Chapter 6: Our Premortal Life

“Chapter 6: Our Premortal Life,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual (2000), 13–15

“6: Premortal Life,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, 13–15

Chapter 6

Our Premortal Life


Some people have difficulty understanding that their existence before this earth life could be forgotten. Because we do not recall the first few years of early childhood does not mean that we didn’t exist, that we didn’t eat, play, laugh, and interact with family and friends. So it is with our premortal estate. We lived and associated, grew and learned; yet we cannot recall those former activities for reasons that the Lord in His eternal wisdom has not fully revealed to us.

Doctrinal Outline

  1. Intelligence, or the light of truth, is eternal and has always existed.

    See Doctrine and Covenants 93:29.

  2. We lived as spirit children of God in a premortal existence.

    1. God is the father of the spirits of all mankind (see Hebrews 12:9; D&C 76:24; Acts 17:29; Romans 8:16).

    2. Our spirit bodies are in the form of God’s physical body (see D&C 77:2; Ether 3:6–16).

    3. Our instruction and preparation for earth life began in the world of spirits (see D&C 138:56).

    4. God gave us agency in the premortal life (see Moses 4:3; D&C 29:36).

    5. Many became noble and great in the premortal world (see Abraham 3:22–25; Jeremiah 1:4–6; Alma 13:3–5).

  3. God the Father provided the plan of salvation by which His spirit children could eventually become like Him.

    1. God’s plan of salvation was taught to His spirit children (see Abraham 3:24–27).

    2. Jesus Christ was chosen and foreordained to come to earth to perform the atoning sacrifice (see 1 Peter 1:19–20; Moses 4:2; Revelation 13:8; Abraham 3:27).

    3. Lucifer, a spirit in authority in the presence of God, sought the glory and honor of God and the elimination of the agency of the children of God (see Moses 4:1–3; D&C 76:25–28; Isaiah 14:12–14).

    4. Lucifer’s rebellion against God caused a war in heaven (see Revelation 12:7; D&C 76:25–29).

    5. One-third of the spirits were cast out of heaven because they chose not to keep their first estate (see Abraham 3:27–28; D&C 29:36–38; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 12:8–9).

    6. All who kept their “first estate” (premortal life) were promised that they would “be added upon” (which includes receiving mortal bodies). All who keep their second estate will have “glory added upon their heads for ever and ever” (Abraham 3:26).

Supporting Statements

  1. Intelligence, or the light of truth, is eternal and has always existed.

    • “The Lord made it known to Moses (See Book of Moses Chap. 3.) and also to Abraham (Abraham Ch. 3) and it is expressed in several revelations, that man was in the beginning with God. In that day, however, man was a spirit unembodied. The beginning was when the councils met and the decision was made to create this earth that the spirits who were intended for this earth, should come here and partake of the mortal conditions and receive bodies of flesh and bones. The doctrine has prevailed that matter was created out of nothing, but the Lord declares that the elements are eternal. Matter always did and, therefore, always will exist, and the spirits of men as well as their bodies were created out of matter. We discover in this revelation that the intelligent part of man was not created, but always existed. There has been some speculation and articles have been written attempting to explain just what these ‘intelligences’ are, or this ‘intelligence’ is, but it is futile for us to speculate upon it. We do know that intelligence was not created or made and cannot be because the Lord has said it. There are some truths it is well to leave until the Lord sees fit to reveal the fulness” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:401).

  2. We lived as spirit children of God in a premortal existence.

    • “There is no way to make sense out of life without a knowledge of the doctrine of premortal life.

      “The idea that mortal birth is the beginning is preposterous. There is no way to explain life if you believe that.

      “The notion that life ends with mortal death is ridiculous. There is no way to face life if you believe that.

      “When we understand the doctrine of premortal life, then things fit together and make sense. We then know that little boys and little girls are not monkeys, nor are their parents, nor were theirs, to the very beginning generation.

      “We are the children of God, created in his image.

      “Our child-parent relationship to God is clear.

      “The purpose for the creation of this earth is clear.

      “The testing that comes in mortality is clear.

      “The need for a redeemer is clear.

      “When we do understand that principle of the gospel, we see a Heavenly Father and a Son; we see an atonement and a redemption.

      “We understand why ordinances and covenants are necessary.

      “We understand the necessity for baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. We understand why we renew that covenant by partaking of the sacrament” (Boyd K. Packer, in Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 22; or Ensign, Nov. 1983, 18).

    • “All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.

      “‘God created man in His own image.’ This is just as true of the spirit as it is of the body, which is only the clothing of the spirit, its complement; the two together constituting the soul. The spirit of man is in the form of man, and the spirits of all creatures are in the likeness of their bodies. This was plainly taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith (Doctrine and Covenants, 77:2)” (The First Presidency [Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund], in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4:203).

    • “These spirit beings, the offspring of exalted parents, were men and women, appearing in all respects as mortal persons do, excepting only that their spirit bodies were made of a more pure and refined substance than the elements from which mortal bodies are made. (Ether 3:16; D. & C. 131:7–8.)” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 589).

    • “The spirit of man consists of an organization of the elements of spiritual matter in the likeness and after the pattern of the fleshly tabernacle. It possesses, in fact, all the organs and parts exactly corresponding to the outward tabernacle” (Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, 79).

    • “During the ages in which we dwelt in the pre-mortal state we not only developed our various characteristics and showed our worthiness and ability, or the lack of it, but we were also where such progress could be observed. It is reasonable to believe that there was a Church organization there. The heavenly beings were living in a perfectly arranged society. Every person knew his place. Priesthood, without any question, had been conferred and the leaders were chosen to officiate. Ordinances pertaining to that pre-existence were required and the love of God prevailed. Under such conditions it was natural for our Father to discern and choose those who were most worthy and evaluate the talents of each individual. He knew not only what each of us could do, but what each of us would do when put to the test and when responsibility was given us. Then, when the time came for our habitation on mortal earth, all things were prepared and the servants of the Lord chosen and ordained to their respective missions” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, 50–51).

    • “In the pre-existence we dwelt in the presence of God our Father. When the time arrived for us to be advanced in the scale of our existence and pass through this mundane probation, councils were held and the spirit children were instructed in matters pertaining to conditions in mortal life, and the reason for such an existence. In the former life we were spirits. In order that we should advance and eventually gain the goal of perfection, it was made known that we would receive tabernacles of flesh and bones and have to pass through mortality where we would be tried and proved to see if we, by trial, would prepare ourselves for exaltation. We were made to realize, in the presence of our glorious Father, who had a tangible body of flesh and bones which shone like the sun, that we were, as spirits, far inferior in our station to him” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:57).

    • “From this revelation [Abraham 3:23], we may infer two things: first, that there were among those spirits [in premortal life] different degrees of intelligence, varying grades of achievement, retarded and advanced spiritual attainment; second, that there were no national distinctions among those spirits such as Americans, Europeans, Asiatics, Australians, etc. Such ‘bounds of habitation’ would have to be ‘determined’ when the spirits entered their earthly existence or second estate. …

      “Now if none of these spirits were permitted to enter mortality until they all were good and great and had become leaders, then the diversity of conditions among the children of men as we see them today would certainly seem to indicate discrimination and injustice. …

      “… Our place in this world would then be determined by our own advancement or condition in the pre-mortal state, just as our place in our future existence will be determined by what we do here in mortality.

      “When, therefore, the Creator said to Abraham, and to others of his attainment, ‘You I will make my rulers,’ there could exist no feeling of envy or jealousy among the million other spirits, for those who were ‘good and great’ were but receiving their just reward” (David O. McKay, Home Memories of President David O. McKay, 228–30).

    Mary, Joseph, and Christ Child
  3. God the Father provided the plan of salvation by which His spirit children could eventually become like Him.

    • “When the great War in Heaven was fought, Lucifer, the son of the morning, came forth with a plan that was rejected. The Father of us all, with love for us, His children, offered a better plan under which we would have freedom to choose the course of our lives. His Firstborn Son, our Elder Brother, was the key to that plan. Man would have his agency, and with that agency would go accountability. Man would walk the ways of the world and sin and stumble. But the Son of God would take upon Himself flesh and offer Himself a sacrifice to atone for the sins of all men. Through unspeakable suffering He would become the great Redeemer, the Savior of all mankind” (Gordon B. Hinckley, in Conference Report, Apr. 2002, 107; or Ensign, May 2002, 90).

    • “Christ made the Father’s plan his own by adoption. But what is basically important in this respect is to know that the power to save is vested in the Father, and that he originated, ordained, created, and established his own plan; that he announced it to his children; and that he then asked for a volunteer to be the Redeemer, the Deliverer, the Messiah, who would put the eternal plan of the Eternal Father into eternal operation” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 1:48–49 note 3).

    • “What Satan wanted, quite evidently, was the full possession, ownership, of this creation of spirits that is involved in the peopling of this earth; so he tried to get them by gift, and that being denied, he is following along and trying to get us through the commission of sin. If we sin sufficiently we become his subjects.

      “As I read the scriptures, Satan’s plan required one of two things: Either the compulsion of the mind, the spirit, the intelligence of man, or else saving men in sin. I question whether the intelligence of man can be compelled. Certainly men cannot be saved in sin, because the laws of salvation and exaltation are founded in righteousness, not in sin” (J. Reuben Clark Jr., in Conference Report, Oct. 1949, 193).

    • “There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:65–66).

    • “The punishment of Satan and the third of the host of heaven who followed him, was that they were denied the privilege of being born into this world and receiving mortal bodies. They did not keep their first estate and were denied the opportunity of eternal progression. The Lord cast them out into the earth, where they became the tempters of mankind—the devil and his angels” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:65).

A mother, father, and baby