Prior to the placing of man upon the earth, how long before we do not know, Jesus Christ and Satan, together with the hosts of the spirit-children of God, existed as intelligent individuals, possessing power and opportunity to choose the course they would pursue and the leaders whom they would follow and obey. In that great concourse of spirit-intelligences, the Father’s plan, whereby His children would be advanced to their second estate, was submitted and doubtless discussed. The opportunity so placed within the reach of the spirits who were to be privileged to take bodies upon the earth was so transcendently glorious that those heavenly multitudes burst forth into song and shouted for joy (Job 38:7).
Satan’s plan of compulsion, whereby all would be safely conducted through the career of mortality, bereft of freedom to act and agency to choose, so circumscribed that they would be compelled to do right—that one soul would not be lost—was rejected; and the humble offer of Jesus the First-born—to assume mortality and live among men as their Exemplar and Teacher, observing the sanctity of man’s agency but teaching men to use aright that divine heritage—was accepted. The decision brought war, which resulted in the vanquishment of Satan and his angels, who were cast out and deprived of the boundless privileges incident to the mortal or second estate.
In that august council of the angels and the Gods, the Being who later was born in flesh as Mary’s Son, Jesus Christ, took prominent part, and there was He ordained of the Father to be the Savior of mankind. As to time, the term being used in the sense of all duration past, this is our earliest record of the Firstborn among the sons of God; to us who read, it marks the beginning of the written history of Jesus the Christ.
Old Testament scriptures, while abounding in promises relating to the actuality of Christ’s advent in the flesh, are less specific in information concerning His antemortal existence. By the children of Israel, while living under the law and still unprepared to receive the gospel, the Messiah was looked for as one to be born in the lineage of Abraham and David, empowered to deliver them from personal and national burdens, and to vanquish their enemies. The actuality of the Messiah’s status as the chosen Son of God, who was with the Father from the beginning, a Being of preexistent power and glory, was but dimly perceived, if conceived at all, by the people in general; and although to prophets specially commissioned in the authorities and privileges of the Holy Priesthood, revelation of the great truth was given,(Psalm 25:1-4; Amos 3:7) they transmitted it to the people rather in the language of imagery and parable than in words of direct plainness. Nevertheless the testimony of the evangelists and the apostles, the attestation of the Christ Himself while in the flesh, and the revelations given in the present dispensation leave us without dearth of scriptural proof.
In the opening lines of the Gospel book written by John the apostle, we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made…. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth”(John 1:1-3, 14; see also 1 John 1:1; 5: 7; Rev. 19:13; compare Doctrine and Covenants 93:1-17, 21).
The passage is simple, precise and unambiguous. We may reasonably give to the phrase “In the beginning” the same meaning as attaches thereto in the first line of Genesis; and such signification must indicate a time antecedent to the earliest stages of human existence upon the earth. That the Word is Jesus Christ, who was with the Father in that beginning and who was Himself invested with the powers and rank of Godship, and that He came into the world and dwelt among men, are definitely affirmed. These statements are corroborated through a revelation given to Moses, in which he was permitted to see many of the creations of God, and to hear the voice of the Father with respect to the things that had been made: “And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth” (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:32, 33; see also Moses 2:5).
John the apostle repeatedly affirms the preexistence of the Christ and the fact of His authority and power in the antemortal state (1 John 1:1-3; 2:13-14; 4:9; Rev. 3:14). To the same effect is the testimony of Paul (2 Tim. 1:9-10; Rom. 16:25; Eph. 1:4; 3:9, 11; Titus 1:2. See especially Rom. 3:25; and note the marginal rendering—”foreordained”—making the passage read: “Whom God hath foreordained to be a propitiation”) and of Peter. Instructing the saints concerning the basis of their faith, the last-named apostle impressed upon them that their redemption was not to be secured through corruptible things nor by the outward observance of traditional requirements, “But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Peter 1:19-20).
Even more impressive and yet more truly conclusive are the personal testimonies of the Savior as to His own pre-existent life and the mission among men to which He had been appointed. No one who accepts Jesus Christ as the Messiah can consistently reject these evidences of His eternal nature. When, on a certain occasion, the Jews in the synagogue disputed among themselves and murmured because of their failure to understand aright His doctrine concerning Himself, especially as touching His relationship with the Father, Jesus said unto them: “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” And then, continuing the lesson based upon the contrast between the manna with which their fathers had been fed in the wilderness and the bread of life which He had to offer, He added: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven,” and again declared “the living Father hath sent me.” Not a few of the disciples failed to comprehend His teachings; and their complaints drew from Him these words: “Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?” (John 6:38, 51, 57, 61, 62).
To certain Jews, wrapped in the mantle of racial pride, boastful of their descent through the lineage of Abraham, and seeking to excuse their sins through an unwarranted use of the great patriarch’s name, our Lord thus proclaimed His own preeminence: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58; see also John 17:5, 24; and compare Exo. 3:14) The fuller significance of this remark will be treated later; suffice it in the present connection to consider this scripture as a plain avowal of our Lord’s seniority and supremacy over Abraham. But as Abraham’s birth had preceded that of Jesus Christ by more than nineteen centuries, such seniority must have reference to a state of existence antedating that of mortality.
When the hour of His betrayal was near, in the last interview with the apostles prior to His agonizing experience in Gethsemane, Jesus Christ comforted them saying: “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world again, I leave the world, and go to the Father” (John 16:27, 28; see also John 13:3). Furthermore, in the course of upwelling prayer for those who had been true to their testimony of His Messiahship, He addressed the Father with this solemn invocation: “And this is the life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father glorify thou with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:3-5, 24, 25).
Book of Mormon scriptures are likewise explicit in proof of the preexistence of the Christ and of His foreappointed mission. One only of the many evidences therein found will be cited here. An ancient prophet, designated in the record as the brother of Jared, (see Christ’s Premortal Life) once pleaded with the Lord in special supplication: “And the Lord said unto him, Believest thou the words which I shall speak? And he answered, Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie. And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord shewed himself unto him, and said, Because thou knowest these things, ye are redeemed from the fall: therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I shew myself unto you. Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have light, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters. And never have I shewed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning, after mine own image. Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit, will I appear unto my people in the flesh” (Book of Mormon, Ether 3:11-16. See also 1 Nephi 17:30; 19:7; 2 Nephi 9:5; 11:7; 25:12; 26:12; Mosiah 3:5; 4:2; 7:27; 13:34; 15:1; Alma 11:40; Hela. 14:12; 3 Nephi 9:15). The main facts attested by this scripture as having a direct bearing upon our present subject are those of the Christ manifesting Himself while yet in His antemortal state, and of His declaration that He had been chosen from the foundation of the world as the Redeemer.
Revelation given through the prophets of God in the present dispensation is replete with evidence of Jesus Christ’s appointment and ordination in the primeval world; and the whole tenor of the scriptures contained in the Doctrine and Covenants may be called in witness. The following instances are particularly in point. In a communication to Joseph Smith the prophet, in May, 1833, the Lord declared Himself as the One who had previously come into the world from the Father, and of whom John had borne testimony as the Word; and the solemn truth is reiterated that He, Jesus Christ, “was in the beginning, before the world was”, and further, that He was the Redeemer who “came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men.” Again, He is referred to as “the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh.” In the course of the same revelation the Lord said: “And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father and am the firstborn” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:1-17, 21). On an earlier occasion, as the modern prophet testifies, he and an associate in the priesthood were enlightened by the Spirit so that they were able to see and understand the things of God—”Even those things which were from the beginning before the world was, which were ordained of the Father, through his Only Begotten Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, even from the beginning, of whom we bear record, and the record which we bear is the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the Son, whom we saw and with whom we conversed in the heavenly vision” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:13, 14).
The testimony of scriptures written on both hemispheres, that of records both ancient and modern, the inspired utterances of prophets and apostles, and the words of the Lord Himself, are of one voice in proclaiming the preexistence of the Christ and His ordination as the chosen Savior and Redeemer of mankind—in the beginning, yea, even before the foundation of the world.
James Talmage, Jesus the Christ