Where did we come from? It’s a universally human question. We do not remember our infancy and have no seemingly concrete proof of our spiritual genesis. So the question Where did we come from? is a legitimate and important one. Many religions—Christian or otherwise—have theologies about where we go from here, but few have doctrine about where we were before our mortality. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church) is a faith that does have an answer to that question, an answer that is key to our purpose and place both in this life and in the one beyond.
Where Mormons find their answer
Mormons find the answer to this question in a book of scripture called The Pearl of Great Price. The Pearl of Great Price is a set of scripture translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith when Joseph was translating the Bible and contains a more complete account of Moses’s writings. These scriptures contain crucial doctrine that was lost in the Bible, and it is in these books where we learn where we came from.
The Plan of Salvation
In the Book of Abraham (found in The Pearl of Great Price), we learn that we were a part of a great heavenly council. Abraham (that same Abraham of the Bible) recounts a revelation from God regarding this premortal event:
Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; . . .
And God saw these souls that they were good. . . .
And there stood one among them [Jesus Christ] 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. (Abraham 3:22–24)
These verses teach us that not only did our spirits exist prior to mortality, but that they existed even before the world was formed. We learn that Jesus Christ was our Savior even then, that He was the ultimate advocate for our right to choose.
During this council, Jesus presented a plan to His Father: We would come to earth to receive our bodies, and we would be tested and tried, with the purpose of being worthy to return to our Father in Heaven as glorified beings. Because our mortality would make us physically and spiritually weak, Jesus volunteered to be our Savior, to compensate for the wrongs we commit and to enable us to repent and change so that that heavenly return would be possible.
Lucifer presented his own plan, which hinged on the lack of moral agency. He would take away our choice and compel us to keep the commandments. As a result he—not God, as in Christ’s proposal—would receive the glory.
In that premortal council, we made a choice to follow either Jesus or Lucifer. Some souls did follow Lucifer, and they were cast out of heaven, forever denied bodies. Those who chose to follow the Savior are the ones here on earth today.
Why the Premortal Life Matters
So why is this history important? What purpose does it lend to our lives right now? The truth found in this piece of eternal doctrine is tantamount to the very nature of our souls: We have chosen Christ once before. That choice was easy for some and hard for others, but regardless, every single person who has ever lived on this earth has at one point chosen to follow the Savior. The beauty of this choice is that we can make it again—and again and again and again. No matter how much we fall, we can always choose Christ once more.
Our first choice to follow Jesus Christ and come to earth entitles us to Christ’s redemptive power. We make mistakes, and we make poor choices; it is through the atonement of our Savior that we can repent, change, and become more godlike day by day. Because we already chose Jesus Christ, we can choose Him as many times as we need to become like Him.
Our Premortal Life is Key to Our Eternal Existence
Once we know where we really come from—heaven—our mortal concerns and responsibilities are given greater perspective. In the premortal existence, we were prepared for the challenges for this life. We were taught and blessed by God, given specific instructions and individual missions for this life. How empowering to know that God prepared our spirits for mortality! In the premortal life our spirits were similar to what they are now: We had distinct identities that carried with us to our bodies.
The decisions we made in the life before this are still a part of who we are, and because we chose to follow the Savior we can continue to make choices throughout eternity. We can relearn what we were taught in the premortal life and can learn to love and apply those truths in our lives today.
Charlotte graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree in English, with an emphasis in editing. During her education she interned with the Neal A.Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, BYU Publications, and the New Era magazine. Charlotte currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and son. She's a stay-at-home-mom and has been able to keep up her writing through maintaining a personal blog (smallandtrivial.blogspot.com).