John 1:4 — (part 6) — premortal worlds, ‘In him was life; and the life was the light of men’ — LeGrand Baker

The earth was designed to help each of us affirm the ultimate meaning of our own Self. We began to establish our identity when we were intelligences. After that, each period of our maturation through linear time took place on a different stage on this earth,

In this journey toward the perfection of our Selves, our intelligence received a spirit body in the spirit world, then a mortal body in this physical world, then a spirit body again. In each of these phases we live in a different environment and each environment enables us to grow in different ways because in each we can experience different kinds of things.

I believe the first estate was to show if we would choose to obey God’s rules. Those who chose to follow the Savior and performed the right performances came to the physical earth. Here we must again demonstrate whether we will obey, but here the real question is not “Will you obey?” but rather it is “Why did you obey?” We are suspended between the veils of birth and death and can neither remember nor see the real consequences of what we chose before. If we obeyed because we saw the advantages of having a physical body, and came here to seek that advantage, our personalities might not change while we are here and we will continue to work in our own best interest to get whatever advantages we can. However, if we obeyed because we loved the Lord and his children, and sought our own exaltation as well as to help others achieve exaltation also, then, even here in our mortal forgetfulness that motive will probably not change. Anything left uncompleted in this life must be completed in the next. Our mortal and postmortal lives are great sorting times. For that reason the ultimate question in this world is not “Will you obey?” but “How well do you love?” There may be no commandment repeated more frequently than this:

30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:30-31; Deuteronomy 6:5,10:12; Matthew 22:37-40; Luke 10:27; D&C 59:5-6).

Unfortunately, many human cultures preclude the opportunity for their people to do that in this life. Therefore, the environment of the postmortal spirit world removes those cultural impediments so that everyone can determine for himself precisely who and what he chooses to be. After that, we each receive a resurrected body that is compatible with who we are. A simple, but perhaps not a simplistic way of describing what happens after our decision is set in stone is this: They who love go to the celestial kingdom. They who don’t much care go to the Terrestrial kingdom. Those who use other people to their own advantage go to the Telestial kingdom. Those who seek to destroy go someplace else.

That is the story in brief. Now lets look at our relationship with the Savior as we move through that progression. Through it all our relationship with Savior does not change, so in order to follow our own history, we must also know his.

The Secrets of Enoch is an account of that prophet’s sode experience where he was shown the whole creation “from before the very beginning.” Enoch reports,

2 And I bowed down to the Lord, and the Lord spoke to me: Enoch, beloved, all that you see, all things that are standing finished I tell to you even before the very beginning, all that I created from non-being, and visible things from invisible (24:2).
……
1 I commanded in the very lowest parts, that visible things should come down from invisible, and Adoil [Charles’s footnote: “Adoil is from … ‘the hand of God’ The word does not occur elsewhere that I am aware of.”] came down very great, and I beheld him, and lo! He had a belly of great light.
2 And I said to him: Become undone, Adoil, and let the visible come out of you.
3 And he came undone, and a great light came out. And I was in the midst of the great light, and as there is born light from light, there came forth a great age, and showed all creation, which I had thought to create.
4 And I saw that it was good (25:1-4). {1}

When President John Taylor described the earliest relationship between Heavenly Father and his children, he wrote that the men in the church were “struck from the fire of his eternal blaze.” {2}

Standing upon its broad platform, encircled by the mantle of truth, the man of God, by faith, peers into the future, withdraws the curtains of eternity unveils the mystery of the heavens, and through the dark vista of unnumbered years, beholds the purposes of the great Elohim, as they roll forth in all their majesty and power and glory. Thus standing upon a narrow neck of space, and beholding the past, present, and the future, he sees himself an eternal being claiming an affinity with God, a son of God, a spark of Deity struck from the fire of his eternal blaze. He looks upon the world and man, in all their various phases, knows his true interests, and with intelligence imparted by his Father Celestial, he comprehends their origin and destiny.

His intelligence, lit up by God and followed out, will be expansive as the world and spread through space; his law is the law of love; his rule, the rule of right to all. He loves his neighbor, and he does him good; he loves his God and therefore worships him; he sees the power of truth, which, like the light of God, spreads through all space, illuminates all worlds, and penetrates where men or angels, God or spheres are known; he clings to it. Truth is his helmet, buckler, shield, his rock, defense; his all in time and in eternity. Men call him a fool because he cannot be directed by their folly, nor follow in their erratic, truculent wake. But while they are grasping at shadows, he lays hold of the substance. While they are content with a rickety sprawling religion, fashionable for a time, but having nothing to do with eternity and smother the highest, noblest principles of man, he dare acknowledge God; and acknowledging him, he dare obey him and confess that faith which God has given to him. He grasps at all truths, human and divine. He has no darling dogma to sustain or favorite creed to uphold. He has nothing to lose but error, and nothing to gain but truth. He digs, labors, and searches for it as for hidden treasure; and while others are content with chaff and husks of straw, he seizes on the kernel, substance, the gist of all that’s good, and clings to all that will ennoble and exalt the human family. {3}

In my pervious discussions of John 1:1-4, I have shown that intelligences are individual entities (“a spark of Deity struck from the fire of his eternal blaze,” to use John Taylor’s words). They assimilate truth and shine. The truth/light/love they exude defines who they are. Some intelligences receive “the priesthood after the order of the Son,” and they became an organized group called “the noble and great ones.” Thereafter, they are clothed with power that is greater than themselves and that magnifies their own light. The intelligence receives a spirit body that is fashioned from the Savior’s light and after the likeness of his own body (Ether 3:16).

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PREMORTAL SPIRIT WORLD

Any discussion about our premortal spirit world must also begin with what we know about the Savior, because almost everything we know about ourselves during that time has to do with our relationship with Jehovah. (Much of what I write here is a summary of what I have already written about in these essays about John 1:1-4. So most of the references you may be looking for are in those little essays.) The Savior tells us,

21 And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn;
22 And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn (D&C 93:21-22).

The Savior testified of their relationship in his great intercessory prayer.

1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:
2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word (John 17:1-6).

Paul summarized the Savior’s relationship with his Father when he testified.

1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
2 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;
3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:1-3).

From these we know that the Savior was the first to be born in the spirit world and he was in the express image of the Father’s person. When Jehovah appeared to the brother of Jared he told him,

16 Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh (Ether 3:16).

We had spirit bodies that looked like our Father’s, and that looked like the bodies we have now. It was, like everything else that was made, made from the Savior’s light. The prophet Joseph explained,

… we shall find a very material difference between the body and the spirit; … the spirit is a substance; that it is material, but that it is more pure, elastic and refined matter than the body; that it existed before the body, can exist in the body; and will exist separate from the body, when the body will be mouldering in the dust; and will in the resurrection, be again united with it. {4}

We know a great deal about our the beginning of our life as spirits, but very little about what happened in the eons of time after that. Briefly, this is some of what we know:

Abraham 3 — The Council met in Kolob and in a meeting, over which Jehovah presided, they decided to build the worlds.

There was a war in heaven, which the Prophet Joseph describes as he saw it.

And I saw and bear record of warfare in heaven;
For an angel of light, in authority great,
Rebcll’d against Jesus and sought for his power,
But was thrust down to woe from his godified state.

And the heavens all wept, and the tears dropp’d like dew,
That Lucifer, son of the morning, had fell!
Yea, is fallen! is fallen and become, oh, alas!
The son of perdition, the devil of hell! {5}

Psalm 45 includes a version of the foreordinations of both men and women. {6}

We get a glimpse of some of the assignments that were made at the Council by reading about the prophets’ sode experiences. A sode experience is when the prophet returns to the Council and re-commits himself to the assignment he made there. The assignments are always about his responsibilities to teach the people with whom he is associated. {7}

Psalm 82 is a meeting, at which Elohim presided, where the members of the Council made a covenant that is very like the law of consecration. {8}

Referring of the pre-mortal spirit world, President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote,

It is reasonable to believe that there was a Church organization there. The heavenly beings were living in a perfectly arranged society. Every person knew his place. Priesthood, without any question, had been conferred and the leaders were chosen to officiate. Ordinances pertaining to that pre-existence were required and the love of God prevailed. Under such conditions it was natural for our Father to discern and choose those who were most worthy and evaluate the talents of each individual. He knew not only what each of us could do, but also what each of us would do when put to the test and when responsibility was given us. Then, when the time came for our habitation on mortal earth, all things were prepared and the servants of the Lord chosen and ordained to their respective missions. Paul said to the Ephesian Saints:

3 Blessed be the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
4 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. –Eph. 1:3-4. {9}

That chapter, Ephesians 1, is a recounting of our premortal temple rites and covenants.You can find my analysis of the chapter in the “scriptures” section of this website. {10}

1 Nephi 20 is a report of the Prophet Joseph’s role in a premortal council. {11}

In none of those scriptures are we or the Savior found alone. The plan of salvation is all — and only — about friendship relationships. The Prophet Joseph emphasized that when he said, “Friendship is the grand fundamental principle of Mormonism.” {12}

In so saying, the Prophet gave us the link that welds all of our experience through linear time into a single continuous event. In this short catalog of experiences in our premortal world, every one of them have been about friendship relationships (except the war in heaven and that was about broken relationships). Friendships build upon priesthood covenants are eternal in both directions. Families are special covenant relationships just as they are special friends, but in the conclusion of things, all persons in the celestial kingdom will be sealed together by the same priesthood authority as are our more intimate family relationships. Those friendships transcend time and space. Psalm 23 can be understood to say that members of the Council are guardian angels who watch over their friends while those friends are in mortality. {13}

John Taylor wrote an editorial in which he said that many of the family relationships we enjoy here had their origin in the premortal spirit world. {14}

President McKay addressed the same question, but in a different way. He said that each premortal spirit who is born into this world “was satisfied and happy to come through the lineage to which he was attracted and for which, and only which, he or she was prepared.” President Mckay was struggling to make sense of the Jim Crow culture that was then imposed upon him and the Church. In that same context he also said,

Sometime in God’s eternal plan, the Negro will be given the right to hold the priesthood. In the meantime, those of that race who receive the testimony of the restored gospel may have their family ties protected and other blessings made secure, for in the justice and mercy of the Lord they will possess all the blessings to which they are entitled in the eternal plan of salvation and exaltation.{15}

The point is that virtually everything we are told about our premortal history is about friend/family relationships. They began a very long time ago, and if we cherish them, they will continue for ever. In our discussion of John 1:1-4 we have never moved from where we started. In all of our premortal life we were the truth we have embraced, the light by which we have shone, and the quality by which we have loved.

Next time I will show that criteria is the same reality by which we are and shall be defined in this mortal world, in the postmortal spirit world, then in and beyond the resurrection.

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FOOTNOTES

{1} The Secrets of Enoch in Charles, R. H., ed. The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1976. You can find the chapters that introduce his sode experience in “Favorite Quotes in this website. See “Enoch — Secrets of — chapters 22 -26.” The whole story is similar to Revelation 12. Lehi’s vision suggests he saw the same when he describes the savior as a great light. Early Christians included at least some of Enoch in their canon. Jude 1:14-16 is a quote from 1 Enoch 1:9.

{2} You can find this and other quotes using that same phrase in Favorite Quotes: “Taylor, John – Origin, Object, and Destiny of Women, – and men.”

{3} John Taylor, Teachings of Presidents of the Church, John Taylor [Melchesidek Priesthood Manuel, 2003] (Salt Lake City, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2001), p. 211-212. [Quoted from G. Homer Durham, Gospel Kingdom (1941) p. 1-3].

{4}Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976), 207.

{5} A Vision, by the Prophet Joseph Smith, published in the Times and Seasons, February 1, 1843

{6}Chapter, “The Royal Wedding in Psalm 45, ” in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, paperback edition, 181-215.

{7} Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, paperback edition, the chapter called “Sode Experience: Returning to the Council in Heaven,” 139-48.

{8} Chapter “The Father’s Instructions to the Council,” in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, paperback edition, 159-181.

{9}Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection (Salt Lake City, Deseret Book, 1963), 50-51. (italic in original)

{10} The analysis of that chapter is also in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, paperback edition, 549-54.

{11}You can find a discussion of that by searching 1 Nephi 20.

{12} Joseph Smith, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph, compiled and edited by Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1980], 234.

{13} There is an analysis of the chapter called “The Twenty-third Psalm” in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, paperback edition, 441-57.

{14} John Taylor, “Origin, Object, and Destiny of Women.” The Mormon, New York. August 29, 1857. You can find it in “favorite quotes” in this website.

{15} Llewelyn R. McKay, Home Memories of President David O. McKay (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1956), 229 – 230.

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