Joseph Smith received revelation that we are all literal spirit children of heavenly parents. He received revelation earlier made known to Abraham and Moses. Later prophets have added to our understanding of premortal life and what that knowledge means to us today.
“Premortal Life,” Gayle Oblad Brown, Encyclopedia of Mormonism
This overview discusses coeternal intelligence, spirit existence, the council in heaven, agency, and foreordination. The doctrine of foreordination is understood to mean that many may come to earth with preassigned callings and responsibilities. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was” (TPJS, p. 365).
“The Development of the Doctrine of Preexistence,” Charles R. Harrell, BYU Studies, Vol. 28, no. 2
This article describes how the doctrine of preexistence was understood in the Church from 1830 to 1844. It discusses election, predestination, foreordination, uncreated divine intelligence (D&C 93), materiality of spirit, uncreated spirits and the book of Abraham, spirit birth and Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo teachings.
“Usage of the Title Elohim in the Hebrew Bible and Early Latter-day Saint Literature,” Ryan C. Davis, Paul Y. Hoskisson, Bountiful Harvest: Essays in Honor of S. Kent Brown
The title “Elohim” was used with the title “Jehovah” interchangeably and inconsistently by early Latter-day Saints. While the members of the Godhead are one, it is helpful to know that the meaning of these titles is not always the same.
“Exploring the Biblical Phrase ‘God of the Spirits of All Flesh,'” Dana M. Pike, Bountiful Harvest: Essays in Honor of S. Kent Brown
The phrase “God of the spirits of all flesh” (Numbers 16:22 and 27:16) might be read as presupposing the idea of premortal existence, but the context is not a theological discussion or a sermon on creation. But these verses do plausibly support the idea that some ancient Israelites believed in premortal existence.
Book review of The Life Before, Brent L. Top, reviewed by Charles R. Harrell
In addition to praising the book at hand, this book review discusses the issue of whether we always existed as individuals (it’s unsettled) and whether premortal spirits could progress (also unsettled). Harrell says that it is unhelpful to accuse the Christian world of ignorance of the doctrine of premortal life; points in the Bible that appear to Mormon eyes to indicate a premortal life can be read otherwise and should not be read as proof texts.
“The War in Heaven and Satan’s Continuing Battle for Power,” Kevin M. Bulloch, Religious Educator
Satan’s plan may have been to award salvation to people without their effort and obedience—saving them in their sin. Although we may not completely understand exactly what Satan proposed during the war in heaven, in understanding his motives we can perhaps find the more significant lessons for our own battles with the adversary.
“Examining Six Key Concepts in Joseph Smith’s Understanding of Genesis 1:1,” Kevin L. Barney, BYU Studies, Vol. 39, no. 3
This article examines concepts from the King Follett sermon: creation was effected from preexisting matter; in the beginning, there was a plurality of Gods; there was a head God; these Gods met in a grand council; these Gods appointed one God over us; and the idea of a plurality of Gods is found throughout the Bible.