Doctrine: Tradition, in the church, leads us to summarize important gospel doctrines and principles into trite phrases (subject to misinterpretation) and high-level diagrams (that fail miserably as eternal cliff’s notes). Thus, the rising generation can’t understand the deep and essential truths of the gospel and are easily led astray because of “tradition.”

In the Book of Mormon, Mosiah 26:1, we read:

Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin…and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.

This scripture is so accurate in its description of why the rising generation could not understand the prophets words and why they did not believe “the tradition” of their fathers. Such misunderstandings were related to “tradition.” And it is happening again today.

Tradition, in the church, leads us to summarize important gospel doctrines and principles into trite phrases (subject to misinterpretation) and high-level diagrams (that fail miserably as eternal cliff’s notes). Thus, the rising generation can’t understand the deep and essential truths of the gospel and are easily led astray because of “tradition.”

It is of some of these trite phrases, high-level conversations and diagrams, and generalizations that I’m blogging about today; and for today it all relates to the subject of the pre-mortal life (i.e. scripturally called “the foundations of the earth”).

Pre-Mortality

Pre-mortality. We often completely summarize it by calling it the war in heaven. We often make it out to be this obvious black and white choice. And yet, a third of the hosts (our spiritual brothers and sisters) made a choice against what we consider to have been an easy, obvious, and very understandable choice—to follow Christ.

The problem with boiling down the pre-mortal life the way we consistently do is that so much clear, necessary, helpful, and eye-opening doctrine is lost. So, here are a few of the generalizations we use to teach about pre-mortality and what I consider to be the deeper doctrines that are completely lost.

#1 – pre-mortal life was life through Christ

As alluded to above, we often present the pre-mortal existence as if it was all a war in heaven and only a tiny moment before coming to this world. And, when you and I think “war” we think conflict, fighting, weapons, blood, death, injury, etc. We think about mortal warfare. Now, I’m not suggesting that we didn’t have all of these things—of a kind—in the pre-mortal world, but I am suggesting that they presented themselves differently than we tend to think.

Pre-mortal life was life. It was the only life we knew. We had friendships. We had brothers and sisters we liked and those we didn’t like. There were personalities we got along with better than others. We spent time learning and growing in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of many things. There was no mortal time crunch there. And, I suspect we didn’t have to worry about day-to-day survival when it came to eating and seeking a profession. We were free to pursue our interests and to become masters of whatever we chose. We know we had not yet achieved perfection—as God is perfected.

However, whilst in the midst of all this spiritual living, we attended church. Yes! Maybe it was called church, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was called Family Home Evening, maybe it wasn’t. But, we did in fact attend or were proselyted to, because we were all taught God’s eternal plan of salvation. It was The Plan. It was the only plan that had ever been and that ever would be. And, it was taught by Christ, Himself (JST of St. John 1:1). That plan, that gospel, was the center of our broad—yet spiritual—life. It was already “the light” of our lives.

Consider the Joseph Smith Translation of John 1:1-4

In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made which was made. In him was the gospel, and the gospel was the life, and the life was the light of men;

Just as we go about down here on earth with Christ as the light/power that quickens our existence, His light was integral to our pre-mortal existence. Just as Christ established His church and kingdom on this earth, He also established it in the pre-mortal world. Just as Christ preached the gospel here on earth, He also preached it to us in our pre-mortal existence.

Thus, we can see that from the beginning, from the moment we were organized (Abraham 3:22), Christ was already the center of our lives and God’s eternal plan. He didn’t just show up at The Council to stop Satan from implementing another plan. Christ had been The Plan all along.

#2 Satan’s plan was never “a plan” it was an attempted coup

When we summarize pre-mortality as a war between Christ and Satan, we get the false idea that Satan’s plan had a chance of being carried out. We get the idea that the war was a battle against two equal opponents. We get the idea that there was a chance that Satan might have won.

This, however, is a false idea (see #1 above). Satan’s plan was never a plan. It was an attempted coup. His sole desire was to dethrone the Almighty God, silence Christ’s preaching and power, and to have God’s power and glory in an absolute manner, which isn’t actually possible (Moses 4:1-4, Doctrine & Covenants 29:36). In fact, the war was not to decide which plan to follow, but to try to save those whom Satan led away “because of their agency.” God didn’t give up 1/3 of His children to maintain the “right plan.” One-third of His children—who had known all along what The Plan was—were cast out because they chose and attempted a fruitless coup on God, the Eternal Father.

Think about it. God won’t force us to accept His plan here on earth. And, He didn’t try to force us to accept His plan in the pre-mortal world. We can see that He is truly “the same, yesterday, today, and forever” (Mormon 9:9). We can also see that He is bound by law and covenant—which is critical to Him being God (Mormon 9: 15, 19; Alma 42:22-23).

Thus, Satan, in his pure arrogance, tried to manipulate God. “Not one soul will be lost,” (Moses 4:1) he said, IF you will “give me thine honor” (which is God’s power and glory).

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#3 No souls are lost

We always talk about Satan’s plan like it was tempting because “not one soul will be lost” (Moses 4:1). We always talk about God’s/Christ’s plan as if souls will be lost. The problem with how we reference the two perspectives is terribly flawed for three reasons.

First, by attempting a coup, Satan led away a third of God’s children “because of their agency” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:36) and lost them their opportunity to become like God (the very thing he claimed to be protecting). So, that first third was the first evidence that Satan had no concern for the loss of any soul–to any degree.

Second, Satan’s idea of saving souls was coercion and unrighteous dominion. Think about life here on earth right now. What soul was ever saved (in any extent) by such leadership/relationship tactics? As well, no soul can be saved in ignorance (Doctrine and Covenants 131:6). That means that forcing us all to do right would not have saved our souls. Taking away our agency would not have saved our souls. It would have done the exact opposite. It would have damned every single one of us CONTRARY to Satan’s promise (and he knew that!). This is because salvation is extended to us based upon the true and sincere desires of our hearts which motivate our actions—NOT on perfect actions (Doctrine and Covenants 137:9). Likewise, eternal life (or life like God) is extended to us NOT because of what we do but because of WHAT WE BECOME as we try to do.

Without mistakes, sin, weakness, learning, experience, and opposition, we could not have been saved. It is quite clear that the atonement of Jesus Christ is the center of the plan because it allows us to learn from mistakes, weaknesses, and sin without being condemned by the learning process. We can’t become godly without fully understanding what it means to be otherwise. We can’t choose to become like God if we don’t understand what it means to be a god.

Third, in God’s plan (or Christ’s plan), none of us are lost. It’s the exact opposite of Satan’s lying proposal. Everyone who comes to this earth will receive, and inherit, a kingdom of glory, except sons of perdition. And, it is really, really hard to become perdition. Satan was perdition because He knew God the Father, He knew Christ, He knew the plan, and in the face of that perfect knowledge he rebelled. Cain was perdition for the same reasons. He walked and talked with God and knowingly set it aside (which he nearly almost did before being born onto the earth, Moses 5:25).

What Satan meant by “not one shall be lost” was that if God would give him His power, honor, and glory, he/Satan would give everyone godhood without them becoming godly first (which he couldn’t have done because even godhood is bound by law and covenant, but I suspect it was a lie anyway, as he was not the type to share power with anyone–so it was a lie within a lie). And yet “being lost” is exactly what would have happened had our agency been violated (by Satan) as he proposed. Thus, again, we can see it was a power play, a coup, and nothing more.

In this life, none of us lose the opportunity to become like God. It is presented to us daily. And, inasmuch as we submit to the enticing of the Holy Spirit (Mosiah 3:19) we become a little more Christlike, a little more like God, each and every day. It is only when we refuse to submit to God’s laws, ordinances, covenants, and to the Holy Spirit—because of our agency—that the “becoming-like-god” process is halted (Satan refused to submit and was therefore damned because of his own agency). And, by passing through this mortal life many determine that “becoming like god” is not actually what they truly want (because they’ve been presented with other options and found them more desirable). Thus, no one is lost. Everyone ends up exactly where they want to be, or, they receive as much godliness as they choose to receive (Doctrine and Covenants 88:15-40).

#4 Mortal life is as much about becoming like God (through grace) as it is discovering who we are

When we are young we all want to become doctors, lawyers, or anybody who makes a big paycheck. We think we want money more than we care to think about what we actually want to do to make that money. As we get older, however, we come to realize (through trial and error) that even large sums of money don’t bring us happiness. We also learn that what money can buy doesn’t necessarily bring us happiness. And, we learn that fundamentally, we are drawn to different types of careers, hobbies, activities, places, etc., and which we love to be a part of regardless of the amount of money we receive in consequence. We become far more occupied with spending our lives and our time in ways that bring us happiness and joy than we are about money.

Becoming like God is follows a similar principle, though I’m not actually comparing godhood to mortal money. Yet, like lots of money, I suspect that many of us thought we wanted godhood in the pre-mortal life. And yet, as we pass through The Plan here on this earth, I’ve no doubt that many of us discover that the laws, ordinances, covenants, responsibilities, and principles that accompany “life like God,” are a little above what we really want to do—for eternity. Do we really want to spend eternity “bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39)? Because, that’s what God does; and that’s what we’ll do when we become like Him. And, there is only one way to do that. It’s The Plan. The one we’ve been dissecting as part of the foundation of pre-mortal life.

I suspect the most merciful thing God has done for each one of us is to let us find out for ourselves if godhood is what we want–by passing through this life. And, not one soul is left out. If our part in this plan is such that we don’t have the opportunity to choose between godhood or the other options sufficiently, we will have our work done and the option given to us before the final resurrection and judgment through the vehicle of another part of The Plan, the spirit world. God’s plan is perfectly just and merciful because of the atonement offered by Jesus Christ. None of us will lose the opportunity for godhood. We must choose to let it pass by “because of [our] agency.”

Conclusion

Now, there are lots of doctrines tied to the pre-mortal world and life, but these are the ones I think people least ponder, consider, and understand. These are doctrines that we cannot be satisfied to shelter in church jargon and generalities. These are the doctrines that have the power to change behavior, increase understanding, and open our hearts to the inspiration, guidance, and promptings of the Holy Spirit. We all need this understanding.

It is not enough to suppose that there was a war in heaven. We must understand the fundamentals of why it took place and why it’s still a war that we are fighting today. We are still trying to help all of God’s children understand The Plan that has and will always be the only plan. We are still trying to help all of God’s children recognize who they are, what the purpose of life is, and to present them with the opportunity to choose godhood “because of their agency.” We are still fighting and trying to provide salvation in the only way it can be received. We are trying to offer exaltation in the only way it can be achieved.

BT

How often have you thought you wanted something only to find that after having it, it didn’t bring with it the impact or delight you had expected? Yet, somehow, prior to possessing the thing, you were convinced, even certain, that it was going to delight you far beyond the present moment and affect all the threads of your life. Then, it simply fell short. So, you have to ask yourself, why did you think that to begin with? How come you didn’t know that it would fall short; that it would fail you?

How often do people pursue a certain college degree and a specific career, only to find shortly in that they hate what they do and money isn’t a sufficient draw. They’d rather do what they love for a far lesser paycheck than do what they hate for the big bucks. Why did they go into the original degree and career path in the first place? Why did they waste all that time and money in the wrong path? Because they thought that was what they wanted. It took experience for them to realize it wasn’t.

I could make an endless list of scenarios where our expectations about ourselves and life continually throw us for a loop. But, it all boils down to the main point of this blog.  And that is this…

There comes a time in our lives when we start to realize, a little at a time, that many of the things we supposed about ourselves aren’t actually true. We thought we loved being the life of the party only to realize now that in all actuality, it has always worn us out. We thought we hated sappy romance novels only to realize after finally buckling down and reading one recommended by a friend, that we like them better than the crime thrillers we have read for years. Or, perhaps we thought our dream life was living in a home on a lake or golf course and sailing around on a yacht, and now that we have those things, they are kind of cool, but they pale in comparison to eating out at the one favorite restaurant with our significant other and playing board games with our kids.

I remember the movie The Runaway Bride where the bride (Julia Roberts) kept running way from the altar. Why? Because when the long-awaited moment arrived she didn’t feel like she thought she should. It failed her expectations and assumptions despite all the glitz and glam. Yet, time after time she’d get proposed to, make it to the wedding day, and then she’d bolt. In the end, it came down to the fact that she was always trying to be the woman these men wanted because she thought that was the woman she was, or the woman she wanted to be. It wasn’t until she took some time to figure herself out that true love became possible.

And, this is the point of this blog. The gospel, the real deep down gospel, only becomes truly possible for us when we know who we really are and what we really want—for eternity.

God knows who we are and what we really want. But, in reality, we don’t. And I have always felt strongly that this life, God’s plan, is actually about us coming to a realization of what God already knows. Why did He send us down here, then, if we already knew? Isn’t that sort of unkind and unfair to put us through this often miserable mortal experience just for us to come to the same conclusion He’s already got?

Well, imagine the premortal world. We were God’s spiritual offspring, but we weren’t exactly as He is. He had godly qualities and attributes that we had not yet attained. And, in fact, we got to a point where we couldn’t progress to become like Him without this mortal existence.

It had to be frustrating, after progressing for eons, to suddenly come to a point where we couldn’t rise higher. So, God says to us, “Do you really want to become like me? It’s tough stuff. Sure, I have powers and capabilities you don’t have, but to be like this requires a lot of hard things.” Without a thought, “Ya, we want that,” we all said. Because we really thought we did. We didn’t have the experience to know ourselves any deeper. And, though most of us were inherently very good, we weren’t yet perfect. And, therefore, we were incapable of knowing ourselves perfectly. That was why we were no longer progressing.

Think about it: God could have said, “Cindy and Mark, you actually don’t want to be like me. I know you don’t realize that yet, but in reality, you both prefer to bowl and drink beer for eternity and would be much happier doing that, rather than to spend it creating worlds and working eternally to exalt your spiritual offspring.” Then, He could have turned to Cain and said, “Cain, you think you want to become like me, but once you’re down there you’re going to murder your younger brother out of jealously and greed and then be damned for all eternity.” Then, He could have turned to all of us and said, “So, as you can see, rather than put you all through this whole testing and proving thing, I’m just going to consign you to your eternal destinations because I know you better than you know yourself.”

No longer sounds loving, does it. And it wouldn’t have been because we would not have had the ability to know if He was being fair to us. To us, it would have sounded unkind and unloving because we would have truly believed we wanted to be like God, and no amount of God telling us otherwise would have solved our lack of knowledge, understanding, and experience.

No, it is far more loving to bring us down to this life and let us learn by experience to know the good from the evil; to let us learn from experience whether we prefer self-sacrifice or selfishness, whether we prefer keeping the Sabbath Day holy or playing golf, whether we prefer to be perceived as right or actually doing what’s right despite others’ perceptions, etc. Because then, when we stand before God at the judgment we won’t be offended, or even sorry, when He sends us off to play golf for eternity, because we will know that we prefer that over the other options available to us. We learned from our own experience who we are and what we really want for eternity. There won’t be any bartering for a higher glory, because we won’t want it. By experience we will come to know that we don’t want it…or that we do.

Allowing us to learn the truth about ourselves for ourselves—that is true love. And, it’s not easy.

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I get a little annoyed at times when I hear people talk about how God is testing them to see if they can get back home to Him. First of all, they forget that it’s not just about getting home to God, it’s about becoming like Him. There is a big difference. Second, saying, “God is testing me to see if I can get back home to Him,” makes God’s character sound untrustworthy—as if He’s up there treating us like white lab rats, sending us through mazes, all just to see, through some morbid curiosity what choices we’ll make and if we’ll make it. No, sorry. I simply dislike that wording and what it implies about God. That’s not the God I know.

So, it’s fairly simple.

God knows us better than we will ever know ourselves. Why? He knows everything, past, present, and future. (2 Nephi 9:20)

Then, that’s predestination, right? That means He knows who going to make it (to become like Him) and who’s not, right? Yes. He sure does.

Well, then that totally refutes my agency, doesn’t it? I mean, what’s the purpose of life if God already knows what I’m going to choose? Good question. Keep reading.

If this life is about God testing me, doesn’t God’s omniscience cancel out the test? Great question. No.

This life is not about God testing us for His knowledge and benefit. The word “testing” is shallow and insufficient to encompass the purpose of God’s plan. It implies merely ticking off right answers. The real purpose of life is for us to be “proved” (Abraham 3:25 which implies providing evidence or real life data), to learn by experience who we are what it is we are going to choose. God knows, but we don’t. And, because we don’t truly know ourselves this existence is entirely valid, no matter what God knows. It’s also why He doesn’t interfere, because it’s not about having a perfect world. It’s about us “becoming godly” nor choosing to not become godly. The atonement has taken care of all the rest.

So, now you may ask:

But, if God knows what I’m going to do, does that mean He refuses to bless me because He knows in 10 years I’m going to apostatize and fall away from His plan? No.

God is bound to bless us if we keep His commandments irrespective of past or future sin (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10; 130:20-21). If He deviated from that law He would cease to be God. This is why being a god is not for everyone. Not everyone wants to be bound so tightly by law and covenant (see previous blog post, God’s Power is Not Absolute). So, no matter what you have done or what you will do, God will bless you when you keep His commandments. The same applies to the opposite. No matter how righteous you’ve been or how righteous you may be some day, you will still lose blessings and suffer consequences if you sin now. That’s God’s eternal law.

So, when I imagine the premortal life this is what I see.

We knew God was the father of our spirits. We also realized that He was God. And, He was a bit different from us in a few important ways. He had a glorified, celestial body of flesh and bones. We didn’t. He had an eternal family unit (including an eternal marriage with a glorified, celestial woman). We were only children. We did not have spouses and children. And, while we were basically good, God was perfect. He was perfectly kind, loving, merciful, just, etc. We were not. Finally, while we had some power, God’s power to influence not only His environment, but the entire universe was infinitely greater than ours (except perhaps when we acted under His direction—and thereby His power and authority, not so much unlike this present life).

So, it stands to reason that we all wanted to be “like God, our Father,” or we thought we did. So, God presented a plan. That plan was “how to become like God.” But it was also, “how to determine if becoming like God is what you really want.”

Why do we have to go through a plan? Because being 100% like God is super-duper hard. It requires being bound by covenant and law. It requires all the traits God has that we yet do not have. It’s a worthy goal and we can do it IF we follow God’s plan and use this “proving environment” to become; which it is designed to help us do.

However, IF, while we’re down here in this proving environment, we learn for ourselves that while being exactly like God sounds great, it isn’t actually what we want (something we didn’t know previously); then, His plan provides for some alternative glories. Which, is actually pretty cool!

Before we came to this life, becoming like God sounded great. We knew it would be hard. But, we believed we wanted it. However, now that we are here, we—by our own jaunt through God’s godly proving environment—learn for ourselves if being like God is truly what we do want. So, again, the testing and proving isn’t really for God. It’s for us. Or, at least, that’s my opinion.

And, if this life is about getting to know ourselves. Then, it means it’s entire framework is meant to help us conquer our false assumptions and get to the crux of what really rules our hearts and minds. It means learning through trial and suffering to peel back our outer shells and take a gander at who we really are, what we really want, what we are really willing to do, what we are really willing to sacrifice, and IF that matches up with what it requires to become like God.

I feel that when we think about life this way, it makes so much more sense. It stops looking like some masochistic game on God’s part and all of the sudden looks like a sifting sieve. That sieve has three main tiers (scripturally). Some people are ultimately too “coarse” to fall through the telestial sieve onto the terrestrial sieve. And, though refined enough to get to the terrestrial sieve, many more are too coarse to make it down to the celestial sieve. Even fewer will be refined enough to make it to the actual “like God” tray at the bottom of the mortality sifting machine.

It still means we teach the ideal—to become like God. But, it also means we have more respect for individual agency. It means we allow people the same privilege to worship how, where, or what they may (11th Article of Faith). It means we don’t condemn others when they seem to be choosing another path than the one God would want them to choose. Because, that is the point of this life. If the path they are on doesn’t lead them to godhood, then we should certainly encourage them to reconsider, but ultimately, they may learn more quickly that they want godhood if they first experience a different eternal option. Mortal experience is the most beautiful and powerful teacher in the universe. That’s why we’re here.

If we see life (and God’s plan) in the context of coming to know ourselves, it answers a lot of currently difficult or unanswered questions. For example:

Human pain and suffering seems too cold and indifferent as a test for God to figure out what we’re made of. But, if we look at it as a test for us to see what we’re made of—for ourselves—and whether or not we’re up for godliness, it makes a ton of sense.

Why does God allow any human suffering? Because even if we suffer unfairly, it refines us and helps us have Godly sympathy. I mean, after all, who wants a God who doesn’t understand pain and suffering? He or she would make a very poor deity.

Why does God allow imperfect people to be His prophets, apostles, and other leaders? Because their service is as much about helping them to come to know themselves as it is about us coming to know ourselves. You see, it isn’t about perfection, it’s about grace.

Why does God not answer every question or fix every seeming contradiction in life, the scriptures, etc.? Because having all the answers is not what matters. It’s whether or not we are willing to exercise faith—the faith necessary unto eternal salvation—and trust in what we do know. Consequently, when the answers are made clear our own knowledge of our own power, capability, and righteousness is strengthened and solidified!  Thus, we learn the truth of principles by experience prior to being told them. It works best that way!

Think of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac! That was a psychotic request IF it was for God’s benefit. But, if it was for Abraham’s knowledge of himself (and Isaac’s knowledge of himself), then it makes perfect sense. God said to Abraham, “Now I know that thou fearest God…” and yet what He meant is, “Now Thou knowest that thou fearest God…” Hugh B. Brown said: “Abraham needed to learn something about Abraham” (Five Scriptures that will Get You Through Anything).

Consider for yourself: what do you know about yourself but keep pretending you don’t know? What did you learn about yourself in your last trial or struggle? Or, what are you learning currently in a trial or struggle? What weaknesses and struggles have you overcome to date that have changed your for the better as a person? Have you given yourself that chance to try to live up to God’s covenants and laws? Do you yet know if you want to become like Him? Or, are you still in suspense about your own ability to be faithful and godly because you’re afraid to try? Do you know, as Abraham came to know, “That thou fearest God, seeing thou has not withheld thy <fill in the blank>”

For more on this line of pondering, see previous blog post The Solution to Utopia.

BT

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.

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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 spirit and the body are the soul of man.

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”

plan1We 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.

BT

Stay-tuned. There is more to this question/comment that was given to me. Doctrine on its way!