Q: Can Mormons support their view of a pre-existence with God before being born on this earth…using scriptures only?
Ecclesiates 12:7 (italics added) Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
Jeremiah 1:5 (italics added) Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
Jude 1:6 (italics added) And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgement of the great day.
Revelation 12:7-9 (italics added) And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought againts the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
Abraham 3:22-24 (italics added) 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. And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
It is clear from just the Bible that there was a “pre-existence” where we, as spirits, lived with God. The scripture that God has given us through Joseph Smith (I picked only one) confirms this doctrine. Thanks for your inquiry.
There are fundamental questions that everyone eventually must ask themselves. “Why am I here? Where did I come from? Where am I going?” Whether one asks these under the pressures of daily life or with preponderance of a larger scheme, knowing the answer in the larger sense give perspective and meaning to that same question in the smaller sense. It is my endeavor here to put previously published articles on the subject into proper context and perspective in the meaning of life.
Before the foundations of this world were laid, God presented a plan to us, which we gladly accepted. This plan was to allow us to come to earth, gain bodies, experiences, learn, grow and prove (to ourselves) whether or not we would use our agency wisely and submit our will to our Father once we were down here. The integral part of that plan was the Atonement, a perfect sacrifice that would afford us the opportunity to overcome our weakness. Jesus Christ was chosen by the Father to fill this capacity and willingly submitted to His Father’s will. God testified of His part in our happiness when He said, “For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39) He is deeply involved and concerned with our personal salvation.
As the planning came to an end, the first step was to create a world where we could live. This was done by Christ under the direction of the Father as told in the account given in the book of Genesis. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were placed in the garden of Eden where everything was provided for them.
While Adam and Eve lived in Eden, they lived in a state of innocence. That is, they had no knowledge of good or evil, of joy or pain, of sickness or health. They were limited in their capacity and opportunity to grow and experience life. That is why God gave them the choice to stay in the garden of Eden or partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They chose to partake of the fruit and as a result, they were cast out of the garden. This was a known part of our Heavenly Father’s plan, however, and was provided for in the Atonement. This separation from God caused two kinds of death to enter the world: physical death and spiritual death. Physical death came in the form of aging and death. Spiritual death is a separation from God caused by our decisions to disobey His will for us.
To this day we must live in a world where spiritual and physical death as well as sorrow and pain exist. That does not mean we must continually be mourning. Our purpose here in life is actually to have joy. The prophet Lehi of the Book of Mormon stated, “Adam fell that men might be and men are that they might have joy.” (2 Ne. 2:25) In other words, the fall was a necessary part of the plan so that we might exist.
While in this life, we ought to be happy and we ought to be preparing to join God in His Heaven after this life. (Alma 34:32) The two go hand in hand. When we choose to prepare to meet God (that is, we choose to shun the evil and pursue the good), we will be happy because it is in God’s nature to be happy and everything that is good comes from God. Every decision we have to make has consequences. We are allowed in this life to choose but we cannot choose the consequences that our decisions incur. God has given us commandments to guide our decisions so that we might more fully enjoy life without being encumbered with additional pains. When we keep the commandments in our hearts and seek to obey them, God has promised a fuller and more abundant life.
Even after everything we could possibly do, there is no way to return to our Heavenly Father’s presence by ourselves. Remember the effects of the fall: spiritual and physical death. Every one of us has sinned, there is no way around it and even one sin would be enough to prevent one from living in the presence of God. In addition, every one of us will die. Our Heavenly Father knew of these things and, in His infinite mercy, planned for them, giving us a chance to change our lives and return to His presence.
By the Atonement of Jesus Christ, that great sacrifice that Christ gave Himself up for us, we can be cleansed from our sins and we will be resurrected to a perfect and glorious body. Christ has provided the way in which we can be perfected in Him, and only on the condition that we follow Him. We follow Him by following His example and by doing what He wants us to do, not what we want to do. We follow Him by believing in Him and loving Him. That is all that He asks us to do and in return, He promises to take away our sins and help us bear our burdens in life. What a glorious opportunity!
When death occurs, which it invariably does, the spirit is separated from the body and returns home to God who gave him life (Alma 40:11). That cognizant spirit will then be received in a state of happiness or a state of misery depending on how their life was lived. It is unknown exactly how this state is, what it’s like or even where it is but we do know that those that were righteous in this life will have rest and continue to teach others the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, even those who never had the chance before to learn about Jesus Christ will be able to accept Him. They will remain there to wait until the day of resurrection.
Eventually, every soul that has ever lived on this earth, be it an hour or a century, will be reunited with his or her own body. Everyone will be restored to the nature and attributes of the person in this life. The difference will be that everyone’s body will be perfect and immortal and that we will have a perfect knowledge of all our actions in this life, be they for good or for evil (2 Nephi 9:13-15). In such a state, we will all be brought to the presence of God to be judged by the Son (John 5:22) who has selected certain men, such as His apostles, to aid Him (Matt. 19:28). Our decisions in this life will be seen then by all and we will be exposed at that moment. Undoubtedly, those that squandered their lives and wasted their chances will feel utterly naked, with nothing to shield them. Others who followed Christ more fully will be able to stand joyfully before God and behold His face without shame, having been cleansed through Christ.
The Judgment will be to divide the sons of men from the sons of God. Those that never accepted Christ, neither in this life nor in the spirit world, will receive Telestial glory, which is compared to the stars. Those who accept Christ, but were not valiant in their belief will receive Terrestrial glory, which is compared to the moon. The others who accept Christ fully and held onto that belief firmly throughout their lives will receive a Celestial glory, which is compared to the sun and is the presence of God. These comparisons to the sun, moon and stars illustrate the differences between these kingdoms. The moon can outshine any star but the sun outshines them all. Even the smallest amount of this glory is more than we can imagine here on Earth and even the most vile of sinners can receive a portion of this unimaginable happiness.
In summary, the Plan of Salvation is a plan of happiness and progress to build us up and strengthen us through Jesus Christ. We fall individually and have fallen collectively due to Adam but we can rise again to a higher plane. We may not know what exactly the future will hold, but we do know that a loving Heavenly Father has created a plan for us to return to His presence. He has provided the path and the means for us but it falls to us to accept them so that we can return to His presence.
Q.Why didn’t God create all His children to be like Christ?
This is a very good question, if we are all God’s children and He has created us, why do we have imperfections and Christ did not have any? Also related to this question is another we received, “Do Mormons believe that some people are better than others?” To answer these questions, I would like to go far back to before this world was created, when we all lived as spirits in the presence of our Heavenly Father.
First of all, it is important that we believe that God did not create us out of nothing, but rather He organized our intelligence into a spirit body. We do not know the nature of this intelligence, but it is an eternal part of our nature and being.
To the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord said, “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”Jeremiah 1:5 That is to say, the Lord knew Jeremiah even before his birth. He knew his strengths, his weaknesses, his personality and his potential. That also means that Jeremiah, as all the rest of us, had developed those traits by that point.
Bruce R. McConkie (1915-1985) of the twelve apostles wrote the following about how we came to be as we are:
“All the spirits of men, while yet in the Eternal Presence, developed aptitudes, talents, capacities, and abilities of every sort, kind, and degree. During the long expanse of life which then was, an infinite variety of talents and abilities came into being. As the ages rolled, no two spirits remained alike. Mozart became a musician; Einstein centered his interest in mathematics; Michelangelo turned his attention to painting. Cain was a liar, a schemer, a rebel. … Mary and Eve were two of the greatest of all the spirit daughters of the Father. … And so it went through all the hosts of heaven, each individual developing such talents and abilities as his soul desired.” (The Mortal Messiah, 4 vols. (1979–81), 1:23.)
It then follows that each individual chose a path before this life and through diligence and care to follow our Father’s guidance, each individual grew to varying degrees. The reason, then, that Christ is perfect and was able to fulfill His Father’s will perfectly in carrying out the Atonement was because He used his agency, or ability to choose, more wisely than others. He became like His Father.
The Book of Abraham gives a rare description of Jesus in the pre-earth life:
“And there stood one [Christ] among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” Abraham 3:24-25
That ability to choose is still available for us in this life and is the very reason that we are here. Every day we have the choice between following our Savior, Jesus Christ, and otherwise. Thus, through our choices, one person can excel in music, another in athletics, another in science and another in kindness, love or patience. Others can choose not to excel or to develop traits of laziness, procrastination and anger. Our options and potentials are limitless in either direction and everyone has parts of both.
The atonement of Jesus Christ plays the greatest part in our development. It is through His grace that we can correct our faults and that He can heal our wounded hearts. And then through His guidance, we will grow and choose the good, better, and best things in our lives.
Q. Why do we have illnesses and disabilities? How is this part of God’s plan?
I’ve been asked to address this issue, which was quite timely as I have been sick for over 2 months with some form of lung infection. It left me rather listless and weak. I hope that this will invoke more of a discussion rather than be viewed as the definitive answer. Why illness? – is a major issue that most religions have had to deal with: the fact that bad things happen is explained in various ways. The Taoists suggest that the opposition of Yin and Yang are what maintain a balance in the universe. The Hindu have a similar take with their idea of Karma. Many Christian faiths look at the misadventure in the Garden of Eden kind of like the opening of Pandora’s Box in Greek Mythology which released all that was bad into the world.
The LDS belief goes back a bit before the earth was formed and recognizes that there was spirit life in the pre-earth life and that these spirits had free will or moral agency. Agency to believe and to act is an enormous power, a power that can help us progress but also a power that can damn progression if poor choices are made. The first insight into the use of our agency as spirits was at a council held in heaven.
There was a disagreement about how the earth plan should operate: Lucifer wanted to take peoples’ agency away, and ensure that everyone would return to heaven–and he also wanted the glory for doing so. Jesus agreed with the Father’s plan that agency would be allowed and then volunteered to be the sacrificial lamb. One third of the hosts of heaven wanted the assurance which Satan proposed and followed him. They were expelled from heaven and forfeited the opportunity to receive a physical body. The rest of us accepted the Father’s plan which would allow all men to come back to God if they accepted Jesus and obeyed the commandments. They would receive bodies, learn to use their bodies to progress further and be resurrected with glorified bodies like our Father’s.
When Adam and Eve were created, the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil was made available along with a warning from the Father that they shouldn’t partake of the fruit. Satan beguiled the woman and she ate, followed by Adam eating of the fruit. God then expelled them into the world of hard knocks but with a knowledge of good and evil, an understanding that all things have their opposites and that choices are possible.
Obviously nobody chooses to get sick, yet people make choices that not only affect themselves but often affect many other people as well. Let’s look at an easy one: the recent AIDS epidemic. There are various theories of how that disease was introduced to the human race from animals. If some better choices had been made perhaps the disease wouldn’t have made the leap to humans. Its spread through bodily fluids can be controlled in most cases. So in the U.S. with a fairly small infected population a person can take precautions to keep himself free of the disease. In Botswana where 60% of the population is infected it is much more difficult: some children are even born with the disease. One might say that the individual baby had no choice and is being punished unjustly. From our earthly perspective that looks right, but our perspective is limited to this life and the assumption that living long and healthy is the ideal.
In John 9 Jesus comes upon a man born blind. His disciples ask him, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied that neither sinned but that the man was put there for the glory of God to be manifest. The disciples had the short perspective in this case assuming that since all sin is punished with suffering, all suffering was the result of sin; but there was a larger perspective which they hadn’t considered.
Job provides 39 chapters of argument about whether Job was guilty of sin which would help his friends explain the troubles that had befallen him. Finally even Job begins to fall into his friends’ way of thinking and questions the Lord. Chapter 40 is the Lord’s response which starts with the question: “Wilt thou also disannul my judgement? Wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous?” He goes on to express the majesty and power of the Lord, pointing out the limited view that mankind has of the creations of heaven.
The LDS perspective on why illness and pain exist is that it is part of earth-life challenges. It helps us appreciate the good when we have experienced the bad. Some choices can be made to reduce illness in our lives but sometimes the illness is part of the curriculum of heaven to teach us lessons we might not otherwise get. The question might not be why there is illness, but rather how we handle the adversity.
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
We lived as spirits before we were born. This is one of those truths that many people accept and believe when they hear it, yet very few Christian ministers will teach it. It surprises me.
What was it like to live as a spirit? We don’t have all the details, but we do know that we had a Father who loved us. In His hopes for our futures he saw us growing up in integrity and character. To help us in our education and progression, he created the world and offered each of us the chance to live on it in physical, mortal bodies.
The physical realm was a step up for us. It meant becoming a bit more like Father, since his body was physical, immortal, and perfect. Of course, mortality, as we’ve all found out, has its pitfalls. Disease, poverty, hunger, death, and other misfortunes of many kinds are the tests we’ve been given to help us grow, both collectively and individually.
Central to Father’s plan was a Savior, a person who would not only mitigate the challenges of mortal living, but also vanquish death itself. Permanently. He would also bridge the chasm of sin…the chasm we help dig by our own poor decisions.
Jesus Christ, then known as Jehovah, was the first-born of the Father, and the obvious candidate for the job. We shouted for joy at the thought of our eldest brother leading us into this new frontier. We knew we would be fine if He was our Savior. We already had faith in him.
Another of Father’s most clever sons also came, vying for the position. Lucifer’s campaign promises included saving all people from sin and death (by removing their free will). He must have been persuasive, because he drew a third of all spirits with him, but rather than getting their demands, they were denied entrance into physical bodies of their own.
We know that since we are here, we made the right choice. Before we were born we had faith in Jesus Christ, and we can have faith in him still. He will do everything he set out to do, and we can make the choice every day to be on His side.