WE ARE CHILDREN OF OUR HEAVENLY FATHER
There were several quotes from Chapter 1 in this blog that, if not already used, would also fit in this Chapter.
One interesting way to look at the three sections found in this lesson is that they parallel the three great questions of the ages: “Where did I come from?” “Why am I here?” and “Where am I going?” A great video segment dealing with the importance of understanding the first of these questions is entitled “4. The Plan of Salvation” (4 minutes & 24 seconds) found in “Teachings from the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History” Video found in most Meeting House Libraries.
The video illustrates what Elder Boyd K. Packer stated in Conference:
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. (Ensign, Nov 1983, 16)
Elder Bruce C. Hafen (Seventies) also adds to this concept:
Our understanding of the earthly family is like the second act in a three-act play. Act 1 was our pre-earth life in the family of God, act 2 is our current mortality, and act 3 is our eternal sealing after death. Without the perspective gained from acts 1 and 3, the second act can seem too hard or too confusing. But with that vision, act 2 has infinite meaning. (Ensign, Oct. 2003, 28)
The wonderful doctrine that we were “begotten sons and daughters” of God (see D&C 76:23-24 under “Additional Scriptures”, p. 12) in premortal existence was restored in these latter days, as illustrated in this great quote:
As to man’s relationship to God, Joseph learned from a subsequent revelation that the inhabitants of “the worlds” (including those of us on this earth) “are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” (D&C 76:24) These fundamental truths concerning God and man’s relationship to him were not being taught by the churches of Joseph Smith’s day, for the obvious reason that they were neither known nor believed. It is true that they were known and taught and believed by members of the church of Christ in the days of Jesus and his apostles. But in 1830 an understanding of them had long since been lost. It was ignorance of a true knowledge of God and man’s relationship to him that spawned the many churches. (Marion G. Romney, Ensign, Jan 1973, 30)
Some additional Biblical scriptures about us being children of God are John 20:17, Acts 17:28, Romans 8:16-17 and Psalms 82:6. In fact, one of the most beautiful discussions of premortality in the Bible is found in Proverbs 8:22-30.
This section discusses the spirit birth of men and women in premortality. Before our spirits were born (see Hebrews 12:9 under “Additional Scriptures”) we were intelligence. While the following information may be helpful for you, if you are a teacher, please prayerfully ponder whether or not your students need the following ideas. Later in the blog, there is a wonderful quote about the premortal existence and its role in our birth from President Harold B. Lee. There he states that our spirits were “organized intelligences.” Because of that statement, ideas on “intelligences” are discussed here.
Two great scriptural references on “intellegence” are D&C 93:29 and Abraham 3:19. These two references are, in fact, about all we know from the scriptures about this subject. Prophets have helped our understanding a little bit more.
In regards to D&C 93:29, Elder Spencer W. Kimball explained:
“Our spirit matter was eternal and co-existent with God and was organized into spirit bodies by our Heavenly Father. (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 5)
President Marion G. Romney, of the First Presidency, stated:
In origin, man is a son of God. The spirits of men “are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:24). Through that birth process, self-existing intelligence was organized into individual spirit beings. (Ensign, Nov 1978, 13)
President Spencer W. Kimball said in Conference:
God has taken these intelligences, given to them spirit bodies, and given them instructions and training. Then he proceeded to create a world for them and sent them as spirits to obtain a mortal body, for which he made preparation. (Ensign, May 1977, 49)
However, very little is really known about this subject. We do not know, for instance, whether intelligences were pre-spirits or whether spirits were organized from “intelligence” matter. We do know that we have always existed as Intelligence or light and then we got a spirit.
“…the revelations leave no doubt as to the existence of intelligent matter prior to its being organized as spirits…” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 693)
Joseph Smith taught:
The intelligence of the spirit had no beginning, neither will it have an end...Intelligence is eternal...there is no creation about it. (History of the Church, 6:310-311)
Interesting to note is a shift that has occurred in the Church away from the use of the word “pre-existence.” In church publications the term now almost always used is “premortal existence.” This makes sense from Joseph Smith quote that “intelligence…had no beginning…” In other words, technically, as far as man and woman go, there is no such thing as “pre-existence” since we have always existed.
Two of the greatest articles on this subject, “Intelligence” and “Intelligences” are found in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. If you haven’t discovered this wonderful work, trust that its content was scrutinized by the very best of Church eyes. To find these articles, just google “encyclopedia of mormonism” or go online at “lib.byu.edu/Macmillan.” This encyclopedia is a great one to add to your “Favorites” as well.
WE DEVELOPED PERSONALITIES AND TALENTS WHILE WE LIVED IN HEAVEN
While “talents” are discussed in this section, note that there will be a whole lesson on this subject next year (Chapter 34). A great quote on this idea which could be used now or later (or both) comes from Elder Joseph Fielding Smith:
The spirits of men were created with different dispositions and likes and talents. Some evidently were mechanically inclined, from them have come our inventors. Some loved music and hence they have become great musicians. We evidently brought to this world some if not all of the inclinations and talents that we had there. (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5:138)
The wonderful concept of "foreordination" is discussed here. The first reference, Alma 13:1-3 is great one about premortal existence. Note that the priesthood office Alma is discussing here is that of “priest” (verse 1). Also, note that God’s “foreknowledge” (verse 3) is a key factor here. God knows all things past and present, but crucial to this discussion, all things future. A quick check of the Topical Guide under the subjects, “God, Foreknowledge” and “God, Omniscience” will verify how many scriptures testify of this power held by Our Heavenly Father. In addition, God watched how we carried out assignments in premortal life.
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith taught:
…in the pre-mortal state…It is reasonable to believe that there was a Church organization there…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. (The Way to Perfection, 50-51)
Elder Dallin Oaks stated in conference:
Many of us also made covenants with the Father concerning what we would do in mortality. In ways that have not been revealed, our actions in the spirit world influence us in mortality. (Ensign, Nov 1993, 72)
In Conference, President Harold B. Lee stated:
Now then, to make a summary of what I have just read, may I ask each of you again the question, “Who are you?” You are all the sons and daughters of God. Your spirits were created and lived as organized intelligences before the world was. You have been blessed to have a physical body because of your obedience to certain commandments in that premortal state. You are now born into a family to which you have come, into the nations through which you have come, as a reward for the kind of lives you lived before you came here and at a time in the world’s history, as the apostle Paul taught the men of Athens and as the Lord revealed to Moses, determined by the faithfulness of each of those who lived before this world was created.
All these rewards were seemingly promised, or foreordained, before the world was. Surely these matters must have been determined by the kind of lives we had lived in that premortal spirit world. Some may question these assumptions, but at the same time they will accept without any question the belief that each one of us will be judged when we leave this earth according to his or her deeds during our lives here in mortality. Isn’t it just as reasonable to believe that what we have received here in this earth life was given to each of us according to the merits of our conduct before we came here? (Ensign, Jan 1974, 2)
President David O. McKay also taught:
“. . . 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. (Doctrines of the Gospel Institute Manual, 15)
The Institute manuals are a terrific resource and are found online at “institute.lds.org” under “Institute Courses & Manuals”.
Before we leave this subject, it is important to mention women and “foreordination.” While women do not hold the priesthood, they do perform wonderful ordinances in the temple. Concerning foreordination of women, Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught:
We know so little, brothers and sisters, about the reasons for the division of duties between womanhood and manhood as well as between motherhood and priesthood. These were divinely determined in another time and another place. We are accustomed to focusing on the men of God because theirs is the priesthood and leadership line. But paralleling that authority line is a stream of righteous influence reflecting the remarkable women of God who have existed in all ages and dispensations, including our own. Greatness is not measured by coverage in column inches, either in newspapers or in the scriptures.
Just as certain men were foreordained from before the foundations of the world, so were certain women appointed to certain tasks. (Ensign, May 1978, 10)
The twin doctrine accompanying that of “foreordination” must be, as the lesson points out, is, “…every one on earth is free to accept or reject any opportunity to serve” (p. 10). There will soon be a whole lesson on “Freedom to Choose” (Chapter 4). A great quote on this idea comes from President Harold B. Lee in Conference:
…even though we have our free agency here, there are many who were foreordained before the world was, to a greater state than they have prepared themselves for here. Even though they might have been among the noble and great, from among whom the Father declared he would make his chosen leaders, they may fail of that calling here in mortality. (Ensign, Jan 1974, 2)
At the most recent CES Fireside (you can view all of them online at "institute.lds.org" then "CES Firesides" then "The 209 Firesides can now be found here" (I think "2009" is a typo and will be changed to "2010") Elder Neil L. Anderson (some of the whole talk has to do with this lesson) taught:
You were chosen and foreordained to have the gospel in your life and to be a leader in the cause of the restored gospel.
In this section, we are referred to a talk by President Monson in the 1986 October Conference. For those who don’t already know how, this is easily accessed. Go online to “lds.org” and put your cursor on “Gospel Library” then click on “Magazines” then put your cursor on “Ensign” and click on “Past Issues” and then select from there. When you find the article you are looking for, if you know the quote, an easy way to find it is to press “Ctrl” (lower left on keyboard) and at the same time press “F”. then type an unusual word in the quote and that word will be highlighted in the talk.
OUR HEAVENLY FATHER PRESENTED A PLAN FOR US TO BECOME LIKE HIM
Some LDS have been confused about “two plans” presented in the “Grand Council” discussed in this section. As the title states, there was only “A” plan. Here is a quote from the Pearl of Great Price Student Manual:
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said that it is “extremely important to get straight what happened in that premortal council. It was not an unstructured meeting, nor was it a discussion between plans, nor an idea-producing session, as to how to formulate the plan for salvation and carry it out. Our Father’s plan was known, and the actual question put was whom the Father should send to carry out the plan” (p. 12)
Again, the Institute manuals are a terrific resource.
Two times in this section we are encouraged to go to former Priesthood/Relief Society manuals, one for Joseph Smith and one for President Kimball. The quotes from President Kimball are especially important because they are among the best ever for the very difficult doctrine of the role of trials in Father’s plan. Great quotes on this subject are also found in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, Chapter 22 and Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, Chapter 21.
To access all of the former manuals titled “Teachings of Presidents of the Church…” go to “lds.org” and put your cursor on “Gospel Library” then click on “Lessons.” In the middle of the page, click on “Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society.” At the bottom of that page are listed each of the last nine manuals.
In this section, the lesson states that the veil is necessary for us to obey, "because of our faith...not because of our knowledge." A great scripture to discuss here would be Alma 32:21.
One of the crucial principles taught in this section is that trials, a necessary part of mortal life, can teach and purify us. A fact of life from Father’s plan is that “bad things happen to good people”. This is a very difficult principle for many. However, we can choose to have them defeat us. The concept that trials do not defeat us, but our choices about them can defeat us is a very important principle taught later in Chapter 4. Since there does not appear to be another lesson on this topic, some quotes on how to choose during trials follow and could be used now or later, with Chapter 4:
On premortal training for trials:
In the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Men have to suffer that they may come upon Mount Zion and be exalted above the heavens.” (History of the Church, 5:556).
This does not mean we crave suffering. We avoid it all we can. However, we now know, and we all knew when we elected to come into mortality, that we would here be proved in the crucible of adversity and affliction. (Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, Oct. 1969, 57)
On how trials teach us:
Help from the Lord always follows eternal law. The better you understand that law, the easier it is to receive His help. Some of the principles upon which His healing is predicated follow. It is important to understand that His healing can mean being cured, or having your burdens eased, or even coming to realize that it is worth it to endure to the end patiently, for God needs brave sons and daughters who are willing to be polished when in His wisdom that is His will. Recognize that some challenges in life will not be resolved here on earth. (Richard G. Scott, Ensign, May 1994, 7)
When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this, now? What have I done to cause this? will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God. Rather ask, What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial? (Richard G. Scott, Ensign, Nov 1995, 17)
On how trials purify us:
I used to think, if I were the Lord, I would not suffer people to be tried as they are. But I have changed my mind on that subject. Now I think I would, if I were the Lord, because it purges out the meanness and corruption that stick around the Saints, like flies around molasses. (John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, p. 333)
Still, some of us have trouble when God’s tutoring is applied to us! We plead for exemption more than we do for sanctification, don’t we, brothers and sisters? (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1991, 88)
While I do not believe in stepping out of the path of duty to pick up a cross I don’t need, a man is a coward who refuses to pick up a cross that clearly lied within his path. No cross, no crown. No gall, no glory. No thorns, no throne. (President Ezra Taft Benson, Area Conference Report, Taipei, 1975, 3)
We are here that we may be educated in a school of suffering and of fiery trials, which school was necessary for Jesus our elder brother, who, the scriptures tell us, was made perfect through suffering. It is necessary we suffer in all things, that we may be qualified and worthy to rule and govern all things, even as our Father in heaven and his eldest son Jesus… (Lorenzo Snow, Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, 119)
On our choice concerning trials:
I have seen the remorse and despair in the lives of men who, in the hour of trial, have cursed God and died spiritually. And I have seen people rise to great heights from what seemed to be unbearable burdens. Finally, I have sought the Lord in my own extremities and learned for myself that my soul has made its greatest growth as I have been driven to knees by adversity and affliction. (Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, Oct. 1969, 60)
On the Savior’s role concerning trials:
…the word succor. Do you know its meaning? It is used often in the scriptures to describe Christ’s care for and attention to us. It means literally “to run to.” What a magnificent way to describe the Savior’s urgent effort in our behalf! Even as he calls us to come to him and follow him, he is unfailingly running to help us. (Jeffrey R. Holland, Ensign, Apr 1998, 16)
Into each of our lives come golden moments of adversity. This painful friend breaks our hearts, drops us to our knees, and makes us realize we are nothing without our Lord and Savior. This friend makes us plead all the night long for reassurance and into the next day and sometimes for weeks and months. But, ultimately, just as surely as the day follows the night, as we remain true and faithful, this strange friend, adversity, leads us straight into the outstretched arms of the Savior. (Elder Glenn L. Pace (Seventies), Ensign, Nov 1992, 11)
An additional reference for D&C 132:19-20 in this section is D&C 131:1-4. From the Doctrine and Covenants Institute Student Manual comes clarification on “increase”:
Those who comply with the new and everlasting covenant of marriage and endure to the end gain the right to become eternal parents. The Prophet Joseph Smith, as he spoke verses 1-4 to William Clayton, stated: “Except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity, while in this probation, by the power and authority of the Holy Priesthood, they will cease to increase when they die; that is, they will not have any children after the resurrection. But those who are married by the power and authority of the priesthood in this life, and continue without committing the sin against the Holy Ghost, will continue to increase and have children in the celestial glory.” (p. 325)
Yes, the Institute manuals are terrific.