Premortality, a Glorious Reality
Elder Neal A. Maxwell
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
In case you hadn’t noticed it, in the last days, discipleship is to be lived in crescendo. Our adversities
and extremities will merely bring out the strong simplicities and the reassuring realities of the gospel.
Likewise, brisk challenges to basic beliefs, and some afflictions, will aid in the development of even
greater convictions concerning these basic beliefs. Though it will be the key doctrines which are
assailed, after the dust of this dispensation has settled it will be the key doctrines which will have
Early in the Restoration, by translation and revelation, numerous plain and precious truths appeared in
fairly rapid succession. This occurred through Joseph Smith, the “choice seer.” (
2 Ne. 3:6
.) As when
dinner guests arrive nearly all at once, Joseph, as host, received, welcomed, and duly noted each truth.
Only later was there time and matured perceptivity to see their relationships and the antiquity of their
Among these plain and precious truths was the doctrine of the premortal existence of mankind. (See
Ne. 13:39, 40
.) Early on, Joseph received much concerning this truth, but just as the revelations
concerning it came incrementally, so did Joseph’s understanding.
One of the “plain and precious things” long ago “kept back” or “taken away” (
1 Ne. 13:34, 40
enormously important truth did not reach the Holy Bible in an abundant degree, though it is surely there.
2 Tim. 1:9
.) It was briefly extant after the original Apostles. Alas, however,
just as Paul foresaw, the time soon came when Church members did not “endure sound doctrine,”
including this one. (See
2 Tim. 4:3
With the later disapprovals of councils, the doctrine of premortal existence demonstrably was not a
doctrine which could have been reestablished by research. The doctrine does not abuse logic, for “truth
is reason,” especially “truth eternal”, but is more than logic alone can fully support. (See Hymns, 1985,
no. 292.) It could only come from restoration by modern revelation. It was certainly not abroad in the
land of America until Joseph Smith’s articulations.
Furthermore, so much had happened in human history to make the restoration of this key truth
necessary. It was needed to confound the false doctrine of a mankind created ex nihilo—out of nothing.
2 Ne. 3:12
.) The “ex nihilo” view, said the Prophet Joseph “lessens man in my estimation.” (Words
of Joseph Smith, Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, comps., Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center,
1980, p. 359.)
Without this truth, existential lamentations prevail about how man spends his entire life trying to prove
to himself that his existence is not absurd. Even believers, in Paul’s words, if malnourished as to
doctrine, can become “wearied and faint in [their] minds” and surrender to circumstance. (See