Several of the world's great thinkers and philosophers from Aristotle to John Locke felt that we come into the world with a blank slate (Tabula rasa). However, with the concept of pre-mortal life and believing that we were tried and tested before we came to earth, gives Latter-day Saints an entirely different perspective. Our apostles and prophets teach us that earth life is a continuation of the things that we learned in pre-earth life and in some instances our associations here are a continuation of associations made there.
Elder Orson F. Whitney taught:
We believe that ties formed in this life will be continued in the life to come; then why not believe that we had similar ties before we came into this world, and that some of them, at least, have been resumed in this state of existence?"
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Why did the Savior say: "My sheep know my voice?" Did a sheep every know the voice of its shepherd if it had never heard that voice before? They who love the truth, and to whom it most strongly appeals - were they not acquainted with it in a previous life? I think so. I believe we knew the gospel before we came here, and that is what gives to it a familiar sound.
Orson F. Whitney, Improvement Era, December 1919, vol. 23 #2, p. 100
President Joseph F. Smith taught very much along these same lines:
Our knowledge of persons and things before we came here, combined with the divinity awakened within our souls through obedience to the gospel powerfully affects, in my opinion, all our likes and dislikes, and guides our preferences in the course of this life, provided we give careful heed to the admonitions of the Spirit.
All those salient truths which come so forcibly to the head and heart seem but the awakening of the memories of the spirit. Can we know anything here that we did not know before we came? Are not the means of knowledge in the first estate equal to those of this? I think that the spirit, before and after this probation, possesses greater facilities, aye, manifold greater, for the acquisition of knowledge, than while manacled and shut up in the prison-house of mortality.
Gospel Doctrine, pp. 15-16 also Improvement Era, December 1919, vol. 23 #2 p. 101