Dr. Einar C. Erickson
Ancient Document Mormon Scholar
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'Nobody is above Him, because nobody reigns over Him; He is not in want for nothing was before Him.' This is talking about Father, 'He does not lack life; He is eternal He lacks nothing because He is completely perfect. He has no lack so He has to be perfected in it, but all times He is absolutely perfect. In perfection He is unlimited because there was nobody before Him that can set the bounds for Him. He cannot be judged for there is nobody.'

 

INTRODUCTION 

Since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi there has been renewed interest in the extra-canonical and extra-biblical books and literature, that were also being found. Especially the Books of Enoch. In this short study our focus is on 3 Enoch or the Hebrew Book of Enoch, of the third and fourth century and before, (Odeberg p. 63) for evidence that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints finds clear parallels to the restoration of certain specific doctrines.   

The Church teaches there is a geography in the universe. “That there is but one universe and that all experiences are but manifestations of different orders or different combinations.” (Widstoe p. 187) “The Church does set up … the doctrine that there are found in the universe personal individual intelligences…The Church holds therefore that the content of the universe includes  personal intelligences and the contents of the universe… upon which these intelligences act… God, the Supreme Intelligence, is a personal intelligence… his influence extends throughout the Universe.” (Widtsoe pp. 191 194) “The contents of the universe are indestructible… The personal intelligences of the universe are also indestructible. …Man, one of these personal intelligences is eternal, everlasting…. He was also in the beginning with God. “(D&C 29:31-32; 76:12-13; 49:17; Moses 3:5-7; 93:29; Widtsoe) 

ABRAHAM AND PREMORTAL LIFE

The Third Chapter of Abraham is the most quoted part of the Book of Abraham. In a “few verses Abraham is told about the preexistence. More than half of all citations of the Book of Abraham in the general conferences of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints and a third      of all citations of the Book of Abraham in the Church' manuals are from the Book of Abraham’s discussions of the preexistence.” (Gee p. 121) And are a significant part of LDS Doctrine. In the term preexistence “The prefix pre-can mean both before and previous.

“A preexistence is therefore a previous existence.” (Gee p. 122) Premortal is a term preferred to be used to refer to our previous existence, or life before becoming a mortal being.

“A number of scriptures discuss the preexistence of Jesus the Son of God…in John 8:57-58, Jesus identifies himself as existing before Abraham…Jesus existed before his mortal birth…. Moses 4:1-4 tells… both Jesus and Satan are present before God…Jesus is chosen and Satan was not… others were there and knew about this choice… other scriptures discuss the pre-mortal existence of Jesus.” (John 1:124; 3:13; 6:62; 8:58; 16:28; 17: 5, 24; 1 John 1:1; 5:7; 3 Nephi 1:13; 26:5; Ether 3:16; Ephesians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 1:20; Mosiah 7:27; D&C 76:13-15). (Gee p. 122)  

God tells the prophet Jerimiah “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.” (Jerimiah 1:5) Alma mentions some high priests [leaders of the church] “Being called and prepared from the foundations of the world according to the foreknowledge of God on account of their exceeding faith and good works.” (Alma 4:16-20; 8:11) Where had they exercised their faith and performed their good works?  There are other scriptures as well. (Gee 123-124) Some “refer to the preexistence of angelic beings, (Job 38:7), or say that God created the spirits of men but not when he did so.” (Gee p. 124, Moses 6:36)

The discussion of the preexistence in the Book of Abraham places not just Abraham in the preexistence state but others as well. Abraham is shown the spirits “that were organized before the world was; and among all of these there were many of the noble and great ones” ((Abraham 3:23). “Abraham,  thou art one of them thou was chosen before thou wast born”(Abraham 3:23). This world would be created to “make an earth whereon these spirits may dwell” (Abraham 3:24). “The spirits who dwell on earth were present in that premortal meeting.” (Gee p. 124) D&C 93:29 states) “Man was also in the beginning with God.  Moses 3:5 states that: I, the Lord God had created all the children of men and not just a man to till the ground for in Heaven created I them and there was not yet flesh upon the earth.” Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the redemption of the dead builds on these concepts. (D&C 138:53,56; Gee p. 124)

“The foremost intelligence in the universe is God. Him whom we address in our prayers as Father. (D&C 109:77; 76:92-93; 88:40; 20:17) His knowledge …. and power is the sum of the knowledge possessed by all existing personal intelligences.”  (Abraham 3:19; Gee p. 124)

“In the beginning the rising intelligence progressed by gaining mastery of the surrounding forces… [we] learned by experience…progress was slow…God was there pointing out the way of progress and to give direct help when needed. Progress…the will of man… progress … has ever been the result of the operations of the untrammeled will…The time came…as an earned step in progress, when through the intervention of the Lord, personal intelligences became invested with spirit bodies … Man was born… into the spirit world. God became the Father of our spirits… clothed upon with spirit bodies is called the First Estate of Man.”  (Widtsoe p.202-203) We were following a plan, “The Plan of Salvation, God is the author of the full Plan.” (Widtsoe p 202) In the next step in progress man needed to experience an earth life. An alternate plan was proposed. It was rejected, there was rebellion and many lost the opportunity to go to earth. Long ages, marked by progress, were spent in the spirit world.  ”(Widtsoe p. 203) “Most of the spirits had accepted the plan… they had earned the right to go to earth… Earth life is said to be man’s second Estate.” (Widtsoe pp. 204-205)

“Life on earth is of limited duration… then comes a separation of the spirit and the body…the spirit and the body will be reunited the body. ….” (Widtsoe p. 294) “Resurrected into a kingdom depending on his life on earth. [Eternal life, of whatever sort] is the Third Estate and the basis of all efforts of man 

The Book of Abraham is unique “says that not just Jesus or some prophet had a premortal life, but that every person on earth did [or any other earth] as well.” (Gee p. 124)

THE PURPOSE OF LIFE

The Book of Abraham tells not only of the human family’s premortal existence but in the scope of three verses it outlines a clear plan and purpose for this mortal existence.

AN EARTH WOULD BE CREATED

We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell.

THOSE IN THE PREEXISETENCE COULD DWELL ON THAT EARTH AS A

                                        TEST OF OBEDIENCE

And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them

              THOSE WHO DID WOULD RECEIVE A GLORIOUS REWARD

And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate;

And they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.” (Abraham 3:24-26; Gee p. 124-125)

3 ENOCH or THE HEBREW BOOK OF ENOCH

The Hebrew writers had come up with the “Trichotomy of the non-physical part of man [of] n’sama, ruch and nefes. The surviving part of man is, throughout the Book [of Enoch], referred to by the term n’sama. This term will be best rendered ’spirit’.” (1) The n’asama or spirit is indestructible and eternal. (Odeberg p. 174)

“The spirit, even when not united to a body, has a bodily form. This bodily form is evidently pictured as similar to the form of the manifested (or physical) body…. This bodily form …the “pre-existant form or type of body preserved in the Chamber of Creation…with which the spirit is invested when about to go down into life earthly…. the n’sama is, in all probability, conceived of as pre-existent…. The spirits that have been created and have returned and the spirits that have not yet been created as two distinct classes…  an actual pre-existence is meant to be conveyed. …The pre-existence of the spirit is taught in our book, it also follows that the spirit’s “being created” means its entering in its manifested existence, i.e. its being invested with a body … the manifested body which determines its growth and appearance of the actual physical body. [the spirit body and the physical body look alike] … The n’sama in its pre-existent state is pure or “righteous”. Through life earthly the spirit may become defiled or wholly corrupted.” (Odeberg p.175) “The underlying idea seems to be that angels and men are essentially of the same kind, only with different spheres of existence and duties.”  (Odeberg pp. 176-177)

“The treasures of the unborn spirits …the spirits go out to the world… among the secret instructions given to Enoch were those of the souls of, men, those of them which are not yet born and the places prepared for them forever… I will show you the spirits of the righteous that have been created … the spirits of the righteous that have not been created…showed me the spirits of the righteous dead are here represented as having their abode by the throne of Glory… [God]…a distinction between the righteous, wicked (and intermediate) even before this life… “for I was a witty child and a good spirit. Yea, rather, being good, I came into a body undefiled…. The moral character of the spirit is already determined before their embodiment…the different courses of the living on this earth being merely a consequence of their qualities as developed in their pre-terrestrial existence… (Odeberg p. 133)

“The souls and spirits that are to be created…dwell with their King…with them God took counsel before creating man…the unborn spirits await creation. (Odeberg p. 133) “The spirits go out to the world…the unborn spirits here referred to have their place in the presence of the Throne of Glory… “The fully righteous spirits are …the spirits from the side of Shekina [the throne of God] the spirits …when once having entered earthly life will turn out righteous. Their future perfection reacts upon their pre-existent state. … the spirit I have given thee is pure; if thou give it back to me in the same state it is good for thee. …When the souls are about to quit their heavenly abode each soul appears before the Holy One… before which they have undergone judgement… clothed with [an] image or form on which are engraven the features which it will bear here below… the spirits have bodily form and actual bodies”… (Odeberg pp. 133-137) So, your spirit body looks like your present physical earthly body.  

“Come and I will show thee the spirits of the stars that are …standing by the throne of the Meriaba praising the Holy One during the time that they are not occupied by “doing service in the world” Stars are … pictured as having bodies.” [We understand from Job that STARS are angels and or spirit beings.  “when the morning stars sang together.”] (Job 38:7) “[And [one]was called perdition, for the heavens wept over him—he was Lucifer, a son of the morning.”] (D&C 76:26) In the book of Enoch “the stars are clearly conceived of as angelic beings…” (Ode erg p. 149) “The spirits and souls of the angels are pre-existent …The spirits of the angels have bodily form as the spirits of men.” (Odeberg p. 179) All the spirits of men and angels were born, nurtured and raised in the presence of God in the celestial world.  Then they were permitted to come to earth. 

In Summary we have: The “pilgrimage of the souls, the descent of the spirit from the spirit world [by birth] to the terrestrial world [the earth] and its ascent to its celestial home.  [The Temple Endowment]  “The Great Metatron [Christ]… is the ‘Adam’ Elyon … the First Spirit man… Man was created in the image of Metatron.” (Odeberg p. 122)

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

BIGELOW, Christopher Kimball, Jonathan Langford, Ed., Don L. Brugger. The Latte- Day Saint Family Encyclopedia, Thunder Bay Press, San Diego, Ca. 2010 

GEE, John, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham, Religious Studies Center, BYU, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 2017

MILLET, Robert L., Camille Fronk Olson. Andrew C. Skinner, Brent O. Top, L.D.S. Beliefs, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 2011

ODEBERG, Hugo, 3 Enoch, The Hebrew Book of Enoch, KTAV Publishing House, Inc., New York, 1973

WIDTSOE, John, Program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1936  

All research and opionions presented on this site are the sole responsibility of Dr. Einar C. Erickson, and should not be interpreted as official statements of the LDS doctrine, beliefs or practice.
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