Latter-day Saint Life

9 Things You Have Forgotten About Your Premortal Life


In virtually all of us, there is some sort of innate yearning to know what was before this life and how it affects us here.

Fortunately though, for Latter-day Saints, we need no special revelation to tell us we had a life before. Such revelation exists.  Latter-day scriptures and prophetic teachings not only confirm our intimations but also paint a clear picture of just who we are, where we came from, and why we are here. Without this modern revelation we could only guess at what it all means, but with it, the scriptures unveil something hidden to the rest of the world—the premortal heavens are no longer a mystery. 

Here are just a few insights into the life we lived before mortality and how that life continues to shape who we are today.

There Were Two Creations

The Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith many important truths concerning the Creation. One of those truths was that there were really two creations—one spiritual and the other temporal or physical. In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord said, "For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal-first spiritual, secondly temporal" (D&C 29:31-32). Later, the Prophet Joseph was given additional information concerning these two creations. When he received the Lord's revelation given to Moses, Joseph learned that "the Lord God . . . created all things . . . spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth" (Moses 3:5). Concerning man, the Lord also said that even before Adam was created in the flesh, "all things [including mankind] were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word" (Moses 3:7). 

The Substance From Which the Earth Was Formed Existed Eternally

In April of 1844—in the address that came to be known as the King Follett Discourse—Joseph Smith refuted the idea that God created the world out of nothing and explained that, instead, God organized the world.

Now, I ask all who hear me, why the learned men who are preaching salvation, say that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing? The reason is, that they are unlearned in the things of God and have not the gift of the Holy Ghost....
You ask the learned doctors why they say the world was made out of nothing, and they will answer, ‘Doesn't the Bible say He created the world?’ And they infer, from the word create, that it must have been made out of nothing. Now, the word create came from the word baurau, which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos-chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time He had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning and can have no end.

The Substance From Which Our Spirits Were Formed Also Existed Eternally

In 1833 the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith that “man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be” (D&C 93:29). Several years later, with the publication of the book of Abraham, additional information about the immortality of the soul of man came to light. The Lord told Abraham that these intelligences or spirits “have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal” (Abraham 3:18). 

The Prophet Joseph often suggested that just as the earth could not be created out of nothing, neither could man. In the King Follett Discourse, the Prophet Joseph once again addressed this subject of the immortality of the spirit of man.

The soul—the mind of man—the immortal spirit. Where did it come from? All learned men and doctors of divinity say that God created it in the beginning; but it is not so: the very idea lessens man in my estimation . . .

The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-equal [co-eternal] with God himself . . .

Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it had a beginning? The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end . . .

Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it.

We Have a Spiritual and Divine Father and Mother

In 1909, the First Presidency of the Church issued an official declaration concerning the spiritual as well as temporal origin of man. Presidents Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund wrote:

All men and women are in similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity . . .

The doctrine of the pre-existence revealed so plainly, particularly in latter days, pours a wonderful flood of light upon the otherwise mysterious problem of man's origin. It shows that man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents.

It is most profound that the First Presidency clarified the relationship of the spiritual creation of man by using words like "begotten" and "born." This official statement of the First Presidency answers the question. How was the spirit of man organized or born? Just as mortal beings take on their physical bodies in a procreative process involving both an earthly father and an earthly mother, the birth of spirits came about "in like manner." This important truth implies that not only a Heavenly Father is needed in the spiritual procreative process but also a Heavenly Mother.

We Have Spiritual Talents and Predispositions 

We’ve seen how closely our earthly existence is patterned after our premortal one. The similarities can be extended even further. Each child that is born inherits certain qualities and characteristics from his or her physical parents. This inheritance can be more than just physical. It is also common to inherit musical talent, other artistic or intellectual gifts, and even personality traits. "It's in his blood" and "It's in her genes" are common expressions.

In a real yet spiritual sense each child of Heavenly Father likewise inherited characteristics and capacities from his divine parents. These capacities may not necessarily be talents such as athletic ability or artistic gifts, but no doubt all spirit sons and daughters of God inherited the potential—all the spiritual capacities—necessary to enable them to become like their Father or Mother. "There is the nature of deity in the composition of our spiritual organization," said President Lorenzo Snow.

It should be significant to each of us to know that by virtue of our divine lineage, we possess innate spiritual capacities which, if developed and nurtured properly, will lead to godhood--godhood like that of the Father who endowed each of his spirit offspring with that inheritance. 

For a more in-depth look into our life before this one, check out Brent L. Top's The Life Before available at

The Life Before delves into fascinating topics such as our spiritual origins and capacities, premortal organization and harmony, agency, opposition, foreordination, the eternal nature of the priesthood, and the war in heaven — all elements that are “timeless.” Brent L. Top then shifts to a discussion of “time” — our earthly existence — and the reader learns what the “here and now” has to do with everything that happened “then.”

The Priesthood Existed Prior to This Earth

Prophets of the Restoration have declared that priesthood authority and organization existed in the premortal courts of the Father. The Prophet Joseph Smith stated:

The Priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity, without beginning of days or end of years. The keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the Gospel is sent....

[The Melchizedek Priesthood] holds the highest authority which pertains to the priesthood, and the keys of the Kingdom of God in all ages of the world to the latest posterity on the earth; and is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation and every important matter is revealed from heaven.

Its institution was prior to ‘the foundation of this earth.'

The Prophet clearly states that priesthood is eternal and that through that eternal channel comes the knowledge and instruction necessary to prepare the spirit children of God for eventual exaltation. 

We Had Agency and Could Repent

President Joseph Fielding Smith also stated that individual agency led to different levels of obedience, diligence, and righteousness, which, in turn, resulted in varying levels of progression, of capacities, and ultimately of authority and responsibility.

He said: “God gave his children their free agency even in the spirit world, by which the individual spirits had the privilege, just as men have here, of choosing the good and rejecting the evil, or partaking of the evil to suffer the consequences of their sins. Because of this, some even there were more faithful than others in keeping the commandments of the Lord. Some were of greater intelligence than others, as we find it here, and were honored accordingly.”

Note in the previous statement the phrases "just as men have here" and "as we find it here." From these phrases, we can assume that the premortal spirits had opportunities and requirements to be obedient, diligent, and faithful as do mortals on earth. They were expected to study and learn. They were expected to be faithful in whatever commandments and duties the Father required of them. They were to develop talents, skills, and abilities that would enable them to live more productive and fulfilling lives, both there and here. They were to show love, kindness, patience, and consideration to their brothers and sisters. Each of these expectations is the same "as we find it here."

Whatever other specific expectations and requirements existed there is not revealed. It certainly is logical to assume, however, that premortal spirits were expected to live the same gospel principles, with the exception of earthly ordinances, as men here on earth. Scriptural passages such as Alma 13:3-4 seem to indicate that they exercised faith in Christ and the plan of redemption and repented there as men do here.

It Had Cities, Plants, Palaces, Walks, and Gardens

While nothing has been revealed specifically concerning the appearance of the premortal world, there are some interesting statements from latter-day prophets that shed light on the subject. The premortal estate served as a pattern or type in many ways for this temporal existence as well as for the postmortal spirit world. It is interesting to then "look back" at that premortal home through descriptions of those postmortal realms.

During a tour of the Church in the South Pacific in 1921, President David O. McKay, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, had a remarkable vision of the celestial kingdom. His description provides a glimpse of how the premortal heavenly home probably appeared.

I ... beheld in vision something infinitely sublime. In the distance I beheld a beautiful white city. Though far away, yet I seemed to realize that trees with luscious fruit, shrubbery with gorgeously tinted leaves, and flowers in perfect bloom abounded everywhere. The clear sky above seemed to reflect these beautiful shades of color. I then saw a great concourse of people approaching the city. Each one wore a white flowing robe, and a white headdress. Instantly my attention seemed centered upon their Leader, and though I could see only the profile of his features and his body, I recognized him at once as my Savior! The tint and radiance of his countenance were glorious to behold. There was a peace about him which seemed sublime—it was divine!

President Brigham Young spoke specifically of the premortal world when he declared that the spirit children of God were indeed "acquainted with every nook and corner, with the palaces, walks, and gardens" of that realm. Describing the gardens there, President Grant told Heber C. Kimball, "I have seen good gardens on this earth, but I never saw any to compare with those that were there. I saw flowers of numerous kinds, and some with from fifty to a hundred different colored flowers growing upon one stalk." Heber C. Kimball then concluded, "We have many kinds of flowers on the earth, and I suppose those very articles came from heaven, or they would not be here." 

We Progressed and Made Friends

There are still other ways that our premortal inclinations may influence our lives here. A somewhat common way is discussed in the following correspondence between Elder Orson F. Whitney and President Joseph F. Smith.

Elder Whitney asked:

Why are we drawn to certain persons, and they to us, as if we had always known each other? Is it a fact that we always have? Is there something, after all, in that much abused term ‘affinity’ and is this the basis of its claim? At all events, it is just as logical to look back upon fond associations, as it is to look forward to them. We believe that ties formed in this life, will be continued in the life to come; then why not believe that . . . some of them at least, have been resumed in this state of existence?”

So powerful are the predilections acquired in the premortal realm, pointed out President Joseph F. Smith, that even likes and dislikes here in mortality, including our affinity for certain people, are affected. These "memories of the spirit" influence our lives and attitudes here on earth like echoes from eternity.

Remembering Who We Truly Are

As our lives unfold and as we live righteously so that we may begin to know who we truly are, we begin to understand that although there is a testing veil drawn between our first and second estates, it is only a veil and not a wall. Though our memories of that place may be held back, the "principles we attained unto" were packed in our bags and sent with us to earth. If we thoughtfully examine our lives and our inner selves, we will be amazed to discover that many, if not most, of our talents, aptitudes, dispositions, and desires trace their source to our previous existence.

Lead image from Getty Images

For a more in-depth look into our life before this one, check out Brent L. Top's The Life Before available at

The Life Before delves into fascinating topics such as our spiritual origins and capacities, premortal organization and harmony, agency, opposition, foreordination, the eternal nature of the priesthood, and the war in heaven — all elements that are “timeless.” Brent L. Top then shifts to a discussion of “time” — our earthly existence — and the reader learns what the “here and now” has to do with everything that happened “then.”

Stay in the loop!
Enter your email to receive updates on our LDS Living content