Trailing Clouds of Glory Do We Come

Dear Joseph,

The missionaries have explained that in the preexistence we chose to come here so that we could learn and choose to become more like God. I think I understand that point. So what happens now that I’m here and I’m perfectly content NOT to become like God?

Is it possible that even in the preexistence my intention was to come here but not take it any further than that? It doesn’t seem likely, but I don’t know the finer points there. By “intention” I mean to come here and gain a body, to be a generally pleasant sort of fellow, but then leave it at that.

Rereading this, I worry I might be coming across as rather flippant and I want to make sure you know that I’m being very sincere here. I’m trying to correlate this new information about the meaning of life with my general feelings about it; I’ve never felt that God’s ever been up there for me, and I don’t feel like I’m down here for Him. Does that make sense?


Dear Thomas,

I do love and appreciate your sincerity, and your words do come across so, and you do make sense.

You know, there’s a reason none of us are permitted to remember our pre-earth life, for we then wouldn’t require faith to follow God—and this life is the testing ground of our faith. But there are a couple things we do know about the preexistence:

For one, we know that we did not come to earth unprepared; an eternity or eons of preparation preceded this life. It may not seem like it, but we are far limited in our capacities and faculties as intelligent beings than we once were. This isn’t to limit us, it is to narrow the test parameters. Such limitations as we experience in mortality could be seen as a roadblock to becoming like our Father in Heaven if this life was about mastering the powers of God so we can be like Him, but that’s not what this life is about; it’s about mastering our faith and obedience to God so that He can trust us with all that is needed to become like Him. Nevertheless, we know that we all come here having undergone great preparation to do so—including you.

For another, we know that our choices in the preexistence have an influence on our circumstances here. The fact that you are on earth shows that you made the decision to support Christ as savior and king in the council in Heaven (as I said in my last letter to you). The fact that missionaries have come to share the higher truths of your eternal potential with you may be a sign that you once did desire to become more than just a “generally pleasant sort of fellow” and become like God. I don’t know that for sure, but you have accepted to be taught by His servants at a pivotal time in your life. If there is a sense within you that is responding to the missionaries’ presence and words, it is a principle of intelligence that you developed before this life—the ability to recognize truth.

Other talents and certain predispositions are features of your eternal identity—they are part of who you were even before this life. The type of characteristics that we would define as having their beginning before this life can typically be identified by their nature and tendency towards good and truth, such as the ability to recognize truth, the desire to keep one’s body pure, and the love of music. Other predispositions that tend towards the negative are what we would define as an iniquity—an inherited dysfunction whose root is the sins of previous generations.

(We are all composite beings of spirit and flesh, or in other words, we are spiritual beings having a physical experience [which is quite a bit different than saying we are physical beings having a spiritual experience]. The part that comes from our Father in Heaven is perfect in its creation and, well, heavenly; the part that comes from our earthly parentage is imperfect [due to the fall] and predisposed towards sinfulness as a result of being conceived by other imperfect bodies that are also predisposed towards sinfulness.)

“The intelligences… were organized before the world was” (Abraham 3:22).

Scripturally, Paul taught about the fact that our choices before this life have an influence on our circumstance here in his letter to the Romans. Referencing the birth of Esau and Isaac (who were born as fraternal twins), Paul wrote:

“…When Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;
“…[And] the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand…
“It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger….
“What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid” (Romans 9:10-12,14).

Here Paul is assuming that the reader is aware that, though not the natural inheritor of the birthright, Isaac would go on to receive the birthright and have authority to rule over his elder brother, Esau. If God told this to their mother Rebecca before the birth, was God just being random and playing favorites? ‘God forbid’! If we rule that out as a possibility, seeing that God is perfectly just, then to what can we owe this foreknowledge of God? The answer was poetically penned by William Wordsworth:

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
“The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
“Hath had elsewhere its setting
“And cometh from afar;
“Not in entire forgetfulness,
“And not in utter nakedness,
“But trailing clouds of glory do we come
“From God, who is our home….”

William Wordsworth
“Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”

Isaac made certain choices before his birth, which is ‘but a sleep and a forgetting,’ that God did not forget, choices that put him in a position to rule over his brother who apparently did not make the same choices. We really won’t know, however, what those choices were, or my or your full motivation for choosing what we did, until the test of this life is over and the veil is lifted from our minds and our former recollection and friends come to our remembrance. Nonetheless, I agree with Wordsworth: I feel as though sometimes I am not left to ‘entire forgetfulness’ and the veil is gently parted by a cool breeze from our eternal home and to my mind is given the slightest shimmering of a feeling of remembrance. By faith and authority, that veil can be fully parted for each of us to gaze through (a topic for another time, perhaps).

“Is it possible that even in the preexistence my intention was to come here but not take it any further than that?”

It is possible to not want to be like God, for, after all, we have free agency and we will go to that place eternally where we will be most comfortable. For many mainstream Christians, they want to be good people so they can go to Heaven and sing praises to God above with the angels. If you look at the definition of the Terrestrial Kingdom in the plan of salvation (as I once wrote to you in detail), these kinds of good people will get just that: God will be above them and they will be as the angels in eternity, serving God and living in peace and a degree of eternal happiness!

BUT what God wants for all of His children is to reach higher than that: to be where He is.

The motivation to do what is required to reach our highest heavenly home is different for each person, partly due to their choices and desires they brought with them from the preexistence. For those who have seen a glimpse of their mansion prepared above, any sacrifice would be worth it just to spend some time there again. For some, their mansion contains their family. I know that was great motivation for my wife when she was faced with the invitation to be baptized: she wanted to be with her family forever—husband, kids, etc., and in the plan of salvation, we know that eternal families can only exist in the Celestial Kingdom. She knew what she had to do—even with the prospect of great personal sacrifice—to get to that degree of glory. She knew that in the two lower kingdoms people will live as individuals—unmarried and without the defining relationships of parents and children—”it shall leave them neither root nor branch” (Malachi 4:1). For Abby, this was part of the mansion she knew she must have, and so, even without the motivation of her own future glory, she desired to exalt her family, and we define exaltation as being saved in the highest degree of Heaven.

Who knows what your preexistent motivation was, but surely it was inspired of an eternal perspective. At the very least, you chose Christ as redeemer then, and now that His Gospel is once again on the earth in its fulness, the question is will you choose Him again? If so, then “repent, and be baptized,” as Peter so invited, “…in the name of Jesus Christ,” by one having authority, even as Peter had authority (Acts 2:38).


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