Learning to Love The Gospel

The Creation By Michael J. Preece

The Creation

The Father

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” (JD, 15:137).

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, 361).

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 thought:

  1. 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.

  2. 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 established.

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 1844, 341).

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:

  1. 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.”

  2. 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).

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 being.

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 4:18).

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).

Spirit Creation

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 (Moses 3:5).

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 mortal matter.

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.

Mortal Creation

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 comprehending intelligences.

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, 3:277).

Brigham added:

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 God, 150-51).

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 earth:

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” (D&C 76:45-46).

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