I usually type out word-for-word how I expect a lesson to go – not that it ever goes quite that way, and certainly not that I read my plans as scripts. I find, though, that it is useful for me to put my thoughts into words ahead of time – this helps me clarify my thoughts, helps me transition smoothly from one part of the lesson to another, and, if I get tongue-tied or stumped while actually teaching, I can always glance down and find a way to get back into the lesson.

Better scriptorians and teachers than me (Julie at Times and Seasons, Jim F. at Feast Upon the Word, a whole raft of scholars at Faith Promoting Rumor) are posting ideas and questions and material to help gospel doctrine teachers. As long as they’re already typed up, and for what it’s worth, I’ll throw my lesson plans into the mix in hopes that some idea may be useful to a reader, even when the plan is posted after most of us will have given/heard a lesson.

Lesson 2: “Thou Wast Chosen Before Thou Wast Born”


To help class members understand the doctrine of foreordination and their own responsibility to help build up the kingdom of God and bring souls to Christ.

Attention Activity

Do you remember the book Added Upon? It was one of the first Mormon novels, and follows a group of family and friends from the premortal existence, all through their earth lives, and into the eternities. I have my grandmother’s copy here – the book was published in 1898, and I think has never gone out of print. Or, if you don’t remember Added Upon, how about Saturday’s Warrior, the musical from the 1970s? It follows another group of family and friends from premortality to earth life and beyond.

How would you react if someone announced that the standard works of the Church included:

the Bible
Saturday’s Warrior
the Book of Mormon
the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price
Added Upon
and three random books from wildly popular youth conference speakers?

[Stand books on table as they are mentioned, and tie a ribbon around the collection to represent their all being treated as of equal value]

We’ll come back to this a little later in our discussion.

Scripture Discussion and Application

1. Abraham learns that in the premortal life many spirits were foreordained to their mortal missions.

Abraham, one of the greatest of the prophet-patriarchs, lived in the 10th generation after Noah. The people had greatly multiplied since the Flood, and even though the priesthood and a knowledge of God had been preserved among some of them, the majority of the people – including Abraham’s own family – had abandoned the gospel and indulged in idol worship. Abraham, though, had sought the true God, and had received the priesthood, and also the “right belonging to the fathers,” or, as we say it today, the presiding authority, or the keys to the priesthood.

The Lord appeared to Abraham, announcing “My name is Jehovah.”

Abraham 3:11-12

*Verse 12: What is the significance of the Lord’s calling Abraham, “My son, my son”? What is the significance of his outstretched hand?

Jehovah taught Abraham many things, not only about his own role in teaching the world about the one true God, but also the secrets of Creation and the destiny of mankind.

The Lord’s instruction to Abraham on this occasion had two parallel parts. The first part concerned the organization of the heavens, with all the suns and moons and stars.

* Why do you suppose the Lord wanted Abraham to understand something about this celestial astronomy?

(Draw on left half of whiteboard a sketch to indicate the multitude of heavenly bodies, and the relative size and glory.)

Abraham 3:17-19

The second part of this lesson for Abraham was to learn about the spirits of men and Gods.

(Draw on right half of whiteboard a similar sketch representing the relative intelligences.)

* Why is the analogy between the relative glory of the stars and the relative merit of intelligences important?

And then Jehovah tells Abraham that all these intelligences existed “before the world was” – that is, before time began, before the world was created, before we had physical bodies.

Abraham 3:19-23

* What does it mean to be chosen before one is born? What does it mean to be chosen at all? Chosen for what? Why is it important for Abraham to know that he was among those chosen?

Much closer to our own day, the prophet Joseph F. Smith was shown a vision of the spirits of mankind after mortality, in a kind of parallel to Abraham’s vision of premortality. He names some of those who were present in that world:

Doctrine and Covenants 138:38-49

Skipping down to verse 53… (138:53-57)

* How does having these familiar people identified as being “among the noble and great ones” help us understand spirits “noble and great”?

* What do we learn about our own possible standing among those spirits Abraham saw in the premortal world?

2. Jesus Christ was chosen in the Council in Heaven to be our Savior; we chose to follow him. Lucifer (Satan) and the spirits who followed him were cast out of heaven.

Jehovah also showed Abraham the great event of the premortal world – the meeting or meetings that we have come to call “the Council in Heaven.”

Abraham 3:24-28

Moses tells us about a little more about that.

Moses 4:1-4

* What does it tell you about yourself, or how does it make you feel, to know that you kept your first estate? What might your individual responsibilities be, and how can you find them out?


The scriptures that we have read today, together with a few scattered references to the War in Heaven (all of which are listed in your study guide), tell us all that the Lord has told us about our premortal existence. This is the entire scriptural record. Period.

But very often when the subject of premortality comes up, Latter-day Saints mention other ideas they have concerning premortality. What are some of the other ideas you have heard?

Chose our parents
Agreed to our specific personal trials and tribulations
“I never told you it would be easy; I only said it would be worth it”
Covenanted to find/marry/teach/convert someone


None of these ideas, though, are found in the scriptures; in at least some cases, prophets have taught us that the ideas are not true, yet they still persist among us. Where do those ideas come from?

Discuss role of Mormon pop culture in adding “philosophies of men” to the revealed word. Note that while those ideas may not be entirely wrong – they are, for the most part, built upon scriptural ideas – they do go far beyond the revealed word, and we need to be able to distinguish between what is known and what is merely imagined, no matter how attractive those imaginings are.

Pluck the non-canonical books out of display of standard works.

In contrast to these philosophies of men, which all seem to be centered on our own rather self-centered concerns (“I” have a soul-mate, “I” did the choosing, it will be worth it to “me”), the scriptures teach us about our obligations to help fulfill God’s plan.

Abraham 3:25

Doctrine and Covenants 138:53-56

The scriptures do not say that every last soul to be born on earth in these latter days was among the noble and great ones, chosen before we were born – other prophecies talk about the great wickedness to be found among men in the last days, of course – but the scriptures do say that those who are “taking part in laying the foundations of the great Latter-day work, including the building of temples and the performance of ordinances therein for the redemption of the dead,” and who “labor in [the Lord’s] vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men,” are fulfilling a call that was placed upon us “before the world was.”

[Testimony, including relying on the spirit and on the revealed word of God, and recognizing the “philosophies of men mingled with scripture” that sometimes creep into our culture]

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