Life Before Life
Like most Christians, Mormons believe in life after death, but members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also believe in life before birth. This unique doctrine helps them understand who they are and the purpose of this life.
Before this mortal life, everyone existed as spirit children of God. Mormonism teaches that during this period, which Latter-day Saints call the first estate (see Jude 1:6), everyone knew and worshiped God the Father (see Godhead).
Some Latter-day Saints believe that, prior to being born as spirits, individuals existed eternally as intelligences or self-aware, individual entities whom God gave spirit bodies. The word intelligences, as used here, however, comes from the Book of Abraham, and refers to spirit children of God:
- Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; …for he stood among those that were spirits…
Also revealed by the Lord to Joseph Smith is the doctrine of our eternal nature:
- Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be (see D&C 93:29).
The term Intelligence, as used here, is singular. Some Latter-day Saints, therefore, refer to spirit beings as “organized intelligence.” On this topic, Bruce R. McConkie, an apostle, wrote:
- Abraham used the name intelligences to apply to the spirit children of the Eternal Father. The intelligence or spirit element became intelligences after the spirits were born as individual entities (see Mormon Doctrine, p. 387).
The Doctrine and Covenants sheds further light on the creation of spirit beings:
- All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. Behold, here is the agency of man… (see D&C 93:30-31).
In other words, God placed truth and intelligence, which is co-eternal with God, in a sphere in order for that truth and intelligence to become independent, to have agency, to act for itself, to become a spirit being. Otherwise, there would have been no existence: there would have been no individual identity or consciousness.