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Dear Gramps,

My question is somewhat existential, somewhat theological, and purely speculative, I think. I believe in an existence prior to mortality—that individual “spirits” or “essences” (or whatever philosophical parlance you prefer) gathered knowledge and experience prior to their coming to earth. I have a friend in the Mormon church who believes the same thing; he even says that spirits were shown the life they would have on earth—trials, joys, and all—and that they chose to accept the course God had plotted for them. My question, then, is this: to what extent is such foreknowledge a negation of human agency? How can human beings rightly be said to have freedom of choice when, prior to their choices, they were shown the sum total of their future actions? Please enlighten me, oh high-flying, acrobatic one.





Dear Dana,

For a discussion of your profound topic it would first be necessary to separate speculation from fact. The premises on which to base factual information concerning matters in the spiritual world could be two. 1) God does not lie, and 2) the scriptures and the words of the living prophets reveal the word of God.

Perhaps your question could be generalized by asking, does foreknowledge imply predestination? Whether the foreknowledge is on the part of the individual concerning his own future or on the part of God does not alter the question. That God has foreknowledge is attested to in the following scriptures:

The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth;


But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire; where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord (D&C 130:6-7).

…there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all. (Moses 1:6).

The concept of predestination implies that the choices that man thinks or feels that he makes have no effect on his future which has been previously determined. That this is not the case is attested to throughout the scriptures. That man’s future course is in his own hands is fundamental to the concept of repentance and compliance with the principles of the gospel. Choice and consequence are frequently referred to in the scriptures—a single case in point:

If the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel . . .


But if they will not turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, I will suffer them, yea, I will suffer my people, O house of Israel, that they shall go through among them, and shall tread them down, and they shall be as salt that hath lost its savor, which is thence forth good for nothing but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of my people, O house of Israel (3 Nephi 16:13,15).

So we know from the scriptures that foreknowledge does exist in concert with the freedom of choice that determines man’s future course. The mechanism for this apparent conflict of concepts has not been revealed to us. However, there are some conditions that play on the situation that open the door to rationalization on the subject. Your question is couched in terms of man’s future existence. The concept of a past and a future are concepts that have a particular one-dimensional time frame aspect in mortality. But we understand that time only is measured unto man. (Alma 40:8)






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