The Mormon Plan of
Eternal Progression

© Spotlight Ministries, Vincent McCann, 2001


According to Mormonism, we have all existed eternally, firstly as "Intelligences".

"Use of this name [intelligences] designates both the primal element from which the spirit offspring were created and also their inherited capacity to grow...until such intelligences...become like their Father, the Supreme Intelligence" (Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 383).
Joseph Smith said that these intelligences were eternal, co-equal with God, and that God never had the power to create them:
"...the soul, the mind, the immortal spirit. All men say God created it in the beginning. The very idea lessens man in my estimation...The mind of man is as immortal as God himself...their spirits existed co- equal with God...I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man, the immortal spirit, because it has no beginning...God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself: intelligence exist upon a self existent principle, it is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it...The first principles of man are self existent with God..." (Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, Vol. 5, pp. 615).


These Intelligences were then born as spirit children to God the Father and one of his goddess wives. The popular Mormon book, Gospel Principles, tells us:

"All men and women are...literally the sons and daughters of Deity...Man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal [physical] body (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Origin of Man, Improvement Era, Nov. 1909, pp. 78, 80)". (Gospel Principles, p. 11).
Mormon writer Milton R, Hunter wrote:
"The stupendous truth of the existence of a Heavenly Mother, as well as a Heavenly Father, became established facts in Mormon theology. A complete realization that we are the offspring of Heavenly Parents - that we were begotten and born into the spirit world and grew to maturity in that realm - became an integral part of Mormon philosophy. Those verities are basic in the Gospel plan of eternal progression." (Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel Through the ages, p. 98).
But the Bible says nothing about us pre-existing as children born from a sexual act between a heavenly father and a heavenly mother. We are not the literal offspring of God, but are rather 'adopted' as sons through faith in Jesus Christ:
"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name." (John 1:12)
Galatians 3:26, 5-7 says:
"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying "Abba! Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God."

A popular verse which Mormons often use in an attempt to justify the doctrine of pre-existence from the Bible is Jeremiah 1:5 which has God saying to Jeremiah:

"Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." (Jer 1:5 KJV+)
But what we must remember about this verse is the simple fact that it is God who is saying these things to Jeremiah. If Jeremiah said that he knew God before he was created in the womb then this verse may be used to support such a doctrine of pre-existence. God is all knowing (omniscient) and being as such, knows in advance the calling which each of us will have in life.

To Progress, the Spirits Needed to be Clothed with Physical Bodies

"Our heavenly parents...knew we could not progress beyond a certain point unless we left them for a time. They wanted us to develop the godlike qualities that they have. To do this, we needed to leave our celestial home to be tested and to gain experience. We needed to choose good over evil. Our spirits needed to be clothed with physical bodies. We would need to leave our physical bodies at death and reunite with them in the resurrection. Then we would receive immortal bodies like those of our heavenly parents....we would have all power in heaven and on earth; we would become heavenly parents and have spirit children just as he does (see D&C 132:19-20)" (Gospel Principles, p. 13-14).

War in Heaven

Two of God's son's Jesus and Lucifer, put fourth their own suggestions of how humanity should be tested on earth. Jesus suggests that humanity have their free will in choosing good or evil, but Lucifer suggests taking their free will away and to force them to give him honour:

"We needed a Saviour to pay for our sins and teach us how to return to our Heavenly Father. Our Father said, "Whom shall I send? (Abraham 3:27). Two of our brothers offered to help. Our oldest brother, Jesus Christ, who was then called Jehovah, said, "Here am I, send me" (Abraham 3:27). Jesus was willing to come to the earth, give his life for us, and take upon himself pour sins. He, like our heavenly Father, wanted us to choose whether we would obey Heavenly Father's commandments. he knew we must be free to choose in order to prove ourselves worthy of exaltation. Jesus said, "Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever" (Moses 4:2)". (Gospel Principles, p. 17).
After hearing both Jesus and Lucifer speak, God said:
"I will choose the first [Jesus] (Abraham 3:27)"
Lucifer is filled with rage, rebels against God, and incites a 3rd of the heavenly hosts to join him in his rebellion. God casts them down to earth, and they are denied the right to receive bodies of flesh and bone.

"Because our Heavenly Father chose Jesus Christ to be our Saviour, Satan became angry and rebelled. There was war in heaven. Satan and his followers fought against Jesus and his followers. In this great rebellion, Satan and all the spirits who followed him were sent away from the presence of God and cast down from heaven. One-third of the spirits in heaven were punished for following Satan: they were denied the right to receive mortal bodies." (Gospel Principles, p. 19).

Some of the Spirit Children are 'Cursed' with Black Skin

"There is a reason why one man is born black and with other disadvantages, while another is born white with great advantages. The reason is that we once had an estate before we came here, and were obedient, more or less, to the laws that were given us there. Those who were faithful in all things there received greater blessings here, and those who were not faithful received less...There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body. The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits." (Doctrines of Salvation, by Joseph Fielding Smith, 1954; 1:61, 65-66)

"...negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow therefrom, but this inequality is not of man's origin. It is the Lord's doing, is based on his eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the lack of Spiritual valiance of those concerned in their first estate." * (Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966 edition, pp. 527-528).

"We will first inquire into the results of the approbation or displeasure of God upon a people, starting with the belief that a black skin is a mark of the curse of Heaven placed upon some portions of mankind. Some, however, will argue that a black skin is not a curse, nor a white skin a blessing. In fact, some have been so foolish as to believe and say that a black skin is a blessing, and that the negro is the finest type of a perfect man that exists on the earth; but to us such teachings are foolishness. We understand that when God made man in his own image and pronounced him very good, that he made him white. We have no record of any of God's favored servants being of a black race...every angel who ever brought a message of God's mercy to man was beautiful to look upon, clad in the purest white and with a countenance bright as the noonday sun." (Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 3, page 157, October 15, 1868)

Sent to Earth to be Tested

Mormons believe that Jesus' death on the cross enabled 'all' people, good or bad, to obtain a resurrection (see: Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 638, 669). They call this 'grace' and is usually what they have in mind when they speak of 'salvation' generally. (see: Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 669).

Mormons add works on to what they believe Christ accomplished. They can only be saved in the full sense of the word by working for their salvation. A popular verse in the Book of Mormon states

"...that we are saved by grace, after all we can do." (2 Nephi 25:23).
James Talmage, states:
"But besides this universal application of the atonement, whereby all men are redeemed from the effects of Adam's transgression both with respect to the death of the body and inherited sin, there is application of the same great sacrifice as a means of propitiation for individual sins through the faith and good works of the sinner." (James Talmage, Articles of Faith, p. 86).

Works need to be performed to obtain highest level of salvation in the afterlife. Just some of these works include:


After death, worthy Mormons go to 'Paradise', while non-Mormons go to Spirit Prison. Mormons in Paradise continue their missionary work and preach the message of Mormonism to those in Spirit Prison. Those who accept, are able to progress on to Paradise, but only after a living person is baptised for them, by proxy. This is why genealogical work and baptism for the dead is so important to Mormons.

The primary passage that Mormons base their doctrine of Baptism for the dead on is 1 Corinthians 15:29. This reads as follows:

"Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?"
It appears that this was not a Christian practice, but a pagan one performed by "they" in contrast to "we" (i.e. the Christians whom Paul is addressing) in verse 30. The Bible says nothing of Christians baptizing for their dead. Mormons have made a whole doctrine on something which Paul merely uses in passing to make a point to the Church at Corinth concerning the resurrection.

In Mormonism, there is an obsession with the dead. This is reflected in both the temple rituals and the genealogical work each Mormon is expected to engage in to redeem their ancestors. This obsession with the dead sometimes brings contact with the dark realms of the spirit world, something forbidden by God in the Bible (e.g. Deut. 18:9-12). Joseph Smith said:

"The greatest responsibility in this world that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead." (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, p. 146).
Not only do Mormons seek after their dead, the dead also seek after them: Wilford Woodruff, the fourth president of the Church, stated the following:
"The dead will be after you, they will seek after you as they have after us in St. George [temple]. They called upon us, knowing that we held the keys and power to redeem them. I will here say before closing, that two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 19, p. 229).

In Mormon folk lore, it is common to hear stories about the dead coming to the living, and 'spirit beings' being seen in the temples. Stories such as auras and lights around speakers and melodic music, are circulated.

The Bible, however, clearly condems contact with familiar spirits (Deut. 18:9-12), the dead do not return to have contact with the living (Luke 16:19-31), and once a person dies, they face judgement:

"It is appointed for man to die once then face judgement" (Hebrews 9:27).

Next in the Mormon plan of eternal progression there is:

- 1st resurrection

- Millennium

During the millennium, Mormons believe that the following things will occur:

1.   Missionary work to those in Spirit Prison will continue.

2.   Temple building will increase.

3.   Polygamy will commence once more:

"Obviously, the holy practice will commence again after the Second Coming of the Son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium." (Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 578).

- 2nd resurrection

- Judgement

The 3 Degrees of Glory

Mormons believe in three levels of glory after death, judgement, and resurrection: Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial. There is also "The Second Death" reserved for Satan, his followers and those who have left the Mormon Church and become apostate and rebellious. But the Bible only speaks of Heaven and Hell.

1. Telestial - For the wicked, ungodly, and sensual. Mormons believe that most people will end up on this lowest level of the 3 Kingdoms (see Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 778).

2. Terrestrial - For righteous and honorable people, who did good but did not accept Mormonism. Many members of the Mormon Church, who were not as dedicated as they could have been, will also go here. (see Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 784).

3. Celestial - Highest level of the Celestial Kingdom is for worthy Mormons who have been married in the Mormon temple.

"This full salvation is obtained in and through the continuation of the family unit in eternity and those who obtain it are gods. (D&C 131:1-4;132) (Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 670).
Milton R. Hunter said:
"The crowning Gospel ordinance requisite for Godhood is celestial marriage. The doctrine of celestial marriage, as taught and practiced in the Church of Jesus Christ today, means temple marriage...Marriage is not only a righteous institution, but obedience to this law is absolutely necessary in order to obtain the highest exaltation in the kingdom of God." (The Gospel Through the Ages, pp. 118- 119).
This highest level of salvation is called "exaltation", "godhood", and "eternal life". Concerning this latter term, it is worth pointing out that such verses as John 3:16, 5:24, 1 John 5:13 etc. speak of "eternal life" being free, received by simple faith in Christ, and not worked for.

Once obtaining this full salvation, the cycle then repeats itself again. Joseph Fielding Smith explains this:

"The Father has promised us that through our faithfulness we shall be blessed with the fullness of his kingdom...To become like him we must have all the powers of godhood; thus a man and his wife when glorified will have spirit children who eventually will go on an earth like this one we are on and pass through the same kind of experiences, being subject to mortal conditions, and if faithful, then they will receive the fullness of exaltation and partake of the same blessings. There is no end to this development; it will go on forever. We will become gods and have jurisdiction over worlds, and these worlds will be peopled by our own offspring." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, p. 48).

Mormons believe that this process has been going on always:

Brigham Young, the 2nd president of the Church, said:

"He [God] is our Father - the Father of our spirits, and was once a man in mortal flesh as we are, and is now an exalted being. How many Gods there are, I do not know. But there never was a time when there were not Gods..." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 333)
Heber C. Kimball said:
"...then we shall go back to our Father and God, who is connected with one who is still farther back; and this Father is connected with one still further back, and so on..." (Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p. 19).
In a famous statement which summarizes eternal progression, Lorenzo Snow said:
"As man now is, God once was; As God now is, man may become." (Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, p. 2).
In contrast to endless generations of past god's and the possibility of others becoming god's, the Bible clearly declares that there is only one God. This God is the only true God, with none before Him and He will have none after Him:
"Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God."(Isa 44:6 KJV+)
"Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.(Isa 43:10 KJV+)"
"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." (Isa 45:22 KJV+)
"Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me," (Isa 46:9 KJV+)

* Note: Blacks were eventually allowed to hold the Mormon priesthood in 1978, but this does not change the doctrine of pre-existence.

See also the related article on this site: The Implications of Mormon Eternal Progression

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