Beliefs About Creation

Main Idea: While the scriptures don’t tell us much about how God created the earth, they do outline general principles concerning the purpose and origin of the earth.  The earth was created by Jesus, under the direction of the Father, to fulfill the plan of salvation designed to advance the development of God’s children.  

1. The Purpose of the Creation

Through modern revelation, we learn that the ultimate purpose of the creation of this earth was to fulfill the Plan of Salvation that God had outlined in the pre-mortal council in heaven. The Plan of Salvation is a plan for granting immortality and eternal life to those who would comply with that plan.  In Moses 1: 39 we learn of God’s major purpose: “For behold, this is my work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”  

Immortality refers to the quantity of the afterlife while eternal life refers to the quality of that after life.  The sacrifice of Jesus ensured that all would have immortality and live forever (quantity).  However, not all of God’s children will inherit eternal life but only those who obey God’s commandments. (D&C 59:23) 

2. Jesus created all things under the direction of the Father

In the Gospel of John, we learn that all things were created by Jesus under the direction of the Father.  Paul also taught this truth to the Ephesians when he wrote: “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.” (Eph 3:9)

Paul further taught the Corinthians that all things owe their existence to Christ:  “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Col 1: 16-17)

And finally, Paul taught this doctrine yet again to the Hebrews when he wrote: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” (Hebrews 1: 1-2)

Joseph Fielding Smith also taught the doctrine that Adam and other great souls helped Jesus create this earth.  He wrote: “Adam helped to form this earth. He labored with our Savior Jesus Christ. I have a strong … conviction that there were others also who assisted them. Perhaps Noah and Enoch; and why not Joseph Smith, and those who were appointed to be rulers before the earth was formed?” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:75.)

3. The History of the Earth was foreseen and preordained. This is one earth amongst many of God’s creations.

The history of man on this earth was planned and foreseen by God.  In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord teaches us that the seven seals in Revelation represent the seven 1000 year periods that were planned by God.  D&C 77: 6-7 records: What are we to understand by the book which John saw, which was sealed on the back with seven seals? We are to understand that it contains the revealed will, mysteries, and the works of God; the hidden things of his economy concerning this earth during the seven thousand years of its continuance, or its temporal existence. Q. What are we to understand by the seven seals with which it was sealed? We are to understand that the first seal contains the things of the first thousand years, and the second also of the second thousand years, and so on until the seventh.” (D&C 77:6-7)

Modern revelation confirms that Jesus created many worlds.  In the Pearl of Great price we learn that Jesus created so many worlds they can’t be counted: “Worlds without number have I created; … and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten” (Moses 1:33).

In D&C 88 we learn of the Parable of the Laborers in the field which teaches us about the many worlds that Jesus created.  In this parable, a master sends out 12 servants into the field and says he will visit each one at the appointed hour with the joy of His countenance. The master then visits them all during the hour they were appointed to serve but then withdraws and moves on to the next when the hour ends. This is done so that all will be glorified together eventually.

Hyrum L. Andus, explains what this parable means: “In this parable, the field represents the universe with twelve servants in twelve different areas representing twelve inhabited planets of our universe. Our earth is one of these twelve worlds.  That is, each kingdom, or planet, and the inhabitants thereof, were blessed with the visits and presence of their Creator, in their several times and seasons….Two points in the above parable seem to indicate that the worlds which Christ is depicted as visiting are temporal spheres in need of redemption to glory: First, He visits these spheres that He might be glorified in the inhabitants thereof, and that they might be glorified in Him. It appears, therefore, that these worlds and their inhabitants are passing through a mortal state at the time of His visitation and are not at that time glorified. The fact that He visits them to extend the power of His glory unto them indicates that His atonement operates in their behalf, for it is only on the basis of the atonement that man is glorified in Christ.  “The second point of evidence that these are temporal spheres is that Christ is portrayed as withdrawing from one sphere in order to visit the next.” (Hyrum L. Andus, God, Man and the Universe)

4. The Heavens and all of Creation testify of the Creator God and His love for us.

The Psalmist wrote: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.” (Psalms 19:1)  The scriptures also teach us that everything on the earth was created to satisfy our needs and testify of the love God has for us. In D&C 59: 18-19 it is written: “Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.” 

Even though God’s creations are many, He knows and loves them all.He said, “All things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them” (Moses 1:35).

5. The Process of Creation

A.) The earth was first created spiritually before it was physically created. 

 Joseph Fielding Smith said: “The account of the creation of the earth as given in Genesis, and the Book of Moses, and as given in the temple, is the Creation of the physical earth, and of physical animals and plants. … There is no account of the Creation of man or other forms of life when they were created as spirits.” (Doctrines of Salvation,3 vols., comp. Bruce R. McConkie, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 1:75.)

B.)   God created everything on the earth and then created man in his own image to rule over the earth. 

In the first chapter of Genesis, we learn that the earth was created by God for those He made in His image to rule over.  “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.  And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”  (Gen 1-2)

C.)   God created the earth out of pre-existing materials and not ex nihilo.

While many Christian sects believe that God created the earth out of nothing (ex nihilo) but modern revelation reveals that God used pre-existing materials to create the earth.  Keith Meservy explains:

“Many Christian writers have defined the Creation as creation from nothing but the book of Abraham clarifies that God “organized” the worlds out of unorganized matter. To those who were with him, God said, “We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell.” (Abr. 3:24.) And since all life came from the earth’s elements, all things came from existing material. This insight in no way diminishes the significance of the Lord’s creation, but rather gives us a glimpse into the nature of eternal law.” (Keith Meservy-Four Accounts of the Creation, Ensign Jan. 1986)

Richard R. Hopkins further explains that the original Hebrew translation supports the account in Abraham.  He says:  

“The word translated “formless”  or “without form”, is tohu, which means “a ruin,” or “that which is wasted, laid waste. Scientists who claim that dinosaurs were wiped off the face of the earth when the sea was partially vaporized by a great asteroid hitting the earth millions of years ago may find some vindication of their theory in this description.  What appears is that this planet has had a longer history than that given in the Old Testament, and the creation account clearly describes work done on pre-existing materials.  The beginning of the existence of the world, does not imply the beginning of the existence of matter.  The Book of Job speaks of the morning stars singing together and the sons of God shouting for joy when the “cornerstone” was laid for the “foundations of the earth” (Job 38:4-7)  This passage gives the impression that the universe, at the time of the earth’s beginning, was widely inhabited with a variety of life and matter.  The Bible does not teach creation ex nihilo.” (Richard R. Hopkins-How Greek Philosophy Corrupted Christianity)

D.)   The earth was created in “time periods” not “days.”

The account of the creation is not scientific but is simply designed to teach general principles.  Robert J. Woodford explains: “In the book of Abraham, the phases of creation are not called the “day” (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13) but “the second time,” “the third time” (Abr. 4:8, 13; emphasis added), and so forth. We therefore learn that periods of time for the Creation may have lasted 24 hours each, 1,000 years, or even millions of years. The periods of time are indeterminate in length; as one phase of the creation was finished, the next began. Therefore the age of the earth before Adam and Eve could have been great indeed. (Robert J. Woodford-In the Beginning, a Latter Day Perspective, Ensign, Jan. 1998)

E.)    God simply spoke to achieve the creation.

In describing how the Creation was accomplished, the scriptures teach us that God spoke and the work was done  (Moses 2:3, 5–6, 9).  We know that Jesus created the earth under the direction of the Father, so God’s words may have been directions to Jesus and those other “noble and great ones” who helped prepare the earth.  

6. The Order of Creation

In the 1982 Ensign Article called: “Christ and the Creation” the order of creation is laid out for us.  The following is a summary of that article: 

A.)  The First Day- Day and Night.

“Elohim, Jehovah, Michael, a host of noble and great ones—all these played their parts. “The Gods” created the atmospheric heavens and the temporal earth. It was “without form, and void”; as yet it could serve no useful purpose with respect to the salvation of man. It was “empty and desolate”; life could not yet exist on its surface; it was not yet a fit abiding place for those sons of God who shouted for joy at the prospect of a mortal probation. The “waters” of the great “deep” were present, and “darkness reigned” until the divine decree: “Let there be light.” The light and the darkness were then “divided,” the one being called “Day” and the other “Night.” Clearly our planet was thus formed as a revolving orb and placed in its relationship to our sun. (See Moses 2:1–5; Abr. 4:1–5.) (Christ and the Creation, Ensign, Jun. 1982)

B.)  The Second Day- Sky created and water separated from oceans to sky.

On this day “the waters” were “divided” between the surface of the earth and the atmospheric heavens that surround it. A “firmament” or an “expanse” called “Heaven” was created to divide “the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse.” Thus, as the creative events unfold, provision seems to be made for clouds and rain and storms to give life to that which will yet grow and dwell upon the earth. (See Moses 2:6–8; Abr. 4:6–8.) (Christ and the Creation, Ensign, Jun. 1982)

C.)  The Third Day- Dry land, plants and vegetables.

This is the day when life began. In it “the waters under the heaven” were “gathered together unto one place,” and the “dry land” appeared. The dry land was called “Earth,” and the assembled waters became “the Sea.” This is the day in which “the Gods organized the earth to bring forth” grass and herbs and plants and trees; and it is the day in which vegetation in all its varied forms actually came forth from the seeds planted by the Creators. This is the day when the decree went forth that grass, herbs, and trees could each grow only from “its own seed,” and that each could in turn bring forth only after its own “kind.” And thus the bounds of the plant and vegetable kingdoms were set by the hands of those by whom each varied plant and tree was made. (See Moses 2:9–13; Abr. 4:9–13.) (Christ and the Creation, Ensign, Jun. 1982)

D.) The Fourth Day- Days and Seasons created

They then “organized the lights in the expanse of the heaven” so there would be “seasons” and a way of measuring “days” and “years.” We have no way of knowing what changes then took place in either the atmospheric or the sidereal heavens, but during this period the sun, moon, and stars assumed the relationship to the earth that now is theirs. At least the light of each of them began to shine through the lifting hazes that enshrouded the newly created earth so they could play their parts with reference to life in all its forms as it soon would be upon the new orb. (See Moses 2:14–19; Abr. 4:14–19.) (Christ and the Creation, Ensign, Jun. 1982)

E.)  The Fifth day- ocean life and birds.

Next came fish and fowl and “every living creature” whose abode is “the waters.” Their Creators placed them on the newly organized earth, and they were given the command: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the sea; and let fowl multiply in the earth.” This command—as with a similar decree given to man and applicable to all animal life—they could not then keep, but they soon would be able to do so. Appended to this command to multiply was the heaven-sent restriction that the creatures in the waters could only bring forth “after their kind,” and that “every winged fowl” could only bring forth “after his kind.” There was no provision for evolvement or change from one species to another. (See Moses 2:20–23; Abr. 4:20–23.) (Christ and the Creation, Ensign, Jun. 1982)

F.)  The Sixth day- beasts and then man.

The crowning day of creation is at hand. In its early hours, the great Creators “made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and cattle after their kind, and everything which creepeth upon the earth after his kind.  And, then, finally, that his purposes shall roll everlastingly onward, God blesses the “male and female” whom he has created and commands them: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” As the “sixth day” closes, the Creators, viewing their creative labors with satisfaction, see that “all things” which they have “made “are “very good.” (See Moses 2:24–31; Abr. 4:24–31.) (Christ and the Creation, Ensign, Jun. 1982)

G.) The Seventh Day- The Lord Rests.

The Lord then rests on the “seventh day.” (See Moses 3:1–3.) (Christ and the Creation, Ensign, Jun. 1982)


The  Four Accounts of the Creation

1. The Genesis Account (Gen. 1–2). This is the common account shared by all Bible readers. Latter-day Saints regard it as the remnant of an account originally given to Moses.

2. The Book of Moses Account (Moses 1–3; JST, Gen. 1–2). After Joseph Smith had translated the Book of Mormon and learned that many plain and precious truths had been taken from the Bible, the Lord commanded him to “translate” the Bible. In doing so, he used neither Hebrew nor Greek documents but drew upon revelation and inspiration as the source of the text. Moses had been shown a vision depicting something of the breadth and depth of the Lord’s creations. When Moses asked for more information about the origin of this earth, the Lord responded: “Moses … I will speak unto thee concerning this earth; … write the things which I shall speak.” (Moses 1:40; italics added.) Moses then wrote his account, which is the basis for the account appearing in the Joseph Smith Translation (JST, sometimes called the Inspired Version).The text now known as the Book of Moses was extracted from the Joseph Smith Translation and published in the Pearl of Great Price in 1851. (Keith Meservy-Four Accounts of the Creation, Ensign Jan. 1986)

3. The Book of Abraham Account (Abr. 3–5). This account was recorded by Abraham. A form of it was discovered in an Egyptian tomb and later sold to the Latter-day Saints. By revelation, the Prophet Joseph Smith produced the text of the Book of Abraham and published it in the Times and Seasons. In 1851 it was reprinted in the first edition of the Pearl of Great Price. (Keith Meservy-Four Accounts of the Creation, Ensign Jan. 1986)

4. The Temple Account. Using the power of drama and group participation, this account teaches, so far as possible within the limits of dramatic structure, the various steps involved in the Creation, the sequence of events, and the roles of those involved. (Keith Meservy, “Four Accounts of the Creation,” Ensign, Jan. 1986, 50)


Common Maladaptive Beliefs

  • Any belief that denies Jesus Christ as the creator of the earth and all things in it.
  • Any belief that denies that the history of the world was foreseen and preordained by God.
  • Any belief that dismisses the account of the Fall and how death and sin came into the world.

Enhancing Moral Agency

Main Idea: While Moral agency cannot be taken from us, our freedom to act on our desires is often limited by the conditions of mortality.  God will take into account all of the ways our freedom was limited in His final judgment of our lives. However, we can choose to act now to enhance our freedom in the future.

1. Moral Agency is distinct from Freedom

President Dallin H. Oaks gave a great talk titled “Free Agency and Freedom” in which he distinguishes between these two related concepts.

President Oaks defines agency as “the power to choose” while defining freedom as “the power to carry out those choices.” 

With this distinction, President Oaks teaches that moral agency cannot be infringed upon by external sources but our freedom to act can be.  He says: 

“First, because free agency is a God-given precondition to the purpose of mortal life, no person or organization can take away our free agency in mortality. Second, what can be taken away or reduced by the conditions of mortality is our freedom, the power to act upon our choices. Free agency is absolute, but in the circumstances of mortality freedom is always qualified.”

President Oaks says that our freedom can be limited in three ways: “ (1) by physical laws, including the physical limitations with which we are born, (2) by our own actions, and (3) by the actions of others, including governments.” 

President Oaks teaches us that we are all born with inherited deficiencies that limit our freedom or “thorns in the flesh” as the scriptures call them.  However, he suggests that those thorns in the flesh do not restrict our moral agency. 

He says: “As Lehi taught, in mortality we are only free “according to the flesh” (2 Nephi 2:27). Most of us are born with thorns in the flesh, some more visible, some more serious than others. We all seem to have susceptibilities to one disorder or another, but whatever our susceptibilities, we have the will and the power to control our thoughts and our actions. This must be so. God has said that he holds us accountable for what we do and what we think, so our thoughts and actions must be controllable by our agency. Whatever our susceptibilities or tendencies, they cannot subject us to eternal consequences unless we exercise our free agency to do or think the things forbidden by the commandments of God. For example, a susceptibility to alcoholism impairs its victim’s freedom to partake without addiction, but his free agency allows him to abstain and thus escape the physical debilitation of alcohol and the spiritual deterioration of addiction.”

The next principle President Oaks teaches us is that we may lack the freedom to control outcomes so we should focus on the processes that lead to outcomes.  For example, while you can’t control how someone will respond to what you say (outcome), you can control what you say (process).

President Oaks says: “Happy people do their part, do their best, then let go and let God do the rest. They do what they can within their circle of influence.” 

He then endorses the attitude displayed in what is often called the “serenity prayer” which says: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Jeffry Larson, in a talk titled “What do you expect” outlined what is called a “process orientation to life.”  To have a process-orientation to life means you focus more on processes than on outcomes for evaluating things in your life.  For example, you may have done your best for a job interview and still not gotten the job.  You can focus on the process and be satisfied with your preparation or the outcome which is out of your control.  Focus on what you can control (process) and not on what you cannot control (outcome) and then you will achieve Serenity. 

2. God will take forces that limit freedom into account in judgment. 

James E. Talmage, in his book “Jesus the Christ” taught that God’s judgment would take into account all of the countless variables that might be affecting our ability to make choices in life. 

Further commenting on this principle, latter day saint psychologist Allen Bergin said: “Under-control may follow from cultural norms such as are found in some tribal customs and in the codes of slum street gangs. It may arise from biological defects such as brain damage or hormonal disorders; it may emerge from a particularly traumatic childhood; or it may derive from the consistently bad choices made by otherwise normal individuals. The degree of personal responsibility for actions thus varies in terms of internal and external conditions impinging upon the person.” (Allen Bergin-Towards a theory of free agency)

Bergin also argues that Satan’s plan was a real possibility which means that the loss of agency is a real possibility and should not be taken for granted.  He says: “Further evidence that agency can theoretically be entirely lost is that Satan’s plan was a real possibility. This must mean that under the right conditions it is possible to totally control human behavior. We know that men can come under the bondage of sin if they choose evil. To the extent that they do they are under Satan’s power, and his plan is implemented to that degree, albeit in the opposite direction of his original proposal.” (Allen Bergin-Towards a theory of free agency)

The following is a list of just some of the variables that may diminish and enhance our capacity to choose:

  1. Genetics: Modern science has revealed that many of our behaviors are more genetically influenced than we may have thought in the past.  The human being is definitely not a “blank slate” that experience writes upon.

  2. Environment: While we are not a blank slate (Tabula Rasa) our experiences do influence our behavior as well.  Since we all have different experiences, we can’t compare ourselves to each other.  The psychologist Jordan Peterson has argued that once you reach adulthood the combination of your genetics and experiences is so unique that comparisons to others is not helpful.  This is why you should only compare yourself today to how you were yesterday instead of making false comparisons with others.   The frequency, intensity, duration and number of idiosyncratic environmental stressors impinging upon a person at any given time affects the capacity to choose. 

  3. Quality of Upbringing: The scriptures teach us that if parents do not teach their children the gospel then the sins of those children are upon the parents. We can deduce from this that our agency can be diminished by what we learn in childhood. (D&C 68:25) 

    The scriptures further teach that the sins of the parents can stretch across generations because of the quality of their upbringing.  Deuteronomy 5:9: teaches: “. . . for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”  This simply means that sin in one generation tends to spread to further generations. 

  4. Depth and Breadth of Knowledge: As individuals, we all have different degrees of knowledge.  The more we understand (breadth) and the more sophisticated our understanding of certain principles (depth) the more accountable we are. This is why we are less accountable for bad behavior in our youth than when we are older.
    Ignorance is a real impediment to choice. For example, if I don’t know how to perform surgery then my range of choices for dealing with severe injury are limited.  Education is the difference between wanting to help others and being able to do so.  Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught:

    “Too many fall into unanticipated traps and unhappiness because they either lack or ignore the gospel light. They are unaware of their options or are confused about the outcomes of their choices. Ignorance effectively limits their agency.” (Moral Agency- D. Todd Christofferson)

  5. Reinforcement History: Your reinforcement history refers to what you have been rewarded or punished for in the past.  Behaviors that have been rewarded are more likely to be repeated.  We call this “conditioning” as past rewards “condition” us to act in certain ways in the present automatically. 

  6. Mental health disorders:  Mood disorders, addictions and traumas are just some of the mental health problems that can interfere with our capacity to choose.  These disorders bias our information processing system and sensitize the nervous system to respond differently than people without these disorders. 

  7. Cultural Values and Practices: The Prophet Alma taught that God gives each nation different portions of his truth.  He said: “For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have. 

    Paul similarly taught the Romans that God judges people based on the amount of His law they have recieved: “For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law” (Rom. 2:12). 

  8. Unconscious Habits: The body is designed to be efficient and consciousness is a mechanism for turning deliberate behaviors into automatic behaviors. This means that a person is controlled by their past decisions which become habits automatically enacted by the unconscious when the appropriate environmental trigger appears.

  9. Time:  The further into the future one goes the more choice on has. One may therefore be excused for bad behavior in the present but not excused for bad behavior in the future.  Habits also take time to break as we have little control over them in the short-term but more control over the long-term.

  10. Sin:  The prophet Alma taught that when we sin we lose light and knowledge until we become ignorant of God.  This ignorance fuels further sin in a vicious cycle he termed “The Chains of Hell.”   “And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction.” (Alma 12:11) 

    Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught that the chains of hell refer to the process by which Satan destroys the agency of those who follow him.  He taught: “Satan has not ceased his effort “to destroy the agency of man.” He promotes conduct and choices that limit a person’s freedom to choose by replacing the influence of the Holy Spirit with his own domination. Yielding to his temptations leads to a narrower and narrower range of choices until none remain and to addictions that leave one powerless to resist. While Satan cannot actually destroy law and truth, he accomplishes the same result in the lives of those who heed him by convincing them that whatever they think is right is right and that there is no ultimate truth—every man is his own god, and there is no sin.” (Moral Agency- D. Todd Christofferson)

  11. Physiology: We know that the brain and body have a limited amount of resources to use each day in responding to environmental demands.  When you are physically or mentally exhausted your capacity to choose is diminished.  The more tired you are the more your brain begins to shut down and you can lose inhibitory control. 

  12. Psychological Variables: Our beliefs and behaviors either enhance or diminish our agency.  Believing or disbelieving in agency can both become self-fulfilling prophecies.  If you believe you are helpless and out of control then you act in ways to confirm that belief.  This belief is at the core of many addictions and relapses.  The “abstinence violation effect” refers to the belief that change is impossible after a lapse occurs.  This belief becomes self-fulfilling and fuels the addiction. 

    Other psychological variables include: personality, core values, core beliefs, stage of development, self-concept, life narrative, self-esteem and self efficacy, needs hierarchy and predisposed moral intuitions.
  13. Character Deficits (Vices): A vice is a character weakness that impedes our ability to successfully adapt to our environment. The major vices include: Foolishness, Hatred, Injustice, Cowardice, Ignorance and Indulgence. Each of these character traits makes life more difficult for both yourself and those around you and limits your agency to some extent. 

2. God destroys civilizations so that freedom in successive generations can be preserved. 

Since we know that agency can not only be diminished, but also entirely lost when a culture becomes corrupted or “ripened in iniquity” we can then understand why God’s judgment comes upon certain nations.  The psychologist Allen Bergin argues:

“In reply to the question of why God has caused civilizations to be destroyed, it may be asserted that the Lord’s actions were acts of mercy in that these nations or peoples had become so wicked that the children growing up among them had no possibility of developing true agency. Their only opportunity was to choose evil and perpetuate it; therefore, they were destroyed.” (Allen Bergin-Towards a theory of free agency)

We can use our capacity to choose in the present to enhance our capacity to choose in the future.  The following is a list of ways that we can enhance our agency: 

3. Freedom can be enhanced using different strategies

  1. Genetics: When we become aware of the extent to which genetics influence our personality and behavior we can make deliberate efforts to correct for those tendencies, if we desire. 

  2. Environment: Our capacity to choose can be enhanced by deliberately structuring our environment so that temptations are not present. Clean, orderly and peaceful environments enhance our capacity to choose while chaotic environments overwhelm us. 

  3. Quality of Upbringing: While we cannot control the quality of our upbringing, we can do our best to correct the beliefs and behaviors that were instilled within us that we do not like. Modern research has revealed that early trauma can sensitize the nervous system so that it is highly reactive to stress in the future.  We can become aware of this sensitivity and deliberately try to desensitize the nervous system.  

  4. Depth and Breadth of Knowledge: We can choose to educate ourselves by studying a wide range of perspectives on uncertain topics. We can also increase the depth of understanding we have of certain subjects which gives us insight and understanding.  Cognitive restructuring is the process of becoming aware of our beliefs, the reasons why we believe what we do, the consequences of those beliefs and examining alternatives.  

  5. Reinforcement History: Your reinforcement history refers to what you have been rewarded or punished for in the past. You can find alternative ways to get the rewards that your current unhealthy behaviors are yielding. You can also find ways to reward yourself or deliberately notice the natural rewards of desirable behaviors. 

  6. Mental health disorders:  Just as you would seek the help of a physician to treat an illness, you can seek the help of a therapist to treat a mental illness. Even if a mental illness is primarily genetic it can learn to be managed through cognitive and behavioral interventions.

  7. Cultural Values and Practices: You can become aware of the beliefs and behaviors that your culture and sub-cultures have ingrained within you and be deliberate about which ones to keep and which ones to change. You can choose to leave certain sub-cultures and join other ones based on what values you would like to instill within yourself. 

  8. Unconscious Habits: Since the unconscious controls the vast majority of your behaviors, you need to use your conscious brain as a quality control mechanism and make changes where necessary.  Deliberately analyze how you automatically act and then give yourself time to retrain the unconscious to automatically perform helpful behaviors.

  9. Time:  The further into the future one goes the more choice on has.   Habits also take time to break as we have little control over them in the short-term but more control over the long-term.  Use time as a resource to enact changes in your life.  Set goals with realistic timelines for change so that you are not discouraged.  Eliminate any naive beliefs you may have about being able to change instantly. 

  10. Repentance:  If there are any sins that you have not repented of then start the repentance process today so that you might loose yourself from the chains of hell.  If you do not repent then you will slowly lose more of your agency over time until you become ignorant of God and lose the capacity to choose good.  Repentance is the primary tool for enhancing agency when we have sinned. 

  11. Physiology: We know that the brain and body have a limited amount of resources to use each day in responding to environmental demands.  When you are physically or mentally exhausted your capacity to choose is diminished.  The more tired you are the more your brain begins to shut down and you can lose inhibitory control. 

  12. Psychological Variables: Our beliefs and behaviors either enhance or diminish our agency.  Believing or disbelieving in agency can both become self-fulfilling prophecies.  If you believe you are in control of your life and have moral agency then this becomes a reality. 

    Other psychological variables include: personality, core values, core beliefs, stage of development, self-concept, life narrative, self-esteem and self efficacy, needs hierarchy and predisposed moral intuitions. 

  13. Behavioral Strategies: There are numerous behavioral strategies that one can adopt to enhance agency.  Identify the cycle of compulsive behavior and intervene earliest in the cycle to achieve the best effect. Structure the environment so that temptation is impossible, as Ulysses strapped himself to a ship to avoid the siren’s call which he knew would be an unbearable temptation. 

    You can choose to keep your distance from temptation or distract yourself when confronted with temptation.  You can also satiate yourself in advance to avoid temptation.  For example, don’t go into a food aisle when hungry but make sure you have eaten a healthy meal and satiated yourself so that temptation will not be overwhelming. 

    Set long-term goals and inform other people of those goals and surround yourself with people who will support you in living out your values.  Monitor the frequency, intensity and duration of your behaviors to prevent self-deception and to enhance control.

    And finally, you can use rewards or punishers in the environment to either reinforce or extinguish a behavior. Over time, you can condition yourself so that you associate certain rewards or punishers with certain activities. 

  14. Character Strengths: The virtues are those behaviors that facilitate adaptation to the environment and long-term optimal functioning.  The six major virtues are the opposite of the vices and include: Wisdom, Humanity, Justice, Transcendence, Courage and Temperance.  Developing these character strengths increases your capacity to choose. 

  15. Obedience to God’s law:  When you are obedient to God’s law, you are given more light and your capacity to move and choose is enhanced. If you continue learning about and obeying God’s law then this process continues until you advance to become like Him. 

    Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught: “Likewise, as our understanding of gospel doctrine and principles grows, our agency expands. First, we have more choices and can achieve more and receive greater blessings because we have more laws that we can obey. Think of a ladder—each new law or commandment we learn is like one more step on the ladder that enables us to climb higher. Second, with added understanding we can make more intelligent choices because we see more clearly not only the alternatives but their potential outcomes. As Professor Daniel H. Ludlow once expressed it, the extent of our agency “is in direct proportion to the number and kind of laws we know and keep.” (D. Todd Christofferson-Moral Agency)

  16. Guilt Sensitivity: Guilt is the feedback mechanism that lets you know that your soul is in pain.  Violating God’s law causes guilt and is to the soul what pain is to the body.  Failing to recognize and respond to guilt leads to death of the spirit just as failing to respond to pain leads to death of the body.

    Allen Bergin explains: “Guilt is a signal to us that something is wrong and, in that sense, it is friendly. Guilt aids us in preserving the integrity of our controls just as pain assists us in preserving the integrity of our bodies. If pain did not alert us to physical dangers and diseases, we would soon die. If our guilt mechanisms are not alert to moral dangers, we die just as certainly in a spiritual sense. While it is possible to overdo guilt and become neurotically obsessed with seeming misdeeds, this is not usually the case. Cultivating a positive guilt response is therefore adaptively in the service of effective self-regulation.” (Allen BerginTowards a theory of free agency)

Other Resources

Thomas S. Monson-The Three R’s of Choice

Robert D. Hales-Agency, Essential to the Plan of Life

Randall L. Ridd-The Choice Generation

Jeffrey Larson-What do You Expect

Dallin H. Oaks- Freedom and Free Agency

D. Todd Christofferson-Moral Agency

D.Todd Christofferson-Free Forever to Act For Themselves

Allen Bergin-Towards a Theory of Free Agency

Understanding Moral Agency

Main Idea: Moral Agency refers to the human capacity to choose between good and evil.  God has given His children the gift of moral agency so that they may decide the type of existence they wish to live.  Choosing good leads to happiness and life while choosing evil leads to misery and death. The consequences of our choices are fixed and unalterable. 

1. God gives His children the freedom to choose between good and evil.

The scriptures teach us that God has given us the power to choose between good and evil.  This capacity is referred to as “moral agency” and is sometimes confused with “free agency” or other similar concepts.  Moral agency is restricted to choices between good and evil and does not necessarily refer to non-moral decisions (such as choosing the color of your car).  

In D&C 101:78 we learn about this principle.  It reads: “That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.” (D&C 101:78)

In the account given of Adam and Eve, the Lord tells them not to eat of the tree of knowledge but also says: “Thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee” (Moses 3:17). This capacity to obey or disobey God is referred to as good and evil.  We choose “good” when we obey God’s laws and we choose “evil” when we disobey His laws.

Lehi taught that most people know enough to choose between good and evil.  He says: “And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men….Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself.”  (2 Nephi 2: 5,16)

2. A Major Purpose of Life is to exercise our moral agency. 

Moral Agency appears to be a quality that we all possessed in the Pre-existence.  President Dallin H. Oaks taught: “We had free agency in the pre-existence. This is evident from the fact that more than one plan was put forward in the Council of Heaven, and that a third of the Hosts of Heaven could choose to follow Satan and rebel against the Father.” (Dallin H. Oaks- Freedom and Free Agency)

We know that all who are born on this earth exercised their moral agency in the pre-existence to choose good or evil and were rewarded with a chance to receive physical bodies and to continue progressing to become like God.  Just as our use of moral agency in the pre-existence determined whether we got to live on this earth or not, our use of moral agency in this life will determine the quality of life we experience in this life and in the next phase of existence.

The Prophet Lehi taught this principle in 2 Nephi 2:27 which reads:  “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”  (2 Nephi 2:27)

3. Agency is a Necessary Part of the Plan of Salvation

The Plan of Salvation refers to the plan that God has made for His children to continually progress and develop to ultimately become as much like Him as each child wants.  Moral agency is central to this plan as it is the tool that we use to determine how far along the plan we wish to go. 

It is moral agency that gives existence meaning and makes goodness and happiness possible. The price of happiness is the capacity for evil and misery and moral agency is the tool we use to decide between these two opposites. 

In Abraham 3:25 we learn that life is a test to determine how we will use our moral agency.  God said:  “We will prove [test] them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:25).  Without agency, this purpose could not be fulfilled.

Whether or not we would have moral agency was the defining issue of the war in heaven. Moral agency was central to the Father’s plan of salvation but it meant that inequality would be produced based upon the individual choices of each person. Not everyone would choose to obey God’s laws and so would not receive the same rewards.  This inequality was not acceptable to Lucifer who put forth an alternative plan that would ensure equality but would destroy the moral agency of God’s children.  

Moses 4: 3-4 describes Lucifer’s motives and how he became Satan for trying to destroy the agency of man:  “Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.” (Moses 4:3-4)

However, moral agency, or the capacity to experiment with good and evil in this life would be meaningless if the first time we chose evil we were cut off from God’s presence for the rest of eternity.  God knew that we would need a certain period of time to observe the effects of obeying and disobeying His law over time so that we could make an informed and meaningful decision. 

However, since heaven is perfect, no act of evil is permitted, otherwise by definition, it would no longer be heaven.  This means that in the course of learning between good and evil, we would still be permanently cut off from heaven due to our experimentation with evil in this life.  God’s justice would ensure that we could not return. 

This leads us to the next part of the Plan of Salvation which was the need for someone to redeem us from the evil decisions we made in this life so that we could ultimately choose good if we wanted to.  Our lives are simply an extended probationary period where we are free to experiment before choosing our eternal destination.  This period of experimentation (life) was not free because the evil that you would commit still needed to be punished. 

Thus, central to the Plan of Salvation and the gift of Moral Agency is the need for a Savior/Redeemer that would pay the price of your agency and suffer the consequences of your experimentation with evil.  That price was paid by our foreordained Lord and Savior: Jesus Christ.  His sacrifice makes redemption from our evil decisions possible and His Gospel outlines the requirements we must follow to gain access to His grace.  

C. Terry Warner taught: “Human agency was purchased with the price of Christ’s suffering. This means that to those who blame God for allowing human suffering, Latter-day Saints can respond that suffering is less important than the gift of agency, upon which everything else depends, and that none of us has paid a greater price for this gift than Christ.” (C. Terry Warner, in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism)

4. Moral Agency Requires a World of Opposites

The prophet Lehi gives a well known sermon on the need for “opposition in all things” in 2 Nephi Chapter 2.  He gives a list of opposites that we need to choose from that include: righteousness and wickedness; holiness and misery; good and bad. Without opposites, Lehi said, “All things must needs be a compound in one; no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.”  (2 Nephi 2:11)

Since Moral Agency refers to the capacity to choose between good and evil it follows that both good and evil must exist for moral agency to be meaningful. As mentioned earlier, good does not exist unless evil does as well just as heat would have no meaning without cold. Everything that exists must have it’s opposite otherwise it is a meaningless quality. Thus, the price for a happy existence is a potential miserable existence as well. Without happiness and misery, obeying and disobeying God’s laws would lack any real meaning.

Interestingly enough, Lucifer’s rebellion and exile to earth ensured that God’s Plan of Salvation would work. Without evil beings to tempt us to disobey God’s law, our capacity for moral agency would remain dormant. Thus, Lucifer’s rebellion and mission to tempt us towards evil in this life actually ensures the existence of moral agency, the very thing he sought to destroy. God allows Satan to tempt us so that we can freely choose between good and evil.

Commenting on Satan’s mission and motivation, President Dallin H. Oaks taught: He tries to persuade us to do evil and to make those choices that will finally give him the mastery he was denied in the pre-existence—to have all power over us, to lead us captive at his will.” (Dallin H. Oaks- Freedom and Free Agency)

5. Exercising Moral Agency in a world of opposition

Choosing between good and evil does not occur in a vacuum but occurs in a context of great opposition.  When you choose good you will be opposed by evil and when you choose evil you will be opposed by good.  Life is about learning how to exercise moral agency in a world of opposition. 

Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught:  “Exercising agency in a setting that sometimes includes opposition and hardship is what makes life more than a simple multiple-choice test. You must be able to be righteous, even when He withdraws His Spirit… Using your agency to choose His will, and not slackening even when the going gets hard, will not make you God’s puppet; it will make you like Him.” (D. Todd Christofferson-Moral Agency)

While we exercise moral agency in a world of great opposition, the scriptures promise that We will never be tempted beyond what we are capable of resisting.   The Apostle Paul taught the Corinthians: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.(1 Cor 10:13)

However, while we are free to choose between good and evil, we are not free to choose the consequences of those actions.  To believe that you can choose the consequences of your actions means that you believe you have the power to restructure the fabric of reality to be in compliance with your will.  Moral agency refers to the capacity to choose between good and evil and not the ability to determine the consequences of such choices.  Those consequences are built into the very fabric of reality that you exist in. 

Elder D. Todd Christofferson further taught: “Let us pause and note that freedom of choice is the freedom to obey or disobey existing laws—not the freedom to alter their consequences. Law, as mentioned earlier, exists as a foundational element of moral agency with fixed outcomes that do not vary according to our opinions or preferences.” (D. Todd Christofferson-Moral Agency)

6. Choosing evil restricts your freedom while choosing good expands your freedom

In the Book of Deuteronomy 30:19, the Lord makes clear to the Israelites the decision that they need to make.  The Lord proclaimed: “ I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” 

Like the Israelites, we too have life and death, good and evil laid clearly before us and we must choose which path to follow.  However, the consequences of such choices are fixed and cannot be altered. There are no exceptions as God is no respecter of persons and heaven obeys the rule of law.

When you choose to follow Satan, you surrender your moral agency to him and give him what he has desired over you since the pre-existence which is control over your decisions. The prophet Alma describes how choosing evil leads to being bound with the chains of hell.  He says: 

“And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.” (Alma 12:11)

Choosing evil leads to a darkening of the mind which leads to a loss of your testimony and ultimately the loss of the ability to choose good at all.  Ultimately, choosing evil means giving your agency to Satan whose only desire is to make you miserable like him. 

In contrast, if choosing evil leads to the “chains of hell” we might say that choosing goods leads to the “wings of mercy” as our capacity to act becomes enhanced and we become more free. D&C 50: 24 teaches us: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” 

When you choose good your knowledge increases, your testimony is enhanced and your capacity to act is increased. You retain freedom over your own soul and deny the devil his claim over you.

Moral Agency is the means by which you are able to choose between the “life and death” that have been set before you.  Joshua’s exhortation to the ancient Israelites applies equally to us: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)

The Pre-Existence and Foreordination

Main Idea: We all lived with God before we were embodied on this earth and that period of time in our development is called ‘the “pre-existence.” Each person was “foreordained” or given missions to accomplish while on earth that we each need to discover and accomplish.  

1.We lived with God in heaven before we came to earth. We are His Spirit Children.

In the Book of Jeremiah 1:5 the Lord teaches Jeremiah that they had a relationship before he was born and that Jeremiah was sanctified and ordained a prophet unto the nations.  It reads:  “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)

If Jeremiah had a relationship with God and was foreordained to fulfill a certain life mission, it follows that we also knew God and were given our own unique missions.

The Prophet Joseph F. Smith testified of our existence that predates life on this earth.  He said: “Man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal body.” (Joseph F. Smith)

2. A certain part of our essence called “intelligence” is eternal and has always existed in various states of development.

However, our spiritual existence was not the original state of our being as we know of at least one other state of being prior to that that the scriptures simply call “intelligence.”  Before we were given physical bodies, we were given spirit bodies and before those spirit bodies we were simply “intelligences.”

The Prophet Joseph Smith himself taught these principles in the “King Follet Sermon” in which he said:

“But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the house-tops that God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself.  Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it. All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement.” 

Later on the in sermon, Joseph also taught:

“The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits.” (Joseph Smith, King Follet Sermon)

Another important part of our identity that we learn about through “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” is that our gender is an essential part of our eternal, spiritual and physical bodies.  The Proclamation reads: 

“All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

3. The Great Pre-mortal Council in Heaven

The Scriptures teach us that there was a great council in heaven where the Plan of Salvation was put forth that would outline the next steps in our development towards godhood.  Each spirit that was present at that council chose to either accept the plan set forth by God or to rebel against that plan. 

This council is alluded to in Paul’s letter to Titus in which he taught that God promised us eternal life before He created the world: “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” (Titus 1:2)

The Apostle Peter similarly taught that Christ was foreordained to be our Savior before the world was created.  He wrote:  “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things… But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” (1 Peter 1: 18-20)

And finally, the Old Testament book of Job similarly alludes to a pre-existent life with God in which all the “sons of God” shouted for joy when the foundations of the earth were laid.  The text reads: “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding…When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38: 4,7)

4. A Summary of Major Events in the Grand Pre-mortal Council

a.) In the pre-mortal life we progressed all we could and had to leave there for a time to gain experience and to be tested on earth. We had to gain bodies and choose whether to keep the commandments of God or not.

b.) There was a grand pre-mortal council called where Heavenly Father presented His plan for us to become like Him. He would provide an earth and a veil so that we could choose good or evil on earth.  He would help us recognize the truth when we heard it by sending the Holy Spirit.

c.) At this council it was revealed that the purpose of this life was to give us the chance to have a fullness of joy.  We would have many trials that would ultimately be for our good but many would choose not to become like Father in Heaven.

d.) At this council it was also revealed that a Savior would be provided to allow us to overcome our sins.  Jesus Christ was chosen and we were taught that if we put our faith in Him we would be forgiven for our sins and be able to become like Father in Heaven.

e.) The plan called for those who kept their first estate to come to this earth (the second estate), receive a mortal body, and be tested to see if they would obey the Father in everything (see Abr. 3:25–26). The time and “the bounds of [our] habitation” were predetermined (Acts 17:26), and some were even foreordained to callings on this earth (see Abr. 3:23; Alma 13:3–9).

f. In the Premortal Council, Heavenly Father explained that because we would all sin we would need a savior and a leader to show us how to return to Heaven. Our Father said, “Whom shall I send?” (Abraham 3:27). Jesus Christ, who was called Jehovah, said, “Here am I, send me” (Abraham 3:27; see also Moses 4:1–4). Jesus wanted to uphold our right to choose and submitted entirely to the will of the Father.

g.) Satan also offered to be the Saviour of mankind but he wanted all the glory and wanted to eliminate our right to choose.  God chose Jesus as our saviour instead of Lucifer.  The contention in heaven was—Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he could save them all, and laid his plans before the grand council, who gave their vote in favor of Jesus Christ. So the devil rose up in rebellion against God, and was cast down, with all who put up their heads for him. (Book of Moses—Pearl of Great Price, Chap. 4:1-4; Book of Abraham, Chap. 3:23-28.)

5. The Great War in Heaven

The Great War in Heaven is alluded to in the 12th chapter of the Book of Revelation.  As previously mentioned, the war was around the Father’s plan of Salvation and his choice of Jesus Christ as our Saviour.  Jesus promised to uphold the Father’s plan and to guarantee our Moral Agency or our right to choose between Good and Evil.  Lucifer instead offered his own plan of salvation that would eliminate moral agency but guarantee that everyone would remain together.  Essentially, Jesus emphasized freedom that would lead to disparate outcomes and Lucifer emphasized equality of outcomes.

Ultimately, 2/3 of the spirits in Heaven voted to uphold the Fathers Plan of Salvation but 1/3 refused to accept the plan and openly rebelled against God and attempted to overthrow him and to establish Lucifer as our God.  Revelation 12:4 records:  “And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth.” (Revelation 12:4)

Lucifer and his rebels were opposed by Michael (Adam) and his angels who were ultimately victorious and they cast Lucifer (who is now Satan) to the earth along with the 1/3 of the spirits in heaven who supported him.  Rev 12: 7-9 reads:

 “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.  And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Rev 12: 7-9)

In verse 11, we learn that the war was ultimately won by Michael and his followers because of the testimony they had of Jesus Christ and his foreordained mission to be our Saviour and to bring salvation to all and exaltation to some.  Verse 11 reads: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Rev. 12: 11)

The eternal punishment for Lucifer and his followers was that they would be damned in their progress toward godhood and would not receive earthly bodies.  They were cast to the earth to provide the necessary opposition that we would need to exercise our moral agency and to grow towards becoming like God.  They are here on the earth now and they tempt us to sin to destroy the Father’s plan.  Ultimately, they will be evicted from the Father’s creation for attempting to usurp it and will dwell in outer darkness for eternity.

Since you were born on this earth, we know that you chose to side with Jesus Christ in the Great War in Heaven and that you remain a candidate for exaltation if you continue being faithful to His plan as revealed in the scriptures and through His authorized servants.

6. God foreordained us to certain life missions and circumstances based upon our life with Him.

The scriptures teach us that many are foreordained to fulfill specific purposes and missions.  As previously mentioned, Jeremiah was foreordained to be a prophet, and John was foreordained to write the Book of Revelation.  This foreordination was so important that the Lord forebade Nephi from writing about the end of the world because it was John’s role and not his. (1 Nephi 14).

The Prophet Alma taught that all Priesthood holders were foreordained to the callings that they hold on earth. In Alma 13: 3 he wrote:  “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)

The Lord revealed to Abraham that there were many “noble and great ones” amongst the souls that lived with God before the earth was created.  These noble and great ones were chosen to be rulers in the Kingdom of God and were foreordained and set apart for these purposes before they entered mortality.  The text reads:

“Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.” (Abraham 3:22-26.)  

The doctrine of the pre-existence and fore-ordination helps us understand the great disparity in talents and circumstances that exist in this life (though not the only explanation).  Some people are born with great talents because those talents had been developed in the pre-existence.

B.H. Roberts elaborates: “How beautiful is this doctrine! How reasonable! How many problems it explains! What light and life it throws upon the character of man. Notwithstanding the great influence of parentage and environment upon character, we may understand now how it is that in spite of indifferent parentage and vicious environments some characters arise that are truly virtuous and great, and that purely by the strength of that intelligence and nobility to which their spirits had attained in the heavenly kingdom before they took bodies upon the earth. Their grandeur of soul could not all be suppressed by environment in this life, however inauspicious for their development as the sun struggles through clouds and the midst that at times obscures his brightness, so these spirits stirred by their innate nobility, breakthrough all the disadvantages attendant upon their ignoble birth and iron fortune rise to their native heights of true greatness.”  —Elder BH Roberts

7.  All who join the church and accept the Gospel were foreordained to do so.

The doctrine of fore-ordination also means that all who join the church in this life were foreordained to do so in the preexistence.  Paul taught this doctrine to the Ephesians when he said:

 “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: Having predestinated (better translated as foreordained) us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” (Eph 1: 4-5)

Paul repeated this doctrine of fore-ordination to the Thessalonians and to Timothy when he wrote:  

“But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth…” (2 Thess 2: 13-14)

“…Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (2 Tim 1:9)

The Apostle Peter also adds his witness of this doctrine when he wrote in his epistle that the saints were: Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:2)

8. Righteous Spirits in the pre-existence were foreordained to belong to the House of Israel.

The Doctrine of the pre-existence and fore-ordination also helps us understand how God chooses who will be born into the House of Israel, which are His covenant people.  Elder Melvin J. Ballard taught:

Now, my brothers and sisters, I would like you to understand that long before we were born into this earth we were tested and tried in our pre-existence.  That is why the Lord in giving Daniel the interpretation of that wonderful dream of Nebuchadnezzar was able to tell very clearly, long before they were born, when the various people should rise and bear rule upon the earth. There was a group of tested, tried and proven souls before they were born into the world, and the Lord provided a lineage for them. That lineage is the House of Israel, the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their posterity. Through this lineage were to come the true and tried souls that had demonstrated their righteousness in the spirit world before they came here. We came through that lineage. Our particular branch is the House of Joseph through his son Ephraim. That is the group from whence shall come the majority of the candidates for Celestial Glory. That is why we are doing the work for our ancestors and not for others.” (Melvin J. Ballard- Three Degrees of Glory)

“ Now, I wish to say to you that those who died without law, meaning the pagan nations, for lack of faithfulness, for lack of devotion, in the former life, are obtaining all that they are entitled to. I don’t mean to say that all of them will be barred from entrance into the highest glory. Anyone of them who repents and complies with the conditions might also obtain celestial glory, but the great bulk of them shall only obtain the terrestrial glory.”(Melvin J. Ballard- Three Degrees of Glory)

When Jesus was on the earth, He similarly taught: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10 27-28)

The Sheep Jesus referred to were His covenant people who were “elect” in this life because God knew them and had chosen them before the earth was created.

He also told His disciples: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” (John 15:16)

And finally, Jesus told Pilate that “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” (John 18:37) The elect are revealed through the preaching of the word because the word resonates with their dormant knowledge of the pre-existence.

9. We should accept our preordained life missions and work diligently to fulfill them.

The scriptures teach us that we have all been given certain missions to perform in this life before we were incarnated on this planet.  Those life missions are what we were “foreordained” to do and they are unique to our life circumstances.  Your patriarchal blessing is designed to give you insight into what your foreordained life mission is.

The Parable of the talents teaches us that God expects us to use the talents and skills He gave us before we came to earth and to develop them and use them to fulfill our life missions while on earth. (Mat 25: 14-30)

The Book of Jonah teaches about the futility of running away from your life mission and of the importance of embracing and fulfilling it.  Jonah was foreordained to preach repentance to the people of his time but he refused to do it and actually tried to run away from it.  Ultimately, he was swallowed by a fish and his progression was damned until he chose to submit to God and fulfill the mission he agreed to before he came to the earth.

One of the major purposes of this life is to discover and fulfill the unique life missions that God has given us.  If we do so the Lord promises: “Stand fast in the work wherewith I have called you, and a hair of your head shall not be lost, and you shall be lifted up at the last day. Amen.” (D&C 9: 14)

10. Common Maladaptive Beliefs

i.) Any belief that denies our existence and life with God before the world began.

ii.) Any belief that denies that God is the father of our spirits.

iii.) Any belief that denies or fails to recognize the foreordained mission we were all given before coming to earth.

iv.) Any belief that denies the reality of Satan and his mission to destroy all of God’s children who chose the plan of Jesus.