“Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. . . . Tell the brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord, they will go right. Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord; and if they will they will find themselves just as they were organized by our Father in Heaven before they came into the world. Our Father in Heaven organized the human family, but they are [now] all disorganized and in great confusion.” 1
“Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. I suppose I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council. It is the testimony that I want that I am God’s servant, and this people His people. The ancient prophets declared that in the last days the God of heaven should set up a kingdom which should never be destroyed, nor left to other people; and the very time that was calculated on, this people were struggling to bring it out. ” 2
We are of the seed of Ephraim, and of Abraham, and of Joseph, who was sold into Egypt, and these are the instruments that God has kept in the spirit world to come forth in these latter days to take hold of this kingdom and build it up. These are my sentiments with regard to the Latter-day Saints. 3
Harold B. Lee
“Your spirits were created and lived as organized intelligences before the world was. You have been blessed to have a physical body because of your obedience to certain commandments in that premortal state. You are now born into a family to which you have come, into the nations through which you have come, as a reward for the kind of lives you lived before you came here and at a time in the world’s history, as the Apostle Paul taught the men of Athens and as the Lord revealed to Moses, determined by the faithfulness of each of those who lived before this world was created. 4
This suggests that even though we have our free agency here, there are many who were foreordained before the world was, to a greater state than they have prepared themselves for here. Even though they might have been among the noble and great, from among whom the Father declared he would make his chosen leaders, they may fail of the calling here in mortality. 5
It would seem very clear, then, that those born to the lineage of Jacob, who was later to be called Israel, and his posterity, who were known as the children of Israel, were born into the most illustrious lineage of any of those who came upon the earth as mortal beings.
All these rewards were seemingly promised, or foreordained, before the world was. Surely these matters must have been determined by the kind of lives we had lived in that premortal spirit world. Some may question these assumptions, but at the same time they will accept without any question the belief that each one of us will be judged when we leave this earth according to his or her deeds during our lives here in mortality. Isn’t it just as reasonable to believe that what we have received here in this earth life was given to each of us according to the merits of our conduct before we came here? . . . .
“Who are you? You are all the sons and daughters of God. Your spirits were created and lived as organized intelligences before the world was. You have been blessed to have a physical body because of your obedience to certain commandments in that premortal state. You are now born into a family to which you have come, into the nations through which you have come, as a reward for the kind of lives you lived before you came here and at a time in the world’s history, as the Apostle Paul taught the men of Athens and as the Lord revealed to Moses, determined by the faithfulness of each of those who lived before this world was created.” 6
Spencer W. Kimball
“[In the pre-mortal life] you and I made . . . an oath that we would do all things whatsoever the Lord our God shall command us. While we do not remember the details, we made these covenants. We committed ourselves to our Heavenly Father that if he would send us to earth and give us bodies and give to us the priceless opportunities that earth life afforded, we would keep our lives clean and would marry in the holy temple and rear a family and teach them righteousness. This was a solemn oath, a solemn promise, an eternal commitment. 7
Joseph Fielding Smith
“The spirits of men had their free agency, some were greater than others, and from among them the Father called and foreordained his prophets and rulers. . . . The spirits of men were not equal. They may have had an equal start, and we know they were all innocent in the beginning; but the right of free agency which was given to them enabled some to outstrip others, and thus, through the eons of immortal existence, to become more intelligent, more faithful, for they were free to act for themselves, to think for themselves, to receive the truth or rebel against it. The Lord declared through Moses the following: “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: …When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.” A similar passage to this occurs in Acts where Paul declares to the Athenians that the Lord “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times, before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” These passages clearly indicate that the numbers of the children of Israel were known and the bounds of their habitation fixed, in the days of old when the Lord divided to the nations their inheritance. We conclude, therefore, that there must have been a division of the spirits of men in the spiritual world, and those who were appointed to be the children of Israel were separated and prepared for a special inheritance.” 8
We may not know all the circumstances concerning the call of Jacob over Esau, and just why the Lord chose the younger to inherit the rights of Priesthood and appointed the older to serve the younger. We may say in truth, that Jacob was more faithful and gave better heed to the commandments of the Lord. This would entitle him to the blessings, for let it be remembered that all blessings are predicated on faithfulness, and this according to a law “irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of the world, and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” On this ground, then, Jacob was entitled to supplant Esau, if there was any such thing as a supplanting. Our history of those events informs us that Jacob was called before he was born to inherit these blessings. Then they were given him by the highest Authority, and who dare question the right of that Authority to bestow the blessings? 9
The reasons for the choosing of a special nation to bear the Priesthood and be favored with the oracles of truth are many. It is both consistent and reasonable for the Lord to call such people and bestow upon them special favors, when all the rest of mankind rejected the word. Through this covenant people the Lord reserved the right to send into the world a chosen lineage of faithful spirits who were entitled to special favors based on pre-mortal obedience. Moreover, the choosing of a special race, and the conferring upon it of peculiar covenants and obligations, which other nations would not keep, had the effect of segregating this race from other races. 10
Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.
When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.
For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.
Acts 17:24, 26
“God that made the world and all things therein . . . hathe made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.”
For him whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to his own image, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, him whom he did predestinate, him he also called; and him whom he called, him he also sanctified; and him whom he sanctified, him he also glorified.
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.
Bruce R. McConkie
Israel is an eternal people. She came into being as a chosen and separate congregation before the foundations of the earth were laid; she was a distinct and a peculiar people in preexistence, even as she is in this sphere. Her numbers were known before their mortal birth, and the very land surface of the earth was “divided to the nations [for] their inheritance . . . according to the number of the children of Israel.” (Deuteronomy 32:8) 11
There is no way to make sense out of life without a knowledge of the doctrine of premortal life. The idea that mortal birth is the beginning is preposterous. There is no way to explain life if you believe that. . . . When we understand the doctrine of premortal life, then things fit together and make sense. 12
All men are the spirit children of the Eternal Father; all dwelt in his presence, awaiting the day of their mortal probation; all have come or will come to earth at an appointed time, in a specified place, to live among a designated people. In all of this there is no chance. A divine providence rules over the nations and governs in the affairs of men. Birth and death and mortal kinship are the Lord’s doings. He alone determines where and when and among what people his spirit children shall undergo their mortal probation.
Is it inappropriate to ask: Why are there different races of men? Why is there a white, a yellow, and a black race? In the days of Israel’s first bondage, why did the Lord send some spirits in the lineage of enslaved Jacob and others to their Egyptian overlords? Why were some spirits sent to earth among the Amalekites, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians, while others at the same moments found birth in the house of Israel? Why was Antipas sent as the son of a debauched and evil Herod, while John the Baptist came into the home of a priestly Zacharias and a saintly Elisabeth?
All of these things operate by law; they are the outgrowth of long years of personal preparation in preexistence on the part of each individual; they come to pass according to the laws that the Lord has ordained. This second estate is a continuation of our first estate; we are born here with the talents and capacities acquired there. Abraham was one of the noble and great spirits in the premortal life. He was chosen for his mortal ministry and position before he was born, and as with the father of the faithful, so with all of the spirits destined to be born as his seed.
The greatest and most important talent or capacity that any of the spirit children of the Father could gain is the talent of spirituality. Most of those who gained this talent were chosen, before they were born, to come to earth as members of the house of Israel. They were foreordained to receive the blessings that the Lord promised to Abraham and to his seed in all their generations. This foreordination is an election, Paul tells us, and truly it is so, for those so chosen, selected, or elected become, in this life, the favored people. Though all mankind may be saved by obedience, some find it easier to believe and obey than others. Hence the concept, taught by Jesus, that his sheep know his voice and will not follow the dissident voices of the world.
It is of the house of Israel that Paul is speaking when he says: “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” Those in Israel are called to receive certain blessings because they earned the right in their first estate so to inherit in this life. “For whom he did foreknow [that is, in preexistence], he also did predestinate [foreordain] to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” They were foreordained to be joint-heirs with Christ, to gain his image, to be like him, to be exalted with him, “Moreover whom he did predestinate [foreordain], them he also called: and whom he called them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30) Those of whom Paul here speaks are the house of Israel. It is the privilege of all of them to gain all of the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though some rebel and forfeit the high reward that otherwise would have been theirs. 13
“All Israel, according to the doctrine of foreordination, have it in their power to gain exaltation; to be like the Son of God, having gained his image; to be joint-heirs with him; to be justified and glorified; to be adopted into the family of God by faith; to be participators with their fathers in the covenant that God made with them; and to be inheritors, to the full, of the ancient promises. Implicit in all of this is the fact that they are foreordained to be baptized, to join the Church, to receive the priesthood, to enter the ordinance of celestial marriage, and to be sealed up unto eternal life.” 14
Being subject to law, and having their agency, all the spirits of men, while yet in the Eternal Presence, developed aptitudes, talents, capacities, and abilities of every sort, kind, and degree. During the long expanse of life which then was, an infinite variety of talents and abilities came into being. As the ages rolled, no two spirits remained alike. Mozart became a musician; Einstein centered his interest in mathematics; Michelangelo turned his attention to painting. Cain was a liar, a schemer, a rebel who maintained a close affinity to Lucifer. Abraham and Moses and all of the prophets sought and obtained the talent for spirituality. Mary and Eve were two of the greatest of all the spirit daughters of the Father. The whole house of Israel, known and segregated out from their fellows, was inclined toward spiritual things. And so it went through all the hosts of heaven, each individual developing such talents and abilities as his soul desired. 15
“I have a right to them…a right that I earned in the pre-existence when the Lord decided that I should be born in the lineage that is royal. The royal lineage! It is their right to have the priesthood, the gospel, and eternal life.” 16
Melvin J. Ballard
“[Israel is] a group of souls tested, tried, and proven before they were born into the world….Through this lineage were to come the true and tried souls that had demonstrated their righteousness in the spirit world before they came here. 17
“. . . those born to the lineage of Jacob, who was later to be called Israel, and his posterity, who were known as the children of Israel, were born into the illustrious lineage of any of those who came upon the earth as mortal beings.
All these rewards were seemingly promised, or foreordained, before the world was. Surely these matters must have been determine by the kind of lives we had lived in that premortal spirit world. Some may question these assumptions, but at the same time they will accept with out any quest the belief that each one of us will be judged when we leave this earth according to his or her deeds during our lives here in mortality. Isn’t it just as reasonable to believe that what we have received here in this earth [life] was given to each of us according to the merits of our conduct before we came here? 18
“. . . my soul thrilled with a new sensation of gratitude to God that I live to see the day when Joseph’s children are being gathered again, and realize that the Latter-day Saints are of Joseph, children of his favored son, Ephraim, gathered “one of a city and two of a family,” a few from the midst of the nations of the earth, whither they have been scattered, and brought to the land of Zion. The Lord has selected and picked them. They were chosen spirits before they were born. He knew them in the spirit world. He held them in reserve to come forth at the right time.” 19
Parley P. Pratt
“We read much in the Bible in relation to a choice or election, on the part of Deity, toward intelligences in His government on earth, whereby some were chosen to fill stations very different from others. And this election not only affect the individuals thus chosen, but their posterity for long generations. . . . It may be inquired where this election first originated, and upon what principle a just and impartial God exercised the elective franchise. We will go back to the earliest knowledge we have of the existence of intelligence . . . .
Among the intelligences [i.e., ”organized intelligences” or spirits] which existed in the beginning, some were more intelligent than others, or, in other words, more noble; and God said to Abraham, “These I will make my rulers!” God said unto Abraham, :Thou art one of the,; thou was chosen before thou wast born.” . . .
. . . When He [God] speaks of nobility, he simply means an election made, and an office or a title conferred, on the principle of superiority of intellect, or nobleness of action, or of capacity to act, And when this election, with its titles, dignities, and estates, included the unborn posterity of a chosen man, as in the case of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, it is with the view of the noble spirits of the eternal world coming through their lineage, and being taught in the commandments of God. Hence the Prophets, Kings, Priests, Patriarchs, Apostles, and even Jesus Christ, were included in the election of Abraham, and of his seed, as manifested to him in an eternal covenant.
. . . in this peculiar lineage, and in no other, should all the nations be blessed. From the days of Abraham until now, if the people of any country, age, or nation, have been blessed with the blessings peculiar to the everlasting covenant of the Gospel, its sealing powers, Priesthood, and ordinances, it has been through the ministry of that lineage, and the keys of Priesthood held by the lawful heirs according to the flesh.” 20
For he has had his eye upon the chosen spirits that have come upon the earth in the various ages from the beginning of the world up to this time; and as he said to Abraham, speaking of the multitudes of spirits that were shown unto him in heavenly vision, you see that some are more noble than others? Yes. Then you may know there were some others still more noble than they; and he speaks in the same manner of the multitude of the heavenly bodies; and said he to Abraham, thou art one of those noble ones whom I have chosen to be my rulers. The Lord has sent those noble spirits into the world to perform a special work, and appointed their times; and they have always fulfilled the mission given them, and their future glory and exaltation is secured unto them; and that is what I understand by the doctrine of election spoken of by the Apostle Paul and other sacred writers: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be confirmed to the image of His Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren.” Such were called and chosen and elected of God to perform a certain work at a certain time of the world’s history and in due time he fitted them for that work. . . . And so he elected the seed of Ephraim to be that peculiar people I have referred to, that holy nation, a kingdom of Priests, a people to receive the covenants and oracles, and to be witnesses to certain nations of the God of Israel. 21
Orson F. Whitney
What is the significance of sending into the world a chosen race of spirits, called upon earth the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but known to us to have been the children of God before Abraham was born? They were chosen in the heavens, before they came in the flesh, and were sent forth from the presence of God with a mission. We who call ourselves Latter-day. Saints are a branch of the house of Israel, gathered out from among the Gentiles; we are a portion of that martyred nation, chosen of God and sent upon earth to suffer and endure for His sake and for the sake of all mankind; to bear the oracles of God, and be His representatives in the midst of the human race.
Read what Moses says in the eighth verse of the 32nd chapter of Deuteronomy, if you doubt that Israel had an existence before the earthly days of Father Abraham. The passage runs as follows: “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number Of the children of Israel.” This was before the birth of Abraham. The Lord had nations upon the earth before that time, and he set their bounds according to the number of the children of Israel.” What does this mean, If not that Israel was a pro-existent race, ordained before the world was to perform the great and important mission that has rested upon them all down the ages, and a portion of which is now being performed by the Latter-day Saints, the gathered children of Ephraim. 22
R. Wayne Shute, Monte S. Nyman, Randy L. Bott
“Imagine, the entire population of the earth was and continues to be placed on earth according to the numbers of the children of Israel! Does that mean that the omniscient mind of God contemplated the mortal experience of each of His spirit children? Let the scriptures speak for themselves. “For him whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to his own image, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” 23
One might ask: “Who of all the spirit sons and daughters of God did He not know? Since the Lord’s stated objective is to help His children gain eternal life, it stands to reason that the omniscient, omnipotent Father would place each child in a position which: 1) he or she had earned, and 2) which, if taken full advantage of, would enhance their progressions towards exaltation faster than any other condition.” 24
- Journal History, 23 February 1847, emphasis added; cited in McConkie and Millet, The Holy Ghost, pp. 10-11
- Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 365
- Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 22: 233 – 234.
- Conference Report, October 1973, p. 7
- Conference Report, October 1973, p. 7
- Harold B. Lee, in Conference Report, Oct. 1973,7; or Ensign, January 1974, 5
- Be Ye Therefore Perfect,” address given at the Institute of Religion at the University of Utah, 10 January 1975
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:59
- Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection [Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1949], 117 – 118.
- Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection [Salt Lake City: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1949], 129 – 130.
- Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 510-511
- Bruce R. McConkie, Conference Report, October 1983, p. 22
- Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 512-513
- Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 513
- Bruce R. McConkie, ‘’The Mortal Messiah’’, Book 1 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979), p. 23; see also D&C 46
- Bruce R. McConkie, “’’The Promises Made to the Fathers’’,” in Studies in Scripture 3:54
- The Three Degrees of Glory, in Melvin J. Ballard: Crusader for Righteousness, pp. 218-19.
- Conference Report, October 1973, pp. 7-8
- Elder Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Report, October 1924, Afternoon Session 28
- Journal of Discourses 1:257-58, 261; cited hereafter as JD.
- Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854-1886], 23: 186 – 187.
- Orson F. Whitney., Conference Report, October 1905, Outdoor Meeting. 97.
- Romans 8:29
- R. Wayne Shute, Monte S. Nyman, Randy L. Bott, Ephraim: Chosen of the Lord, pg. 9-10, emphasis added