Sunday School lessons for Gospel Doctrine Class

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Thou Wast Chosen Before Thou Wast Born’” Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine

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My hobby is blogging, I've been doing it for more than ten years, sometimes the things I write are funny, sometimes serious and sometimes just something interesting.  One of those interesting blogs was My Mormon Dictionary.  I wrote about words and phrases that are specific to the LDS faith that others might not understand.  I Included words and phrases like Sacrament Meeting, giving a talk, being called, Atonement, Pre-existence, and one that is particular for this lesson:  Foreordination.  

 Foreordination is not a popular word in the world, it comes up as misspelled in spell checks and auto correct and when googled, out of the first page of 10 results 6 are LDS with the main caption of the page LDS.  Here is what google says:

Foreordination, an important doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaches that during the pre-mortal existence, God selected particular people to fulfill certain missions during their mortal lives. Wikipedia

That is almost a correct definition, with only a couple of words that can easily misinterpret the true meaning.  Here is what we know from our sunday school teachings:  Foreordination is God’s premortal ordination of his spirit children to fulfill certain missions during their mortal lives.

 Here's what else you can find for a definition .

Foreordination is the premortal selection of individuals to come forth in mortality at specified times, under certain conditions, and to fulfill predesignated responsibilities. In LDS interpretation, "foreordained" does not mean predetermined (see Predestination). It is the outcome of voluntary choice, not the violation or abrogation of it. The idea of preexistence and premortal preparation for earth life is hinted at in biblical sources, and evidence of it appears in some early Jewish-Christian sources. But it has been less prominent in later thought.  (Author: Top, Brent L)

It is true that this doctrine has been less prominent in later thought.  Though the Old Testament is full of references for preexistence and foreordination, it has over time become misinterpreted and obscured. These doctrines are common to old Jewish sources, we find them in Greek writings and even in the Quran. They are also common to the New Testament and the writings of the apostolic fathers, (a group of Early Christian writings produced in the late 1st century and the first half of the 2nd century.) However, since the middle of the sixth century A.D. they have lived a papal prison (The Index Librorum Prohibitorum is a list of publications deemed heretical, anti-clerical or lascivious).  

In A.D. 553 the doctrine of the preexistence of the soul was dropped from Christianity by an edict known as the "Anathema against Origen." This was the work of the Roman Emperor Justinian; the Pope consented under extreme duress. Thereafter these doctrines have quietly slipped from the attention and interest of the religious world. (The Grand Council Joseph F McConkie)


Abraham learns that in the premortal life many spirits were foreordained to their mortal missions

Thankfully the Gospel was restored and Joseph Smith through the direction of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ was able to fill in the gaps created by man. Because of this we can read the vision recorded in Abraham 3, where the Lord showed Abraham the Council in Heaven that was held before the earth was created.  Latter-day prophets have indicated that the Council in Heaven was a series of meetings rather than a single meeting.

"There were many meetings, conferences, councils and schooling sessions held among the Gods and their spirit offspring in pre-existence. Among other things, at these various assemblages, plans were made for the creation and peopling of this earth and for the redemption and salvation of the offspring of Deity." (Mormon Doctrine, p163)

What was the Grand Council and Who attended? 

From what has been revealed to us up to this point, we know this much: The Father assembled his spirit offspring and reviewed with them the principles with which they would have to comply and the experiences they would have in order to become like him. Having once again explained the necessity in this plan for a Redeemer, he then asked the question, "Whom shall I send?" In response our elder brother—he whom we know as Jesus the Christ, the firstborn of all spirits—whose birthright it was, came forward and said, "Here am I, send me." He further said, "Father, thy will be done, and glory be thine forever." His expression then was to this effect, "Father I know and understand the eternal plan you have given for the salvation of your children. I accept that plan, I have faith in that plan, and I willingly offer myself as the sacrifice necessitated by that plan. In doing so I seek no honor for myself, the glory be thine forever; I seek only to bless and be blessed with these my brothers and sisters." Then came forth another, he who was known as Lucifer, the son of the morning, saying "Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor." In effect he then said, "In exchange for their agency, I will save all your spirit children, that they with thee might worship me." Whereupon the Father said, "I will send the first," and the Abraham account reads, "And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him" (Abr. 3:28). By way of explanation the Moses account adds: "Because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice" (Moses 4:3-4).  (The Grand Council JOSEPH F. MCCONKIE)

 Because of the revelations on this subject given to Joseph Smith, Bible verses with meanings that have been long lost are unveiled to usIt is marvelous how perfectly an apocryphal work known as the Apocalypse of Abraham (composed near the end of the first century A.D.), found long after Joseph Smith's death, sustains his translation of the Abraham manuscripts and the other revelations we received from him on this subject.  Thanks to him and his willingness to obey, we now can read the following verses from Isaiah telling of the grand council:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!  For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:  I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.  Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit (Isa. 14:12-15).

A second passage that takes on considerable meaning comes from the Book of Revelation. It declares that there was a "war in heaven: Michael [meaning Adam] and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Rev. 12:7-9). Then John, who apparently saw the same vision seen by Joseph Smith, said: "I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power [authority] of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night" (Rev. 12:10). The Revelator noted that the battle ground for a war that commenced in heaven had shifted to the earth, but the adversaries remained the same. Satan and his army, which consists of "the third part of the stars of heaven" or a third of that heavenly host that joined him in his rebellion, being cast out with him, continue their efforts to get all others to worship him as their Redeemer and their God.  (The Grand Council Joseph F McConkie)

 What then do we learn about this council from Abraham 3:22–23?  Spirits were created before the world was and organized for work and service before coming to earth.  

 22 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;

23 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.

What does it mean that Abraham was “chosen before he was born”?  

Abraham learned what Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, and many others of the prophets and apostles would learn-that God, in the premortal world, chose individuals and groups of his spirit offspring and predesignated them for special responsibilities and blessings. All of these predesignations were "according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (1 Pet. 1:2). These premortal designations represent the doctrine known among Latter-day Saints as foreordination. (Called and Prepared Before the Foundation of the World)

Who are the “noble and great ones” described in Abraham 3:22–23?   The prophets and other Church leaders from throughout the ages.  In 1918, President Joseph F. Smith saw some of these “noble and great ones” in a vision of the spirit world, he saw some of the noble and great ones that had lived on earth before Christ was born.  This vision is recorded as  Doctrine and Covenants 138.  

What were the people mentioned in Doctrine and Covenants 138:53 foreordained to do?  "The Prophet Joseph Smith, and my father, Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and other choice spirits who were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work....  I observed that they were also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God."

Did foreordination guarantee that Abraham, Joseph Smith, and others would become prophets?  

 Foreordination Is Not Predestination.  Our Heavenly Father, in his infinite knowledge and wisdom, has thus called and prepared many of his spirit children from the foundation of the world for important responsibilities and blessings. The fulfillment of these foreordination is dependent upon our own faithfulness. There are several types of foreordinations. There are foreordinations of entire nations to significant blessings, and there is the foreordination of a specific individual to a very unique and important responsibility or mission. Whatever the type of foreordained mission or blessing, its realization remains contingent upon individual agency and accountability.

It is a mistaken idea that God has decreed all things whatsoever that come to pass, for the volition of the creature is as free as air. You may inquire whether we believe in foreordination; we do, as strongly as any people in the world. We believe that Jesus was foreordained before the foundations of the world were built, and his mission was appointed him in eternity to be the Savior of the world, yet when he came in the flesh he was left free to choose or refuse to obey his Father. Had he refused to obey his Father, he would have become a son of perdition. We also are free to choose or refuse the principles of eternal life. God has decreed and foreordained many things that have come to pass, and he will continue to do so; but when he decrees great blessings upon a nation or upon an individual they are decreed upon certain conditions. When he decrees great plagues and overwhelming destructions upon nations or people, those decrees come to pass because those nations and people will not forsake their wickedness and turn unto the Lord. It was decreed that Nineveh should be destroyed in forty days, but the decree was stayed on the repentance of the inhabitants of Nineveh. God rules and reigns, and has made all his children as free as himself, to choose the right or the wrong, and we shall then be judged according to our works. (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe

In addition to foreordaining the prophets to their callings, God foreordained many “other choice spirits” to help build up his kingdom in different ways. What might we have been foreordained to do?  D&C 138:56

 Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men.

It may be that anytime we are an instrument in the Lord's hands in the work of salvation, we are carrying out a foreordained calling.  President Ezra Taft Benson taught:  “God has held you in reserve to make your appearance in the final days before the second coming of the Lord. Some individuals will fall away; but the kingdom of God will remain intact to welcome the return of its head—even Jesus Christ. While our generation will be comparable in wickedness to the days of Noah, when the Lord cleansed the earth by flood, there is a major difference this time. It is that God has saved for the final inning some of His strongest children, who will help bear off the kingdom triumphantly. …“… Make no mistake about it—you are a marked generation. There has never been more expected of the faithful in such a short period of time than there is of us” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 104–5)

How can we be sure that we are fulfilling our foreordained callings? D&C 58:27–28.  To fulfill our foreordained callings, we must be willing and worthy, we must be living the gospel, studying our patriarchal blessings, and seeking personal revelation.

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;  For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

 Jesus Christ was chosen in the Council in Heaven to be our Savior we chose to follow him. Lucifer (Satan) and the spirits who followed him were cast out of heaven. ABRAHAM 3:24-28 Moses 4:1–2

In the Council in Heaven, Heavenly Father presented his plan of salvation and chose for us a savior.  Elder James E. Talmage explains:  "We have heretofore shown that the entire human race existed as spirit-beings in the primeval world, and that for the purpose of making possible to them the experiences of mortality this earth was created. They were endowed with the powers of agency or choice while yet but spirits; and the divine plan provided that they be free-born in the flesh, heirs to the inalienable birthright of liberty to choose and to act for themselves in mortality. It is undeniably essential to the eternal progression of God's children that they be subjected to the influences of both good and evil, that they be tried and tested and proved withal, 'to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them .' Free agency is an indispensable element of such a test." (Jesus the Christ, p17)

Two spirits then offered to be the Savior for us. Those two spirits were Lucifer, son of the morning, and Christ the firstborn. Each presented his plan to be our savior.  Christ wanted to follow Heavenly Father’s plan and give him the glory.  Lucifer wanted to follow his own plan and take the glory for himself rebelling and coming out in open warfare against God and his beloved son.

Satan had come before the Father in the Grand Council seeking to be chosen as the savior of mankind. "Behold, here am I, send me," offered Satan. "I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor." But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever. Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice (Moses 4:1-4).

Why did Heavenly Father choose Jesus Christ to be our Redeemer? Jesus Christ was foreordained to this service, it was his birthright and he wanted to follow the Father's plan seeking to maintain the free agency of man giving the glory to the Father. 

We affirm, on the authority of Holy Scripture, that the Being who is known among men as Jesus of Nazareth, and by all who acknowledge His Godhood as Jesus the Christ, existed with the Father prior to birth in the flesh; and that in the preexistent state He was chosen and ordained to be the one and only Savior and Redeemer of the human race.  (Jesus the Christ) 

Jesus:  "...we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them" (Abraham 3:25)

Lucifer wanted to follow his own plan and take the glory for himself. Lucifer:  "...I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it" (Moses 4:1). He "sought to destroy the agency of man" (Moses 4:3)

Do you think, when choosing the Savior, the Father was concerned about who received the glory? This was not a battle of egos, except in the case of Satan.  Webster's College Dictionary gives one of the definitions of glory as "a state of absolute happiness."  The Father's glory or happiness comes as we follow the plan of happiness. Happiness cannot be forced upon us. We must follow the path. We must make the choice.

Why is it so important to maintain free agency?   The goal is to become like Him and live with Him forever.  We can only become like HIM as we work our way through the experiences of our existence.  How successful are we when force is used? Satan was offering counterfeit salvation by taking away free agency.  Elder Bruce R. McConkie explains:  "Lucifer, in the Grand Council when the Great God presented the plan of agency and salvation, proposed instead to save all men. 'I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost and surely I will do it,' he said. (Moses 4:1.) That is, none would be damned; damnation would not be a viable alternative to salvation; there would be no agency -- no freedom of choice, no election to serve God or to flee from evil and turn to righteousness. But if there is no freedom of choice between damnation and salvation, how can either exist? They are opposites; without one you cannot have the other. Lucifer's proposal to amend the Father's plan could not be; it was philosophically impossible to accomplish. He could not save all mankind, because unless some were damned, there would be no salvation, for nothing can so much as exist unless it has an opposite. Agency and freedom of worship are just that basic and important in the eternal plan of salvation." (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pp655-656)

Because of the gift of free agency we were given a choice In the grand council whom we would follow.  We chose to follow Christ, but how do we know that is what we chose?  Good bad or indifferent it matters not, every person born on earth made the choice in the Grand Council to follow Christ.  

What do the terms first estate and second estate mean in Abraham 3:26? First estate refers to the premortal life, and second estate refers to our mortal life. We kept our first estate by choosing to follow Jesus Christ instead of Lucifer. 

What blessing did we each receive because we kept our first estate in choosing Christ?  The opportunity to be born on earth.

President Lorenzo Snow:  "We come into this world because we kept our first estate in the midst of all the trials and difficulties in the other life. It was not all of the family of God that preserved themselves in their first estate. One-third part of the host of the children of God, His offspring, traveled in a different direction, and were not worthy to come into the world. They do come sometimes, but they have to borrow bodies, not having any of their own." (Collected Discourses, vol 4)

You and I were among those who passed the first test and were given the privilege of coming to earth as mortal individuals.  If we hadn't passed that test, we wouldn't be here with mortal bodies, but would have been denied this privilege and would have followed Satan or Lucifer, as he came to be known, as did one-third of the spirits created in that premortal existence who were deprived of the privilege of having mortal bodies.  These are now among us, but only in their spiritual form, to make a further attempt to thwart the plan of salvation by which all who would obey would hve the great glory of returning to God our father who gave us life.   (Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 33.)

What blessings will we receive if we keep our second estate?  Abraham 3:26 

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 for ever and ever.

Elder Sterling W. Sill:  "From the beginning we have lived under the promise that if we passed the test of faithfulness during our years of mortality, we would graduate into a glorious, everlasting third estate. The third act is where the happy endings are; that is where the rewards are handed out. The third act is where, like the Redeemer himself, we may qualify for a glorious bodily resurrection and have all of the possibilities of eternal progression made available to us." (Conference Report, Oct 1965) 

How can we keep our second estate?  We follow Christ, we live the gospel, we seek to do his will and we endure to the end...

What happened to Lucifer (Satan) and those who chose to follow him?  They were cast out of heaven and denied the opportunity to have physical bodies. Moses 4:3; Abraham 3:28; Revelation 12:7–9; D&C 29:36–37 

What are Satan and his followers doing now?  They are still trying to destroy our agency. They are on the earth today as evil spirits who tempt us to sin. We must recognize and resist their efforts! Moses 4:4

Elder Joseph F. Merrill:  "Let us not forget that Satan, a spirit brother of ours, is here on earth with a myriad of other spirit brothers. They are among us for a purpose—they are doing all in their power to destroy us and handicap the work of the Lord. Satan knows us our desires, our weaknesses, our secrets. He tempts us in a multitude of ways. He attacks us where we are weak, not where we are strong. He stirs us up to doubt, to question, to criticize, to hate, to be slothful, discouraged, sinful, and wicked. He is at the bottom of dissension among the Saints. He is ever near at hand to make attempts to overcome and lead us away. I have in mind not only us in this meeting but people generally. Undoubtedly Satan's influence and power in the world today is greater than ever before." (Conference Report, Apr 1945)

President Ezra Taft Benson:  "There is a conspiracy of evil. The source of it all is Satan and his hosts. He has a great power over men to 'lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken' to the voice of the Lord (Moses 4:4). His evil influence may be manifest through governments; through false educational, political, economic, religious, and social philosophies; through secret societies and organizations; and through myriads of other forms. His power and influence are so great that, if possible, he would deceive the very elect (see Matthew 24:24). As the second coming of the Lord approaches, Satan's work will intensify through numerous insidious deceptions." (Conference Report  April 1978)

Lucifer succeeded in persuading one-third of all the spirits to rebel. He and they were cast out upon the earth without mortal bodies and he became Satan. Some have seen his satanic majesty in his spiritual form, in bodily shape like a man. Some have seen individuals who have been possessed of evil spirits. Others there are who have felt the awful influence of his "hellish" suggestions. All of you have known individuals who because of their own sins are in his power and subject to his will. Make no mistake about his reality as a personality although he is not possessed of a physical body. Since the beginning of time he with his hosts, who are likewise beings in spiritual form, have waged relentless war to destroy the free agency of man and to lead captive as many as would not hearken unto the voice of the Lord (see Moses 4:4) as revealed in the teachings of the gospel. (Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 32.)

How does it help you to know that you chose to follow Jesus Christ in the Council in Heaven? Record your thoughts in your journal or gospel doctrine study notebook, they may in times of need sustain you! 


The doctrine of foreordination carries with it heavy responsibilities. We cannot neglect those responsibilities but must be constantly vigilant in living so that our foreordinations, whatever they may be, can be fulfilled and God's work may be furthered. President Wilford Woodruff counselled: 

We have been raised up of the Lord to take this kingdom and bear it off. This is our duty; but if we neglect our duty and set our hearts upon the things of this world, we will be sorry for it. We ought to understand the responsibility that rests upon us. We should gird up our loins and put on the whole armor of God .... Then let us do our duty. Let us keep the commandments of God, let us be faithful to the end, so that when we go into the spirit world and look back upon our history we may be satisfied. 


Called and Prepared from the Foundation of the World

The Heavens Testify of Christ (Abraham 3:1-21) JOSEPH F. MCCONKIE

The Grand Council (Moses 4:1-4; Abraham 3:22-28) JOSEPH F. MCCONKIE

Conference Reports

Teachings of Harold B Lee

Collected Discourses Vol 4

A New Witness for the Articles of Faith

Jesus The Christ

Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson

Discourses of Brigham Young John A Widstoe

Beardall 2000 Gospel Doctrine

Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie.

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith selected and arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith.

Studies In Scripture, Volume 2: The Pearl of Great Price edited by Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism edited by Daniel H. Ludlow.

History of the Church 

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The Fall of Adam and Eve

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