I’ve been given a lengthy question/comment to “respond to” with doctrine. Below is not the whole question, but it is the major portion.
Why would a loving God want any of His spirit children to go to a family that doesn’t want them? Why force a child to be born to a single mom, or a rape victim, or even force a family into adoption? If the spirit has always been around there should be nothing that can change God’s plan.
There is more than this question/comment to respond to. But, this blog will focus on the doctrine of agency as it pertains to the pre-earth life (scripturally referred to as “the foundations of the earth”).
Doctrine: There is no doctrine more paramount in God’s own eternal laws and plan than the doctrine of agency (i.e. free will). In the pre-earth life we CHOSE to enter God’s plan, to receive a body, and to come to earth. We are not forced to be born against our own will. Those who rejected God’s plan did not receive a body and were cast out (e.g. Satan and his followers). To not get a body means an eternal spirit cannot progress. Therefore, a body, however it comes is far better than not ever receiving a body. By getting body, the possibilities for how a spirit may spend their eternity are expanded.
Though we often use the terms interchangeably (and in certain contexts it may work), a spirit and a soul are not the same thing. A spirit is a spirit. A body is a body. A soul is a spirit and a body—together. Spirits are eternal, but one cannot become an eternal soul without receiving a body. So, while God is the Father of our spirits, He is an eternal, perfected, and resurrected soul. Therefore, part of His plan for our eternal progression in becoming like Him is for us to also receive a body. Yet, once we receive our mortal body it eventually dies. So, why get a body? Well, mortal birth appears to be as much of an ordinance as baptism, the sacrament, and marriage, if not more so (I could say the same of death). Christ, Himself, had to be born physically and to die physically before being resurrected. So, even a God was subject to the same eternal law/terms when it came to getting a body.
So, even though the mortal body will die, the ordinance of birth has been accomplished and God, through the atonement and resurrection can bring the eternal spirit and the body (the soul) back together in a glorified, perfected, and resurrected form.
In Doctrine and Covenants 88:15-16 we read:
And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.
Note here that a soul is defined before it is also made clear that resurrection from the dead is for “the soul.” Not just the spirit.
Being born is not only getting a body that one has been waiting around for eons to get. It is taking part in an eternal ordinance that creates a soul! As well, a body is not what makes a spirit eternal. But, a body is what makes a spirit more than spirit. Giving an eternal spirit a body makes a soul with a particular purpose and grand potential which the spirit by itself could not attain. The potential to become like God and live in His presence.
Here is where we start talking about “the foundations of the earth.” A lot of people don’t ever think about who we were before being born because they can’t strictly remember it. Religions usually stay away from the concept and leave the speculation to poets. What a lot of pastors teach is their own opinion about what little the scriptures say.
All this is quite sad, because modern prophets and revelation have given quite a clear picture of the pre-earth life. We can’t ever know everything. That is not God’s way (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33). But, whether people want to believe it or not, there is a lot of logical, correct information to be had.
Details about “the Foundations of the Earth”
We are the literal spirit-children of God (Romans 8:16). We were spiritually conceived and organized from the matter and intelligence already eternally (Doctrine and Covenants 93:29) existing within the universe (Abraham 3:22-28).
As God’s spirit-children (like all children) we had the capability to become like God (Romans 8:17).
God had a glorified, perfected, and resurrected body/soul (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22-23). He had perfected godly attributes and characteristics. He was omniscient and omnipotent. He had eternal family, including an eternal wife…who is undoubtedly the mother of our spirits (Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-4).
God, because He loves us so much, wanted to give each of His children (us) the opportunity to become as He is: a glorified, perfected, and resurrected soul with perfected godly attributes, with omniscience and omnipotence (Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 12:48). He wants us to not only live in His presence forever, but like Him forever, meaning with eternal family and the capability to produce spirit children of our own.
However, to become God means to be bound by covenant and law (Doctrine and Covenants 132:20-22), by justice and truth. It means eternal and universal self-sacrifice and love. It means receiving all power but only being able to use that power to save and exalt others. So, each of us had to have the opportunity to “try out” these godly conditions for ourselves to see if ultimately, being like our Heavenly Father was what we really wanted. We had to have the opportunity to “prove ourselves” to ourselves that the level of godliness God had was the level we wanted too. Minimally, we would all at least want a body. This “try out” time is called mortality and was the whole purpose of the creation of the earth (Abraham 3:22-28).
Satan didn’t fall because He wanted to become like God (which many Christian religions teach). Satan, or Lucifer as he was called before he fell, was cast out of heaven for wanting to get God’s power and glory without all the red-tape, mortal hoopla, and eternal restrictions (Isaiah 14:12-14; D&C 29:36-39; Abraham 3:27-28; Moses 4:1-4). Satan wanted absolute power. He wanted power not tempered or controlled by pure love. He wanted to remove our agency/free will—which clearly existed in heaven or he wouldn’t have wanted to get rid of it—so that he could rule absolutely. He was not about sharing power. The wicked never are.
So, while this mortal life was being set up for us (which includes the creation and designating a Redeemer and Savior), Christ volunteered to be our Redeemer. Why the need for a Redeemer? Well, part of the plan of learning to become godly is to experience the entire spectrum of good and evil and learning to desire and to choose the good over the evil. Part of the plan is experiencing this spectrum out of the immediate presence of God so that we can have a full use of our agency. It even required a veil to be drawn over our memories so that we could “start fresh.” No heavenly conditioning or overt godly influence. Just the Holy Spirit and the seeds of who we were and what we chose before we came to earth that could be awakened and re-ignited, through faith, if we so desired.
But, this absence of memory and this massive spectrum of good and evil would leave us all vulnerable to making poor decisions, sinning, hurting others, and experiencing a great deal of misery and pain. Even if we learned to gain the godly attributes and characteristics needed for eventual godhood, all of the mess we made while learning to be such would keep us from ever arriving at our goal. Not to mention that our physical body would also eventually die and leave us as just spirits again. What could be done? Well, God established that we would need a Redeemer and Savior to pay justice on our behalf so that we could learn to become godly without being condemned by the godly learning process. We would also need someone to overcome the death that would be brought about by a necessary fall into mortality.
Then, God asked for a volunteer. God did not force Christ to be the Redeemer. Christ volunteered. Lucifer tried to volunteer, too, but then asked if he could alter God’s plan, force us all to be good (remove agency/free will), and avoid actually have to do anything remotely close to redeeming us…and for his brilliance he wanted God to give him His power and glory without all the godly righteousness required to wield it. This plan sounded nice, but it was not loving and we would only get a body. We would not be able to progress, get better, etc., because such improvement requires free will. In other words…it wouldn’t work. It never could have.
So, then God’s plan was presented to all of God’s spirit children. Christ, Himself, was the gospel and the word that was preached (JST, John 1:1). Then, we had the choice. Come to earth and get a body and see if we want to become like God, ultimately. Or, do not come to earth and never get a body and never progress and never figure out if this whole “godly-thing” is for us.
Satan chose to not take part in the true plan. A lot of spirits followed him (Doctrine and Covenants 29:36-39). These spirits were cast out and will never receive a body or progress any further. Sure, they are eternal, but they are eternal spirits, NOT eternal souls. They cannot inherit any more glory than that which they had prior to being cast out (Abraham 3:26). They will never have eternal families. They will be separate, single, bodiless, and unperfected for all time (Isaiah 14:15-20).
So, does God force us to get bodies to make us eternal souls? No. He gave us the choice to choose to get bodies to grant us the opportunity to change the nature of our eternal existence. For, even if we don’t want to actually become like God, for even having tried we will still receive kingdoms of glory equivalent to the level of goodness and righteousness we were willing to receive and act upon (Doctrine and Covenants 88:15-24, 28-39).
Now, as to what conditions we are born into in this mortal life, it is not my place to indicate just how much say we got in the pre-earth life. But the scriptures are replete with references to foreordination, predestination, and the like. Some foreordinations are called elect-ions. However, as God was willing to part with a third of His spirit children rather than sacrifice our agency/free will, it is my belief that foreordination and/or predestination has more in common with chosen occupations, volunteer positions, and accepted assignments—all which require personal ambition, volition, or acceptance based on the use of agency—than with any type of force or coercion.
We can ask a person to run for public office, but ultimately they must accept the request and put forth the effort to run. We can choose an occupation, but ultimately we still have to go and get the skills, then apply and get hired. God clearly asked some of His spirit children to serve as prophets and leaders before they were born (Job 38:4, 7; Jeremiah 1:5; Abraham 3:22-23). But, once they were born they would have forgotten and would still have to be reminded, called, and to still accept. That is fairly obvious.
There is no scriptural proof on what the rest of us did, and even current prophets and apostles do not speculate on this. I claim no authority to state what the rest of us did during “the foundations of the earth.” But, I do know that if you’re here you chose to be born. I do know that some people are born into this world into the worst of situations and yet somehow they rise above it. I know that some people are born into privilege and turn out the worst sort of people. I also know people who are born simply knowing from a young age what they want to be and they change their community, state, country, or the world with their talents. Some are born prodigies.
It seems unlikely to me that these are rare, genetic coincidences. To me, they are evidence that each of us, to some extent, whether great or small, chose, volunteered, or accepted assignments to be born under certain circumstances and to perform certain roles or missions. It seems apparent that some of us even came to this earth bursting with talents that simply could not be submerged.
So, I don’t think anyone can try to assume that God forced any person to be born under any unfavorable circumstances. As well, it seems quite clear that due to the atonement’s power to right all wrongs, heal all suffering, and provide salvation and exaltation to the repentant and faithful (at many degrees), that getting a body at all is quite an accomplishment and never a mere formality or tactic for coercion.
Agency was as paramount in the pre-earth life as it is now.
Stay-tuned. There is more to this question/comment that was given to me. Doctrine on its way!