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How We Taught This Lesson in the Past: Lesson 2: “Thou Wast Chosen Before Thou Wast Born”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 03, 2010

This 1945 lesson for young adults covers very much the same doctrinal ground as that of this year’s Lesson 2, but in a very different – and, to my taste, very odd — style:

First Experience

A New Emigrant

The lady across the fence has a baby. He is an interesting little chap with a round red face and almost no hair at all on his head. He smiles when you look at him, and his one little dimple pokes inward near the corner of his mouth. Tiny though he is, he has grown up lungs and voice, for I often hear him protesting at something across the lane. They call him Cappy.

The other morning I stepped across to see him as he lay in his basket, enjoying a sun bath. I could imagine that he was saying, “Hello. You are my neighbor, I think. Hot, isn’t it? I just came over a short time ago – haven’t learned much of your language yet. Mother can understand me. She knows when I’m hungry and when I’m in trouble.

“I think I’m going to like it over here. It’s very different, though, from my old home. We were not in such a hurry. Everybody wants to come over here, but transportation is not so good now. The storks must be needed in the war I hear about on the radio. We had wars over there, but no tanks and thundering guns. The fields, flowers, and trees too, are different, but even more beautiful there. The food is not the same. Now I get more hungry. I never seem to get filled up, for mother measures it out in dabs, and sometimes the dabs are a long time between.

“I had a dear and loving Father and mother over there, and a multitude of brothers and sisters. I hated to leave them, but I wanted to take this excursion and meet my old friends who had come on ahead. Sometime I’m going back to my old home.”

Then he smiled and showed his dimple but would talk no more.

Pre-Mortal Beginnings

Recently a friend visited a good old lady, Aunt Mary, ninety-seven years old. Four very early experiences were still fresh and clear in her mind. First, the death of her mother when she, herself, was only five years old. Second, soon after this, she attended with her father, the funeral of a man named King Follet. The funeral was held in a brush bowery, and rain began to fall. When he people began to leave, the Prophet Joseph Smith arose and said, “If you will all sit down, I promise you, you will not get wet.” Everyone sat down, and while it rained all around, not a drop fell on the bowery. Third, she saw the bodies of the Prophets Joseph and Hyrum Smith when they were brought from Carthage to Nauvoo. Fourth, with her father and brother, she attended a meeting soon after the death of the Prophet. She saw Brigham Young get up to preach. She did not know what he said, but suddenly she clutched her father’s arm and exclaimed out loud, “Papa, it’s not Brigham; it’s the Prophet Joseph. He is not dead.” She had seen the transfiguration of President Brigham Young.

These were rich experiences for a little girl, but they were not her first experiences. Somewhere in the far-distant past, ages and ages before her birth here, her personal life began. That is also where little Cappy began his life’s experiences. Perhaps Baby Cappy and Aunt Mary were acquainted there. They might even have been near the same age, for age as we know it is measured in earth-years. After all, these two who seem so different are brother and sister.

We Are all the Children of Heavenly Parents

Earth parents are God’s gift to us. Through the comes a second birth – we get our present mortal bodies. “We have had fathers of our flesh (bodies),” said Paul, “which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live?” (Hebrews 12:9) Jesus said when we pray to say “Our Father which art in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9)

Cappy seemed to say that some day he was going back to his old home. That was not an idle statement. Solomon said that after death, “Then shall the dust (the body) return unto the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God (Our Heavenly Father) who gave it.” (Ecc. 12:7) Aunt Mary recently returned.

Wherever there is a father, we will find a mother too. Eliza R. Snow gave us this thought:

When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?

Thus began the journey of Eternal Progression. There were Father and Mother, brothers and sisters, with some kind of home-life and varied activities, fitted to the sphere in which we lived.

We Had the Gospel Plan

Life, we learned, goes on and on forever. The gospel, too, provides for the whole span of life. Duties, responsibilities, and activities may differ in different spheres to meet the requirements of a spirit life, for we had spirit, not mortal bodies. There seems to have been no marriages – that belongs to earth-life. Jesus said: “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage.” (Mark 12:25) Experience teaches that this also is true of pre-earth life. Baptism could not have been performed there as we know baptism. Neither do they baptize in the resurrection. This ordinance also belongs to earth-life. The living now are baptized for the dead.

We did assemble together in council, acting and voting as we chose. There was complete free agency – freedom of choice, and with that freedom we had responsibility for our actions just as we have it now.

If Aunt Mary could have remembered bak far enough, she could have told of another meeting she had attended. The great Gospel Plan was presented and a leader chosen. That was the very problem in a Nauvoo meeting. Sidney Rigdon wanted to be the leader and would have destroyed the free agency of the people to accomplish his desires. Brigham Young said, “We must know what the Lord says about it.” Brigham was the man and God transformed him for a moment to appear like Joseph, the Prophet. Now the people were satisfied and rejected Sidney Rigdon.

In that spirit-life meeting, Lucifer, an influential leader, presented a plan to save all men. “Here am I, send me,” he said, “and I will redeem all mankind, that not one soul shall be lost.” But he wanted all the honor for himself; he would have made slaves of all men to accomplish his selfish ends.

Then, as now, there was someone to champion the cause of freedom. Jesus, our Elder Brother and Redeemer, presented the true Gospel Plan of freedom. “I will go,” he said to the Father. “Thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” (Moses 4:1-4)

So Satan was rejected and cast out, together with a mighty host who followed his leadership. They can never have mortal bodies. In spirit form they inhabit the earth and are no doubt responsible for the terrible destructions and suffering in the world today. Sometime their power and influence will end and peace and good will to all men will be established under the reign and rule of Jesus, our Redeemer.

How Leaders Were Chosen

Things on earth are typical of things in Heaven. Leaders among us are chosen because of worthiness, or some special qualifications. Jesus was selected because of his humility, love of freedom, and ability to plan and do. He had to do with creating our earth because he was qualified – he knew how. There was a great council, or convention of leaders in that spirit-life so long ago.

“And there stood among them (one) that was like unto God, and he said unto those that were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth wherein these (all the spirit children of our heavenly Father) may dwell.” (Abraham 3:24) So Jesus was a creator of worlds before he was born on earth to be our Savior and Redeemer.

Abraham was chosen while I the spirit world to be the father of the greatest nation of religious leaders. The Lord showed him all the spirit children who lived before the world was created. “And among all these there were many of the noble and the great ones. “These,” He said, “I will make my rulers; for He stood among those that were spirits. … Abraham,” he continued, “thou art one of them; thou was chosen before thou wast born.” (Abraham 3:22-23)

Jeremiah, the last prophet of the Jews before their captivity, was ordained in the spirit world to be a prophet unto the nations when he came to earth. “Before you were born,” the Lord said to him, “I knew thee … and sanctified thee, and ordained thee a Prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

Joseph Smith, our great modern prophet, was actually named more than three thousand years before he was born. Joseph in Egypt prophesied that the Lord would raise up a great seer and prophet among his descendants in the last days. “And his name shall be called after me (Joseph); and it shall be after the name of his father (Joseph Senior).” (II Nephi, chapter 3)

Many more illustrations might be added, but these are enough to make it clear that leadership in all spheres of our Eternal Progression is given to the ones who excel in good deeds and clean living.

Our Works and Deeds Carry Over

“Bad will out.” “A good man today is a good man tomorrow.” “They who keep their first estate (live good lives in spirit life) shall be added upon (in mortal life); … and they who keep their second estate (this mortal life) shall have glory added upon their heads forever and ever.” (Abraham 3:26)

That is a good statement of Eternal Progression. It all depends upon our individual efforts – we alone are responsible. And it agrees with everyday experiences. What I do tomorrow will largely be influenced by what I think and do today. So, on and on – day to day, year to year, and age to age. Little Cappy is larger and stronger today because of the sunshine, exercise, and wholesome food of yesterday. If we would be happy tomorrow, we must live right and be happy today. Aunt Mary lived well and was happy in this mortal life; she must have been the same in the earlier spirit life. She is now happy and contented in the new life she is living.

Helps to Study

1. Is it reasonable to believe that we lived in a spirit world before we were born? Give your best reasons.
2. What was Cappy’s idea about associations “over there”?
3. Why could Aunt Mary remember experiences of early childhood better than experiences of recent years?
4. Retell Aunt Mary’s most interesting experiences.
5. If we lived and passed through experiences in a life before this life, why can’t we remember? Give reasons why it is best that we do not remember.
6. In what way are we all children of God?
7. If we are all children of God, why are some black and some white?
8. What evidence have we that we could choose for ourselves “over there”?



6 Comments »

  1. Indeed it’s presented in a very odd manner; almost like a Primary lesson with the fictional piece at the start. Question no. 7 would probably have raised some interesting answers in 1945, although fair’s fair, it wouldn’t even get asked today!

    Comment by Alison — January 3, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

  2. Yeah, the author gets an “A” for effort for trying to come up with a new way to think about some of these concepts, I guess. But the effect is almost off-putting — all those strange details about Cappy, and Aunt Mary. Anyhow, at least it grabbed my attention!

    As for the doctrine, I wasn’t really excited about this statement: “Eternal Progression is given to the ones who excel in good deeds and clean living.” I think this statement must be more a reflection of the culture of the time than based on scripture? It sounds so foreign.

    Comment by Hunter — January 3, 2010 @ 7:00 pm

  3. Good point about that question, Alison. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to hear the 1940s answers, though.

    Even if the idea of eternal progression being in large part the outcome of obedience to commandment, I agree that the formulation is peculiar to the culture!

    One odd thing that I intend to pursue is the identity of “Aunt Mary” — I actually think she was a real person, and I think I know who she was, but I need to doublecheck her date of death and whether a couple of the incidents attributed to her are part of her known biography.

    Don’t know that there is any possibility of identifying “Cappy,” though, or his conveying all that data through his sleepy gaze. :)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 3, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

  4. Hunter, your comment about the doctrine of Eternal Progression seems at odds with Father’s plan. Considering that Eternal Progression only occurs within the Celestial Kingdom which is earned by grace mixed with good deeds and clean living (keeping the commandments), in simple terms, the statement is correct.

    Ardis, thanks for posting these comments. They help me with my youth Gospel Doctrine class.

    Comment by Glenn Smith — January 10, 2010 @ 9:15 am

  5. Glenn, I think Hunter’s comment is more about “sounding” odd — that the wording is foreign, or not the standard phrases we use today — not that the doctrine is incorrect.

    That’s actually what I like best about digging through the old lessons. With few exceptions the doctrines are the same — but in earlier years we emphasized different parts of the doctrines, or used different scriptural stories to illustrate a moral, or, as in this case, used a different idiom to express the same thought. “Good deeds” and “clean living” just ring with the tone of the early 20th century, in contrast to “good works” and “obeying the commandments [WoW, LoC]” which would be more usual to say today.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 10, 2010 @ 12:36 pm

  6. I suppose verbiage* that sounds archaic can confuse us with its meaning. Similarly, common, current phrases would confuse our great grandparents and will likely confuse our great grandchildren. Kind of like reading Isaiah…… One needs to understand the terminology.

    Comment by Glenn Smith — January 10, 2010 @ 3:20 pm

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