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Foreordination

The page contains comments from the following authors:

Brent L. Top
Elder Bruce R. McConkie


by Brent L. Top

Foreordination is the premortal selection of individuals to come forth in mortality at specified times, under certain conditions, and to fulfill predesignated responsibilities. In LDS interpretation, "foreordained" does not mean predetermined (see Predestination). It is the outcome of voluntary choice, not the violation or abrogation of it. The idea of preexistence and premortal preparation for earth life is hinted at in biblical sources, and evidence of it appears in some early Jewish-Christian sources. But it has been less prominent in later thought.

Abraham was told that he was included among the valiant spirits and was therefore chosen or foreordained before his birth to be a leader in God's kingdom on earth (Abr. 3:22-23). The Lord likewise informed Jeremiah, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and…I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations" (Jer. 1:5). Alma 2 taught that priests belonging to a "holy order" were foreordained "according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works" (Alma 13:1, 3). The Prophet Joseph Smith concluded that "every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was" (TPJS, p. 365). And in addition to these foreordinations to priesthood callings, many spirits may have been foreordained to specific nations and generations, which Paul characterized as the "bounds of habitation" (Acts 17:26), as well as to families and to varied assignments, work, or missions on earth.

While each of these selections is ultimately based on the omniscience and foreknowledge of God, several factors may influence one's earthly circumstances. Foreordination comes as a blessing or reward for premortal righteousness and valiant commitment to Jesus Christ. Birth into the house of Israel and heirship to all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are often seen as the birthright of dedicated souls (see Eph. 1:4-5; Rom. 9:4). These rights and blessings may still be obtained by any and all who elect to receive them, whether in this life or the next. People sooner or later will manifest, as Elder B. H. Roberts, of the Seventy, taught, "the strength of that intelligence and nobility to which their spirits had attained in the heavenly kingdom before they took bodies upon earth" (T. Madsen, Defender of the Faith [Salt Lake City, 1980], p. 2). The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that men and women may come to God through righteousness and diligence and thus become numbered with those who are "sons [and daughters] of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God" (D&C 84:34).

Through faithfulness on earth, whatever one's premortal foreordination or prior covenants, one may, as Paul taught, become "adopted" into the favored lineage: "They are not all Israel, which are of Israel" (Rom. 9:6). Many, that is, may be foreordained to high missions in mortality, but may, through sin and rebellion, fail in their foreordinations and give up their blessings. Obedience to the covenants and ordinances of the gospel is a primary factor in determining ultimate election to the chosen lineage.

Latter-day Saints further believe that the times, places, and circumstances of birth into mortality may be the outcome of former covenants and decisions as well as that which would be best, in divine wisdom, to provide both opportunities and challenges for the individual's growth and development. Additionally, foreordination may also be based on God's own purposes and plans to bless all of his children. The specifics of these factors remain unclear. As a result, a person's premortal character can never be judged by his or her present station in life. Some of the most bitter and arduous circumstances may be, in the perspective of eternity, the most blessed, and perhaps even the situations that men and women elected and agreed to enter. Foreordination does not preclude the exercise of agency. Foreordination is a conditional preappointment to or bestowal of certain blessings and responsibilities.

Following Augustine and Calvin, some have interpreted the word "predestine" in Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:4-5 as meaning divine precausation. In this view, God is the ultimate causal agent, whereas man is always and only an effect. Latter-day Saints reject this interpretation. They believe that neither the Greek nor related scriptural sources lead to this view. Paul's usage of this term refers to being foreordained to divine sonship through Christ. Furthermore, since God knows "all things, for all things are present before [his] eyes" (D&C 38:1-2), he anticipates our choices. However, he does not make the choices for us. Knowing our potential, he foreordains those who will help to bring about his purposes. Latter-day Saints extend this concept to embrace foreordination to any divinely appointed ministry or function.

Bibliography

Maxwell, Neal A. "Meeting the Challenges of Today." Speeches of the Year, pp. 149-56. Provo, Utah, 1978.

Top, Brent L. The Life Before. Salt Lake City, 1988.

Winston, David. "Preexistence in the Wisdom of Solomon and Mormon Sources." In Reflections on Mormonism, ed. Truman Madsen, pp. 13-35. Salt Lake City, 1978.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Foreordination

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company


by Elder Bruce R. McConkie

To carry forward his own purposes among men and nations, the Lord foreordained chosen spirit children in pre-existence and assigned them to come to earth at particular times and places so that they might aid in furthering the divine will. These pre-existence appointments made "according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (1 Pet. 1:2), simply designated certain individuals to perform missions which the Lord in his wisdom knew they had the talents and capacities to do.

The mightiest and greatest spirits were foreordained to stand as prophets and spiritual leaders, giving to the people such portion of the Lord's word as was designed for the day and age involved. Other spirits, such as those who laid the foundations of the American nation, were appointed beforehand to perform great works in political and governmental fields. In all this there is not the slightest hint of compulsion; persons foreordained to fill special missions in mortality are as abundantly endowed with free agency as are any other persons. By their foreordination the Lord merely gives them the opportunity to serve him and his purposes if they will choose to measure up to the standard he knows they are capable of attaining.

Alma taught the great truth that every person who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood was foreordained to receive that high and holy order in the pre-existent councils of eternity. "This is the manner after which they were ordained," he says. They were "called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works [while yet living in pre-existence]; in the first place [that is, in pre-existence] being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceeding great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such." Thus, he explains, Melchizedek Priesthood holders have been "prepared from the foundation of the world" for their high callings. The Lord has prepared them "from eternity to all eternity, according to his foreknowledge of all things." (Alma 13:3-9.)

Speaking of foreordination to spiritual callings, the Prophet Joseph Smith said: "Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. I suppose that I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council." (Teachings, p. 365.) Abraham saw the hosts of pre-existent spirits. "And among all these," he recorded, "were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born." (Abra. 3:22-23.)

Jeremiah records a similar truth relative to his foreordination to be "a prophet unto the nations" (Jer. 1:5), and Moses taught that the whole host of spirits born in the lineage of Jacob were before appointed to come through that chosen line. (Deut. 32:7-8.) It was because of their pre-existent training, election, and foreordination that Christ was able to say of certain chosen ones, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27.)

There is scriptural record of many other instances of specific foreordination. Christ, himself, was before chosen to come to this life as the Son of God and Redeemer of the world (Moses 4:1-4; Abra. 3:27; 1 Pet. 1:19-20), "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." (Rev. 13:8.) Mary, the mother of our Lord, was before named for her sacred mission (1 Ne. 11:18-20; Mosiah 3:8; Isa. 7:14), and John the Baptist received a pre-mortal commission to prepare the way for the first coming of the Son of Man. (1 Ne. 10:7-10; Isa. 40:3; Matt. 3:3.) The Twelve who in their mortal life were destined to follow our Lord were seen in vision by Nephi nearly 600 years before the assigned day of their mortal missions. (1 Ne. 11:29, 34-36.)

Joseph who was sold into Egypt spoke prophetically of Moses, and Joseph Smith, and others, both by name and by describing the foreordained missions to be performed by them, hundreds of years before the destined birth of those concerned into mortality. (2 Ne. 3.) John the Beloved's name, apostolic call, and mission as the great Revelator were revealed to Nephi long before John's birth. (1 Ne. 14:19-29.) In pre-existence, before Jacob or Esau were born as mortal beings, the Lord decreed, "The elder shall serve the younger." (Rom. 9:10-12.) The temporal rule of Cyrus and the mission he was to perform as it affected the Lord's Israel, was foretold by Isaiah long before the birth of that earthly ruler. (Isa. 44:28; 45.) The mission of Columbus to bring the American nations to the knowledge of the old world, and the Lord's dealings with the Gentile nations which should inhabit the areas thus re-discovered, was all foreknown and foreordained. (1 Ne. 13.)

And what is true of these great leaders and episodes in the history of the Lord's religious and civic dealings with mankind is also true of other political and religious leaders and other great historical events. "I am God," the Lord said, "and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." (Isa. 46:9-10.)

Mormon Doctrine, p.290-2
Copyright by Bookcraft


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