Joseph Smith was only 14 years old when he had his first vision, and 17 years old when he had the second. That is when he began his heavenly training for the work that God had for him to do, which was, restore lost truths and restore his church which had been lost for centuries. All of this was necessary for the benefit of all mankind, and to prepare us for the imminent return of Jesus Christ to the earth. He was 21 when he finally received the gold plates into his possession and began the work of translating them. He was 23 when the first printing of the resulting “Book of Mormon” was made available to the world. He was 24 when, under the direction of God, he organized the restored church. During all of this he continued to be educated from on high, in visions and visitations, and by a Spirit-guided study of the Bible and Book of Mormon.
He learned a lot during his short life and passed much of that knowledge on to the rest of the world. And he was able to finally and accurately respond to three very important questions that people have been trying to understand, well, forever.
1-Where did I come from?
2-Why am I here?
3-Where am I going?
These are the three most basic existential questions about the purpose of human life.
WHERE DID I COME FROM?
Many religions try to explain our beginnings with answers such as these:
1-We are a creation of God, for his pleasure and good will, or,
2-We lived previously and were reincarnated after dying.
These are just a couple of explanations. There are probably almost as many attempts at explanation as there are religions. There is also a purely scientific view, which tells us that before conception we did not exist, and when we die, we will cease to exist.
But what did Joseph learn from God and His messengers? That we are eternal beings; we have always existed, and we always will; there is no end, to anybody. There is only an end to this mortal existence.
There are many passages in the Bible, Old and New Testaments, that seem to contradict the teaching that we were created in the womb. In the Book of Job, God asks Job if he knows where he was before the creation of the world.
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?(Job 38:4-7)
Who were all these sons of God shouting for joy, before he laid the foundations of the earth?
God told the prophet Jeremiah that He knew him before he was born:
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5)
Apparently, the teaching that we existed before being born was a common one in the time of Christ, based on this question asked of Jesus by His disciples:
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?(John 9:2)
How could being born blind be a result of sin, unless he lived and sinned before he was born?
The apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, made it clear that God knew us before we were born:
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
In his Epistle to the Ephesians Paul stated that we were chosen by God before he created the world:
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: (Ephesians 1:4)
These scriptures, although pointing to a life before this earth life, are somewhat vague; they don’t really give us much detail or explanation. Maybe this is why the teaching has been lost through the ages. Maybe this is why a restoration of lost gospel principles was needed; why a “Joseph Smith” was needed.
A Book of Mormon prophet named Alma teaches the following about those who receive the priesthood:
And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works. . .(Alma 13:3)
So not only are spirits alive before being born, but they are also called and prepared for certain works and missions, based on their faith and good works - before their birth!
Book of Mormon prophet Samuel talks about returning to the presence of God via the redemption of Christ:
But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord. (Helaman 14:17)
To be brought back means that we must have been there previously. If not, Samuel would have simply said,” . . . bringeth them into the presence of the Lord.”
Although these Book of Mormon references are a little less vague than those of the Bible in speaking of a pre-mortal existence, they still don’t give us a lot of detail. This is a really good example of why it is so important to have living prophets like Moses or Abraham, instead of just ancient scripture which people can interpret and twist to suit their own pre-conceived notions.
In later revelation from God, Joseph learned a great deal more about our existence in the presence of God before being born as mortal beings. In a revelation received from Jesus Christ in September 1830, he learned that:
1-we lived before the creation of the world,
2-we had agency, or in other words, freedom to choose, to follow good or evil, and,
3-A full one-third of all of the spirits that existed before the creation rejected God and followed Satan, hence Satan and his angels (Yep, Satan is also real, and he existed, just like us, before this mortal life. He at one time was one of us. Forget about that nonsensical image of a red monster with horns and a pointed tail. If you saw him, you would not be able to distinguish him from another human being!)
And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency;
And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels;
And, behold, there is a place prepared for them from the beginning, which place is hell.
And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves. (Doctrine & Covenants, Section 29:36-39)
Speaking of marriage, and its importance to His plan, God said to Joseph in May 1831:
Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation;
And that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.
So, if we were created even before the world existed, why don’t we remember it? Why don’t we remember anything previous to this life? Very few people remember even as far back as their infancy. Here is a short video presentation that helps to explain this concept.
So, what are we doing here, or rather, what are we supposed to be doing here? What exactly is the purpose of this life?
WHY ARE WE HERE?
If we lived in the presence of God before being born into this physical earth life, why would we want to leave? Why in Heaven’s name (pun intended) would we want to leave Heaven! We lived in the presence of Our Heavenly Father. We loved Our Heavenly Father, but we noticed something very different about him. He had a physical body; we did not. We were created spiritually and did not possess physical bodies. His body was perfect, and glorified. He could experience things that we could not. We desired to have those experiences. And God wanted us to have those experiences.
As parents, we want our children to grow up and be like us. Not exactly like us, but having healthy bodies, two legs, two arms, two eyes, etc. We want them to experience the good things that we experience. Our Father in Heaven was no different, except that he loved us even more than we love our own children. He wanted us to experience the same happiness that He experienced.
So, He presented His Plan to all of His spirit children. He wanted us to be like Him, glorified physical body and all. But remember, God is powerful; all-powerful. He is all-knowing. We, spirits, although created by a perfect being, were not perfect (still aren’t). Once again, parents, think about your own children. You love them all, very much. But do you feel the same about giving the keys to the car to each one? Some you probably trust more than others. Do they all have the same abilities, same talents, all the time? Are they all equally wise? Would you feel comfortable about leaving anyone of them home alone for a week? I’m guessing not. I’m not saying that they are bad children! I’m just saying some are more trustworthy than others, some will always make the right choices even when Mom and Dad are not around. Some, regardless of our love, just never quite develop the ability to always choose the right, or the wise, thing.
Heavenly Father wanted to give that gift of eternal life to ALL of His children (I don’t want to get into this too much now but I will in a future discussion: Eternal Life and immortality are not the same thing. Eternal Life means living the same type of life that God lives, having the same types of experiences, and having the ability to do great things and have great experiences, eternally.) But great blessings include great responsibilities. Although Father knew already which of His children would likely be successful in this regard, He does not play favorites. He does not predestinate. All of His children were blessed with the right to choose; choose to accept His plan or not. Choose to make correct choices, or not.
We were excited about this plan, or at least most of us were; to be like Him, to have His experiences. To inherit eternal life. We said, “YES!”. But, there was a condition. This would not be easy. In fact, there were several conditions. First, we would have to leave His presence, and those who failed, would never be allowed back into His presence, ever again. Remember, God is perfect. Perfect beings cannot exist in the presence of imperfection, or rather, imperfection cannot survive in the presence of perfection. We were perfect in the sense that we were at the time incapable of committing sin. We didn’t even know what sin was. We were innocent.
Second, we would not only leave His presence physically, but we would leave it mentally as well. As we were born into earth life, we would lose any memory of our previous life with God. Wasn’t it much easier to clean your bedroom with Mom standing over you, or at least with your bedroom door open, and she passing by frequently to make sure you were doing your job? What would happen if Mom told you to clean your room, then left. Would you still clean your room? Maybe, maybe not. What if in time you forgot what she said, or you just decided it wasn’t that important? It would all depend on you, what kind of person you are. And that was the real test. God knew who we were, but still he wanted each of us to choose the right for ourselves.
Third, to pass through physical experiences we need physical bodies. We couldn’t have a glorified body like Heavenly Father. Our bodies were imperfect. Really imperfect! Some of us would go through life with few physical challenges, some with enormous challenges. Some would suffer with great pain and sickness. Some might only live a few minutes, and then die. The great thing is that each of us passes through a test that is tailor-made for each of us, in accordance with our needs. Some would have great material advantages; others would be born into abject poverty. Some would be enormously intelligent, and others, well, not so much. Others might have debilitating mental disorders. But each of us would be tested according to the abilities that we had, and of course, dependent on our individual spiritual needs. Hence the saying, “Where much is given, much is required.”
Well, so far, this all sounds like a lot to take in. But wait! There’s more! And I will talk about it next Monday, September 20, 2021. Hope to see you then.