The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2


III. Mormonism—“Spirits” Eternally Pre-existent Prior to Earthly Embodiment

In order to have a comprehensive picture of Immortal-Soulism’s present-day ramifications and involvements, it is likewise necessary to note Mormonism’s similarities to the other groups we have surveyed, because of their contention concerning the eternal pre-existence of all souls, spirits, or intelligences. It turns out to be another of Spiritualism’s fellow travelers. Latter-day Saints leader James E. Talmage, at the time one of the “Council of Twelve Apostles,” put it succinctly: “Man in his mortal state is the union o f a preexistent spirit with a body composed of earthly elements.” 116 Some such view, it will be remembered, was held by Origen and his Restorationist School of thought, beginning in the third century A.D. So it is not a new concept. But it is a basic Mormon principle. CFF2 1192.2


Mormonism holds, moreover, that the number of these pre-existent spirits is predetermined and fixed. And when the sum total of all spirits appointed to take fleshly form has been reached, “then, and not until then, shall the end come” 117 that is, the end of the course of this present world. Mormonism’s authoritative The Pearl of Great Price, which they regard as inspired, along with the Book o f Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, expressly states that spirits “have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.” Mention is likewise made of “intelligences” that were “organized before the world was.” 118 And there are paralleling declarations in The Doctrine and Covenants. Here is an excerpt: CFF2 1192.3

“Ye were also in the beginning with the Father. Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.” 119 CFF2 1193.1

So pre-existence is unquestionably and repeatedly taught in Mormonism’s most authoritative writings. 120 CFF2 1193.2


Contemporary Mormon leaders likewise teach that “the intelligences of men”—their “spirits” or “souls”—existed as spirits before the creation of the world; that they are “without beginning” and “can have no end.” 121 They constantly affirm a “pre-existent life.” And after their mortal sojourn here, they contend, they return at death to the “world of spirits.” So states Le Grand Richards, “Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” who was “Ordained One of the Twelve Apostles, April 10, 1952.” 122 Note his opening declaration in the section “Man in the Spirit World,” in chapter 20 (“Whence Cometh Man?”) of his A Marvelous Work and a Wonder: “All men lived with God and his Son, Jesus Christ, in the spirit world before they came here upon the earth.” 123 CFF2 1193.3

This concept has even been enshrined in lyric form in their famous hymn “O My Father.” While written by Eliza R. Snow, it is based upon the last words of Joseph Smith as he was dying in a Carthage, Illinois, jail, after being shot during a mob attack in 1844. In this hymn Mormons sing about regaining their former estate and again beholding God’s face, where their spirits once resided, with recollection of “former friends” in their “first primeval childhood.” We have space but for three lines:“When shall I regain Thy presence, and again behold Thy Face? CFF2 1194.1

In Thy holy habitation, did my spirit once reside; CFF2 1194.2

In my first primeval childhood, was I nurtured near Thy side.” 124 CFF2 1194.3

Building upon the declaration of Joseph Smith in 1833, Bishop Richards writes: “Since the intelligences of men are, therefore, without beginning, they also have no end.” 125 CFF2 1194.4

Eternally pre-existent, they will never cease to be—according to Mormonism. That is pressing immortality to the nth degree. CFF2 1194.5


Using the terms “intelligences,” “souls,” and “spirits” interchangeably, Richards repeats for emphasis: CFF2 1194.6

“The intelligences or spirits of men existed with God, before the world was created.” 126 CFF2 1194.7

“The spirits of all men were in the beginning with God.” 127 CFF2 1194.8

That is unequivocal. This pre-existent life he calls the “first estate,” in contrast with the present, or so-called “second estate.” On the other hand, Satan and a “third of the hosts of heaven” who followed him in rebellion, and were cast down to earth, were “deprived of the privilege of taking upon themselves bodies, remaining bodies of spirit only.” 128 CFF2 1194.9


This spirit pre-existence is set forth as parallel to Jesus’ being the “Creator of this world before he was born in the flesh.” 129 Richards also affirms that we have only “vague recollection of our pre-existent life,” as we now “see through a glass darkly,” and here know but “in part.” 130 Then he adds: CFF2 1195.1

“But ultimately the veil of darkness, or forgetfulness, that deprives us of the recollection of our existence in the spirit world before this world was made and of the acquaintances we had there, will be lifted.” 131 CFF2 1195.2

But while Satan and his fallen angels did not take “bodies of flesh,” they were “not deprived of the knowledge they had while in the spirit world.” 132 That gives them a distinct advantage. CFF2 1195.3


The logical conclusion of such a position is clearly stated: that “Death Marks Man’s Return to the World of Spirits,” 133 for “our spirits leave our bodies in death.” 134 Then comes Richards’ comment (based on Ecclesiastes 12:7): CFF2 1195.4

“Thus the spirit shall return to God, which it could not do if it had never been with him, just as the body shall return to the earth, which it could not do if it had not been taken therefrom.” 135 CFF2 1195.5

Such is his novel explanation of “Whence Cometh Man?” which, Richards avers, Mormonism alone, with its special insights, is prepared to make. 136 This is, however, only ImmortalSoulism in an extended form. It is nonetheless a constituent part of the world-encircling Innate Immortality dogma that, as we have seen, undergirds so much of both Eastern and Western thought on the soul, and is the essence of Spiritualism. CFF2 1195.6


Another standard current work is Joseph Fielding Smith’s Doctrines o f Salvation. Smith is reputedly one of Mormonism’s leading scholars. His chapter four which is titled “Our First and Second Estates,” puts it this way: CFF2 1195.7

“WE LIVED AS SPIRIT BEINGS. We lived in the presence of God in the spirit before we came here. We desired to be like him, we saw him, we were in his presence. There is not a soul who has not seen both the Father and the Son, and in the spirit world we were in their presence; but it became necessary for us to gain experiences which could not be obtained in that world of spirits, and so we were accorded the privilege of coming down here upon this earth.” 137 CFF2 1196.1

That is Mormonism’s unchanged contention in both their early and current writings. CFF2 1196.2


But there is more, according to “Prophet Joseph Smith” in 1832. “All Mankind are Begotten Sons and Daughters Unto God,” 138 is the bold subhead in Richards’ chapter. And he adds: “Being literally his sons and daughters, we are endowed with the possibilities of becoming like him.” 139 He is the “Father of spirits,” and we are His “offspring.” 141 We are His “spirit children.” Such is the second of the familiar historic contentions-the actual or potential godship of man, harking back to Satan’s false declaration, first made to mankind in Eden, “Ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5). CFF2 1196.3


One of the latest Mormon publications-a sixty-two-page compendium, Mormonism (1962), by Hugh B. Brown, high church authority-tersely reaffirms the historic position: CFF2 1196.4

“Our earth life is but one stage of a continuing and eternal journey. The birth of the mortal body does not mark man’s beginning nor will physical death mark the end of his progress.” 142 CFF2 1196.5

Brown’s final summary of Mormon essentials places emphasis on the “pre-mortal existence of the spirit,” and the “eternal nature of man-immortality.” And inseparably coupled therewith is the “god-like status” of man. 143 These are Mormonism’s undeviating fundamentals. CFF2 1196.6

Such are the far-flung ramifications of the Mormon doctrine of the immortality of all souls: (1) eternally pre-existent as spirits, (2) then living an embodied earthly life here in the flesh, and (3) at death the spirit returning to God forever. With such declared positions, Mormonism must take its inescapable place with Christian Science and other Western forms of Immortal-Soulism that match and blend with the essential postulates of the Eastern occult, and the modern revival in the West of worldwide Spiritualism in its sundry forms. These involve the unvarying premises of the Innate Immortality of the soul and the essential godship of man. It is clearly a fellow traveler of Spiritualism. CFF2 1197.1