My wife and I have been listening to W. Cleon Skousen’s explanation of the Book of Mormon on a set of tapes. He has been discussing the “intelligences” quite a bit in the section we are in, but we still do not completely understand the concept. Can you help to make it clearer?
The word intelligence has two distinct connotations. In our dictionaries intelligence is defined as the skilled use of reason, or the ability to apply knowledge. This is the connotation implied in D&C 130:18—
Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
However, the term intelligence is also used to define an entity, an object, as–
Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. (D&C 93:29)
The implication of this profound statement is that in the beginning both God and man, and undoubtedly every other living being existed only as intelligences, and had so existed from the eternities, never having been created. No description is given in the scriptures of the nature of the entity that is an intelligence. There is an indication, however, that the various innumerable intelligences varied in degree of that which was their essence: intelligence, in the dictionary definition of the term. In Abraham 3:19 we read-
And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.
The prophet Joseph Smith had this to say on the subject:
The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Six 1843-44, p.354)