And he looked around and said:
I’m lonely –
I’ll make me a world.
James Weldon Johnson[i]
This is the first in a three-part subseries about the Plan of Salvation. This article deals with our life before we came to earth.
In the comments on the first article, interest was expressed in a comment I made about the Latter-day Saint view of the afterlife. Specifically, I said: “[W]e believe that only people who have accepted the gospel, and received the required ordinances will be able to live in God’s presence. There isn’t really a burning hell in Mormon theology, simply various degrees of distance from God.”
So, if interest was expressed in the afterlife, why am I writing about what happened before we were born? In a word, context. Our beliefs about the afterlife are part of what we call “the Plan of Salvation” which refers to the overarching plan our Heavenly Parents (The Church is clear in the doctrine that we also have a Heavenly Mother, and that He and She work as a team.[ii]) have for our development and future. The goal of the plan is specifically stated in by the Lord: “For behold this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”[iii] Immortality is just what it sounds like – we will all be raised in the resurrection and be immortal. Eternal life or exaltation is the life which God the Father lives. Immortality is a gift from the Father made possible by the Atonement of Christ. Exaltation is also made possible by the Atonement, but can only be achieved by “obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.”[iv] Thus, the goal of the plan is for us to be immortal and live again with our Heavenly Parents and be like them – in short, they want us to become gods and goddesses – their peers, friends, and colleagues.[v]
Why would they want this for us? Because they are our Parents, and they love us. They don’t claim that title by happenstance. The scriptures agree: God is the father of our spirits.[vi] Every parent worth his or her salt wants their children to grow up to reach their adult potential. Our Heavenly Parents are no different. Indeed, they set the standard for earthly parents to follow.
As with all parents, they undertook to educate us with the things we would need as we embarked upon our journey to adulthood.[vii] One of these things was the use of our moral agency.[viii] As might be expected, some spirits advanced more quickly than others, and God marked these spirits for leadership roles on earth.[ix]
Council in Heaven
Eventually, we had progressed as far as we could. It was time to leave home and go out into the world. Our Parents called a council to discuss the plan. Jesus, our eldest brother, presented the plan: We would be born into mortality, having no memory of the time before our mortal birth. Prophets would be sent to teach us why we were there and how to return to our Parents. We would continue to learn to exercise our agency by being tempted by both good and evil. Correct use of our agency would enable us to resist the evil temptations. We would make mistakes and commit sins which would render us unable to return to our Parents. Because sin is inescapable in the mortal condition, a Savior would be provided who would make atonement for all our sins, enabling us to return. This Savior would be Jesus. Because of our agency, some of us would choose not to accept the atonement, and thus choose not to return.
War in Heaven
Lucifer, one of the advanced spirits, had his own plan. He would force us to live in such a way that all of us would return. Because it was his plan, the glory and honor would go to Lucifer.[x] Lucifer’s plan was rejected, and he rebelled. Because of this rebellion, he and the spirits which wanted to live by his plan were cast out of heaven.[xi] This amounted to one-third of all the spirits in the council.[xii] They became the devil and his angels, and are here to tempt us and draw us away from God’s plan. Because of their choices, they will never enter mortality, will never have a body, and will never have the chance to progress to Godhood.
Time to Go
Through uncounted time we had matured as spirits. In the end, we had helped to cast out one-third of our brothers and sisters when they rebelled against our Parents. With the war moved to earth, it was time for us to leave our Heavenly Parents, and enter mortality. One by one we approached the veil which would block our memories, bade our Parents farewell, and “[w]e walked, as it were, through an open door. The door was closed behind us.”[xiii]
[i] James Weldon Johnson, God’s Trombones Seven Negro Sermons in Verse (New York, Penguin Books, 1927) “The Creation” p 17
[v] Chieko N. Okazaki, Sanctuary (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997), 59
[xiii] Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee: Eleventh President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. Clyde J. Williams (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 20–21.
I have removed the “Mormons in the Mist” title because the Prophet has asked that we not use the term “Mormons” to refer to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.