A painting depicting the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary.In pre-mortal life many children of God were “foreordained” (appointed and assigned) to future assignments prior to their coming here upon the earth (see Jeremiah 1:5; Alma 13:3-7; Doctrine and Covenants 138:53-57; Abraham 3: 22-23). Those foreordained had exhibited exceeding faith and good works (see Alma 13:3-7) in the pre-mortal existence, sometimes called our “first estate.” Foreordination does not override the agency of man—we are free to choose good or evil.  This distinguishes the fact of foreordination from the mistaken theosophy of “predestination.”


  • Alma 13:3-4—3 And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.

And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds, while, if it had not been for this they might have had as great privilege as their brethren.

We had agency pre-mortally. Those having chosen good, exercising much faith, were called to holy callings. We come with blessings and opportunities from our pre-mortal life.

  • Doctrine and Covenants 138:53-56—53 The Prophet Joseph Smith, and my father, Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and other choice spirits who were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work,  Including the building of the temples and the performance of ordinances therein for the redemption of the dead, were also in the spirit world.  I observed that they were also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God.  Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men (Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the Spirit World).

We are blessed according to our righteousness pre-mortally and were given assignments to carry out here in mortality.

  • Abraham 3:22-23—Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.

Due to his righteousness, Abraham, like so many others, was called to his position prior to coming to earth.


I believe in the fall of man, as recorded in the Bible; I believe that God foreknew everything, but did not foreordain everything; I deny that foreordain and foreknow is the same thing. He foreordained the fall of man; but all merciful as He is, He foreordained at the same time, a plan of redemption for all mankind.

(Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 Vols. 4:78.)

Because we have agency, some may fall short of their foreordination. But now there is a warning: Despite that calling which is spoken of in the scriptures as “foreordination,” we have another inspired declaration: “Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:34)

This suggests that even though we have our free agency here, there are many who were foreordained before the world was to a greater state than they have prepared themselves for here. Even though they might have been among the noble and great, from among whom the Father declared He would make His chosen leaders, they may fail of that calling here in mortality. Then the Lord poses this question: “And why are they not chosen?” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:34.)

Two answers were given: First, “Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world.” And second, they “aspire to the honors of men.” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:35.) (73-34, p. 9)

(Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 185.)

To fulfill the purpose of His omniscient design, our Heavenly Father foreordained certain valiant spirit children and assigned them to come to earth at specific times and places to fulfill their appointments. The greatest of these spirits He reserved to come as prophets and priesthood leaders in His kingdom. “Every man,” said the Prophet Joseph Smith, “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” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 365).

Other good and valiant spirits were foreappointed to lay the foundation for man’s liberty through their service in political matters. The Founding Fathers of this American nation were in this category. President Wilford Woodruff said, “They are the best spirits the God of Heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits.” They were held in reserve to collectively come in the time and at the place when one of history’s greatest crises demanded their talents. (“The Crises of Our Constitution,” Salt Lake Valley Utah Central Area Special Interest Lecture Series, 8 September 1977.)

(Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 21.)

More on Foreordination

How do we know that we’ve been foreordained to perform some special service during our mortal life?  The information comes through the Holy Spirit, and it takes growing close to and communing with the Spirit in order to learn what our mortal roles might be.  Foreordination is not just for great prophets or leaders, but for people who have special roles to play in their own families.  Some people throughout history have recorded that they felt driven or called to perform certain functions in society.  These people have been so convinced that they have taken risks and have had to excercise great courage in completing their tasks.

There are other ways that worthy Mormons determine what they are foreordained to do.  Once in a lifetime, usually during the teen years, Mormons receive what is known as a Patriarchal Blessing through the laying on of hands by a specially ordained Patriarch in the Church.  Through revelation, the Patriarch declares the person’s lineage from a tribe of Israel, or his adoption into a tribe of Israel.  The Patriarch then proceeds to give guidance to the individual, and one’s foreordination can be stated or alluded to in the blessing.  The Lord does everything possible to guarantee the free agency of the individual, so this is not like having one’s fortune told.  Worthiness is a very important factor in whether one learns details of his foreordination and whether he fulfills it.


Foreordination was and is part of the plan of salvation according to the foreknowledge of God and the righteousness of certain individuals in pre-mortal earth life. Everyone who comes to this earth has the capacity to receive the blessings of exaltation according to his or her obedience to the laws and commandments of God. The status or hierarchical position of one’s calling does not exalt; only individual righteousness and the grace of God can lift one to a state of exaltation and eternal life.

This article was adapted from What We Need to Know and Do, by Ed Pinegar and Richard J. Allen.

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