There are three questions that every person asks:
This belief module discusses the first of these questions. Mormonism is unique in Christianity due to its belief that man is an eternal, uncreated being. Intelligence cannot be created. It is eternal. We have always existed and we will always exist.
Mormon scripture, which includes the Bible, and the latter-day revelations given to modern prophets give us some partial insights into the nature of our lives before our birth. We believe that everything is undergoing eternal progression. The earth, the life forms on it, and those that may exist elsewhere in the universe are participants in process that is intended to guide them to a state of ultimate perfection in eternity. Heaven is not so much a destination as it is a state of being.
The scriptures speak cryptically of two earlier states of being. One is labeled “intelligences” and the other “spirits.” We know hardly anything about the nature of intelligences. The Book of Abraham tells us that the Father stood in the midst of them and identified certain of them as being “great” or “noble.” From these intelligences, he identified and foreordained certain ones to act as prophets. Although Mormon theology does not use this term, one might consider these intelligences avatars that were chosen to accomplish certain missions. A Mormon will tell you that these great and noble ones very likely included any enlightened sage who made a positive impact on humanity. It is perfectly within our theology to regard Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, Gutenberg, Luther, Tyndale, Tenskwatawa, Wovoka, Isaac Newton, Galileo, and many others with considerable esteem and deference.
At some point in our spiritual development, these intelligences evolved or were transformed by the Creator into spirits. A spirit does not have a tangible physical form, but is composed of refined matter. When God so enlightens the mind of a mortal, spirits can be seen and communicated with. They look like human beings. Spirits fall into two categories: those who have not been born yet and those who have died and await the resurrection. Our interest for this belief module is in those who have not been born into mortality yet.
A spirit is capable of many things that mortals cannot do, but they have some limitations. Having no body, a spirit does not comprehend pain, sickness, physical or sexual desires, hunger, or other bodily appetites. Physical suffering is unknown to a spirit. This limitation effectively forms an impasse in the progression of these spirits. To attain knowledge, wisdom, and a fullness of joy, it is necessary for the spirit to comprehend these conditions that only a mortal body can experience. Thus, this mortal world was created to provide a place for spirits to come and gain knowledge, experience, and to be tested.
The test is simple. Take an immortal being who knows not the constraints of time, the demands of supplying the necessities for its continued physical existence, and place him into a body that is wired with powerful needs, passions, and instincts that must be controlled and subdued, and place him in an environment of perceived scarcity and lack. In such a condition, will he allow the spirit to dominate the body, developing charity, kindness, and altruism, or will he succumb to the pressures and turn inward, competing against others for resources, becoming greedy, clutching, ruthless, or dominating? To achieve this effect, it is necessary that mortals have no memory of their personal pre-mortal existence.
To a pre-mortal spirit, there is an element of risk. It is possible that he may fail and fall to a lower rung of spiritual progression through this process. The choice to come to earth may be as unsettling to a spirit as death is for a mortal. This natural insecurity led to what we call the “war in heaven.”
The Bible tells cryptically of a war in heaven. It is also mentioned in the Nag Hamadi library and the Dead Sea Scrolls. What we understand from modern revelation is that Lucifer—who was a spirit of some prominence and authority, as indicated by the title “son of the morning” mentioned in Isaiah—saw an opportunity. He played upon the fears of those concerned about the risks of mortal life. In a grand council, he proposed an alternative plan that would guarantee a successful outcome. Those who would accept his plan, would merely have to surrender their agency to his dominion. It was a deception that he proposed, because none of us can surrender our agency and it cannot be taken from us. Lucifer’s intent was to usurp the devotions rendered to Father for himself. A rebellion ensued and a war of words and opinions occurred.
Imagine if you will the worst flame wars you’ve ever seen on a discussion board, only on a planetary scale. Billions of beings who have an almost infinite capacity to communicate spirit-to-spirit became involved. Peace could only be obtained by banishing the rebels from God’s presence. They were sent down to the earth in unembodied form. Their punishment is that they will never undergo mortality. Their spiritual progression has ceased for all intents and purposes. They are envious of those of us who did get the opportunity to live. They remember us. Some of them hate us. In their envy and resentment, they seek to bring us down and cause us to fail so that we might be miserable like they are. Their efforts are accounted for in God’s plan and serve as part of our testing.
The “Father of lights,” as the Bible refers to God, organized us into families, nations, and races according to his wisdom. From the time that Adam and Eve began to have children, spirits from the pre-mortal world enter mortality. Because of the risks involved, the Father provided a Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who would be our Advocate and Savior. A countless multitude of spirits strives for and works for our success. The spirit world can see the events that occur in this one. Foreordained family ties reach across the “veil” that separates these dimensions. Those who have the greatest interest in our well being are our unborn posterity. We are never far from their thoughts. They are our allies. They act to protect us, to encourage us, and to strengthen us.
Angelic messengers come to earth from the ranks of these beings. Through modern revelation, we know a few “connections” between pre-mortal beings and their mortal identities. We know that Michael, who is the archangel, became Adam, the first mortal. Michael presided over the spiritual family in heaven and he is the head of the mortal family on earth. The angel Gabriel, who appeared to many of the prophets of the Old Testament, lived in mortality as the prophet Noah. The angel Raphael, mentioned in the Book of Tobit, was said by the Prophet Joseph Smith to have been the ancient patriarch Enoch.
When we understand where we came from and that we are spirit children of God, it is an ennobling thing. Each of us who lives on earth now was foreordained to come here at a specific time, in particular circumstances, in proximity to those with whom we need to network in order to accomplish certain missions. Foreordination does not mean predestination. Outcomes are not pre-determined. God’s wisdom in a quantum universe takes into account all possible outcomes. However, we are provided with every advantage that is necessary for our success.
As a Mormon considers his existence, he perceives it as a place of purpose, of nurturing, and of attachment. He or she senses a feeling of purposefulness. Pain, suffering, and hardship fall into an eternal context. Although we may feel times of loneliness, discouragement, sadness, grief, or any other sentiment, it is tempered in some small measure by the knowledge that these things will turn for our good in eternity. This assurance gives us strength to persevere and endure against life’s troubles and sorrows. It tempers the fear of death, because we understand that the return to a spiritual state is as natural as putting a fish in water. Mortality is not our natural state. Time is not our natural medium. We understand that death is a return to the home from which we came, taking with us the wisdom and experiences we accumulated during mortality.
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This is rather fascinating. Can't read it all right now but will later. Thanks Samuel!
I'll try to keep these shorter in the future, but this one is kind of critical to understanding our world view. It impacts everything else, so I wanted to give it adequate emphasis.