This was inspired by the accepted answer to this other question, which stated that

Mormons believe that god arranged pre-existing matter in creation. The matter always existed; creation was an act of organizing the matter.

Now, according to this article at Doctrines & Covenant Student Manual, the LDS belief is also that there is a part of each person, referred to as "intelligence", that has always existed.

The article states the following (emphasis added):

Doctrine and Covenants 93:29. “Intelligence … was not created or made”

The term intelligence can be used to describe “the spirit element that existed before we were begotten as spirit children” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Intelligence, Intelligences,” scriptures.lds.org). However, the Lord has revealed very few details concerning the nature of intelligences. President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:

“Some of our writers have endeavored to explain what an intelligence is, but to do so is futile, for we have never been given an insight into this matter beyond what the Lord has fragmentarily revealed. We know, however, that there is something called intelligence which always existed. It is the real eternal part of man, which was not created or made. This intelligence combined with the spirit constitutes a spiritual identity or individual.

“The spirit of man, then, is a combination of the intelligence and the spirit which is an entity begotten of God” (The Progress of Man [1936], 11).

The "intelligence" referred to in above text are those described in LDS canon such as D&C 93:29...

29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.

...and in Abraham 3:18

18 Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.

The interesting question here is about how this should be viewed in connection with another belief that God himself was once a man. That this is part of accepted doctrine is explained in this article, titled "Is President Lorenzo Snow’s oft-repeated statement—“As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be”—accepted as official doctrine by the Church?"

This article says about this belief (emphasis added)

Numerous sources could be cited, but one should suffice to show that this doctrine is accepted and taught by the Brethren. In an address in 1971, President Joseph Fielding Smith, then serving as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said:

“I think I can pay no greater tribute to [President Lorenzo Snow and Elder Erastus Snow] than to preach again that glorious doctrine which they taught and which was one of the favorite themes, particularly of President Lorenzo Snow. …

“We have been promised by the Lord that if we know how to worship, and know what we worship, we may come unto the Father in his name, and in due time receive of his fulness. We have the promise that if we keep his commandments, we shall receive of his fulness and be glorified in him as he is in the Father.

“This is a doctrine which delighted President Snow, as it does all of us. Early in his ministry he received by direct, personal revelation the knowledge that (in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s language), ‘God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens,’ and that men ‘have got to learn how to be Gods … the same as all Gods have done before.’

The article concludes with

It is clear that the teaching of President Lorenzo Snow is both acceptable and accepted doctrine in the Church today.

Now, continuing on that belief, stated above, that

men have got to learn how to be Gods … the same as all Gods have done before

According to this statement both the current God and all previous Gods had a time when they were not Gods.

At the same time the "intelligence" of everyone has always existed.

Based on this the "intelligences" would always have preceded God in time.

If every God actually had to "earn" their godship (because they all had to go through the stages of "intelligence" > "human" > "God"), we would have, somewhere in distant past, had a situation in which the only thing around would then have been the "intelligences".

What doctrine does the LDS church have, if any, to reconcile this?

  • 2
    My guess is that this is well outside of what has been revealed so far. But here my opinion as comment: If the past is eternal like the future, then it is conceivable that, although each god has to "earn" their godship, there was never a time where there was no god.
    – kutschkem
    Sep 6, 2019 at 6:42

2 Answers 2


There doesn't seem to be a need for a reconciliation with your question. There isn't much written on the eternities before earth (like details on intelligences and on God before he created us) because this doesn't really pertain to an individual's salvation.

First there doesn't seem to be any contradiction in the beliefs of intelligences always existing and one "earning" godhood. So if intelligences always existed and God went through the same process that we did then there is no contradiction; he was an intelligence (always existed), became a individual with a spirit, became a man, and then became exalted (will never die). This follows that both OPs statements are correct, intelligences are eternal and God "earning" godhood. Yes this may mean way in past there might've been a time with just intelligences (idk and there isn't any doctrine that I can find to support/refute this), but at the same time there isn't much doctrine on intelligences beyond what the OP stated (eternal and combined with spirit make makes an individual).


  • Intelligence is eternal and is part of our identity, so God is eternal because his intelligence is eternal
  • God is our Eternal Father1. Quentin L Cook says:

    Our Heavenly Father has chosen not to reveal many details of our premortal life with Him. Perhaps this is because we can learn many things simply by observing the pattern for righteous families He established on the earth.2

So comparing our Heavenly Father to our mortal father we can make some comparisons. You might say 'when my dad was a kid....', so that to you even when your father was a child he was your father in your eyes. If we become a father, this doesn't change the fact that our own father is still our father. We can make similar comparisons to our Heavenly Father. He has always been our Father and always will be.

The Father is the one true God. This thing is certain: no one will ever ascend above Him; no one will ever replace Him. Nor will anything ever change the relationship that we, His literal offspring, have with Him. He is Eloheim, the Father. He is God. Of Him there is only one.3

1 Articles of Faith 1

2 The Doctrine of the Father

3 The Pattern of our Partentage


(in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s language), ‘God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens,’ and that men ‘have got to learn how to be Gods … the same as all Gods have done before.’

This statement comes from what is known as the "King Follett Discourse" given by Joseph Smith at a general conference of the church just several months before his death in 1844. While not a part of the official LDS canon like the quotes given from the Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price given in the original question, it is well regarded and worth reading for more insight on this subject. It may be of note that the latest publication of this sermon was in 1971, the same year as the above quote by Pres. Joseph F. Smith referencing Pres. Snow.

(Part 1): https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1971/04/the-king-follett-sermon

(Part 2): https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1971/05/the-king-follett-sermon

(Original documents): https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/site/accounts-of-the-king-follett-sermon

Relevant quotations to the question:

Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power.

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.

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