Plan of Salvation (Chronological)
A Mormon's journey to godhood begins in premortality. This is also called pre-existence, or our first estate. Mormonism teaches that all people begin existence as spirit beings that are procreated by Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, making them the literal children of their god. Their mother may be one of possibly many wives of Heavenly Father. (Mormonism espouses the practice of polygamy. Its practice in the United States has been forbidden by the LDS church because it is against the laws of the nation. However, Mormon doctrine still endorses it as a belief. One thought expressed by some Mormons is: "God could hardly populate the earth with only one wife.")
Mormons often express surprise when told that Christians do not believe in existence as a spirit before conception. As pointed out earlier, many Mormons do not know what Christians believe; many have never heard, or understood, the words of God's true gospel.
The topic of premortality usually raises more questions than answers. However this does not seem to faze Mormons who limit their concerns about pre-existence primarily to two subjects, spirit children and pre-existence worthiness.
Key concepts concerning spirit children include:
- Spirit children are the literal offspring of heavenly parents.
- These children are raised to maturity before being born on earth.
Man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansion of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal (physical) body. 13
- Every being started this same way: all angels, demons, humans, even Jesus and Satan.
- Spirits grow, learn, make choices, and live much like people on earth, only without physical bodies and without the ability to do those things that would require a physical body (like eat or drink).
What are we like as spirits? (We do not have bodies of flesh and bones, but our spirit bodies are in the same form as the physical bodies we will have on earth.) As spirits, what can we do? (As spirits, we are able to move about, talk, listen, think, learn, make choices, and prepare for earthly life.) 14
- Spirits are in the presence of Heavenly Father and are taught by him.
- The belief that they are their god's literal offspring reinforces the belief that they posses his divine nature, are inclined to do good and can progress to become like their father.
MEN ARE GODS IN EMBRYO Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of our earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages of aeons, of evolving into a God. [Improvement Era, November 1909, p. 81] 15
One popular Mormon saying is "return with honor". This saying refers to the focus on earth of becoming worthy enough to return to Heavenly Father with honor. This preeminent focus on worthiness takes front stage away from the humility the God of Christianity commands and patterns in Jesus' life. This concept was clearly articulated by David in his song of praise:
You save the humble,
but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.
2 Samuel 22:27
While one may honor a humble man, a humble man does not, if he is truly humble, seek honor!
It is not good to eat too much honey,
nor is it honorable to seek one’s own honor.
Mormons are taught that their focus on worthiness began in pre-existence. Key concepts concerning pre-existence worthiness include:
- Spirit children begin their progression towards godhood in the pre-existence, demonstrating their worthiness.
- This worthiness is evaluated by the Father.
During the ages in which we dwelt in the premortal state we not only developed our various characteristics and showed our worthiness and ability, or lack of it, but we were also where such progress could be observed. . . 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. 16
- Being born on earth is proof that one had demonstrated worthiness by not following Satan
Because we are here on earth and have mortal bodies we know that we chose to follow Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father . . . In our pre-mortal life, we chose the right. We must continue to choose the right here on earth. 17
- Further proof of one's pre-existence worthiness is demonstrated in being born to a Mormon family.
This election to a chosen lineage is based on preexistence worthiness and is made 'according to the foreknowledge of God.'" 18
- This "proof" of pre-existence worthiness is used as a snare in Mormonism to entrap people. It is stressed that they must have worked hard in the pre-existence and have already come far in their progression; therefore it would be foolish to abandon all this by leaving the church or becoming inactive.
It is important to look deeper into the Mormon teaching concerning the choice to follow Jesus and not Satan. Mormonism teaches that in the pre-existent world, Heavenly Father called a Grand Council to present his plan of salvation to all his spirit children. Once the earth was created, he would need somebody to come and show people how to return to him. Jesus and his brother, Lucifer, both volunteered, but Lucifer wanted to change the plan. He wanted to take away people's agency, the right to choose. He wanted all the honor by doing everything for mankind and forcing them to do his will. Jesus agreed with Heavenly Father and said mankind had to prove their worthiness for exaltation through the wise use of their agency and following Heavenly Father's commands. This would give the honor to the Father. Heavenly Father choose Jesus. Lucifer became angry and rebelled, with the result that he and his followers were cast out of heaven after fighting a war against Jesus and his followers. Everyone who followed Satan became demons and will never receive a physical body, effectively preventing them from being able to gain exaltation. Jesus' followers remained in heaven as spirit children. Our presence on earth therefore validates that we "chose the right" in pre-existence by following Jesus and not Lucifer.
"Choose the right" is another popular Mormon saying. This saying is displayed on necklaces, bracelets, pins, stickers, and rings; often as the initials 'C' - 'T' - 'R'. This jewelry has taken the place of a Christian's display of the cross. This is an accurate and visible depiction of the core difference between Mormonism and Christianity. Mormonism: "choose the right" - focuses on man and his own works to gain eternal life for himself. Christianity: "the cross" - focuses on God and his sacrificial and substitutionary work to gain eternal life for his children.
To summarize, pre-existence is important to Mormons for two reasons:
- On the basis of their being spirit children of God, they find an explanation of why they can attain godhood. As God's children, they are "gods in embryo" with the potential to attain godhood.
- On the basis of their pre-existence worthiness, they believe they have already made good progress towards exaltation. This, then, encourages them to continue on that path during their days of mortality.