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the spirits of mankind, as also the diverse capacities of those spirits, and the Divine purpose in preparing the earth for their habitation. Thus runs the record:
"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 forever and ever." (Pearl of Great Price, pp. 65-66.)
Our life in the flesh is but one stage in the course of the soul's eternal progress, a link connecting the eternities past with the eternities yet to come. The purpose of our mortal probation is that of education, training, trial, and test, whereby we demonstrate whether we will obey the commandments of the Lord our God and so lay hold on the boundless opportunities of advancement in the eternal worlds, or elect to do evil and forfeit the boon of citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The condition upon which mankind may have place in that
Kingdom is compliance with the requirements laid down by Jesus Christ the Redeemer and Savior of the world, whose name is "the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men." (Pearl of Great Price, p. 33.)
Successive Stages of Existence
HERE are four states, conditions, or stages in the advancement of the individual soul, specified in Sacred Writ. These are (1) the unembodied, (2) the embodied, (3) the disembodied, and (4) the resurrected state.
In other words, (1) every one of us lived in an antemortal existence as an individual spirit; (2) we are now in the advanced or mortal stage of progress; (3) we shall live in a disembodied state after death, which is but a separation of spirit and body; (4) and in due time each of us, whether righteous or sinful, shall be resurrected from the dead with spirit and body reunited and never again to be separated.
As to the certainty of the antemortal state, commonly spoken of as preexistence, the Scriptures are explicit. Our Lord Jesus Christ repeatedly averred that He had lived before He was born in flesh (see John 6:62; 8:58; 16:28; 17:5); and as with Him so with the spirits of all who have become or yet shall become mortal.
We were severally brought into being, as spirits, in that preexistent condition, literally the children of the Supreme Being whom Jesus Christ worshiped and addressed as Father. Do we not read that the Eternal Father is "the
God of the spirits of all flesh" (Numb. 16:22; 27:16), and more specifically that He is "the Father of spirits"? (Heb. 12:9.) In the light of these Scriptures it is plainly true that the spirits of mankind were there begotten and born into what we call the preexistent or antemortal condition. The primeval spirit birth is expressively described by Abraham to whom the facts were revealed, as a process of organization and the spirits so advanced are designated as intelligences: "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." (Pearl of Great Price, p. 65.)
The human mind finds difficulty in apprehending the actuality of infinite or eternal process, either from the present onward to and beyond what we call in a relative sense perfection, on, on, without end; or backward through receding stages that had no beginning. But who will affirm that things beyond human comprehension cannot be?
In the antemortal eternities we developed with individual differences and varied capacities. So far as we can peer into the past by the aid of revealed light we see that there was always gradation of intelligence, and consequently of ability, among the spirits, precisely as such differences exist amongst us mortals.
"That all men are created equal" is true in the sense in which that telling epigram was written into the scriptures of the Nation as a self-evident truth; for such laws as men enact in righteousness provide for the protection of individual rights on a basis of equality and recognize no discriminating respect of persons. But if applied as meaning that all men are born with equal capacities, or even inherent abilities in like measure for each, the aphorism becomes absurd and manifestly false.
Every spirit born in the flesh is an individual character, and brings to the body prepared for its tenancy a nature all its own. The tendencies, likes and dislikes, in short the whole disposition of the spirit may be intensified or changed by the course of mortal life, and the spirit may advance or retrograde while allied with its mortal tabernacle. Students of the so-called science with a newly coined name, Eugenics, are prone to emphasize the facts of heredity to the exclusion of preexistent traits and attributes of the individual spirit as factors in the determination of character.
The spirit lived as an organized intelligence before it became the embodied child of human parents; and its preexistent individualism will be of effect in its period of earth life. Even though the manifestations of primeval personality be largely smothered under the tendencies due to bodily and prenatal influence, it is there, and makes its mark. This is in analogy with the recognized laws of physical operation-every force acting upon a body produces its definite effect whether it acts alone or with other and even opposing forces.
The genesis of every soul lies back in the eternity past, beyond the horizon of our full comprehension, and what we call a beginning is as truly a consummation and an ending, just as mortal birth is at once the commencement of earth life and the termination of the stage of antemortal existence.
The facts are thus set forth in the revealed word of God:
"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." (Pearl of Great Price, p. 65.)
To every stage of development, as to every human life, there is beginning and end; but each stage is a definite fraction of eternal process, which is without beginning or end. Man is of eternal nature and of Divine lineage.
HE spirits of mankind are the offspring of God. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints so affirms on the basis of scriptural certainty, and as wholly reasonable and consistent.
The preexistent or antemortal state of man has been heretofore demonstrated. God the Eternal Father is the actual and literal Parent of spirits. That many of these spirits in their embodied state manifest more of human weakness than of Divine heritage, that they grasp the earthly present with little regard for the heavenly past and with less for the yet greater possibilities of the heavenly future, is no proof to the contrary of the revealed truth that man belongs to the lineage of God.
Of all the spirit children begotten of the Eternal Father throughout the eons past, Jesus Christ was the firstborn. To this solemn truth the Christ has testified in the current age: "And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the firstborn." And as to the human family in general, ponder our Lord's further avowal: "Ye were also in the beginning with the Father." (Doctrine & Covenants 93:21, 23.)