The Preexistence/Mortality Continuum

One of the questions many people have about life on this world is why some people seem to have so many advantages over others. Some souls are fortunate enough to be born of goodly parents, in modern times, under prosperous circumstances, with the gospel handed to them. Others may be sent to abusive parents, in terrible poverty, with no chance to live the gospel. Many wonder about the apparent injustice of this inequality, and question whether there is a God, and if so, does he know what he is doing. These types of questions are expressed in a song titled ‘The Larger Bowl’ by Rush on the new album ‘Snakes and Arrows’ (which I highly recommend) that came out May 1st.

If we’re so much the same, like I always hear
why such different fortunes and fates?
some of us live in a cloud of fear
some live behind iron gates

why such different fortunes and fates?
some are blessed and some are cursed
some live behind iron gates
while others see only the worst

some are blessed and some are cursed
the golden one or scarred from birth
while others only see the worst
such a lot of pain on the earth

the golden one or scarred from birth
some things can never be changed
such a lot of pain on this earth
it’s somehow so badly arranged

some things can never be changed
some reasons will never come clear
it’s somehow so badly arranged
if we’re so much the same, like I always hear

I think there was a time in the church when we talked about the ‘elect’ more than we do now. One group that still gets told this is the youth. They are frequently told that they were the most valiant spirits and were reserved to come forth in the last days. I was told the same things when I was a youth. This message has some implications. It implies that the youth are in a way better than their parents and grandparents – at least they were better in the preexistence. It also implies that they were better than those who were born in circumstances where the gospel is not handed to them.

I believe this idea has some scriptural basis in Abraham chapter 3 where Abraham is shown some of the noble and great spirits who are forordained to be made God’s leaders on earth. This suggests that there were also spirits who were not so noble nor great, and will not be forordained to be leaders, or anything else perhaps. We have the extreme examples of Christ and Lucifer, both spirit children of God, one who was selected to be the savior, and the other who was cast out. It seems evident that preexistent spirits were able to make choices and progress for a very long time with varying levels of success.

I have long believed that our mortal life on earth is a continuation of our preexistence, and that in at least general terms our conditions on earth are based on our progress in the preexistence. This belief assumes that God is deciding where, and when we come to earth. It also assumes that there is some merit involved in that decision.

This is a little difficult to express sometimes, particularly to people who came from worse conditions. Perhaps it is tactful that we do not talk about this idea as much anymore. Is the idea of a preexistence/mortality continuum not fairly sound doctrine that provides an explanation for such different fates that we find ourselves in upon the painful earth? Perhaps that is what Neil Peart was missing when he considered the lyrics to his song. Maybe his basic assumption is wrong. Maybe we are not so much the same. Maybe we are quite different from each other, not just in terms of genetics and environment, but also in spiritual progression stemming back to our premortal life. Does this not adequately explain different conditions for people on the earth?

54 Responses to “The Preexistence/Mortality Continuum”

  1. 1 Geoff J May 3, 2007 at 2:38 am

    So Eric…

    Why do you think less advanced spirits were sent to this earth at all? If there are worlds without number why not wait to let spirits become more advanced and send them to a later world?

    And since you believe in a literal spirit birth, do you think it is fair that spirits that allegedly were born last had much less time to grow and progress in the premortal spirit world before being sent to their sole chance at a mortal probation? For instance, did the firstborn in you literal spirit birth model have the most time to progress (thus accounting for his Godhood)? If so how is that fair to that last bunch who had the least time to become “noble and great” before being shoved out the Celestial door for their sole mortal probation?

  2. 2 Eric Nielson May 3, 2007 at 7:18 am


    Thanks for reading this and leaving a comment.

    I believe God is all wise in his decision making on this. I would guess that he has seen their progress and knows when it is time for them to move on. Perhaps their progress has reached a plateu (sp?) and will not substantially increase, so, off you go.

    I also believe that the preexistence was a very long time, and as intelligences it had no beginning, so it makes little difference in what sequence one is born since the time is so long. Not much difference between 20 Trillion years and 20 Trillion and 10 years. And with a perfect judge, yes it is fair.

    I believe that Christ being the firstborn and savior was not a coincidence, nore was it systematic of being first in line. I believe he was selected as first born due to his merit as an intelligence.

    I believe all spirits had more than ample time to become noble and great.

  3. 3 Rob osborn May 3, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Personally I believe that predestination to a good or bad home is a flawed doctrine. i do believe that some were forordained to come to certain homes and circumstances with special missions but that is not always the case. A child who is born in any circumstances- good or bad, was at least valiant enough in the pre-earth life to merit him or her to even advance here. To say that i am more of a valiant spirit than my drug using neighbors and their kids is a severe injustice and bias within our church.

    It reminds me of the other part of this story that is not understood,- that of the covenant by blood peoples extending back to Abraham’s time. Black people were never to have had the priesthood and yet they now have it and are treated totally equal. Are we as LDS members gentiles for the most part and have been adopted in? I hear people say within the church that they are of this tribe or another and most do not realize that they have probably been adopted into that house and no actual blood lineage. So does this make the poor mexican indian family (lamanite) moreof a covenant people and thus more valiant of spirit than myself? It all really is a mute point!

    Are the youth saved to come forth at this time? Of course they are because they were probably not prepared to come prior to this time. Our youth are really no different than the youth born in Iran or India. We are all choice in our generation. Is not the worth of souls great in the sight of god? And if so, who is greater? After all god sees the end result and not the inbetween. Will we not all be gods over our dominions in the end? Is that not gods work for his children- to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man? Who then is greater than God? The god before?

  4. 4 Eric Nielson May 3, 2007 at 11:47 am

    Thanks Rob.

    I think you have said some good things. But how then does one explain such different conditions on earth if not either through preexistence merit or a multiple mortal probations cycle as Geoff does?

    I of course believe that our conditions on earth will be taken into account in the judgement, and that anyone can eventually rise above their initial lot in life.

  5. 5 Rob osborn May 3, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    Preexistant merit certainly must play a part but I do not think it is the general rule for everyone. As far as Geoff’s MMP model- I think it is pretty well established that we only get one body (physical). The only way that MMP would ever make sense is if we had to become perfect while in mortality before we could go back home- and who then is becoming perfect? Mortality is mostly about getting a physical body and then learning how to control it. Becoming perfect is a process that does not solely require mortality to do so.

  6. 6 Eric Nielson May 3, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    I think that is a reasonable reply Rob. Thanks.

  7. 7 J. Stapley May 3, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    I think stretching Abraham over our cultural notions of supremacy is, well, something of a stretch. Our telling youth that they are special has been happening for generations, and will continue until the end, most likely because we like tell shmaltzy stories.

    Brigham Young in his office journal talks about how some of the Saints were thinking that prosperity was linked to righteousness, and he was quick to point out the example of Jesus, who had nothing in the ways of prosperity. I’m quite certain that there are many greater and nobler spirits than I who will live and die without the gospel. The reality is that until we actually live up to the Prophet’s goal of Zion, we are wasting all the opportunity that we have. I think it is important to point out that Joseph saw satan as one with a tremendous amount of greatness, and he fell quite far.

    Ultimately, the idea that Mormons are eternally better than their non-Mormon brothers and sisters is a recipe for pride, hate and ultimately disaster.

  8. 8 Matt W. May 3, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    Typically, when the real LDS tell the youth of their value and importance, the do this in the context of the advantages Youth have over the Youth of their time, the Challenges Youth now face as related to the Youth of their time, and finally in relation to the responsibilty the Youth will have in the future to lead the Church. I rarely hear this tied to the elect being reserved for the last day, outside of the folklore perpetuated by lay members…

  9. 9 Eric Nielson May 3, 2007 at 5:16 pm


    Thanks for your comments. I’ll have to look shmaltzy up sometime. I like what you have said, and think you make some great points.

    Yet, theologically speaking what do we say of such a wide range on conditions in mortality? Perhaps appropriately very little or nothing.

    Matt W:

    I think you are generally right. I might have to do a search at and see if any GAs have made recent statements about valient youth being reseved for the last days. I agree that this is mostly a cultural other than doctrinal thing in the church. But I still ask the question of why such different conditions individual spirits can be born in? Is there a better explanation?

  10. 10 Eric Nielson May 3, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    Just to show that I am not making this up, here is a quote from the April 1978 General Conference:

    ‘You young people are among the most valiant, among the cream of all the spirits in the premortal life; and God has reserved you to come forth in these perilous times, the last days, for a divine purpose. The choice spirits coming to earth today were choice in the premortal existence before they came here. The reason they were choice in heaven is that they were obedient, valiant, and lived with exactness’ – George P. Lee of the Seventy

    OK, so maybe George P. Lee is not the best source but it was in conferrence.

  11. 11 J. Stapley May 3, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    I think that asking why a child is born in a war torn nation and doomed to starve to death is similar to asking why god let’s tsunami’s destroy the innocent. But still, I do have at least a hope, that God has given each of his children an excellent opportunity to progress.

  12. 12 Geoff J May 3, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    Eric: I believe that Christ being the firstborn and savior was not a coincidence, nore was it systematic of being first in line. I believe he was selected as first born due to his merit as an intelligence.

    Just out of curiosity: Since there were innumerable inhabited planets that God said he had already created before ours when do you thing Jesus was born spiritually? — Between the last planet and this one or before those innumerable planets were created? And the same question applies to us — do you think we were born spiritually and stayed on the sidelines for the inhabiting all sorts of other planets or do you think we were a brand new batch of spirit children between the last planet and this one?

    Also, it seems to me that you see Jesus as being the first intelligence to get born in a spirit body because he was sort of the #1 draft pick. Well then doesn’t that mean that pick number 20 billion is a relative scrub? Why not wait longer to let that scrub progress as an intelligence before getting this spirit body/mortal body cycle that you envision started?

  13. 13 Mike May 4, 2007 at 3:09 am

    I think any discussion of status in this life being earned or merited by behavior in the previous life needs to keep two things in mind. First, this scripture in John:

    John 9: 1-3
    1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
    2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
    3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

    Second, it is very difficult if not impossible to objectively judge mortal experiences while in mortality and without the perspective that lets us see the end from the beginning like God has.

    I find it humbling and helpful to my capacity for charity to consider that Heavenly Father is probably as likely to send one of his “valiant” ones into a prosperous family as he is to send him or her into very trying circumstances. Who is born where is based on His perfect understanding of the person and the experiences they are to have. Like Christ’s disciples, we are not correct or justified in thinking: “who did sin, this man or his parents that he was born into a family without the gospel.” Or did this man sin (or was less valiant)in that he was born into a war-torn third world country.

    In the spirit of speculative imagination, I imagine spririts in the pre-earth life recieving patriarchal blessings before entering this stage of existence and hearing such things as: “You will be born into trying and difficult circumstances and will witness and experience the horrors contrived by the wickedness that will have its brief triumph in mortality, but these experiences will stretch and refine you until, at the end you will be given a fulness of joy and restored to the loving embrace of your Heavenly Father.” Or “You will be blessed with an abundance of all the mortal world has to offer but, as a result, you will struggle with a littleness of heart and soul that you will need to overcome in order to merit the full blessings reserved for those filled with love as your Father.”

    As I said, pure speculation, but important, I think, in humbly approacing the issue. We are all in this together and need to help each other as much as we can (like Christ did). If there is suffering, we should do all we can to alleviate it and not say to ourselves when we see others suffering: “I’m glad I was valiant in the pre-earth life” becuase we have no idea why one person is born into the circumstances they are.

  14. 14 Eric Nielson May 4, 2007 at 8:39 am

    For some reason my last comment didn’t take….hmmm.


    I agree. None of us really know and proceding with faith and hope is the right attitude.


    The scripture you bring up is quite appropriate, I had thought about it myself. So I gues you take the approach which may say – life is so complex who is to say which life is better, and God works in mysterious ways. This is probably a good approach to this issue. Thanks for your comment.


    The answer to you questions is quite easy:

    I don’t know.

    Maybe a guess or two.

    I might guess Jesus received a spirit body before most, if not all, of the inhabited worlds. ‘The same as has been done on other worlds….’

    I think there may be a mixed bag for the rest of us as to when we received a spirit body.

    Do I think draft pick #20 billion is a relative scrub? Not necessarily. Eternal past is eternal past, the difference in time does not matter it is all eternal. I would guess that when we are drafted we have become all we were ever going to become in that state. So whether or not you are a scrub depended on you not the order you were picked.

  15. 15 Geoff J May 4, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    The problem is now you are playing a shell game with this Eric. First you say Jesus was picked first because he was most valiant. Then you say order of being picked is not due to valiance.

    Then you say that the amount of time to become valiant is moot anyway because it is all eternal before our being drafted — so that leads to the idea that we were as good as we would would ever be anyway which flies in the face of the eternal progression notion. See the problem?

  16. 16 Eric Nielson May 4, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    Well, I’m just guessing Geoff.

    Jesus we the firstborn spirit child, and was the most valiant. I am unsure as to whether or not this is a necessary combination or if it just turned out that way. Bottom line is that I do not believe that he is the most valiant BECAUSE he was first. You seem to want that to be the case. I am more likely to believe he was first because he was the most valiant.

    I do not necessarily believe that subsequent selections as to sequence of spirit birth is in order of merit. It may have been convienient to have Jesus be first, or even necessary. But after that I do not think there would be all that much of necessity or advantage to being second, third or whatever.

    As far as eternal progression, you bring up a good point. It seems that there are times when it is time to move on, determined by God. The final judgement will eventually happen. There will be a point in time where we will stand before God to be judged. Preexistence could not just go on and on and on forever. Eventually is is time to get out of the pool. God decides when that time is.

    So God decides when it is time for us to transition to being spirit children of God. Then God decides when it is time for us to transition to mortality. Then God decides when it is time to be resurrected and judged. There will eventually be a time when it is everlastingly to late, and no more work can be done. I believe that God is calling the shots as to when we make these transitions, and in general terms what conditions we face.

    So with you beliefs in MMP and eternal progression, is there never a final judgement? We can sort of mess around as long as we please? And we just hope to some time fall into the right set of circumstances?

    So back to the post, do you think God determines when and were we are placed on earth? Or is it just random luck? And if God decides, what criteria does he use?

  17. 17 Geoff J May 4, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    Eric: I do not necessarily believe that subsequent selections as to sequence of spirit birth is in order of merit.

    What then? Purely random? A lottery for intelligences? (I mostly want to see if you’ve thought any of this through…)

    Preexistence could not just go on and on and on forever.

    Well, actually, according to our scriptures and doctrine the pre-earth existence did in fact “go on and on and on forever”. That’s what eternal means. That’s what being beginningless entails. So no matter when God chooses to give us our one shot we have already existed forever (in one form or another). Again, I think you are not accounting for these types of difficult details in your models. In fact, I think the concept of literal spirit birth was likely invented in order to avoid these problems of infinite time much in the way that creation ex nihilo does. But Joseph didn’t seem to be nearly as overwhelmed by infinite time as others are — see his ring analogy as an example.

    is there never a final judgement?

    Depends on what you mean by “final”. In one sense — sure there is a final judgment for this earth. But since our scriptures teach that even God can cease to be God nothing is really “final” in that sense is it?

    do you think God determines when and were we are placed on earth?

    Yep — I do think that. And I do think it is likely based on a pre-mortal merit system. I simply think that the merit system you are proposing is totally inadequate to deal with the issue. In other words, without taking seriously the “one eternal round” concept on several levels I don’t think a merit system makes much sense.

  18. 18 Eric Nielson May 4, 2007 at 5:05 pm


    Of course I have not thought it through. Nobody has. Well, I guess God has.

    I do not understand why literal spirit birth would be any different in this model from a symbolic spirit adoption. Ultimately there would be a sequence in either case, no? I think then for this discussion one could ignore whether we are literally born or simply adopted, there is an event of some type that takes place at the spirit level.

    And since our preexistence had an end it was only eternal in one direction. That stage had an end. So it was semi eternal or semi infinite. The point is God decided that that stage was over. So in the sequence of when an intelligence became a child of God (however that occurred) Christ was first. I believe that was based on merit. I do not think it matters what the sequence was after that. Random is as good as any other method. So – poof – my current guess would be random.

    There are difficult details in all models.

    I don’t know that the scriptures really teach that God can cease to be God. I think they use that shocking phrase to show that what they are talking about is an eternal principle and can no more change that God can cease to be God.

    This one eternal round concept you have in mind is basically recycling or reincarnation of some type is it not?

  19. 19 Geoff J May 4, 2007 at 6:24 pm


    First, I would say there are varying levels of thinking this stuff through. So saying no one has besides God isn’t accurate.

    Second, good point about literal spirit birth not being the issue here. The same questions apply to spirit adoption.

    Third, there is a word for “semi-infinite” I think: “Finite”. (But the problems of comprehending the concept of infinity are perhaps another discussion)

    Fourth, when you say Christ was the first spirit child do you mean that he was the first of all spirit children anywhere or that he was first of a certain batch? I’m curious if you think the Father was once a spirit child like Jesus (or like us).

    Fifth, if you don’t buy the idea that God can cease to be God do you also reject the idea that God became God? Joseph said anything that has a beginning at least can have an end (he actually said must have an end but we can stick with can for this one). Also, if it is not even possible for God not to be God then how is his righteousness morally commendable? If he has no choice in the matter why do we look up to him morally?

    Sixth, I do think the eternal recursion model (along with many probations throughout eternity) does best fit Joseph’s teachings. I also think it is the only good way to explain merit-based placement here on earth.

  20. 20 Sally May 5, 2007 at 3:35 am

    “Are we as LDS members gentiles for the most part and have been adopted in? I hear people say within the church that they are of this tribe or another and most do not realize that they have probably been adopted into that house and no actual blood lineage. “

  21. 21 Sally May 5, 2007 at 3:39 am

    “Are we as LDS members gentiles for the most part and have been adopted in? I hear people say within the church that they are of this tribe or another and most do not realize that they have probably been adopted into that house and no actual blood lineage.”
    Sorry – hit the enter button too quick. I listened to a patriarch teach once that for the most part, our lineage is real, not just adopted in. That it is the role of the tribe of Ephraim to prepare the world the for second coming, and it is often people from this tribe who respond to the gospel message – that’s why most LDS are from Ephraim.

  22. 22 Eric Nielson May 5, 2007 at 8:28 am


    Re. First, blah, blah, blah.

    Re. Second, This may be the first good point I have ever made. I will have to remember this one.

    Re. Third, Semi infinite is a concept used frequently in physics and heat transfer. If something is infinite in only one direction it is referred to as semi-infinite. The point which you dismiss is that there was a point in time when God decided we were to move on. There are several such points in time in the plan of salvation. He is able to judge us perfectly.

    Re. Fourth, I am not sure whether Heavenly Father is the first of all the Gods, or part of an ongoing pattern. It does not matter terribly much to me. Whether Christ is the first of all spirits born to God depends on whether Heavely Father is the first of all Gods. I make no guess at this time.

    Re. Fifth, I am not sure whether God can cease to be God or not, I don’t think that is the point of the scriptures when they make such statements. Mostly I believe that God will not cease to be God more than that he can’t. This is one (of many – ok – all) areas that I have not thought all the way through.

    Re. Sixth, Some recycling is an interesting concept. If all of us are eternal, then we will eventually run out of spirits. Another area requiring revelation, and until that, thought.

  23. 23 Eric Nielson May 5, 2007 at 8:31 am


    Welcome to small and simple. Thank you for reading and leaving a comment. Your point about what lineage one is born into is an interesting twist. I suppose that is part of the equation as well. I am not really prepared to address your point.

    Thanks again for your comment.

  24. 24 Brian May 6, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    Well, I come to this late. Why such different fortunes and fates (great song)? If you think addressing this question is hard for us, think of the rest of Christianity that has no concept of post-mortal choice and ministry and who damn that vast majority of earth’s inhabitants simply for being born in the wrong place, time, or family.

    I believe God does strategically place spirits. I don’t believe that more performant pre-existent spirits somehow get an automatic ticket to wealth, peace, and prosperity on this earth. If God is a wise father, one could argue he placed His strongest Spirits to endure the earth’s worst while the weaker of us were placed where we could be milk-fed the gospel to give us a chance to make up for pre-existent lolly gagging.

    I believe our misuse of agency here rather than pre-existent progression creates the inequality and trials lamented in The Larger Bowl and the condition into which Spirits are born. God does not interfere with agency, and if we have chosen evil and still keep having sex and children, then He has no choice but to send spirits here regardless of what they were like in the pre-existence.

    To sum up, if the valiant got to come to the earth into families/nations where the gospel was available, then we would have to conclude that

  25. 25 Brian May 6, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    [got cut off]
    To sum up, if the valiant got to come to the earth into families/nations where the gospel was available, then we would have to conclude that

  26. 26 Brian May 6, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    [got cut off — because I put a lesser than symbol in. Sorry for the repeat post]
    To sum up, if the valiant got to come to the earth into families/nations where the gospel was available, then we would have to conclude that less than 1% of God’s children were valiant in the pre-existence and the rest were lazy losers rounded up to be born during the Dark Ages or in non-religious/non-Christian nations. I can’t buy that.

  27. 27 Geoff J May 6, 2007 at 6:29 pm


    The common assumption is that so-called valiance is graded on a continuum so it is it is a false dichotomy to call only the top 1% valiant and the bottom 99% “lazy losers”.

  28. 28 Eric Nielson May 7, 2007 at 7:06 am


    Thanks for your comments. I think you are right about Mormon Theology having an advantage here, but I am unclear about the details of that theological advantage since I haven’t thought it all through.

    Thanks for the Rush reference. The song is great and very unique for them.

    I also agree with GeoffJ that there is a continuum in there and it is not 1% or nothing.

  29. 29 Brian May 7, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    I agree that there is a continuum of wealth, health, fame, etc. The dichotomous condition is the *opportunity* to hear/accept the fullness of the gospel or the lack thereof. Christ broke down this dichotomy (paradise/hell) in the spirit world, thus creating the ability for all to be equally enlightened regardless of 1st or 2nd estate performance.

    I just can’t imagine it all comes down to some scale like:

    Not Valiant: Born into Darfur slaughterhouse
    Minimally Valiant: Born into a stable communist country
    Kinda Valiant: Born into a buddhist family
    Almost Valiant: Born ino a non practicing Christian family, but a free nation
    Valiant: Born into a Christian family
    Really Valiant: Born into a LDS Family
    Superbly Valiant: Born into a RICH LDS Family with connections

    I think God, as a father, would try to put us each where we could grow or exercise good influence rather than where we “deserved.” I just think the agency of current mortals catastrophically complicates an attempt to do either effectively or fairly for pre-mortals.

  30. 30 Geoff J May 7, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    Superbly Valiant: Born into a RICH LDS Family with connections

    Yikes! That is about the most objectionable thing I’ve read in quite some time…

    Are you for real Brian? Whenever I see something that over-the-top I can’t help but think someone is trying to anonymously punk us…

  31. 31 Geoff J May 7, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    Ohh… you said the “just can’t imagine” that scale is accurate. That makes more sense.

  32. 32 Brian May 8, 2007 at 2:16 am

    Yeah, that ‘t makes all the difference in that post. I suppose I should have uppercased the CAN’T.

  33. 33 Eric Nielson May 8, 2007 at 8:31 am


    I think you have said some interesting things here. If I understand right you are saying that where and when we arrive on earth is based on what will help us most, as determined by God. This is still based on an assesment by God of who we have become as spirits at the time we leave the preexistence. Perhaps then merit is not exactly the right word. What is the right word? What is the criteria?

  34. 34 Brian May 8, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    I think the word would be “need,” His or ours. One part based on Him considering the needs of each individual to progress, the other His need to move a larger work forward to help as many of His children as possible.

    What I am also saying, however, is that since He has allowed us agency to use our procreative powers to determine when spirits come down he simply cannot tailor everyone’s placement as he would like. Thus the paramount importance of promoting families, chastity, and equality of opportunity (among other things).

  35. 35 Eric Nielson May 8, 2007 at 10:39 pm

    That is an interesting spin on chastity and families. Yet there is still some choice on his part at to where to send his spirit children, even if there may be less quality of choices than He would like.

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  36. 37 m&m May 8, 2007 at 11:32 pm

    I haven’t read the whole thread, but here were scriptures that came to mind.

    Alma 13:4-5
    And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.
    Or in fine, in the first place they were on the same standing with their brethren; thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts, being in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared–

    (That doesn’t tell us which spirits end up where, but clearly preexistent spirits could have been on the “same standing” but weren’t due to differing degrees of faith (and/or the lack thereof).

    Luke 12:48
    48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few [stripes]. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
    D&C 82:3
    3 For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.

    If any of us get too comfy with the idea that we were “chosen” before we were born (which is very likely and likely due to premortal faith of some sort — I believe Israel was a chosen people premortally at some level [those verses are worth reading!
    ]), then we ought to be sobered at that thought. Those who are born into a situation where they have little will be judged accordingly. We have a heavy load on our shoulders just by reason of the fact that we have gospel knowledge at all, let alone all else we have living in countries where we have enough to own a computer and mull and muse over topics like this. 🙂

    And the last one was in response to this: Well, actually, according to our scriptures and doctrine the pre-earth existence did in fact “go on and on and on forever”. That’s what eternal means.

    D&C 19:10-12
    For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore–
    Eternal punishment is God’s punishment.
    Endless punishment is God’s punishment.

    We ought not assume that every usage of the word “eternal” means what the dictionary says it means. 🙂

  37. 38 m&m May 8, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    p.s. I think the chosen generation thing is more than cultural. The very repetition by prophets of God suggests to me that it ought to be listened to with a bit of serious consideration.

    Each time I have stood before such a group, there has come into my mind the great and prophetic statement made by Peter of old. Said he: “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (1 Pet. 2:9.)

    I know of no other statement which more aptly describes you, nor which sets before you a higher ideal by which to shape and guide your lives. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “‘A Chosen Generation’,” Ensign, May 1992, 69)

    “You have been told often, and I will say it again: You are a chosen generation,” said Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “You have been raised up by the Lord to carry His Church and kingdom into the 21st century.

    You, the youth of the Church, are a glorious group, a chosen generation. You bring to mind the words penned by the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

    How beautiful is youth! how bright it gleams
    With its illusions, aspirations, dreams!
    Book of Beginnings, Story without End,
    Each maid a heroine, and each man a friend! 1
    Thomas S. Monson, “The Lighthouse of the Lord: A Message to the Youth of the Church,” Ensign, Feb 2001, 2

    David B. Haight: What a wonderful declaration of identity for our youth to ponder—“chosen generation”—“royal priesthood”—“a peculiar people.” While attending a stake conference and having the added blessing of meeting with the young people, some of whom had driven long hours, I learned that several of them were the only Latter-day Saints in their high schools. You are a “chosen generation.” You live “in the world,” but you do not follow worldly trends or habits which are contrary to your beliefs.

    And from Pres. Packer: “We notice, as we travel about the Church, that our young people are stronger than heretofore. When I hear them speak in conferences and in sacrament meeting, I hear them quote the scriptures, and I hear them protecting the standards. I do not hear the cynical mocking that is typical of those who are not faithful and not truly converted.”

    Just a few quotes to chew on. 🙂

  38. 39 Eric Nielson May 9, 2007 at 7:06 am

    Thanks Michelle. You are kinda like a topical guide. I do think there is something to all this, and your quotes validate that quite well.

  39. 40 Eric Nielson May 9, 2007 at 8:28 am

    I also thought about the parable of the talents. The servants were given talents according to their abilities. The important thing was what they did with the talents, but the talents they were given were based on an assesment of their ability.

  40. 41 Sean Peterson May 9, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    Eric: “The point which you dismiss is that there was a point in time when God decided we were to move on. There are several such points in time in the plan of salvation. He is able to judge us perfectly.”

    [I don’t know how to do the italics – maybe someone can give me a Blogging 101 lesson.]

    I’ll admit I haven’t soaked up all the previous posts, so forgive me if I repeat something. Anyway, I philosophically disagree with the above statement. God is not bound to “points in time”. He exists in a higher continuum. I like the analogy of the book. We live in the book of mortality, and we are bound by a fixed linear timeline. Not so with God. All things are before him, past, present and future. He can flip open to any page in the book. For all we know, we may have all come to the earth at the same instant in his eternal “point in time”, but each to a different page. This analogy should help widen our thinking in many regards (creation of the universe, creating other worlds, placement of his children, mysteries of astronomy, etc.)

    Secondly, agency is an eternal principle. We had our agency in the pre-mortal life. We have it today. There are ALWAYS consequences to our choices, whether in this life or the previous or the next. There is no such thing as agency without accountability. Whether we are reaping the rewards or punishments in this life for choices made in the past life doesn’t much matter. In the end, all things will be made right by a just and merciful God. It’s what we are doing in our own little here and now that should matters the most.

    Thirdly, many are called but few are chosen. The “called” could refer to a lot of things. In a general sense, all who were sent to the earth were called to do so for keeping our first estate. Now, in the second estate, we make choices to either be “chosen” or not. Back to agency.

  41. 42 Eric Nielson May 10, 2007 at 8:35 am


    I am not saying that God is bound by time, but the preexistence is over for us. It had an end. God made the decision (I assume) to end our preexistence and send us on to mortality. There will also come a time, I believe, when we will be brought to stand before God and be judged by our works. At this time, for some, it will be everlastingly to late. The probation will be over. So while God may not be bound by time, time does progress. There are real sequences that begin and end.

    So if God can open the book to any page, fine. But we can’t (at least I can’t). I can’t go back to the preexistence and try again. And I believe there will be a time when I can not go back to mortality and try again. Even if I want to.

  42. 43 Geoff J May 10, 2007 at 4:26 pm


    Just a note on terminology: Technically there is no such thing as “pre-existence” according to Joseph Smith. He believed we have always existed. Certainly we teach that we all had a pre-earth existence though.

  43. 44 Eric Nielson May 10, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    Geez Geoff. Pick, pick, pick.

  44. 45 Geoff J May 10, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Heh. I thought you engineer types liked a measure of precision…

  45. 46 Eric Nielson May 11, 2007 at 7:01 am

    Balanced with practicality.

  46. 47 Sean Peterson May 11, 2007 at 12:42 pm

    I agree.

    I’m also still waiting for someone to tell me how to make “italics”.


  47. 48 Eric Nielson May 11, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    I am no expert with this, but I believe it is a , you would then type your text and finish the italics with a

    I don’t know if those tags will come through the comment or not.

  48. 49 Eric Nielson May 11, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    It didn’t take. I’ll send you an email of how to do it.

  49. 50 Sean Peterson May 14, 2007 at 10:43 am


  50. 51 Robert July 8, 2007 at 5:08 am

    “I have long believed that our mortal life on earth is a continuation of our preexistence, and that in at least general terms our conditions on earth are based on our progress in the preexistence. This belief assumes that God is deciding where, and when we come to earth. It also assumes that there is some merit involved in that decision.”

    This, in turn, would make this Earthly existence a
    preexistence, in a manner of speaking; the ‘next life’ in whatever realm we move on to being a reflection of the progress we made ‘here’.

    If we are looking at it from an exclusively ‘outer determinant’ point of view – then it would be Heavenly Father making the determination for us. However, perhaps it’s more of a ‘mutual’ decision based on many factors that will determine where we go and when? In other words, it takes all of the ‘manifested beings’ involved in ‘the thing’ for something to occur….or so I would think. 🙂

  51. 52 Eric Nielson July 9, 2007 at 7:05 am

    Good point. Thanks again.

  52. 53 Mark Hansen August 19, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Hey, interesting reading.

    A long time ago, I blogged about a similar thought.

    My basic idea is that God assigns us to come to earth at the right time and the right place for us. He then expects us to work with what he gives us. So, we will each be judged based on how well we report back with our one, five, or ten talents.


  53. 54 Eric Nielson August 20, 2007 at 8:40 am

    Thanks for the comment and the link Mark. I do think that the parable of the talents holds some keys to understanding this issue.

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