We are the sum total of our experiences.
Just as with all of Satan’s teachings, this quote teaches a half-truth.
I read a quote the other day by B.J. Neblett, where he says: “We are the sum total of our experiences. Those experiences – be they positive or negative – make us the person we are, at any given point in our lives. And, like a flowing river, those same experiences, and those yet to come, continue to influence and reshape the person we are, and the person we become. None of us are the same as we were yesterday, nor will be tomorrow.”
I have heard this quote several times, and on the surface it makes sense. We learn and grow with each experience we have. As we go through the trials of life we gain experience, we learn, and hopefully become more like our Heavenly Father. However, just as with all of Satan’s teachings, this quote teaches a half-truth.
The lie comes from the idea the all that we are is the total of our experiences. If all that we are is the total of our experiences, we avoid all accountability. We can excuse ourselves from all accountability because the reasons we perform actions are the result of our previous experiences. I cannot help who I am, because of my past experiences. If we are merely the sum of our experiences, we can excuse any of our bad decisions as not being our fault.
I cannot follow the word of wisdom because I grew up drinking coffee. I cannot pay my tithing because I did not land a high paying job. I cannot wear modest clothes because the only clothes in my closet are immodest. I cannot stop taking the Lord’s name in vain because I grew up on a farm where all the farmers swear. I cannot obey the laws of the land because I grew up in another country. If we are merely the sum of our experiences, there is no accountability for our actions because we only make decisions based on our past experiences.
This half-truth also neglects the truth of our divine nature. We are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught: “We were His children before we came to this world, and we will be His children forevermore. This basic truth should change the way we look at ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and life itself” (“Four Titles,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 58).
We are not just the sum of our experiences. We are children of our Heavenly Father that have a divine potential to become like our Heavenly Father. With that divine potential, we have a loving Heavenly Father that helps us become more than our experiences. He provides love and support to help us reach a level well beyond what we can reach on our own. The Holy Ghost is also there to help us overcome our flaws and weaknesses. The Holy Ghosts is there to lift us above the temptations and the enticements of the Devil to reach our divine potential.
Satan Twists Truth
Satan twists the teaching that we came down to this Earth to gain experience to try and limit our potential to only being the sum of our experiences here on Earth. The truth of the gospel is that we are more than the sum of our experiences. We are all that our Heavenly Father has created. We are divine children of our Heavenly Father with endless divine potential.
We have a Heavenly Father, a Heavenly Mother, and a loving Older Brother that love us and are there to help us reach our potential that is well beyond what we can reach.
I am grateful for the many experiences I have had in this life, those of a loving family, great friends, and an opportunity to learn and grow. I am also grateful that for all the mistakes I have made, for all of my shortcomings and follies that I have a divine potential that reaches beyond my own capabilities and experiences to become like my Father in Heaven. Let each of us fulfill our divine potential that reaches beyond the sum of our experiences.