Question: What does Latter-day Saint revelation say about pre-mortal life?

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Question: What does Latter-day Saint revelation say about pre-mortal life?

Those who believe in continuing revelation are left with no doubt as to the veracity of premortal life

While the biblical record is extensive for at least acknowledging the possibility of life before life, those who believe in continuing revelation are left with no doubt as to the veracity of premortal life. The critics may question why the doctrine of premortal life wasn't taught from the very beginnings of the restoration (in the very first years of the LDS Church), but such is the nature of continuing revelation—it allows the mysteries of the Lord to be revealed as the people are ready to hear, understand, and accept the concepts being taught by the Lord.

In their treatment of the topic at hand, the critics already made reference to some of the scriptural references that support the doctrine. In Abraham 3:22–23 the Lord is speaking to Abraham and revealing His plan for His children:[1]

"Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;

"And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born."

Can there be any doubt that Abraham understood who he was, as one of God's children, and that God had a plan for him? In fact, it is interesting to note that this scripture is consistent with the earlier discussion of Jeremiah 1:5. God, in consistent manner, revealed to two prophets that they had been with God before they were born and they were there chosen to fulfill their prophetic missions on an earth that had yet to be created.

"For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth"

Perhaps the most telling scriptural statement is made by the Lord Himself in Moses 3:5, where the Lord is recounting the story of the creation to Moses:[2]

"And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had not caused it to rain upon the face of the earth. And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air;"

Here, again, there is little doubt as to where man fits into the overall economy of God's plan. God created His children before sending them to earth; they were with Him in the preexistence.[3]

"And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God"

References to premortal life are not limited to the teachings of the ancient prophets among those in the Middle East, as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price. Indeed, ancient prophets in the Americas also understood and taught the concept. One such prophet was Alma,[4] who recorded these words in Alma 13:3–7:

"And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.

"And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.

"Or in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren; thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, being in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared—

"And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to teach his commandments unto the children of men, that they also might enter into his rest—

"This high priesthood being after the order of his Son, which order was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years, being prepared from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things—"

Here we learn several things. First, that priesthood power is eternal, being an order that "was from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years." We also learn that certain men—priesthood holders—were "called and prepared from the foundation of the world." In other words, these people existed with God in the premortal life and were prepared to come to earth, bear the priesthood, and teach God's children. Why? Because God's foreknowledge allowed Him to understand the need for such preparation and such priesthood holders.

These verses also make reference to "the first place." In our modern-day vernacular, we often use the phrase "in the first place" when we are about to list off items in some manner. This common usage often blinds us to the fact that "the first place" is primarily just that—a place first among several. Alma refers to the priesthood holders being "in the first place" and left to choose good and evil. They chose good over evil, showed "exceedingly great faith," and were prepared for missions here on earth. Others present at that first place, given the same opportunities, did not respond in kind and so were not given the same preparation and calling.

Such a scenario is reminiscent of the account in Abraham, where he was informed that the Lord stood among leaders prepared before the foundation of the world, and that Abraham was one of those leaders.

Joseph Smith taught that man lived before coming to earth

Finally, the prophet Joseph Smith taught that man lived before coming to earth. D&C 49:17 records a revelation[5] of the Savior in which it is stated that man was created "before the world was made."[6] Later, in D&C 93:29, the Lord revealed "man was also in the beginning with God."[7]

Prophets today continue to teach the glorious truth that we are children of loving heavenly parents. We lived before we came to this world, we can know God while in this life, and we have the opportunity to be with God after we leave this mortal sphere. In late 1995, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve[8] unitedly stated:

"All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

"In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life."[9]

Notes

  1. Abraham is a book within the Pearl of Great Price, one of the revealed works accepted as official canon by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  2. Moses is another book within the Pearl of Great Price, accepted and regarded as scripture by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  3. The book of Moses was translated by Joseph Smith beginning in June 1830, shortly after the Book of Mormon was published. Any argument that the doctrine of premortal life was not taught in the early years of the LDS Church would seem to be called into question by this fact. While the doctrine may not have been stressed, the clear scriptural basis for the doctrine was already available within the Church within a few months of its organization.
  4. Alma was a prophet who lived and taught among Book of Mormon peoples shortly before the birth of the Savior.
  5. Many of the revelations given to Joseph Smith, as well as some other latter-day prophets, are recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants (often abbreviated D&C). This book constitutes one of the official canons of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  6. This revelation was received March 1831 in Kirtland, Ohio, less than one year after the official organization of the Church.
  7. This revelation was received May 6, 1833 in Kirtland, Ohio.
  8. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are two organizational structures within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Each group is composed of men called as Apostles, with the same calling issued by the Savior to his own Apostles. They are special witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the Apostles is called by the Lord (typically the Apostle with the most seniority) to preside as President of the Church. Two additional Apostles serve as his counselors and assist him. These three comprise the First Presidency. Members of both the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve are accepted and sustained by members of the Church as prophets, seers, and revelators.
  9. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, The Family: A Proclamation to the World (First read by Gordon B. Hinckley as part of his message at the General Relief Society Meeting held 23 September 1995, in Salt Lake City, Utah.)