Randy L. Bott, “Joseph Smith’s Expansion of Our Understanding of the Premortal Life and Our Relationship to God” in Joseph Smith and the Doctrinal Restoration (Provo: Brigham Young University, Religious Studies Center, 2005), 65–75.
Joseph Smith’s Expansion of Our Understanding of the Premortal Life and Our Relationship to God
Randy L. Bott
Randy L. Bott was a teaching professor at Brigham Young University when this was published.
The stage is set, the time has arrived, and the tension can be felt in the air. Every detail has been attended to, considered, and reconsidered. Calculations numbering thousands of pages have been verified and reverified. Every possible scenario has been posed and thought through, and every possible problem has been solved. We watch the final countdown. Ignition, then liftoff! The next lunar expedition had begun.
We have heard that scenario played and replayed many times. We marvel at the attention to detail that this massive team of scientists have given. No pain is too great to avoid a catastrophe. Yet some would have us believe that this earth, traveling through space at incomprehensible speeds, held in a demandingly precise orbit around the sun, with every condition essential to keep continued life on earth unerringly in place, happened by chance. Perhaps that is one reason why the Lord called the Prophet Joseph Smith to push back the curtains of conjecture and disbelief and allowed us an illuminating look into the mast plan of the entire universe. Joseph said: “In the first place, I wish to go back to the beginning—to the morn of creation. There is the starting point for us to look to, in order to understand and be fully acquainted with the mind, purposes and decrees of the Great Elohim, who sits in yonder heavens as he did at the creation of the world. It is necessary for us to have an understanding of God himself in the beginning. If we start right, it is easy to go right all the time; but if we start wrong, we may go wrong, and it will be a hard matter to get right.” 
Amidst the confusion resulting from conflicting theories that attempt to explain what we see around us everyday, it is no wonder that sincere, honest people question whether there is purpose in life. Did we begin in some prehistoric ocean billions of years ago and through randomness miraculously evolve into this diverse and complex world? With our origins enshrouded in mysticism and the everchanging theories of men, no wonder Joseph was compelled to say: “Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God.” 
What insights did the Prophet add to our understanding of who we are, why we are here, what part, if any, our current condition plays in the eternal scheme of things? The Prophet explained:
All men know that they must die. And it is important that we should understand the reasons and causes of our exposure to the vicissitudes of life and of death, and the designs and purposes of God in our coming into the world, our suffering here, and our departure hence. What is the object of our coming into existence, then dying and falling away, to be here no more? It is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter, and it is a subject we ought to study more than any other. We ought to study it night and day, for the world is ignorant in reference to their true condition and relation. If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject. 
In order to survey the breadth and depth of Joseph’s discourses on what God revealed to him, I will lightly touch upon the following topics.
God’s Master Plan
Life was far from a cosmic accident; the great Jehovah (the pre-mortal Jesus Christ) knew and made provisions for every possible contingency for the mortal duration of this earth. Joseph taught:
The great Jehovah contemplated the whole of the events connected with the earth, pertaining to the plan of salvation, before it rolled into existence, or ever “the morning starts sang together” for joy; the past, the present, and the future were and are, with Him, one eternal “now;” He knew of the fall of Adam, the iniquities of the antediluvians, of the depth of iniquities that would be connected with the human family. . . . He knew the plan of salvation and pointed it out; He was acquainted with the situation of all nations and with their destiny; He ordered all things according to the council of His own will; He knows the situation of both the living and the dead, and has made ample provision for their redemption, according to their several circumstances, and the laws of the kingdom of God, whether in this world, or in the world to come. 
Before beginning our investigation of this earth and our pre-mortal experience, it is instructive to put ourselves in the grand eternal picture. This earth was not the first (nor will it be the last) of God’s creative ventures (see Moses 1:4). As the Prophet was fulfilling his divinely given assignment to retranslate the Bible, he learned of a vision given to the ancient prophet Moses. Moses saw countless worlds with their inhabitants. His interest was piqued, and he asked to understand about these innumerable worlds. The Savior answered:
Only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.
And it came to pass that Moses spake unto the Lord, saying: Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens, and then thy servant will be content.
And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine.
And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:35–39).
Joseph learned that the act of creating, peopling, and redeeming everything on these numberless earths is the very purpose, work, and glory of God (see 1 Nephi 17:36; Moses 6:44). If accepted by the world, this one divinely revealed concept might forever change the purpose of the research and many of the methods of scientists. However, even given that expanded insight, Joseph continued to probe further. He taught that Gods have existed “one above another” forever! Couching his reasoning in the teachings of other prophets, such as the ancient patriarch Abraham, John the Revelator, and the Apostle Paul, he said:
I learned a testimony concerning Abraham, and he reasoned concerning the God of heaven. “In order to do that,” he said, “suppose we have two facts: that supposes another fact may exist—two men on earth, one wiser than the other, would logically show that another, so that there is no end to them.”
If Abraham reasoned thus—If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. Paul says that which is earthly is in the likeness of that which is heavenly, Hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also? I despise the idea of being scared to death at such a doctrine, for the Bible is full of it. 
It would be a monumental mistake to believe that our premortal existence was the beginning of God’s work and glory. Without an idea of the bigger picture, even Latter-day Saints run the risk of failing to comprehend God, and comprehending God is by definition eternal life (see John 17:3). The Prophet Joseph Smith further taught that regardless of how many gods there are, we will never—throughout all eternity—ever worship any other beings save God our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. 
Our Premortal Beginning
Although it is clearly taught in the Bible that we are the literal offspring of God (see Matthew 6:9; Acts 17:27, 29; Hebrews 12:9), the world has, in an attempt to explain man’s presence on earth without recognizing God’s role in his creation, fictionalized that most important concept. However, the creation of man was a divine act and was revealed as such to man from the beginning. “Now this prophecy Adam spake, as he was moved upon the Holy Ghost, and a genealogy was kept of the children of God. And this was the book of the generations of Adam, saying: In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; in the image of his own body, male and female, created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created and became living souls in the land upon the footstool of God” (Moses 6:8–9).
Not only did God create man in His own image (see Genesis 1:26–27), but He revealed that men and women in their exalted state can also be referred to as gods.  Most people would acknowledge that offspring have the capability of growing up to be like their parents; so it is in the eternal worlds. If we begin by accepting the revealed truth that we are literal spirit offspring of God, then it should not be difficult to accept the concept that eventually we could grow up to become like God—that we have inherited a divine potential. In fact that is exactly what Joseph Smith 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. 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. 
Given this understanding of the purpose of divinely mandated law (to help us progress toward our eternal destiny of becoming like God), one no longer is tempted to view commandments as restrictive or burdensome but sees them as manifestations of divine love that help us attain our desired goal of eternal exaltation.
Continuing his teaching of what God had revealed to him, Joseph Smith expanded our understanding of truths revealed to the ancient patriarchs Abraham:
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.
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. (Abraham 3:22–26)
The Role of Agency in Our Premortal Progress
From these verses we learn that many of the spirit children of God, through obedience to premortal laws (called “the gospel of God” in Romans 1:1), had distinguished themselves as “noble and great ones,” implying that there must have been others who were not so noble and not so great because of their lack of diligence in obeying God’s laws. In explaining the cause of the great schism in heaven, the Lord revealed to Joseph: “It came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency” (D&C 29:36).
Agency was a gift given to the premortal sons and daughters of God. God would never force His children to follow rules that would automatically result in exaltation and eternal happiness. Growth toward exaltation comes because of voluntary obedience, not forced submission. As Joseph retranslated the Bible, he had revealed to him more of the details concerning the War in Heaven.
And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.
But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will by done, and the glory by thine forever.
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 4:1–4)
From these verses we learn that the right to exercise our agency to our own exaltation or destruction was so prized by our Heavenly Father that He would not abridge it even if it meant that some of His children would be eternally excluded from His presence. Lucifer led a rebellion against God, failed, and was cast out with all who followed him. “Neither was their place found any more in heaven” (Revelation 12:8). Today those hwo choose to follow the adversary become “carnal, sensual, and devilish,” while those who believe in the Son of God and repent of their sins will be saved (see Moses 5:13–5). Joseph later taught: “Satan was generally blamed for the evils which we did, but if he was the cause of all our wickedness, men could not be comdemned. The devil could not compel mankind to do evil; all was voluntary. Those who resisted the Spirit of God, would be liable to be led into temptation, and then the association of heaven would be withdrawn from those who refused to be made partakers of such great glory. God would not exert any compulsory means, and the devil could not; and such ideas as were entertained [on these subjects] by many were absurd.” 
Later in his life, Joseph again returned to this theme. He knew that without a correct understanding of the events that transpired in the pre-earth life, mortal man was likely to misunderstand many of the seemingly senseless happenings in mortality. He taught: “The contention in heaven was—Jesus said there could be certain souls that would 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 head for him.” 
Foreordained Roles, A Reward for Premortal Diligence
From the Prophet Joseph Smith’s translation of the book of Abraham, we learn many other vital truths. Joseph taught that many of the noble and great spirits would be foreordained to certain works here on the earth as a result of their premortal diligence (see also Alma 13). The Lord said to Abraham, “These I will make my rulers.” Rather modestly, Joseph explained his foreordained role and that of many others: “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.” 
As Joseph Smith continued to translate the papyrus of Abraham, he further learned that mortal life was intedned to be aporbationary experience: “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 matierla, 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” (Abraham 3:24–25).
All who know, honor, and revere the Savior recognize that He was the one who was “like unto God,” foreordained to supervise the creation of the earth. However, the antecedent to “them” in verse 22 is the “noble and great ones.” Could Joseph possible be translating aright? Even that “many of the noble and great ones” were to help create the earth? It was the very plan of the Eternal Father to provide experiences and lessons necessary for His children to become like Him. Joseph Smith taught that the Father, “God,” is also known as “the Creator.”  It seem possible, therefore, that those who would eventually gain their exaltation might have played some part in the Creation of this earth to gain experience for their future creative ventures.  As President Joseph Fielding noted: “Adam . . . helped to create this earth. He was chosen in pre-existence to be the first man upon the earth and the father of the human race, and he will preside over his posterity forever.” 
If we knew enough and had been given sufficient power to help create the earth on which we live, we should embrace the fact that we have sufficient power to create and control our intellectual, social, spiritual, mental, and, to a degree, physical world here in mortality. Now we can transition from being an advanced organism subject to environmental control to being sons and daughters of God endowed with agency and reason in order to create and fashion our own mortal experience to some degree.
A Place to Begin Understanding Mortality
Surely the reader can see that only summary points of interest have been touched upon in this paper and that a larger, more inclusive investigation begs to be written. Perhaps that is why Joseph said: “The great plan of salvation is a theme which ought to occupy our strict attention, and be regarded as one of heaven’s best gifts to mankind. No consideration whatever ought to deter us from showing ourselves approved in the sight of God, according to His divine requirement.” 
Far from being a cosmic mistake or even a divine experiment, our mortal existence is part of an eternal story that never had a beginning and will never have an end. Nothing could be further form the truth than to believe that we are here by mistake or without a purpose. In face, God revealed to Joseph, “I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name and in due time receive of his fulness” (D&C 93:19). Joseph further taught, “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.” 
With the correct understanding of who God is, what our relationship is to Him, and what His Divine purpose is for us, it is much easier to view the commandments and the trials of life as stepping stones toward our future exaltation. Then the satanic opposition we constantly experience, the death of loved one, and everything that seems so senseless and meaningless are viewed as part of God’s work and glory (see Moses 1:39) and begin to make perfect sense.
When we understand from our study of the pre-earth life that every person on earth is a brother or sister with the same divine Father, then the incentive to live together in love and harmony here in mortality increases. When we see, with our expanded vision of the pre-earth life, God’s perfect love for us and His infinite ability to foreknow and preplan our mortal experience, then we can accept without murmuring those things that happen to us in mortality over which we have no control. “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation” (2 Nephi 26:24). When we know this, then our love for and adoration of God and His Beloved Son increase exponentially.
When we finally acknowledge that this life isn’t the beginning of our test of godhood, that we were tutored and successfully passed many great tests for exaltation before ever coming here (as is evidenced by the exaltation of little children who die before being able to take the tests of mortality),  then we can take courage that, with effort and faith, we can pass these remaining tests and eventually qualify for our desired prize of exaltation with God in the celestial kingdom.
When we see our true familial relationship to God with vision so greatly enlarged and amazingly clarified by the revelations through God’s chosen prophet, Joseph Smith, then we can express eternal gratitude that we are able to bask in the understanding revealed through him. We feel like Brigham Young, who said, “I feel like shouting Hallelujah, all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph, the Prophet.” 
 Joseph Smith, Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book , 1976), 343.
 Smith, Teachings, 137.
 Smith, Teachings, 324.
 Smith, Teachings, 220.
 Smith, Teachings, 373; emphasis in original.
 Smith, Teachings, 370.
 For further scriptural verification, see D&C 131:1–4; 132:19–20; see also Erastus Snow, in Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854–86), 19:270–71; Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Writings and Sermons of Joseph F. Smith, 5th ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1939), 276.
 Smith, Teachings, 354.
 Smith, Teachings, 187.
 Smith, Teachings, 357.
 Smith, Teachings, 365.
Lecture on Faith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), 3:19; see also Smith, Teachings, 190.
 Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1955), 1:74–75.
 Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:94.
 Smith, Teachings 68.
 Smith, Teachings, 343.
 Bruce R. McConkie, “The Salvation of Little Children,” Ensign, April 1977, 3.
 Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, comp. John A. Widtsoe (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1954), 458.
“Our Father in heaven established a plan of salvation for his spirit children … to enable them to advance and progress until they obtain eternal life.”
Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith
In the premortal spirit world, we rejoiced to learn of Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation.
We are all members of the family of our Father in Heaven. We lived and dwelt with Him before the foundations of this earth were laid. We saw His face, felt His love, and heard His teachings, and He ordained the laws whereby we are able to advance and progress and gain eternal family units of our own.3
Our Father in heaven established a plan of salvation for his spirit children. This plan was designed to enable them to advance and progress until they obtain eternal life, which is the name of the kind of life our Father in Heaven lives. This plan is to enable the children of God to become like him and have the power and wisdom and knowledge which he possesses.4
We learn from the Pearl of Great Price, that there was a council held in heaven, when the Lord called before him the spirits of his children and presented to them a plan by which they should come down on this earth, partake of mortal life and physical bodies, pass through a probation of mortality and then go on to a higher exaltation through the resurrection which should be brought about through the atonement of his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ [see Moses 4:1–2; Abraham 3:22–28]. The thought of passing through mortality and partaking of all the vicissitudes of earth life in which they would gain experiences through suffering, pain, sorrow, temptation and affliction, as well as the pleasures of life in this mundane existence, and then, if faithful, passing on through the resurrection to eternal life in the kingdom of God, to be like him [see 1 John 3:2], filled them with the spirit of rejoicing, and they “shouted for joy.” [See Job 38:4–7.] The experience and knowledge obtained in this mortal life, they could not get in any other way, and the receiving of a physical body was essential to their exaltation.5
The Fall of Adam and Eve was part of Heavenly Father’s plan.
The plan of salvation, or code of laws, which is known as the gospel of Jesus Christ, was adopted in the heavens, before the foundation of the world was laid. It was appointed there that Adam our father should come to this earth and stand at the head of the whole human family. It was a part of this great plan, that he should partake of the forbidden fruit and fall, thus bringing suffering and death into the world, even for the ultimate good of his children.6
The Fall was an essential part of man’s mortal probation. … Had Adam and Eve not partaken, the great gift of mortality would not have come to them. Moreover, they would have had no posterity, and the great commandment given to them by the Lord would not have been fulfilled.7
The fall of Adam brought to pass all of the vicissitudes of mortality. It brought pain, it brought sorrow, it brought death; but we must not lose sight of the fact that it brought blessings also. … It brought the blessing of knowledge and understanding and mortal life.8
Jesus Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice to save us from the Fall and from our sins.
Adam’s transgression brought these two deaths, spiritual and temporal—man being banished from the presence of God, and becoming mortal and subject to all the ills of the flesh. In order that he should be brought back again, there had to be a reparation of the broken law. Justice demanded it.9
It is most natural and just that he who commits the wrong should pay the penalty—atone for his wrongdoing. Therefore, when Adam was the transgressor of the law, justice demanded that he, and none else, should answer for the sin and pay the penalty with his life. But Adam, in breaking the law, himself became subject to the curse, and being under the curse could not atone, or undo what he had done. Neither could his children, for they also were under the curse, and it required one who was not subject to the curse to atone for that original sin. Moreover, since we were all under the curse, we were also powerless to atone for our individual sins. It therefore became necessary for the Father to send his Only Begotten Son, who was free from sin, to atone for our sins as well as for Adam’s transgression, which justice demanded should be done. He accordingly offered himself a sacrifice for sins, and through his death upon the cross took upon himself both Adam’s transgression and our individual sins, thereby redeeming us from the fall, and from our sins, on condition of repentance.10
It is our duty to teach the mission of Jesus Christ. Why did he come? What did he do for us? How are we benefited? What did it cost him to do it? Why it cost his life, yes, more than his life! What did he do besides being nailed on the cross? Why was he nailed there? He was nailed there that his blood might be shed to redeem us from this most terrible penalty that could ever come, banishment from the presence of God. He died on the cross to bring us back again, to have our bodies and spirits reunited. He gave us that privilege. If we will only believe in him and keep his commandments, he died for us that we might receive a remission of our sins and not be called upon to pay penalty. He paid the price. …
… No man could do what he did for us. He did not have to die, he could have refused. He did it voluntarily. He did it because it was a commandment from his Father. He knew what the suffering was going to be; and yet, because of his love for us, he was willing to do it. …
The driving of the nails into his hands and into the Savior’s feet was the least part of his suffering. We get into the habit, I think, of feeling, or thinking that his great suffering was being nailed to the cross and left to hang there. Well, that was a period in the world’s history when thousands of men suffered that way. So his suffering, so far as that is concerned, was not any more than the suffering of other men who have been so crucified. What, then, was his great suffering? I wish we could impress this fact upon the minds of every member of this Church: His great suffering occurred before he ever went to the cross. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane, so the scriptures tell us, that blood oozed from every pore of his body; and in the extreme agony of his soul, he cried to his Father. It was not the nails driven into his hands and feet. Now do not ask me how that was done because I do not know. Nobody knows. All we know is that in some way he took upon himself that extreme penalty. He took upon him our transgressions, and paid a price, a price of torment.
Think of the Savior carrying the united burden of every individual—torment—in some way which I say, I cannot understand; I just accept—which caused him to suffer an agony of pain, compared to which the driving of the nails in his hands and feet was very little. He cried in His anguish, to His Father, “If it be possible, let this cup pass!” and it could not pass [see Matthew 26:42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42]. Let me read you just a word or two here of what the Lord says in regard to that:
“For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
“But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of the pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
“Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” [D&C 19:16–19.]
When I read that it humbles me. His love for humanity, for the world, was so great that he was willing to carry a burden that no mortal man could carry, and pay an awful price that no other person ever could have paid, that we might escape.11
The Son of God [said]: “I’ll go down and pay the price. I’ll be the Redeemer and redeem men from Adam’s transgression. I’ll take upon me the sins of the world and redeem or save every soul from his own sins who will repent.”12
Let us illustrate: A man walking along the road happens to fall into a pit so deep and dark that he cannot climb to the surface and regain his freedom. How can he save himself from his predicament? Not by any exertions on his own part, for there is no means of escape in the pit. He calls for help, and some kindly disposed soul, hearing his cries for relief, hastens to his assistance and by lowering a ladder, gives to him the means by which he may climb again to the surface of the earth. This was precisely the condition that Adam placed himself and his posterity in, when he partook of the forbidden fruit. All being together in the pit, none could gain the surface and relieve the others. The pit was banishment from the presence of the Lord and temporal death, the dissolution of the body. And all being subject to death, none could provide the means of escape.13
The Savior comes along, not subject to that pit, and lowers the ladder. He comes down into the pit and makes it possible for us to use the ladder to escape.14
In his infinite mercy, the Father heard the cries of his children and sent his Only Begotten Son, who was not subject to death nor to sin, to provide the means of escape. This he did through his infinite atonement and the everlasting gospel.15
The gratitude of our hearts should be filled to overflowing in love and obedience for [the Savior’s] great and tender mercy. For what he has done we should never fail him. He bought us with a price, the price of his great suffering and the spilling of his blood in sacrifice on the cross.16
Building on the foundation of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we work out our salvation during mortality.
Our Savior Jesus Christ is the central figure in this great plan of progression and salvation.17
Building on the foundation of the atonement, the plan of salvation consists of the following things:
First, we must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; we must accept him as the Son of God; we must put our trust in him, rely upon his word, and desire to gain the blessings which come by obedience to his laws.
Second, we must repent of our sins; we must forsake the world; we must determine in our hearts, without reservation, that we will live godly and upright lives.
Third, we must be baptized in water, under the hands of a legal administrator, who has power to bind on earth and seal in heaven; we must, through this sacred ordinance, enter into a covenant to serve the Lord and keep his commandments.
Fourth, we must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; we must be born again; we must have sin and iniquity burned out of our souls as though by fire; we must gain a new creation by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Fifth, we must endure to the end; we must keep the commandments after baptism; we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord; we must so live as to acquire the attributes of godliness and become the kind of people who can enjoy the glory and wonders of the celestial kingdom.18
Now I testify that these laws which men must obey to gain salvation, and which comprise the gospel of Jesus Christ, have been revealed in this day to prophets and apostles, and that they are now administered by his church, which he has again established upon the earth.19
We are, all of us here in this mortal world, on probation. We were sent here primarily to obtain tabernacles [bodies] for our eternal spirits; secondly, to be proved by trial, to have tribulation as well as the abundant joy and happiness that can be obtained through a sacred covenant of obedience to the eternal principles of the gospel. Mortality, as Lehi informed his children, is a “probationary state.” (2 Nephi 2:21.) It is here where we are to be tried and tested to see if we will, when shut out of the presence of our Eternal Father but still instructed in the way of eternal life, love and revere him and be true to his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.20
We came here to be tested and proved by coming in contact with evil as well as the good. … The Father has permitted Satan and his hosts to tempt us, but by the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord and the commandments given through revelation, we are prepared to make our choice. If we do evil, we have been promised that we will be punished; if we do good, we will receive the eternal reward of righteousness.21
This mortal probation [is] a brief period, just a short span linking the eternity past with the eternity future. Yet it [is] a period of tremendous importance. … This life is the most vital period in our eternal existence.22
All people will receive the blessing of resurrection through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
We came into this world to die. That was understood before we came here. It is part of the plan, all discussed and arranged long before men were placed upon the earth. … We were ready and willing to make that journey from the presence of God in the spirit world to the mortal world, here to suffer all that pertains to this life, its pleasures and its sorrows, and to die; and death is just as essential as birth.23
Physical death, or the death of the mortal man, is not a permanent separation of the spirit and the tabernacle of flesh, notwithstanding the fact that the body returns again to the elements, but is only a temporary separation which shall cease at the resurrection day when the body shall be called forth from the dust to live again animated by spirit. This blessing comes to all men through the atonement of Christ, irrespective of their goodness or wickedness while in mortality. Paul said there should be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15), and the Savior said that all who were in their graves should hear his voice and should come forth “they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:29).24
Every fundamental part of every body will be restored to its proper place again in the resurrection, no matter what may become of the body in death. If it be burned by fire, eaten by sharks, no matter what. Every fundamental part of it will be restored to its own proper place.25
Spirits cannot be made perfect without the body of flesh and bones. This body and its spirit are brought to immortality and blessings of salvation through the resurrection. After the resurrection there can be no separation again, body and spirit become inseparably connected that man may receive a fulness of joy. In no other way, other than birth into this life and the resurrection, can spirits become like our eternal Father.26
The faithful will inherit eternal life with their families in the presence of Heavenly Father.
Some men inherit wealth through the industry of their fathers. Some men are through inheritance raised to worldly thrones, to power, and position, among their fellow men. Some seek for the inheritance of worldly knowledge and renown through the application of their own industry and perseverance; but there is one inheritance which is worth more than all, it is the inheritance of eternal exaltation.
The Scriptures say that eternal life—which is the life possessed by our Eternal Father and his Son, Jesus Christ,—is the greatest gift of God [see D&C 14:7]. Only those shall receive it who are cleansed from all sin. It is promised to those “who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true. They are they who are the church of the Firstborn. They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things.” [D&C 76:53–55; see also verse 52.]27
This plan of salvation is family centered. … [It] is designed to enable us to create eternal family units of our own.28
Those who receive the exaltation in the celestial kingdom will have the “continuation of the seeds forever.” They will live in the family relationship.29
We are taught in the gospel of Jesus Christ that the family organization will be, so far as celestial exaltation is concerned, one that is complete, an organization linked from father and mother and children of one generation to the father and mother and children of the next generation, and thus expanding and spreading out down to the end of time.30
These glorious blessings of eternal inheritance … do not come except through willingness to keep the commandments and even to suffer with Christ if need be. In other words, candidates for eternal life—the greatest gift of God—are expected to place all that they have on the altar, should it be required, for even then, and should they be required to lay down their lives for his cause, they could never pay him for the abundant blessings which are received and promised based on obedience to his laws and commandments.31
When we have come out of the world and have received the gospel in its fulness, we are candidates for celestial glory; nay, we are more than candidates, if we are faithful, for the Lord has given unto us the assurance that through our faithfulness, we shall enter into the celestial kingdom. …
… Let us live so that we will be assured of our place, and so we will know, through the lives we live, that we shall enter into His presence and dwell with Him, receiving the fulness of the blessings that have been promised. Who among the Latter-day Saints will be content with anything short of the fulness of salvation which is promised us? … It is necessary for us, in our humility, and in the spirit of repentance, to press on and on; keeping the commandments unto the end, for our hope and our goal is eternal life, and that is life in the presence of the Father and of the Son; “And this is life eternal,” said the Lord,” that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” [John 17:3.]32
I stand now, in what I might call the twilight of life, with the realization that in a not-far-distant day I shall be called upon to give an account of my mortal stewardship. …
I am sure that we all love the Lord. I know that he lives, and I look forward to that day when I shall see his face, and I hope to hear his voice say unto me: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. 25:34.)
And I pray that this may be the happy lot of all of us, in our own due time.33