In Institute class last night we studied Abraham chapter three. If you are not familiar with the Pearl of Great Price, this is the chapter that contains one of the most glorious and powerful doctrines of the LDS faith about our premortal or pre-earth life.
Somebody correct me if they know otherwise, but I believe we are unique among the Christian world in our belief in the purpose of life that is based on this chapter. We believe that we have always existed as intelligences, and were placed in spirit bodies before being born into mortality.
And we will prove them herewith
“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 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.
And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: 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;
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.”
Source: Abraham 3:22-26
The purpose of life
There have been volumes written about the significance of these verses. The simple summary is that we are here on this earth as spirits within physical bodies to be tried and tested. We are here to see if we will be true to the light and truth that we received in our pre-earth life.
No, we do not believe in reincarnation. This is our first and only opportunity for mortality. We were among the noble and great ones that the Lord showed to Abraham in these verses. We are here to develop faith, which is power and to increase in intelligence, or light and truth.
We agreed to this test
“Premortality is not a relaxing doctrine. For each of us, there are choices to be made, incessant and difficult chores to be done, ironies and adversities to be experienced, time to be well spent, talents and gifts to be well employed. Just because we were chosen ‘there and then,’ surely does not mean we can be indifferent ‘here and now.’
“In fact, adequacy in the first estate may merely have ensured a stern, second estate with more duties and no immunities! Additional tutoring and suffering appears to be the pattern for the Lord’s most apt pupils. (See Mosiah 3:19; 1 Pet. 4:19.) Our existence, therefore, is a continuum matched by God’s stretching curriculum.
“Agreeing to enter this second estate, therefore, was like agreeing in advance to anesthetic—the anesthetic of forgetfulness. Doctors do not de-anesthetize a patient, in the midst of what was previously authorized, to ask him, again, if it should be continued. We agreed to come here and to undergo certain experiences under certain conditions.”
Source: Neal A. Maxwell, General Conference, October 1985
The glory of God is intelligence
Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.
And every man who receiveth not the light is under condemnation.
For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.
The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.
The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
Light and truth forsake that evil one.
Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.
And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.
But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.”
Source: D&C 93:29-40
Summary and Conclusion
For most members of the LDS church this is not new doctrine. We grow up with this stuff, having been taught it all our lives. But for those who are not of our faith, this is new and different. I submit that it is also one of the most powerful doctrines that we offer to the world.
We know our purpose in life. We know that this life is a test. We know we are here to prove ourselves faithful and worthy of the glory that God wants bestow upon us. We prepare for the glory by learning all we can, increasing our intelligence in order to receive more light and truth.