The story of creation begins with our Heavenly Father, who is known as “Man of
Holiness,” or Elohim (Moses 6:57; TPJS, 371).This noble and supremely intelligent
being was prepared for godhood by passing through the same pattern of spiritual
progression we are now following.
Our current scriptures are silent on the matter of prior rounds of creation and
other Gods—only an account of “this earth” has been given to us (Moses 1:33-35). We
can assume that established patterns of creation were established and followed long
before the creation of this earth. Therefore, we can guess that once our Father had
attained godhood and was prepared to become a Creator God, he was ordained by his
Father or Fathers to begin setting up a new kingdom similar to those the family of the
Gods had set up before him. Brigham Young taught: “In the resurrection, men who
have been faithful and diligent in all things in the flesh, have kept their first and second
estate, and [are] worthy to be crowned gods . . . will be ordained to organize matter”
The Building Blocks of Creation
What does ex nihilo (pronounce the first “i” as either a long i or a long e) mean?
It means “out of nothing.” If you believe the universe was created ex nihilo, you believe
God created the universe out of nothing. Does anyone believe this? Traditional
Christianity teaches almost universally the idea of ex nihilo creation. It is believed today
by most “orthodox” Christians.
However, the scriptures indicate that God’s universe was not created out of
nothing. Rather, it was created from existing materials (ex materia). The first verse in
the Bible has been both a source of confusion and a solution for the question of ex
nihilo creation: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
The word created comes from the Hebrew word bara. Joseph Smith explained that this
Hebrew word means “to organize, the same as a man would organize and use things to
build a ship. Hence we infer that God himself had materials to organize the world out of
chaos—chaotic matter—which is element” (The Words of Joseph Smith, 341, 345, 359,
We believe that as the Father began to create his kingdom he had access to the
basic building blocks of creation. What were they? The Father utilized two types of
building blocks: (1) intelligence (intelligences) and (2) unorganized or chaotic matter.
These are referred to in the scriptures as “things to act” and “things to be acted upon” (2
Nephi 2:14). The “things to act” are a vast host of primal intelligences (D&C 93:29).
The intelligences are capable of exercising their agency and “acting” for themselves.
The “things to be acted upon” are the elements or unorganized matter (D&C 93:35).
The elements are incapable of acting for themselves and instead are “acted upon.”
Neither of these entities was created, and neither can be destroyed. They can only be
organized, disorganized, or reorganized. The entire spectrum of organized objects in
God’s “space,” from the most miniscule sub-atomic particle to the largest galactic
supercluster, are simply organized manifestations of these two primal ingredients.
There is a third essential ingredient in creation. It is energy. Just how energy
relates to intelligences, to matter, or to God is unclear. It is possible this energy comes
from the person of the Father himself, and is a characteristic of his spiritual light, the
light of God.2 For now, let’s just concentrate on the first two essential ingredients, and
let’s consider each individually: first intelligences, and then matter.
Intelligence or Intelligences
The Prophet Joseph taught clearly there exists an element of man uncreated and
infinite. But what is this element? There are several references to it in scripture. It is
referred to in D&C 93:29 by two different labels: “Man was also in the beginning with
God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be”
(italics added). This verse refers to the eternal, uncreated element of man as
“intelligence” and “the light of truth.” A study of Joseph Smith’s writings reveals several
other terms used to refer to man’s immortal and uncreated element. These include
“soul,” “mind of man,” “spirit,” “intelligent part,” “an elementary state,” and “first principles
of man.” Only Wilford Woodruff recorded that Joseph used also the plural term
“intelligences” (The Prophet Joseph Smith’s King Follett Discourse, 48-53).
A doctrinal controversy has existed within the Church and still remains unsettled
by official pronouncement. The essence of this controversy may be summarized by the
following question: Was our spirit birth (the combining of intelligence and a body of
spirit matter) the beginning of our existence as individuals, or did we possess
individuality and agency prior to our birth in the spirit? There are two schools of
- Man did not exist as a separate individual, possessing agency and
independence, prior to spirit birth. The spirit was “organized” as uncreated eternal
element called “intelligence” was combined with a body of spirit matter during the
process of spirit birth. Prior to the spirit birth, intelligence had no semblance of
individuality. This view has been advocated by Brigham Young, Parley P. Pratt, Charles
W. Penrose, Bruce R. McConkie and others.
- Each person has always existed as an autonomous, independent, and unique
individual possessing agency.
Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, 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” (Abraham 3:18).
We are co-eternal with God, a concept that defies human understanding. Prior to
spirit birth, we existed as individual, unembodied (“naked”) intelligences with unique
individual characteristics and capacities, including the ability to choose and to act.
Nothing is known of the origins or physical characteristics of intelligences. We have
always existed and have always been inherently capable of enlargement through the
exercise of our agency. This view has been championed by Orson Pratt, John A.
Widtsoe, and B. H. Roberts. The latter explained his view in an article titled “Immortality
of Man” in the April 1907 Improvement Era. His article was approved by the First
Presidency and Quorum of Twelve. It is fair to say, though, this approval was not an
official endorsement. Official church doctrine on the question still has not been
Joseph Smith entered into this controversy when he wrote: “The mind of man—
the intelligent part, is as immortal as, and is coequal [in duration?] with God himself”
(The Words of Joseph Smith, citing Joseph Smith Diary, by Willard Richards: 7 April
I prefer the latter school of thought, though I must admit that anyone who
espouses either of these ideas, to the exclusion of the other, is technically guilty of
speculation. On this question, I find it difficult to resist speculating. I espouse the
second view, if for no other reason than that the spirit birth was surely a judgment of
sorts. At the spirit birth, one among us, the most advanced, was selected to be born
first. Some individuals were blessed to receive a spirit body fashioned in the image of
their parents. Others of the intelligences came forth with spirit bodies of animals, plants,
or even the “inanimate” things of the earth. Thus, the spirit birth must have been
preceded by a period wherein the law was given and understood, and individuals
exercised their agency to obey or not. This resulted in varying degrees of spiritual
growth. Jesus was the “Firstborn” in the spirit of all of the Father’s creations. His birth
was also a “judgment.” His becoming the “Firstborn” was a position he merited
because of his qualifications—he was the most advanced of all the intelligences. The
idea that he became a God purely because he chanced to be born first is unthinkable,
unreasonable, and illogical.
In reading the writings of several contemporary church scholars, I am left with the
subjective impression that they have left behind the idea of impersonal intelligence and
have generally accepted the fact that each individual intelligence never had a beginning,
but, in fact, was coexistent with God. The second view will be utilized for the remainder
of this discussion.
Prior to the Lord’s utilization of unorganized or chaotic matter for the purpose of
building our universe, it had to be organized. Though our knowledge of this concept is
most limited and basic, we are aware of four categories or types of organized matter:
- Spirit matter. This is a refined type of matter which was utilized in the first
embodiment of all intelligences (D&C 131:7-8). When a raw or naked intelligence is
combined with spirit matter, how long does that embodiment last? Will the intelligence
ever separate from its spirit body? This combination or embodiment is eternal. There is
no death wherein the intelligence again separates from its spirit body. The combination
of intelligence and a spirit body is commonly referred to as “a spirit.”
- Mortal matter. This is the type of physical matter which makes up our bodies
here on earth. The earth itself and everything on the earth is composed of mortal
matter. The spirits of all intelligences are combined with this mortal matter to live out
their mortal experience. At the conclusion of the mortal trial comes death, wherein this
mortal matter is left behind, and the spirit then awaits its opportunity to combine itself
with yet another type of physical matter. Aging and death is the result of the temporary
or “corrupt” nature of mortal matter. It is subject to deterioration, aging, disease, and
physical destruction. Spirit matter does not deteriorate with time. This is perhaps why
the scripture refers to mortal matter as “corruption.” Spirit matter and resurrected matter
are referred to as “incorruption” (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 15:42; 2 Nephi 2:11).
- Resurrected matter. This becomes the permanent eternal embodiment of
nearly all spirits. There are three types of glorified resurrected bodies: celestial,
terrestrial, telestial and one type of unglorified resurrected body: that received, possibly
temporarily, by those who lived out their mortal lives on earth but fail to qualify for a
kingdom of glory. They are destined to become sons of perdition.
- Translated matter. This is mortal matter in which the natural processes of
decay and dissolution are temporarily suspended (3 Nephi 28:7-9). When a spirit exists
in combination with translated matter, we refer to the individual as a “translated being.”
This type of body is distinct from the resurrected eternal body and must eventually be
left behind so that the spirit can experience resurrection. Whether this change from
translated matter to celestial resurrected matter occurs as a death or separation or more
as a transformation is unknown.
Terminology of the Embodiments of Intelligence with Matter
Now, let us consider, for a moment the terminology we use for the various
embodiments or combinings of intelligence with organized matter.
What term do we use for the initial embodiment of an intelligence—the
combining of a naked intelligence with spirit matter? We use the term “spirit birth” or
“spirit creation” or simply “creation.” The statement in Genesis 1:26-27 (compare Moses 2:26-27): “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” likely refers to the spirit birth. The term birth
always implies the participation of a male and female parent.
We are not given to know when our gender was decided. Were there male and
female intelligences? Or were we born as male or female spirit children to our heavenly
parents? We simply do not know the answers to these questions.
I previously made the point that this embodiment is permanent for all eternity.
The only exception might be the sons of perdition who conceivably may be required to
revert to naked intelligence.
- What about the combining of the spirit with mortal matter? This is also called
“birth” or “mortal birth” since it involves the participation of parents. The word “creation”
can also be used for this embodiment. We are especially inclined to use the term
creation for which two particular people? For Adam and Eve.
- What do we call the process when a spirit is combined with eternal resurrected
matter? This is “resurrection.” It is fascinating to contemplate this process and just how
it will occur, though we are told little about it. There is no scriptural mention that it is a
birth process involving parents.
- What is the process called if the spirit is combined with translated matter? It is
called “translation.” The scriptural accounts of translation suggest that translation
occurs prior to mortal death. Thus, the translated being avoids having to suffer mortal
death. The question has been raised as to whether or not it might be possible for a
mortal to suffer death and subsequently become translated or become a translated
Intelligences and Matter
As discussed above, intelligences have their agency. Each is “independent in
that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself” (D&C 93:30). Thus, the
intelligences are not compelled to obey when the Father speaks. Yet, they know, love,
and respect him and are inclined to obey him. When the Father gives them a
command, he must simply wait and watch patiently to see if they will obey (Abraham
One vital attribute possessed by the intelligence is the capacity to be enlarged or
to grow. Once the intelligences were gathered by the Father, they were taught the laws
of God. They began to be tested in their obedience, all the while maintaining their
agency. We have little specific information regarding the duration of the extended
period of training and testing through which the intelligences passed. We do know
some of the intelligences progressed faster than others (HC, 4:519). Some were more
diligent and obedient to God’s commands. Others were less so. As they obeyed, they
naturally experienced growth and progression. Accordingly, the intelligences came to
vary over a vast and continual spectrum in their abilities and capacities. It is well
beyond our understanding to know whether all intelligences had equal accomplishments
and equal capacities for growth at some point in time past. Certainly, in the process of
being taught and tested, great variations in progress and ability became apparent.
What does matter or element have to do with the spiritual growth of an
intelligence? The scriptures make it clear that the combination of intelligence and
matter or element enables the intelligence to grow further and faster than intelligence by
itself: “For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably
connected, receive a fulness of joy; And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness
of joy” (D&C 93:33-34). Intelligence by itself is limited in its abilities and opportunities.
In order to advance it must be combined with a quantity of matter or element. As the
intelligence is combined with matter, it is embodied. This embodiment allows an
intelligence opportunities for self-expression and growth not previously realized.
Referring to intelligences, Brigham Young taught: “Qualities and attributes depend
entirely upon the connection with organized matter for their development and visible
manifestation” (JD, 11:121).
Each intelligence combined with a spirit body is also referred to as being
“organized” (Abraham 3:22-23). This is to distinguish it from a “naked” intelligence
which implies the absence of any type of embodiment.
Creation is fundamentally the combining of intelligences with organized matter—
the “embodiment” or “organization” of intelligences. To continue the project of creation,
the Father selected the most brilliant, advanced, and capable of all his intelligences.
This supreme intelligence was then “begotten” or combined with a body of spirit matter
after the image of his Father. This first individual to be born was, of course, Jehovah,
who thereafter was known as “the Firstborn.” Jehovah was then tutored and tested. He
developed from “grace to grace” and eventually received a “fulness of truth” (D&C
93:11-14). He came to possess “a knowledge of things as they are, and as they were,
and as they are to come” (D&C 93:24). The rest of us had to wait until the Firstborn
was perfected and prepared to take over the creation or organizing process.
The Son was then placed in charge of the creation of the rest of the Father’s
kingdom (Moses 1:32-33). He was given the responsibility for this round of creation to
which we belong. This “calling” was likely formally conferred upon the Savior by a
priesthood ordination in the pre-mortal councils of the Gods. Brigham Young and
Willard Richards wrote: “His Father glorified him to be made a High Priest, or ordained
him to the work of creating the world and all things upon it” (HC, 4:257). The apostle
Paul taught that Jehovah’s ordination to create the physical earth placed him above all
other creatures in heaven, including the ministering angels of God (Hebrews 1:9-10).
In creating or organizing this earth and countless other worlds, the Son was
associated intimately with all intelligences. He taught and trained them in the
assignments they would receive in the worlds the Son would organize. The
intelligences had spent a long time being tested concerning their application of and
adherence to the laws of God. Some had been more valiant and obedient than others.
Some had progressed further in their capabilities and talents. Others were not so far
along. Each had to be placed in assignments appropriate for his individual abilities,
inclinations, and desires.
The Son placed each in his proper place. Each intelligence was content with his
lot, knowing that the Son, under the direction of the Father, had applied perfect fairness
and justice in his decisions. He loved the intelligences, and they loved him. Jehovah
was not their heavenly parent. He was rather their “elder” brother. Each assignment
reflected the capacity of the intelligence. Thus, each assignment also reflected the
progress each had made to that point in time. This designation or assignment was a
judgment of sorts—a judgment made by their elder brother under the direction of an allknowing
Father. The intelligences were not resentful. They loved and honored the
Father and the Son.
I previously introduced the idea that intelligences inhabit the bodies of human
beings, animals of every variety, plants, microscopic life, and even the so-called
inanimate things of the earth. There is controversy surrounding one aspect of the
concept of intelligences. When the Father was first given a vast number of intelligences
as a vital part of the raw materials with which he would “create” our universe, were they
all one vast group of qualitatively similar intelligences, or were there substantial
qualitative differences among them? Some have suggested those intelligences
embodied with the bodies of animals or plants, for example, are fundamentally different
than intelligences embodied with human bodies. Or, intelligences embodied with the
so-called inanimate things of the earth are fundamentally and qualitatively different from
all other intelligences. We, as yet, are not given to know anything about this question.
It is possible there were not, and are not, fundamental differences among
intelligences. Certainly, following the beginning of this round of our Father’s creation,
significant differences in spiritual progress developed among them. Perhaps the
differences are solely explained by differing levels of obedience in the premortal world,
and hence differing levels of spiritual growth.
God’s avowed central purpose is to allow and encourage the advancement of all
intelligences (HC, 4:519). This does not exclude the intelligences with lesser
assignments. The prophet Joseph Smith spoke of this advancement:
God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory,
because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the
rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we
have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has
power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may
be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another,
and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in
order to save them” (TPJS, 354).
Each intelligence is “commanded”—actually requested—to obey the eternal laws.
The family of the Gods has found these laws to be indispensable for the maintenance of
order and perfection throughout the cosmos. Obedience to these laws results in
spiritual growth: the receiving of sequential gifts of the Spirit or increments of divine
attributes (sanctification). We are thus able to make sense out of a verse in section 88:
“That which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by
the same” (D&C 88:34). Voluntary compliance to these laws will determine the ultimate
status of each intelligence. All intelligences are commanded to follow the laws that
govern their “kingdoms.” All maintain their agency. After the initial spirit embodiment of
all intelligences, they naturally separated into various kingdoms: humans, animals,
plants, other forms of life, and the inanimate things of the earth. We actually know little
of the kingdoms or organization of all intelligences. We do know that each and every
intelligence, following spirit creation, was subject to God’s laws:
There is no space in the which there is no kingdom . . . either a
greater or a lesser kingdom. And unto every kingdom is given a law; and
unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions. All beings
[intelligences] who abide not in those conditions are not justified. And
again, verily I say unto you, he hath given a law unto all things, by which
they move in their times and their seasons; And their courses are fixed,
even the courses of the heavens and the earth, which comprehend the
earth and all the planets (D&C 88:37-39, 42-43).
An early step in this earth’s creation was the spirit creation of all things:
And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every
herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of
which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face
of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had not caused it to rain upon the face of
the earth. And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and
not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there
was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air
During the spirit creation, all intelligences were embodied or combined with “bodies” of
spirit matter. The combination of the intelligences with bodies of spirit matter gave them
greater capacities. They were still limited, however. Their abilities would be further
enhanced through an eventual additional embodiment or combination with physical or
Spirit matter is not immaterial. It is “a substance . . . it is material, but . . . it is
more pure, elastic and refined matter than the [mortal] body” (TPJS, 207; cf. D&C
131:7-8). Some intelligences became humans in the image of their heavenly parents.
Others became plants and animals. The animals have spirits (D&C 77:2), as do the
plants (Moses 3:9). Other intelligences became rocks, air, and water—the so-called
inanimate materials of the earth. It is even possible that some less-diligent intelligences
may have deliberately opted to become lower life forms other than humans.
The most advanced intelligences received their bodies by a divine birth process
involving a heavenly Mother and Father. We know little of this process. These
intelligences were blessed to receive a spirit body after the image of their heavenly
parents. Each inherited from his or her heavenly parents the capacity to grow and
increase and become like them.
The extent of Jehovah’s creative role was vast and incomprehensible: “The
worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and
through him, and of him” (D&C 93:10). This verse suggests even though we were
begotten as the spirit children of our Heavenly Parents (Father and Mother), the
organizing and preparing of our spirit bodies was somehow under the direction of the
Firstborn: “men were made by him.” We are not given to know what role Jehovah may
have had in the process of our becoming spirits.
The Appearance of Our Spirits
What did our premortal spirits look like? Is there a resemblance between them
and our physical bodies? Apparently there is a general resemblance but not a specific
resemblance. Differences among peoples on earth such as racial distinctions, genetic
imperfections, and inherited physical characteristics are not likely due to differences in
the spirits. President David O. McKay said, in reference to the racial distinctions among
the peoples of the earth, “There were no national distinctions among those [premortal]
spirits such as Americans, Europeans, Asiatics, Australians, etc” (Home Memories of
President David O. McKay, 228). President McKay further stated that those earthly
distinctions came about only after these spirits entered their earthly existence.
Similarly, the children who resemble each other or a parent closely do so
because of the natural, biological laws of genetics rather than by virtue of some
premortal relationship or choice. It must be emphasized that every person’s spirit was
created (born) literally in the image of God. The individual form and likeness of that
spirit is due to divine parentage and “spiritual genetics.”
Why, then, do the spirits of men who leave mortality recognize the spirits of their
deceased family members or friends? There is no doubt that spirits have the ability to
recognize each other, both before and after earth life. Apparently that recognition is not
due exclusively to the earthly or physical characteristics of each person. Rather, spirits
may also recognize others and be recognized by others because of their spiritual
relationships, their associations as brothers and sisters, children of God.
Eventually, in our life as premortal spirits, there came a time when our progress
became limited by the absence of a mortal body. We had progressed as far as we
could in premortality. There were additional lessons to be learned and challenges to be
met. All intelligences who have become human beings existed as “spirits.” Each was a
combination of intelligence and spirit matter. In order to progress, each had to come to
earth and be combined with mortal matter. Each would receive a mortal body. This is
physical or mortal birth or creation.
All substances comprising the earth, and indeed all of God’s universe, are a
combination of spirit and mortal matter. Heber C. Kimball wrote: “Some say the earth
exists without spirit; I do not believe any such thing; it has a spirit as much as any body
has a spirit” (JD, 5:173). All material things are thus “alive,” as they are filled with
Brigham Young taught of the combination of intelligence and mortal element:
There is not a particle of element which is not filled with life [or
intelligence]. . . . It is in the rock, the sand, the dust, in water, air, the
gases, and, in short in every description and organization of matter,
whether it be solid, liquid, or gaseous, particle operating with particle (JD,
As far as we are concerned, we suggest the idea that there is an
eternity of life, an eternity of organization, and an eternity of intelligence
from the highest to the lowest grade, every creature in its order from the
Gods to the animalcule (Conference address, 8 October 1875).
An “animalcule” is a microscopic animal.
Elder John A. Widtsoe taught:
It was clearly comprehended by the Prophet [Joseph Smith] and his
associates that intelligence is the vivifying force of all creation—animate or
inanimate—the rock and tree and beast and man, have ascending
degrees of intelligence (Joseph Smith—Seeker After Truth, Prophet of
The scriptures contain interesting examples of these “inanimate” intelligences
expressing themselves in animate ways. One example might be the outrage expressed
by these intelligences, both in the Old World, and especially in the New World, over the
unjust crucifixion of the Savior. This outrage was expressed in the form of upheavals of
nature (see Matthew 27:51; 3 Nephi 8).
Another example is the Savior’s possible reference to those intelligences
inhabiting the inanimate things of the earth during his final trip into the city of Jerusalem
on a donkey. As his disciples hailed him as the Messiah, some Pharisees observing the
proceedings berated him for not silencing and rebuking those followers for their
“blasphemy.” Jesus answered the Pharisees:
And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the
mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and
praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen;
Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in
heaven, and glory in the highest. And some of the Pharisees from among
the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he
answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their
peace, the stones would immediately cry out (Luke 19:37-40).
Yet another example is Enoch’s experience reported in Moses 7:48 which may
well represent his encounter with the presiding intelligence of the inanimate things of the
And it came to pass that Enoch looked upon the earth; and he
heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother
of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my
children. When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is
gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest,
and righteousness for a season abide upon my face?
To some observers, it is apparent that as the “inanimate” intelligences follow the
patterns or laws set up for them by the Lord, the pattern is an intelligent pattern and not
simply a mechanical or automatic pattern. One physician author, Alexis Carrel,
marveled at the manner in which a single, tiny, fertilized human cell in nine short months
can build itself into a highly complex system consisting of trillions of cells and integrated
organs and tissues with highly specialized functions (Man the Unknown, 107-08). Dr.
Carrell points out that cells are not machines. They display intelligence, organizing
ability, re-organizing ability (as in the case of a bone fracture or the repair of any
damaged tissue), the capacity to follow a pre-determined plan, to intelligently anticipate
the future, and, whenever necessary, to choose between different courses of action.
Another physician author, A. Cressy Morrison, former president of the New York
Academy of Sciences, also wrote of the complex functionings of the cells within the
human body. He said, “Each cell is a citizen intelligently doing its full quota of devoted
service” (Man Does Not Stand Alone, 41).
Let us review what we have learned. In the premortal world, there existed
countless intelligences which came (following a long period of exposure to God’s law) to
differ widely in spiritual stature from the greatest, the Lord Jesus himself, to the least.
Those intelligences who were the greatest or most noble were assigned to be clothed
with bodies of spirit matter in the image of their Father and Mother. They were later
assigned to this earth or to myriad other worlds to be born into the family of man. The
lesser among the premortal intelligences received other assignments. Some were
assigned to become animals, birds, insects, plants, or indeed all creatures upon the
earth. Others were assigned to govern the elements of the earth. They were assigned
an association with the so-called “inanimate” elements here to provide them with a living
component and direction. We have no information about the specific details of how
intelligence is connected to element. We do not know what unit of earthly element is
controlled by a single intelligence. Is it a subatomic particle? An atom? A molecule? A
microscopic or macroscopic structure? It seems clear that every plant, every animal,
every insect, every bird, every man has a single governing intelligence. But, the
elements and cells that make up the bodies of each of these entities may represent the
embodiment of other intelligences.
Those intelligences privileged to come to earth as human beings with bodies in
the image of their Father in Heaven may be considered to be in training for godhood.
Indeed, they are on the “fast track” when compared to all the other intelligences. How
tragic is the plight of that “third part of the hosts of heaven” (D&C 29:36) who, at one
time, merited a place on this fast track but betrayed the Lord during the first estate. And
how equally tragic is the state of those who come to earth as mortals but lose their
inheritance and become “sons of perdition” along with those who previously rebelled.
These, who remain unrepentant after all others have been assigned to kingdoms of
glory, will eventually “return again to their own place” (D&C 88:32). Their eternal fate is
unknown. Perhaps, they will some day experience dissolution of their bodies and be
banished again to outer darkness, perhaps as naked intelligences. The Lord’s
description of their fate is ominous and foreboding: “And the end thereof, neither the
place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows; Neither was it revealed, neither is,
neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof”
Rodney Turner, writing in The Encyclopedia of Mormonism (“Sons of Perdition,”
1391) gives this additional insight:
It has been suggested that in the absence of the life-sustaining
powers of God’s Spirit, sons of perdition will eventually become
disorganized and return to “native element” (JD, 1:349-52; 5:271; 7:358-
59). However, they will never cease to exist. The scripture declares that
“the soul [the intelligence] can never die” (Alma 12:20). . . . The ultimate
fate of sons of perdition will be made known only to those who are
partakers thereof and will not be definitely revealed until the last judgment
(D&C 29:27-30; 43:33; 76:43-48; TPJS, 24).
We thus learn that the teaching and testing of all intelligences—those inhabiting
all forms of life—has evolved through three stages. First, they are tested as naked
intelligences prior to their spirit birth. Then, they are tested as “spirits,” which are
intelligences combined with spirit matter. Finally, they are tested in combination with
mortal matter. The latter test, obviously, is currently ongoing for those of us still in
mortality. There is yet a fourth stage of testing for individual intelligences in the postmortal
world of spirits. Within each carefully designed probationary setting, God can
precisely measure an intelligence’s capacity for obedience.
- Michael J. Preece