4

D&C 93:29 Man was also in the beginning with God.

It has been presented in the comments here that one LDS belief is that "there was never a point where we did not exist. We grow & develop, but do not begin or cease to exist." I do not know if this is an official LDS doctrine or simply the personal belief of one studied LDS adherent. Perhaps that is question #1.

Follow-up questions would be:

#2 Does this belief indicate the eternal existence of each specific, individual human being or some sort of notional existence of each or of mankind as a whole?

#2a Prior to birth on earth is each human being spirit only?

#3 If so, was there a fixed and finite number of spirit human beings in existence prior to creation?

#3a If so, does depleting this number through the process of birth on earth usher in the end of the age?

#3b If not, does the end of the age leave some number of human beings bereft of a body for the rest of eternity?

  • Apologies if I have not formulated very clear questions but this subject matter is not something I have ever entertained before and I have tried to be careful to limit the battery of questions that exploded into view :-)

An ancillary question underneath or over top of this all would be; Is there any Biblical substantiation to this doctrine in the LDS view or is this purely new revelation?

Related questions: LDS belief in pre-existence of the human person vs. human physical deformities

What does the LDS Church teach about the pre-existence of each person prior to conception?

2
  • 1
    Very insightful questions, and very courteously asked, upvoted +1 Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 14:08
  • vaguely related (not dup) question
    – depperm
    Commented Sep 13, 2022 at 14:53

2 Answers 2

3

Introduction

As noted by depperm, the official answer to several of these questions is "this has not been revealed". I would, however, like to examine some of what has been revealed, in order to narrow down the possibilities.

As Joseph Smith taught:

you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil [died] before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave (source)

--

Question 0: According to LDS is there a fixed and finite number of human beings?

This is not a teaching of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and there is no reason given to believe that God's direct posterity is capped. Moses 1:4, 39 certainly imply that God's direct posterity is endless:

4 And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.

39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

If God's work is bringing about immortality & eternal life for man, and His work is without end, that suggests to me that He will not run out of people to bless in this work.

The Doctrine and Covenants Instructor's Guide, the Eternal Marriage Student Manual, and the Gospel Principles Manual speak of the concept of posterity in the eternities using the terminology "eternal increase".

--

Question 1: The origin of the view that there was never a point where we did not exist. We grow & develop, but do not begin or cease to exist

This is established in multiple places; here are some examples:

No beginning:

Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. (Doctrine & Covenants 93:29; compare Abraham 3:22-23 for greater insight on the terminology)

No end:

Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul. (Alma 42:16)

--

Question 2: Does this belief indicate the eternal existence of each specific, individual human being or some sort of notional existence of each or of mankind as a whole?

The pre-mortal, non-notional existence of individuals is clearly taught in Abraham 3:22-26 and Alma 13:3-5; the information we have on the nature of intelligences is limited, but what is known clearly implies individuality.

--

Question 2a Prior to birth on earth is each human being spirit only?

Intelligence + spirit is suggested by Abraham 3:22-23. From The Guide to the Scriptures:

The scriptures also may speak of intelligence as referring to the spirit element that existed before we were begotten as spirit children.

The sequence of development, then, would be:

Intelligence => Spirit housing our intelligence => Physical body housing our spirit

--

Question 3 If so, was there a fixed and finite number of spirit human beings in existence prior to creation?

Not necessarily. Joseph Smith taught that God has created multiple worlds and His children are not limited only to this one:

22 And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

23 For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

24 That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God. (Doctrine & Covenants 76:22-24)

Therefore, even if we accept (for sake of argument) that all spirit children of God who would live on this earth already existed in spirit form prior to the creation of this earth, it would not mean that there is or was a finite number of God's spirit children.

(Whether or not the council in heaven occurred in multiple sessions is unclear--as is the function of time outside of mortality)

--

Question 3a If so, does depleting this number through the process of birth on earth usher in the end of the age?

No, children will continue to be born after the second coming, during the Millennium:

And the earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance; and they shall multiply and wax strong, and their children shall grow up without sin unto salvation. (Doctrine & Covenants 45:58)

--

Question 3b If not, does the end of the age leave some number of human beings bereft of a body for the rest of eternity?

No, see discussion of multiple worlds under question 3.

--

Conclusion

I recognize that these concepts make many uncomfortable, and that Latter-day Saints have a distinct view of what is meant by Biblical phrases such as "let us make man in our image", "joint-heirs with Christ", "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ", "we shall be like him", and others.

It is not my intent to offend but to explain what I believe. I believe that God can make us as He is. When asked if God could really exalt His children in this way, I am inclined to quote Phil Matheson who stated: Yes, our God is so grand.



Disclaimer: I have drawn inferences that I believe are reasonable from what God has revealed, but these thoughts are products of my own study and do not constitute official statements by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

2

There are limited details on what we know about spirits. A message from 1912 first presidency stated:

The written standards of scripture show that all people who come to this earth and are born in mortality, had a pre-existent, spiritual personality, as the sons and daughters of the Eternal Father. (See Pearl of Great Price, Chap. 3, verses 5-7.") Jesus Christ was the first-born. A spirit born of God is an immortal being. When the body dies, the spirit does not die. In the resurrected state the body will be immortal as well as the spirit


"there was never a point where we did not exist. We grow & develop, but do not begin or cease to exist." I do not know if this is an official LDS doctrine

Doctrine

  1. first we were intelligences-details are lacking for where they came from as they weren't created (D&C 93:29), or how many there are
  2. then spirits, begotten by Heavenly Father-lots of unknowns about this process from intelligences to spirit, if all intelligences were part of this process, etc (immortal), comes to earth to gain body Genesis 2:7, Jeremiah 1:5, Romans 8:16, Hebrews 12:9, James 2:26, 1 Peter 3:18-19

Does this belief indicate the eternal existence of each specific, individual human being or some sort of notional existence of each or of mankind as a whole?

eternal existence of each specific, individual human being, not as mankind as a whole (if I'm reading the question right)

Prior to birth on earth is each human being spirit only?

see above, yes

If so, was there a fixed and finite number of spirit human beings in existence prior to creation?

Probably, but this isn't explicit in any doctrine that I can find. I say probably as God presented his plan to all mankind with the opportunity to gain bodies in the pre-existence when we were all spirits. This led to a war in heaven with a 1/3 of the host(indicates finite number) of heaven following Satan. The rest of the host now have the opportunity to gain bodies. Revelation 12:4, 7-9, 11, Isaiah 14:12-15, Luke 10:18

If so, does depleting this number through the process of birth on earth usher in the end of the age?

Of sorts (not 100% clear your meaning of age). There are dispensations, but this doesn't necessarily seem to stem from number of births (maybe it does). IMO one could come to a conclusion, that once the number is close to depleted around that time the second coming will occur (once everyone has an opportunity to gain a body, or will in 1000 years, Jesus can come-so everyone who accepted God's plan will receive promise, the next age will be ushered in (Millenium-there will still be births), my opinion does not include when this will occur or how close we are to this point)

If not, does the end of the age leave some number of human beings bereft of a body for the rest of eternity?

The only ones that will bereft of a body will be those that followed Satan, see above.1

attempted to include all biblical verses pertinent to questions, though just bible verses alone do not make up LDS doctrine on the subject

See also:

1 The Body, a Sacred Gift, Diane L. Spangler

5
  • 1
    So, "Let us make man in our image" was spoken to begotten spirits who at some point previous were uncreated intelligences and would have the opportunity to receive bodies? Does this lead to the conclusion that, ultimately, God did not create Adam but only fashioned him from uncreated "raw material"? Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 11:28
  • 1
    Also "all people who come to this earth and are born in mortality, had a pre-existent, spiritual personality, as the sons and daughters of the Eternal Father.". Wasn't the Eternal Father once a man, and before that a Spirit, and before that an intelligence? How could eternal spirit children have been begotten by an intelligence that had not yet been exalted to Eternal Fatherhood? Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 11:47
  • 1
    @MikeBorden to the first comment maybe/yes-according the sources I've seen (details of pre-existence are limited), 2nd-we don't know the timeline between those states (God being once man and Him creating us as spirits) or the time line once we got spirits and the plan presented or how much of our personality came from the intelligences (again details are limited), but no where did I say that God hadn't been exalted yet (I believe God has his own history-details/timeline are unclear before we were begotten)
    – depperm
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 16:49
  • 1
    Yes, I understand you didn't say God hadn't been exalted yet when he begot spirit children. At some point in the past, however, God was just an uncreated "intelligence" and, at some point in the past you were just an uncreated "intelligence" and both of you were then begotten as spiritual personalities (by some already exalted being?) prior to taking on mortality as part of the exaltation process. Doesn't this indicate ultimate sameness of both God and yourself in regards to ontology and process; The only difference being that you have yet to arrive at exaltation? Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 19:44
  • 1
    The LDS do not have any doctrine on this beyond the phrase God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! from the King Follett sermon. But even that Joseph Smith goes on to talk about how we have familiar forms/shapes, ie too much speculation beyond what is written is just that speculation. I feel these comments are going away from the original question, and anything I say would be my opinion not necessarily doctrine
    – depperm
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 21:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .