Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Latter-Day Saints Perspective On The Creation And Eternal Progression Of Mankind, According To Dr. Eric Skousen's "Earth In The Beginning"

The purpose of this post is to provide an abbreviated explanation of the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding the eternal progression of mankind. In short, to provide answers on what we believe regarding the three important questions: Where we came from, why we are here, and where we can go. In some cases, actual doctrine is seasoned with informed speculation by educated Mormons; the speculation is OK as long as it merely supplements existing doctrine rather than contradicting it.

One difficulty lies in the ambiguity and the brevity of the account of the Creation. We only have the accounts put forth in the Old Testament (Genesis) and the Pearl of Great Price (Abraham) to draw from. On the surface, it appears that the two accounts are redundant. But on page 26 of the 1999 edition of his book "Earth In The Beginning", Dr. Eric Skousen attempts to clarify the redundancy. He describes the creation in terms of three epochs:

-- The First Epoch: The spirit creation, or the creation of the spirit earth and its embellishment with spirit life forms, including the spirit family of our Heavenly Father (that's us, folks). This is described in Genesis Chapter 1.

-- The Second Epoch: The creation of the physical earth and its preparation to sustain modern life forms. This is described in Abraham Chapter 4 in the Pearl of Great Price; it is NOT described in Genesis.

-- The Third Epoch: The arrival of modern life forms on the newly-created physical earth, including Adam and Eve. During this epoch, all life on earth is sanctified and not initially subject to death. The subsequent Fall of Adam and Eve introduced death to the earth. This is described in Genesis Chapter 2.

But how did it all begin? In summary, we began as organized intelligences, were encountered by a master creator (our Heavenly Father, known as Elohim) who offered us the opportunity to be organized, tested, and tabernacled. We accepted, and those of us who proved most capable during this initial testing were tabernacled in spirit after the image of God. After reaching maximum progress within a spirit tabernacle, we were then offered the opportunity to take the next step by coming to a mortal world where sin and opposition exist to take on a mortal tabernacle. After we die and leave our mortal tabernacles behind, depending upon our progress on earth, we will then be resurrected where spirit and mortal tabernacles will be eternally reunited, and assigned to one of four levels of glory or kingdoms.

One of the biggest difficulties is to grasp the beginning. That's because intelligence has always existed; it cannot be "created". From Meridian Magazine, we get some helpful scriptural references describing the nature and composition of intelligence:

-- “Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.” (D&C 93:29-30)

-- “... 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)

-- “There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; (D&C 131:7)

From these references we can see that we have ALWAYS existed in some form. To better quantify this, Dr. Eric N. Skousen researched and wrote a book entitled "Earth In The Beginning". While not uploaded to the Web itself, the book, which was most recently published in 1999, and may still be available at any LDS book store, is listed on Some reactions to the book are posted on Here are the key events of mankind's eternal progression, according to Dr. Skousen:

(1). Unorganized Intelligences and the Unorganized Universe: Addressed in Chapter 3 of the 1999 edition. Only a small part of the universe is organized; the greater part of it is the unorganized universe. Within the unorganized universe lies unlimited quantities of two primary building blocks; intelligences (which act), and elements (which are acted upon). Dr. Skousen believes that no advance in technology will be sufficient to permit us to detect the unorganized universe, because it contains no organized matter.

(2). The Father encounters and organizes the intelligences. After being ordained unto Godhood, Elohim was given His realm to organize. We do not know for certain if He was given an entire universe, or merely a portion of the existing universe, which continually expands outward. During this process, Elohim encountered us as intelligences, and offered us the opportunity to be tested and spiritually tabernacled. Most showed only limited capacities, and eventually were locked in at lesser levels. They received more limited spirit tabernacles, in the form of plants or animals. But a lesser number of us showed sufficient capabilities to be considered long-term candidates for Godhood; consequently, we received spirit tabernacles after the image of the Father Himself.

(3). Three Grand Councils of the Gods convoked on the Father's celestialized world, Kolob, to plan and implement the creation of a spirit earth. Addressed in Chapters 5 and 6 of the 1999 edition. After a sufficient passage of time, Elohim determined that all of us spirits had made as much progress as possible within spirit tabernacles. To take the next step towards prospective Godhood, we had to go down to a mortal earth and overlay our spirit tabernacles with mortal tabernacles. However, every intelligence must receive a spirit tabernacle before receiving a mortal tabernacle. So a spirit earth had to be created first. The first three councils were devoted towards the organization of this spirit earth and the transfer of all of us spirits to it upon its completion. At one of these councils, the Father had to receive the keys and authority to create a spirit earth; the power to work with spirit elements and create a spirit earth is bestowed by a sacred Priesthood ordinance unavailable to us in the flesh.

(3). Fourth Grand Council convoked to choose a Presidency to create and organize the physical earth. Addressed in Chapter 8 of the 1999 edition. This council was not held in the celestialized world, but on the newly-created spirit earth. The purpose was to choose a Presidency, or leadership team, to oversee the creation of the physical earth. Abraham 3:24-25 offers the scriptural details. Two stepped forward to volunteer, Jehovah and Lucifer. While the Father remained in charge of the project, He chose Jehovah, born on the earth as Jesus Christ after the Fall, as his "first counselor", beginning a war of attrition between Jehovah and Lucifer which lasts even unto this day. However, Lucifer did NOT openly rebel against the Father at this time, so he was not expelled from heaven yet, but he did continue to dissent and gain followers from among the other spirit beings. The Father also chose Michael, who would be born on the earth as Adam before the Fall, as his "second counselor" in this task.

After this decision was taken, the physical earth was created in seven separate "stages" or time periods. The Bible refers to them as "days", but they are not 24-hour days. Some Mormons believe they are 1000-year days, based on the rotational time cycle observed on the paradisical earth, but the age of the earth as determined through carbon-14 and other techniques is far older, so we don't know how long each time period was. We do know that there were seven separate time periods.

(4). Fifth Grand Council convoked to choose a Savior. Addressed in Chapter 16 of the 1999 edition. Because celestial law would be suspended on this mortal earth, and evil allowed to compete with good, we could not return to the Father afterwards unless there was a Savior appointed who could live a perfect life and be put to death unjustly so He could take upon Himself the sins of the world and ask for our return to the Father as compensation for His sacrifice if we accept Him as our Savior and live according to His principles. So it was necessary to choose a Savior. Two stepped forward to volunteer; Lucifer and Jehovah. This time, Lucifer went first, and guaranteed that not one soul would be lost if his plan was adopted. According to Moses 4:1, Lucifer said, "Behold, here I am, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor". His proposal was to enforce celestial law on earth by demanding absolute obedience. However, this would not only destroy free agency, but would deny us the experience of learning to repent and voluntarily turning away from sin. We would not learn to obey the Father because we want to, but merely because we had to.

In contrast, Jehovah stepped forward and merely told the Father, "...thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever". The Father chose Jehovah. But Lucifer did not accept the decision, and crossed the line from dissension to open rebellion. While it's not exactly clear where the dividing line is, it appears that when Lucifer said "give me thine honor", this was interpreted to mean that Lucifer wanted to overthrow and supersede the Father. Thus Lucifer and his followers, amounting to about one-third of all spirit beings, were expelled from heaven and would be exiled to the earth. They became sons of perdition at that point, forever damned and barred from taking on mortal tabernacles. It is suggested that their ultimate fate might be exile back to the unorganized universe, although this is mere conjecture at this point.

Afterwards, Adam and Eve procured mortal tabernacles and were placed upon the newly-sanctified earth, which, at this time, was believed to have been still in place in the Father's solar system near Kolob. Dr. Skousen puts forth the opinion in Chapter 22 of the book that it is only after the Fall that the earth was removed from that location and transported into its present location.

If you are interested in deep doctrine and want to learn more about the details of creation and progression, "Earth In The Beginning" is an essential testimony-building resource.

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