The Exam Season

By: Hedgehog
May 8, 2014

“Prepare your souls for that glorious day when justice shall be administered unto the righteous, even the day of judgment, that ye may not shrink with awful fear; that ye may not remember your awful guilt in perfectness, and be constrained to exclaim: Holy, holy are thy judgments, O Lord God Almighty—but I know my guilt; I transgressed thy law, and my transgressions are mine; and the devil hath obtained me, that I am a prey to his awful misery.” (2 Nephi 9:46)

“I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” (D&C 38:30)

Two scriptures that tell us that with preparation we need not fear; in context, nothing to do with exams perhaps, but which of us facing exams hasn’t to some extent felt we’re doing battle, and will perhaps be facing a final judgement of one sort or another.

It’s all go with school exams in our house at the moment. The eldest is sitting external GCSE exams beginning next week and finishing mid-June, and the younger is sitting school examinations this week. Both of them have been working steadily, completed all their homework assignments over the year. They’re as prepared as could be expected. For the eldest child the grades obtained in these exams will represent achievements in the exam courses studies over the last two years. A continuing place at the school for more specialised study in chosen subjects depends on those grades. A chance to progress. For the younger, it’s an opportunity to experience exam conditions, a preparation in that sense, but the results will determine initial ability setting for GCSE exam courses commencing next year.

Of course my kids aren’t alone. Exams will be taking place in schools and universities nationwide. At some point in our lives the majority of us will have experienced such examinations. I’ve heard from some that they still have nightmares about those exams. I remember my own.

Life is in some sense an examination, our exam season, a test.

“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.” (Abraham 3:25-26)

But also a preparation for the final exam.

“For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.” (Alma 34:32)

If we’re messing up the atonement gives us the chance to start over, just as a student can decide to buckle down and put in some effort during an exam course, even though they maybe didn’t begin the course with the right attitude. I imagine our final examination to take place at the day of judgement described in that opening verse of scripture, when we will be examined on our lives, and perhaps be called upon to defend our actions. Much as a university student can be required to defend a thesis, perhaps. Were our actions consistent with our theory? Did we the examine results as we went along? Make any necessary changes?

“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:17-20)

I think it is also worth bearing in mind, that whilst we’re all experiencing life, and whilst there may be overlap, it seems we none of us have the same exact same curriculum or final exam paper.

  • How did you, or do you deal with exams?
  • Do they still give you nightmares?
  • To what extent do you see this life as a preparation or course of study, and to what extent as the exam itself?
  • Do you agree that as individuals our course of study differs?
  • What are you learning from your curriculum?


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4 Responses to The Exam Season

  1. handlewithcare on May 8, 2014 at 1:24 PM

    I think the difficulty with setting any kind of exam system based on our performance in this life, is that we all follow a unique curriculum, and I suspect we will each be our own examiner,so thank God for the atonement.
    I don’t actually believe in a pass/fail system for our ultimate destination, I think that God will be more liberal with us than we can even begin to imagine. I’ve begun to learn a little about that from my own experience of being a parent. I no longer have any fear of failure, just desire to understand and facilitate in my own responsibilities.

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  2. Hedgehog on May 9, 2014 at 1:57 AM

    Good comment. The idea of being our own examiner is an interesting one. Perhaps the TR interview can be seen as a very small introduction to this. I’m not convinced it would necessarily hold for everyone though. I certainly believe there is more room for progress after this life than we typically teach – so I don’t think it’s the top of the Celestial kingdom or bust, but perhaps more like my younger child’s exams being used for ability setting of sorts, and given there’s an eternity of time, plenty of scope for us to keep learning.

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  3. Nate on May 9, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    I think using exams as a metaphor for the gospel has strengths and weaknesses. I believe that any progress that anyone makes, spiritually or mentally, is the result of personal effort, so in that sense they are the same. But the difference between earthly exams and spiritual growth, is that one concerns short term goals with specific consequences for failure, and one concerns an eternal path which is much longer, more complicated, and more individual, as handlewithcare noted. Suppose a person flunks the same grade repetedly, but finally passes after 10 years. That person would be an abismal failure at anything practical in the earthly realm. But suppose he flunks spiritual life for 10 years, then passes 1 good year, then flunks again for 10 more years, then has another good year. So basically he makes one step every ten years, while others make ten steps every ten years. After 1,000,000 years, he will have progressed the equivalent of 100,000 years, while his peers will have advance the equivalent of 1,000,000 years. So he is behind, but suppose he goes on for an infinate number of years. Then he will be equal to his peers, because infinity is infinity. That I think is a key difference between the spiritual path and the temporal path.

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  4. Hedgehog on May 10, 2014 at 12:26 AM

    Nate, I agree it’s a mixed bag, but one that’ often presented to us as youth (or so I found), perhaps because it’s so relatable at that age. I don’t think repeatedly having to resit makes for abysmal failure – I see something admirable in the ability to keep going. I know people who have repeatedly retaken a driving test, over years, to finally pass. I don’t think they see it as a failure that they now have a driving license.

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