble and great ones” shouted with joy over the prospects of the proving needed in the “great plan of happiness.” In these verses seen through the Urim and Thummim, God shows him an earth centric model of the universe. Therein, He compares the order of this universe and its planets and stars arranged in an orbital sequence of governance, to us, as God’s spirit children, who likewise are arranged in an order under “the governing ones.” In the universe, the supreme government is Kolob near God’s throne. With spirits, our “Kolob” is Jesus Christ, “more intelligent than they all.” Therefore, we are being proven to see if we are willing to be governed by Christ through those whom He appoints or calls. “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” DC 1:38
 “Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High”
 Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young p107 “The Christian religion…was so… adulterated until it was congenial to the wicked heart…that the people received…the gospel as they supposed…with open hands, arms, mouth and heart.”
 Examples for reference only:
See also a YouTube video extracting information on this subject from several books but mostly “Please Understand Me II” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWeLVJZns3A&t=323s
 Elder Dallin H. Oaks, BYU Fireside, June 7, 1992 “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,”
“Like the fabled Achilles, who was immune to every lethal blow except to his heel, many of us have a special weakness that can be exploited to our spiritual downfall. For some that weakness may be a taste for liquor. For some it may be an unusual vulnerability to sexual temptation or a susceptibility to compulsive gambling or reckless speculation. For others it may be a craving for money or power. If we are wise, we will know our special weaknesses, our spiritual Achilles’ heels, and fortify ourselves against temptations in those areas.
But our weaknesses are not the only areas where we are vulnerable. Satan can also attack us where we think we are strong—in the very areas where we are proud of our strengths. He will approach us through the greatest talents and spiritual gifts we possess. If we are not wary, Satan can cause our spiritual downfall by corrupting us through our strengths as well as by exploiting our weaknesses.”
 Bruce R. McConkie, Conference 1974, “Cain, on the other hand, like Lucifer, was a liar from the beginning and was told in this life: “… thou shalt be called Perdition; for thou wast also before the world.”” (Moses 5:24.)
 Alma 32:13
 Moses 6:55 Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.”
 Elder Maxwell suggests that this means “than they all…put together.” “All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience,” p22