Agency vs. Predestination
by John A. Tvedtnes
An area of disagreement among Christians is whether we humans have agency–and thus some measure of control over our salvation–or whether God has predestined our fate. The argument is not a new one and was also known in early Judaism as well as in medieval Islam. The problem is complicated by the fact that some scriptures and other early texts seem to suggest that God has given us agency, while others have been read as evidence for predestination.1
Augustine (354-430 A.D.), bishop of Hippo in North Africa, was the foremost Roman Catholic theologian of his time. From his reading of the Bible and in responding to various heretical teachings, he developed some of the basic teachings of western Christianity. He concluded that, as a result of Adam’s fall, man is totally depraved and cannot do anything to save himself. Because of this depravity, man is even incapable of having faith in God and, consequently, no free will. This means that only God can save a human, which he does by arbitrarily giving faith to one while denying it to another. This led Augustine to believe that God predestined, before the creation of the world, who would be saved and who would be damned. Because man’s fate has been predetermined, nothing he does can change things. The elect, predestined for salvation, cannot fall from grace, while those predestined for damnation cannot be saved even if they perform righteous deeds. Consequently, salvation comes only by grace as a free gift from God.2
Though Luther and other reformers taught predestination, John Calvin was its foremost proponent during the time of the Protestant Reformation.3 Many adherents of today’s Protestant Evangelical movement lean heavily on Calvin, though not all Evangelical Christians believe in predestination. Calvinistic belief is expressed by the acronym TULIP, where each letter stands for one principle: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints.
We begin by looking at the implications of these concepts.
The term suggests that the “original sin” of Adam and Eve has so tainted mankind that we would be lost forever without the atonement of Jesus Christ. Latter-day Saints agree with this concept. The Book of Mormon prophet Abinadi declared,
For they are carnal and devilish, and the devil has power over them; yea, even that old serpent that did beguile our first parents, which was the cause of their fall; which was the cause of all mankind becoming carnal, sensual, devilish, knowing evil from good, subjecting themselves to the devil. Thus all mankind were lost; and behold, they would have been endlessly lost were it not that God redeemed his people from their lost and fallen state. But remember that he that persists in his own carnal nature, and goes on in the ways of sin and rebellion against God, remaineth in his fallen state and the devil hath all power over him. Therefore, he is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God; and also is the devil an enemy to God. And now if Christ had not come into the world, speaking of things to come as though they had already come, there could have been no redemption. (Mosiah 16:3-6; see also D&C 20:20-21)
Amulek repeated the concept, adding that repentance is necessary in order to qualify for salvation through Christ:
Therefore, as the soul could never die, and the fall had brought upon all mankind a spiritual death as well as a temporal, that is, they were cut off from the presence of the Lord, it was expedient that mankind should be reclaimed from this spiritual death. Therefore, as they had become carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature, this probationary state became a state for them to prepare; it became a preparatory state. And now remember, my son, if it were not for the plan of redemption, (laying it aside) as soon as they were dead their souls were miserable, being cut off from the presence of the Lord. And now, there was no means to reclaim men from this fallen state, which man had brought upon himself because of his own disobedience; Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God. And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence. And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also. (Alma 42:9; see also Moses 5:13-15)
The brother of Jared prayed, “for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually” (Ether 3:2). Jacob taught that without the atonement of Christ, we would “become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God” (2 Nephi 9:9; see also vs. 16), but, like Amulek, he stressed the importance of repentance in the process of salvation: “O my brethren, hearken unto my words; arouse the faculties of your souls; shake yourselves that ye may awake from the slumber of death; and loose yourselves from the pains of hell that ye may not become angels to the devil” (Jacob 3:11).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches “that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (Article of Faith 2), but only because “through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (Article of Faith 3). These laws and ordinances are defined in Article of Faith 4: “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
The sole exception to this scenario is children who have not yet reached the age of accountability and those whose mental abilities make them childlike. King Benjamin said,
And even if it were possible that little children could sin they could not be saved; but I say unto you they are blessed; for behold, as in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins. And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:16-19; see also Moroni 8:8-13)
From this, we learn that all of us, by accepting the atonement of Christ and submitting ourselves to him, can become childlike and thus indemnified by the blood of Christ from guilt. The risen Savior told the Nephites assembled in the city Bountiful, “And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (3 Nephi 11:38).4
Calvin believed that God elects some people for salvation and chooses others for damnation, not based on any innate qualities of the individual, but does so out of his own divine will. Taken to the extreme, it means that one whom God chooses to save will be saved regardless of whether he is a good or evil person, while one destined for damnation will be damned even if he is righteous. The concept is expressed in the saying, “If you will or if you won’t, you’ll be damned if you do, you’ll be damned if you don’t.”
This is where Latter-day Saints–and, indeed, most Christians–part company with Calvin. The concept of predestination suggests that God is capricious, saving or damning people at will, without regard to their righteous or sinful state. It makes Peter a liar when he declared, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35), a concept subsequently taught by Paul (Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9). Indeed, Paul wrote “that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons” (Colossians 3:24-25). The concept of predestination also contradicts the biblical teaching that “he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13).
That full salvation is available to everyone but is given only to those who believe is suggested by Jesus’ final instruction to the apostles: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16). Note, too, Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 1:21-24: “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”
According to Calvin, Christ died only for the elect. This is not to say that he died for the righteous for, as the Bible (and the Book of Mormon) teaches, all are sinners. One of the “proof texts” used to support the concept of limited atonement is John 10:11, 15, where Jesus noted that he would die for “the sheep.” Another is Matthew 26:28, where he said that his blood “is shed for many for the remission of sins,” suggesting that the atonement did not apply to everyone, only to “many.” Similarly, Isaiah prophesied that Christ would bear the sins of “many,” but not all (Isaiah 53:12).
The Book of Mormon also uses this term, saying of the Lamanites that “many of them will be saved, for the Lord will be merciful unto all who call on his name” (Alma 9:17; cf. D&C 100:17). Mormon explained the conditions of salvation as follows:
Therefore, blessed are they who will repent and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for these are they that shall be saved. And may God grant, in his great fulness, that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace for grace, according to their works. And I would that all men might be saved. But we read that in the great and last day there are some who shall be cast out, yea, who shall be cast off from the presence of the Lord; Yea, who shall be consigned to a state of endless misery, fulfilling the words which say: They that have done good shall have everlasting life; and they that have done evil shall have everlasting damnation. (Helaman 12:23-26)
Other passages cited in support of the concept of a limited atonement are John 17:9 (where Jesus prayed for those given to him, not for the entire world) and Acts 20:28 (Christ purchased the Church, not all people). The narrow interpretation given such passages is contradicted by other New Testament writings. Peter wrote that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Paul wrote that “our Saviour…will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4). Like Alma 9:17 (cited above), this suggests that salvation is available to all, though not all take advantage of Christ’s atonement. Paul also wrote that “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12).
John the Baptist called Christ “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), while the apostle John wrote that “he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).5 John also wrote that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). The apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). In verse 18, he noted that Christians are reconciled to God through Christ, while in verse 20, he admonished, “be ye reconciled to God,” clearly showing that we must do something to take advantage of this reconciliation. In an earlier epistle to the Corinthian saints, Paul noted that one aspect of the atonement of Christ provides a resurrection for all men:
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15:21-24)
Latter-day Saints believe that Christ’s atonement overcame temporal (physical) death for all men, thus providing a resurrection for everyone, but that he provided salvation from spiritual death only for young children and for adults who choose to follow him (D&C 29:41-50). This view accommodates New Testament teachings about salvation for all or for the few, and it corresponds to Jesus’ teaching about a universal resurrection:
“Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28-29). Looking at it from another perspective, we learn from D&C 76 that all except the sons of perdition will be assigned to one of the three degrees of glory (D&C 76:43-44), so they are all saved from the devil.
In the Book of Mormon, Amulek explained that Christ
shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else. Therefore the wicked remain as though there had been no redemption made, except it be the loosing of the bands of death; for behold, the day cometh that all shall rise from the dead and stand before God, and be judged according to their works. Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death. The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt. (Alma 11:40-43)
Calvin held that when God calls his elect to salvation, they are unable to resist his free gift. The “external call” goes to all mankind, but the “internal call” from the Holy Spirit is intended only for those chosen to be saved and cannot be resisted. Among the passages cited in support of this concept is John 6:28-29, “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” Calvinists read Jesus’ words as evidence that faith in Christ is a gift to the elect. But Christ’s response to the question “What shall we do” really is that we should believe in God, and that this is what God wants of us. It does not suggest that the elect can just go on in their sinful ways and expect that God will make them believe in his Son.
Some cite Philippians 2:13 (“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure”) as evidence that men have no free will. This latter passage, however, must be read in context with the verses that precede it, which indicate that it is God’s desire
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:10-12)
Perhaps the strongest passage used in support of the concept of irresistible grace is found in Romans 9:16-24:
So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
This concept is also reflected in Isaiah 7:20 and 10:15, where the king of Assyria is said to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord in punishing wicked Israel. Latter-day Saints see this as an indication that God takes advantage of the actions of even the wicked (as in the case of Samson) to punish wrongdoers, but not that they have no will of their own. If God lies behind all of our acts, why would he chastise us for sins we have committed?
Latter-day Saints do not believe that grace is irresistible. D&C 20:32-34 declares, “But there is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God; Therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation; Yea, and even let those who are sanctified take heed also.” This is supported by the apostle Paul, who admonished his fellow Christians “That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:18-19).
Perseverance of the Saints
Calvin reasoned that Christ’s elect cannot lose their salvation. Since the Father elected, the Son redeemed, and the Holy Spirit applied salvation, those thus saved are eternally secure in Christ. Some of the verses cited for this position are:
- John 10:27-28, where Jesus said his sheep “shall never perish.” However, he defined his sheep as those who “follow me,” suggesting that those who do not follow him do not have the same promise. Thus, mankind has free will.
- John 6:47, where Jesus declared “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” The real question here is how to read the word “believeth.” Does it refer to all who profess a belief in Christ, or to those who demonstrate that belief by their actions. The Savior told his disciples “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15; see also vs. 23). He also reworded it “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love” (John 15:10). The apostle John, who preserved these words of Christ, also wrote, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1 John 5:3). Similarly, James wrote that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20; see also vs. 17). Paul wrote, “I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-3). Jude agreed, writing, “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 1:20-21).
- Romans 8:1, which declares that “them which are in Christ Jesus” are not condemned, suggesting to Calvinists that they are already saved. This interpretation ignores the fact that the verse then adds, “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” suggesting that only those who follow the promptings of the Spirit will partake of full salvation, i.e., they will be saved from spiritual death, which is total separation from God.
- 1 Corinthians 10:13, which teaches that God “will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape.” The truth of this is undisputed, but one must also note the context of the passage. Verse 12 reads “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” suggesting that one can, indeed, fall from grace. In verse 14, Paul wrote, “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” This clearly suggests that action on our part is necessary. To the Galatians, Paul wrote that Christians who performed circumcision were “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). The Latter-day Saint belief is summed up in D&C 20:32-34: “But there is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God; Therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation; Yea, and even let those who are sanctified take heed also.”6
- Philippians 1:6, which declares that God “hath begun a good work in you [and] will perform it until the day [second coming] of Jesus Christ.” This is not a doctrinal assertion; rather, Paul wrote that he was “confident of this very thing.” He was expressing his opinion, based on how the people conducted their lives. In verses 10-11, he admonished, “That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”
In several New Testament passages, Christ spoke of those the Father had given him (Matthew 11:27; John 6:37-39, 44-45, 65; 10:26-29; 17:2, 11-12, 24; see also 3 Nephi 15:24; D&C 27:14; 50:41-42; 84:63). These seem, on the surface, to suggest predestination, but do they? In John 10:29, Christ referred to the Father giving him his sheep, but two verses earlier, he said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27), which suggests free will.
Earlier, Jesus said, “he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:35-37). Coming and believing again suggest free will, despite the fact that he speaks of the Father giving them. I suggest that when Christ said “that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:65), he was referring to the fact that only those who receive testimony of Christ from God truly come unto him. I further believe that this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote that “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
The Father’s giving of people to Christ does not suggest that they were predestined to salvation, only that the Father gave Christ charge of them. If it meant predestination, then we must note that Christ himself declared that one of those given him by the Father had been lost: “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition” (John 17:11-12).7 Jesus declared that it was “the Father’s will…that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:39), and yet he lost Judas. This demonstrates that “the Father’s will” does not imply predestination, but only what he wants of us.
Some might object that Judas Iscariot was predestined to his fate, which begs the question of why the Father had given him to Christ. The case of Judas demonstrates that being given to Christ does not suggest predestination to salvation. Some suggest that the words “that the scripture might be fulfilled” at the end of verse 12 refers to Judas being predestined to fall, but we must again read the passage in context and note what scripture predicts this event. I suggest that the scripture being fulfilled is that Christ would be brought to trial and put to death (e.g., Isaiah 53). It would have happened by another means had Judas not chosen to betray him.
Calling and Election
The apostle Peter wrote, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11). His stress on the “diligence” required to make one’s calling and election sure suggests that salvation, while possible only through Christ’s atonement, also depends on our own actions. In the verses that precede this statement, Peter explains what he means by “diligence”:
And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)
Peter’s concept of calling and election seems to rely on Christ’s statement that “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14; cf. Matthew 20:16; D&C 95:5; 121:34).8 Indeed, the Greek word rendered “calling” in Peter’s epistle derives from the same verb used by Christ in Matthew’s account and means “invite.” Thus, the declaration in Matthew 22 is preceded by a parable comparing “the kingdom of heaven” to a king’s banquet to which people were invited. The wealthy found excuses not to come and slew the king’s messengers, so the king sent his servants to seek out the poor and others to attend the feast. One man, improperly dressed, was expelled and sent “into outer darkness” (Matthew 22:2-13). The parable clearly notes that all were invited into the kingdom, but some rejected the invitation, while others accepted. But even among the latter group, one had to be expelled. The parable clearly suggests that salvation depends on our coming to Christ, the king, meaning that we must take action on the invitation. We must also come properly “dressed” to the spiritual banquet. That one can be expelled from the blessed state made possible through Christ’s atonement is suggested in Hebrews 6:4-6:
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Commenting on Peter’s exhortation to make one’s calling and election sure, the prophet Joseph Smith said
Now, there is some grand secret here, and keys to unlock the subject. Notwithstanding the apostle exhorts them to add to their faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, &c., yet he exhorts them to make their calling and election sure. And though they had heard an audible voice from heaven bearing testimony that Jesus was the Son of God [2 Peter 1:17-18], yet he says we have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed as unto a light shining in a dark place [2 Peter 1:19]. Now, wherein could they have a more sure word of prophecy than to hear the voice of God saying, This is my beloved Son, &c. Now for the secret and grand key, Though they might hear the voice of God and know that Jesus was the Son of God, this would be no evidence that their election and calling was made sure, that they had part with Christ, and were joint heirs with Him. They then would want that more sure word of prophecy, that they were sealed in the heavens and had the promise of eternal life in the kingdom of God. (History of the Church 5:388)
Joseph further explained that “The more sure word of prophecy means a man’s knowing that he is sealed up into eternal life by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the holy priesthood” (History of the Church 5:392). He also declared, “We have no claim in our eternal compact, in relation to eternal things, unless our actions and contracts and all things tend to this end. But after all this, you have got to make your calling and election sure…1st key: Knowledge is the power of salvation. 2nd key: Make your calling and election sure. 3rd key: It is one thing to be on the mount and hear the excellent voice. &c., &c., and another to hear the voice declare to you, you have a part and lot in that kingdom” (History of the Church 5:403).
Predestination or Foreordination?
While some Christians use the term “predestination” in reference to what God has appointed to mortals, Latter-day Saints prefer the term “foreordination.” The latter presumes the premortal existence of our spirits in the presence of the Father, who selected or foreordained some of those spirits to be his leaders on the earth (Abraham 3:21-28), of whom the chief was his beloved and divine son, who came to be known as Jesus Christ.9 To discuss the evidence for this premortal existence would detract from the theme of this article, so I simply note that, while many early Christian writers believed that the souls of man came into being at the time of birth, others taught that our spirits lived with God in a premortal realm. This concept is also known from early Jewish texts.
It is instructive to look at the views of some of the post-New Testament Church Fathers. For example, Justin Martyr (died 164 A.D.) wrote that God “foreknows that some are to be saved by repentance, some even that are perhaps not yet born” (First Apology 28).10 Divine foreknowledge, like foreordination of premortal spirits, need not imply predestination. Indeed, Justin believed in the agency of man:
But lest some suppose, from what has been said by us, that we say that whatever happens, happens by a fatal necessity, because it is foretold as known beforehand, this too we explain. We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, and chastisements, and good rewards are rendered according to each man’s actions. Since if it be not so, but all things happen by fate, neither is anything at all in our power. For if it be fated that this man, e.g., be good, and this other evil, neither is the former meritorious nor the latter to be blamed. And again, unless the human race have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions, of whatever kind they be. But that it is by free choice they both walk uprightly and stumble, we thus demonstrate. We see the same man making a transition to opposite things. Now, if it had been fated that he were to be either good or bad, he could never have been capable of both the opposites, nor of so many transitions. But not even would some be good and others bad, since we thus make fate the cause of evil, and exhibit her as acting in opposition to herself; or that which has been already stated would seem to be true, that neither virtue nor vice is anything, but that things are only reckoned good or evil by opinion; which, as the true word shows, is the greatest impiety and wickedness. But this we assert is inevitable fate, that they who choose the good have worthy rewards, and they who choose the opposite have their merited awards. For not like other things, as trees and quadrupeds, which cannot act by choice, did God make man: for neither would he be worthy of reward or praise did he not of himself choose the good, but were created for this end; nor, if he were evil, would he be worthy of punishment, not being evil of himself, but being able to be nothing else than what he was made. And the holy Spirit of prophecy taught us this, telling us by Moses that God spoke thus to the man first created: ‘Behold, before thy face are good and evil: choose the good.’11 And again, by the other prophet Isaiah, that the following utterance was made as if from God the Father and Lord of all: ‘Wash you, make you clean; put away evils from your souls; learn to do well; judge the orphan, and plead for the widow; and come and let us reason together, saith the Lord: And if your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as wool; and if they be red like as crimson, I will make them white as snow. And if ye be willing and obey Me, ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye do not obey Me, the sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.’12 … So that what we say about future events being foretold, we do not say it as if they came about by a fatal necessity; but God foreknowing all that shall be done by all men, and it being His decree that the future actions of men shall all be recompensed according to their several value, He foretells by the Spirit of prophecy that He will bestow meet rewards according to the merit of the actions done.” (First Apology 43-44)13
John Cassian (ca. 360-435 A.D.), expressed the same idea, saying that
though each man’s end is known beforehand to Him before his birth, yet somehow He so orders all things by a plan and method for all, and with regard to man’s disposition, that He decides on everything not by the mere exercise of His power, nor according to the ineffable knowledge which His Prescience possesses, but according to the present actions of men, and rejects or draws to Himself each one, and daily either grants or withholds His grace. And that this is so the election of Saul also shows us, of whose miserable end the foreknowledge of God certainly could not be ignorant, and yet He chose him out of so many thousands of Israel and anointed him king, rewarding the then existing merits of his life, and not considering the sin of his coming fall, so that after he became reprobate, God complains almost in human terms and, with man’s feelings, as if He repented of his choice, saying: “It repenteth Me that I have appointed Saul king: for he hath forsaken Me, and hath not performed My words;” and again: “But Samuel was grieved for Saul because the Lord repented that He had made Saul king over Israel.” (Second Conference of Abbot Joseph 25)14
Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, in Preparation of the Gospel 6.10, included a lengthy discussion of unusual customs found among various peoples, in an effort to demonstrate that it is custom, not fate, that determines these acts. Of particular importance is how people die in various cultures, especially the elderly, who are sometimes exposed to dogs or birds and, in some cases, sacrificed. In 6.11, he favorably cited Origen, who described astrology as practiced in various nations and noted that
the consequence for those who hold these doctrines is that they utterly destroy our free-will, and therefore also both praise and blame, and commendable, or on the other hand blame-able actions.
But if this is the case, there is an end of the proclaimed judgement of God, and of threatenings against sinners that they should be punished; also, on the other hand, of the privileges and beatitudes promised to those who have devoted themselves to the better life: for none of these things will any longer have a good reason for their occurrence.
Also if any one would look at the consequences to himself of the doctrines he holds, (he would see that) both his faith will be vain, and Christ’s advent of no avail, and all the dispensation of law and prophets, and the labours of the Apostles to establish the churches of God through Christ.15
Calvin acknowledged that of the early Church Fathers, “Ambrose, Origen, and Jerome, were of opinion, that God dispenses his grace among men according to the use which he foresees that each will make of it. It may be added, that Augustine also was for some time of this opinion; but after he had made greater progress in the knowledge of Scripture, he not only retracted it as evidently false, but powerfully confuted it.”16 From a Latter-day Saint perspective, Augustine introduced more false doctrine into Christianity than anyone before his time, and the concept of predestination is as fallacious as other such notions that he penned. We maintain that the Bible is a more reliable source of sound doctrine, and shall return to the subject later in this paper.
Names Written in Heaven
The scriptures inform us that there is a “book of remembrance” or “book of life” in heaven in which the names of the righteous are written (Malachi 3:16-18; Revelation 13:8; 17:8).17 Christ declared that the names of the seventy disciples he had chosen were “written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Some might take such passages as evidence for predestination, but this argument fails when one reads that the Lord blots out the names of the wicked from the heavenly book (Deuteronomy 9:14; 29:19-20; Psalm 69:28; 2 Kings 14:27; Revelation 3:5; Alma 5:57-58).18 The scriptures are clear that if one whose name is written in the book of life falls into sin, the Lord removes that person’s name from the book. Consequently, there is no predetermination for eternal life; God ordains that gift for all of his children, but removes them from the list when they sin.
When the Israelites sinned with the golden calf, Moses pleaded with the Lord, “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin–; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book” (Exodus 32:32-33).
Noting Moses’ plea, John Cassian (ca. 360-435 A.D.) wrote that “Judas [Iscariot]…killed himself by hanging, that he might not after his name was blotted out be converted and repent19 and deserve to be once more written among the righteous in heaven. We must therefore not doubt that at the time when he was chosen by Christ and obtained a place in the Apostolate, the name of Judas was written in the book of the living, and that he heard as well as the rest the words: ‘Rejoice not because the devils are subject unto you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven’ [Luke 10:20]. But…he was corrupted by the plague of covetousness and had his name struck out from that heavenly list.”20
A Survey of New Testament Passages
A number of Bible passages are used as proof-texts to demonstrate the concept of predestination. Here, we examine each to see how they should be read in context and provide evidence that they can be used to support the concept of foreordination rather than predestination.
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
All Christians, including Latter-day Saints, acknowledge that salvation comes only through Christ, who declared that he came to do the will of his Father (John 5:30). Without Christ’s atonement, none of our good works would be sufficient to save us. It is, therefore, the will of God that provides salvation but, as noted in verse 12, we must first believe on the name of Christ and accept this gift.21
“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”
Calvin cited this as one of his evidences for predestination, saying that Christ “not only excludes past merits, but declares that they had nothing in themselves for which they could be chosen except in so far as his mercy anticipated.”22 Latter-day Saints, however, see this as a reference only to the twelve apostles, whom Christ chose as his leaders.23 Because the Savior added, “I have chosen you out of the world” (verse 19), the choice in question was made in mortality. The concept is akin to Hebrews 5:4, which describes callings to the priesthood, saying, “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron” (see also Article of Faith 5).
“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain”
It is interesting that this passage makes Christ the object of God’s foreknowledge. From numerous passages, mostly in the gospel account of John, we learn that the Savior accepted the Father’s will concerning him. (This is particularly true of his suffering and death, as we read in Luke 22:42.) We, too, can make the decision to obey God, though we can never in mortality be as perfect as Christ.
“For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
Taken in isolation, this verse seems to be suggesting that God calls people to salvation. Indeed, this does happen when one makes his/her calling and election sure, as was discussed earlier in this paper. But one must read this verse in the context of the two preceding verses, Acts 2:37-38:
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Peter’s audience asked him what they must “do,” and Peter told them to “repent, and be baptized.” If they were already consigned to salvation, why would they have to “do” anything?
“And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
The unfortunate use of the expression “should be saved” suggests to some readers predestination, but this is not reflected in the Greek text, which refers to “those being saved.” So people were being saved by joining the Church. This verse must be read in conjunction with verse 41 of the same chapter, which declares that “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” Does the fact that God “was adding” them in verse 47 suggest that he had predestined them to be saved? The text does not so state, but it is clear from verses 37-41 that Peter admonished the assembled listeners to “repent and be baptized,” and that those who did so were added to the Church. They were saved because God forgave them when their sins were symbolically washed away in the waters of baptism.
“And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”
In his revision of the Bible, Joseph Smith reworded the last part to read, “as many as believed were ordained unto eternal life,” which fits better with the concept of free will. The context of the passage also argues against the concept of predestination. Verses 46-47 describe how Paul and Barnabas gave the word of God to the Jews of Pisidian Antioch, who willingly rejected it and became thereby “unworthy of everlasting life,” causing the apostles to “turn to the Gentiles” with their message of salvation. It is ironic that throughout the Bible, God’s chosen people are Israelites, while here the Israelites are deemed unworthy and are replaced by Gentiles. If God predestines individuals for eternal life or damnation, why did he not cause these believing Gentiles to be born Israelites? If all is determined beforehand, why does God change his tactic at this juncture?24
“[God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.”
Paul’s statement is based on Deuteronomy 32:8, where we read that “the most High divided to the nations their inheritance…[and] set the bounds of the people.”25 Taken by itself, the passage suggests that God determined the boundaries of the nations. From many historical records, we know that this determination was not eternal in nature, for some nations fell while others arose both anciently and in modern times. Indeed, Deuteronomy 19:8-9 allows for the borders of Israel to be expanded.26
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
Latter-day Saints would see this as reference to the fact that we accepted Christ as our Savior in the premortal council. The Greek term rendered “predestinate” means to “appoint, determine, ordain beforehand.” While most English Bibles rendered it “predestined,” others use terms such as “foreordained,” “fore-appointed,” “before-ordained,” or “chosen.” That the passage does not refer to predestination is suggested by the verses that immediately precede it (26-27), where we read that “the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us,” and by verse 34, which says that “Christ…also maketh intercession for us.” If one is already chosen for either salvation or damnation, why would there be a need for intercession?
As for those “who are the called,” we must note that Christ declared that “many be called, but few chosen” (Matthew 20:16). In Matthew 22:14, he used the same verbiage in connection with those who do not accept the king’s call. This suggests that one must heed the call in order to be chosen. Paul admonished the Thessalonians to “walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). Though they had already been called, they needed to do something to be “worthy of God.”
“And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.”
The Greek word rendered “election” in verse 11 means “choice.” What we have here is merely God’s choice of Jacob over Esau to receive the birthright. Those who believe in predestination generalize from a specific case, while others would see this as one more example that human beings had a premortal existence in which some were foreordained to certain tasks on the earth. Moreover, verse 13 cites Malachi 1:2-3 (“yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau”), written many centuries after the time of Esau and therefore is not evidence for God “hating” Esau prior to his birth.
“For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.”
Verse 15 cites Exodus 33:19, “I…will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” Ultimately, it is God who will judge each of us. Without the mercy available through the atonement of Christ, no amount of good deeds can bring us mercy. Only the Lord can know our hearts and judge according to his standards, not ours. This does not mean that he predestines salvation for some and damnation for others.
Though verse 17 speaks of the pharaoh of the exodus (citing Exodus 9:16), it could just as easily apply to the kings of Assyria and Babylon by which, according to Isaiah, the Lord would punish Israel. Regarding the Assyrian king, the Lord told Isaiah, “I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but [it is] in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few” (Isaiah 10:6-7). Note the beginning of verse 7, in which the Lord states, “Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so.” From this and what follows, we see that the Assyrian king was doing his own will but that the Lord was taking advantage of his actions to punish Israel. Had the Lord not wanted Israel to be punished for their sins, he could have protected them against the Assyrians, and, indeed, he ultimately took action by sending an angel to attack the Assyrian camp while they were besieging Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:35-36; Isaiah 37:36-37).
“Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.”
Verse 22 seems on the surface to be evidence for predestination, but it doesn’t say that it was God who made them “fit for destruction.” We would say it was their own sins that called for their destruction. As for verse 23, the words “afore prepared” doesn’t suggest a determination made in the very beginning; it could refer to any time before God takes action. In verse 24, Paul says that it is the Christians whom God called from among the Jews and others. Paul’s point is not predestination, but acceptance of the call after the original chosen people (the Jews) rejected Christ.
The early Christian theologian Origen (185-253 A.D.), commenting on this passage, wrote:
Some one will perhaps say, that as the potter out of the same lump makes some vessels to honour, and others to dishonour [Romans 9:18-21], so God creates some men for perdition and others for salvation; and that it is not therefore in our own power either to be saved or to perish; by which reasoning we appear not to be possessed of free-will. We must answer those who are of this opinion with the question, Whether it is possible for the apostle to contradict himself? And if this cannot be imagined of an apostle, how shall he appear, according to them, to be just in blaming those who committed fornication in Corinth, or those who sinned, and did not repent of their unchastity, and fornication, and uncleanness, which they had committed? How, also, does he greatly praise those who acted rightly, like the house of Onesiphorus, saying, ‘The Lord give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but, when he had come to Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day.’ [2 Timothy 1:16-18] Now it is not consistent with apostolic gravity to blame him who is worthy of blame, i.e., who has sinned, and greatly to praise him who is deserving of praise for his good works; and again, as if it were in no one’s power to do any good or evil, to say that it was the Creator’s doing that every one should act virtuously or wickedly, seeing He makes one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour. And how can he add that statement, ‘We must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one of us may receive in his body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad?’ [2 Corinthis 5:10] For what reward of good will be conferred on him who could not commit evil, being formed by the Creator to that very end? Or what punishment will deservedly be inflicted on him who was unable to do good in consequence of the creative act of [p. 324 end] his Maker? Then, again, how is not this opposed to that other declaration elsewhere, that ‘in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth, and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master’s use, prepared unto every good work.’ [2 Timothy 2:20-21] He, accordingly, who purges himself, is made a vessel unto honour, while he who has disdained to cleanse himself from his impurity is made a vessel unto dishonour. From such declarations, in my opinion, the cause of our actions can in no degree be referred to the Creator. For God the Creator makes a certain vessel unto honour, and other vessels to dishonour; but that vessel which has cleansed itself from all impurity He makes a vessel unto honour, while that which has stained itself with the filth of vice He makes a vessel unto dishonour. The conclusion from which, accordingly, is this, that the cause of each one’s actions is a pre-existing one; and then every one, according to his deserts, is made by God either a vessel unto honour or dishonour. Therefore every individual vessel has furnished to its Creator out of itself the causes and cocasions of tis being formed by Him to be either a vessel unto honour or one unto dishonour. And if the assertion appear correct, as it certainly is, and in harmony with all piety, that it is due to previous causes that every vessel be prepared by God either to honour or to dishonour, it does not appear absurd that, in discussing remoter causes in the same order, and in the same method, we should come to the same conclusion respecting the nature of souls, and (believe) that this was the reason why Jacob was beloved before he was born into this world, and Esau hated, while he still was contained in the womb of his mother. (De Principiis 3.1.20)27
“God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”
God foreknew us in the premortal world. The grace by which we are saved comes from God and without that grace no amount of works could save us. Here, as in other passages, Paul contrasts the grace that comes through the atonement of Christ with the works of the law of Moses, as I discussed in my article “ Salvation by Grace Alone?”
1 Corinthians 1:8-9
“Who shall confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”
While some may see this passage as suggesting that our eternal destiny has been determined in advance by God, Latter-day Saints consider this passage to be describing what is called “making your calling and election sure,” described earlier. All who have heard the gospel message have been called to Christ and many have heeded that call, but not everyone has yet been selected to inherit the celestial kingdom. Note that the scripture uses the future tense (“shall confirm”) rather than the past, suggesting that one’s place in the eternal scheme has not yet been fixed.
1 Corinthians 1:21-29
“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness. But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.”
Depending on one’s perspective, this passage can be read in various ways. To those who acknowledge God’s predestination, it would mean that God choses primarily the poor, the weak, and the unlearned to be saved. Others might suggest that God deliberately makes those destined for salvation poor, weak, or unlearned. Latter-day Saints, however, believe that those who are humble are more open to receiving the message of the gospel. Laboring among the Zoramites, Alma and his fellow missionaries found that the poor were more receptive to their message because they were despised by the rich and hence had been humbled by them. To them, Alma said,
I say unto you, it is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues, that ye may be humble, and that ye may learn wisdom; for it is necessary that ye should learn wisdom; for it is because that ye are cast out, that ye are despised of your brethren because of your exceeding poverty, that ye are brought to a lowliness of heart; for ye are necessarily brought to be humble. And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved. And now, as I said unto you, that because ye were compelled to be humble ye were blessed, do ye not suppose that they are more blessed who truly humble themselves because of the word? Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed–yea, much more blessed than they who are compelled to be humble because of their exceeding poverty. Therefore, blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is he that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea, without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe. (Alma 32:12-16)
King Benjamin declared that “the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19). The Savior himself taught, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4). Though there is no salvation without Christ’s atonement, only he who “shall humble himself” can “enter into the kingdom of heaven.” There is no hint of predestination in 1 Corinthians 1.
1 Corinthians 2:6-9
“Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
The word “perfect” may suggest to some that God has thus made those destined for eternal life, but the passage does not say how they became “perfect.” Elsewhere, the apostle Paul wrote that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). Clearly, perfection can only come through Christ’s atonement, but we learn from other Bible passages that we need to exercise faith, repent of our sins, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost in order to receive all the blessings of that atonement. (See the discussion in another of my FAIR articles, “ Salvation by Grace Alone?” The rich young man who had kept all the commandments asked the Savior “What lack I yet?” whereupon Christ replied, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Matthew 19:20-21). From this, we learn that the Lord expects us to do something in order to be perfected.
The real point of Paul’s discussion in 1 Corinthians 2 is that God established before the world rewards for “them that love him,” not that he arbitrarily decided beforehand which of us would receive those rewards. God wants all of us to be thus rewarded, but only grants this to those who are “transformed by the renewing of [their] mind” (Romans 12:2).
1 Corinthians 2:7 is not the only Pauline epistle to note that God ordained salvation “before the world.” In 2 Timothy 1:9, he wrote that the Lord “hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,” while in Titus 1:2 he wrote of the “hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” While some readers might consider such passages as evidence of predestination, Latter-day Saints see them in the context of the premortal council in which the plan of salvation was laid out for all of us before we came to the earth. Thus, in D&C 121:32, we read of “that which was ordained in the midst of the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods before this world was, that should be reserved unto the finishing and the end thereof, when every man shall enter into his eternal presence and into his immortal rest.” Similarly, we read of “those things which were from the beginning before the world was, which were ordained of the Father, through his Only Begotten Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, even from the beginning” (D&C 76:13).
2 Corinthians 1:21-22
“Now he which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.”
Though some modern translations use the word “guarantees” in place of KJV “stablisheth,” the passage does not imply that God’s actions predate our coming to earth. Paul’s audience consisted of people who had already accepted his message, had been baptized and, as he notes, had received the Spirit. The Greek word rendered “earnest” has the same meaning as English “earnest money,” i.e., a down-payment with a promise of more to come.
2 Corinthians 5:5
“Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.”
This passage must be read in the same sense as the one cited before it, both of which speak of the “earnest of the Spirit,” which one receives after baptism. There is no hint of predestination here.
Ephesians 1:3-5, 9, 11
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will… Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself… In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”
Latter-day Saints see this as referring to the fact that we accepted the plan of salvation in our premortal existence “before the foundation of the world.” This is what is meant by “heavenly places,” where we first accepted Christ as our Redeemer. We who followed the Savior in our premortal state were selected by God to come to earth according to his plan, while those who rejected Christ and followed the devil were expelled and deprived of the privilege of obtaining a physical body.
“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
Here, again, we have the “earnest” (down-payment) that we saw in 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5, coupled with the Holy Spirit by which the promises are made sure. But this does not imply predestination.
1 Thessalonians 1:4
“Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.”
The Greek term rendered “election” means “selection, choice.” The passage does not imply that the choice was made before one’s mortal birth. Indeed, Paul was writing to people who had, by his time, become Christians, noted for their “work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 3) and who were “ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia” (verse 7).
1 Thessalonians 4:7
“For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.”
As elsewhere, we learn that God calls people, but the passage does not suggest that this call is arbitrary. Indeed, in the verses preceding the one cited here, Paul reminds his readers of the “commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus” and warns them of sexual promiscuity, saying, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication” (verse 3). Thus, God wills that we be sanctified, but it cannot happen if we do not abandon sin.
1 Thessalonians 5:9
“For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus.”
A superficial reading of this passage by those who maintain that God has already determined our fate is not justified when one reads the passage in context. Writing to those who had already taken the first steps toward salvation by believing in Christ and becoming members of his flock, Paul admonished, “but let us watch and be sober” (verse 6), “putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (verse 8). Verse 9 merely suggests that God wants us to be saved through Christ and not suffer punishment. This view is also reflected in the Lord’s words to the prophet Ezekiel: “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye” (Ezekiel 18:31-32). Similarly, the apostle James wrote, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”
Again, we note that the Lord calls humans and that eternal life of both body and spirit depends on Christ’s atonement. A predestinationist would read the words “will do it” as suggestive that God will, in fact, preserve Christians blameless, but that is not what the text says. Paul wrote that this is what he was praying for, not that it was an absolute. If God has already chosen who will be saved and who will be damned, prayers could have no effect on the outcome.
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
“Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
As with the previous passage from his first epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul again notes that the brethren prayed for Christians that God might consider them worthy of his “this calling.” They had been called to Christ, but had not yet been chosen.
2 Thessalonians 2:11-15
“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”
One who believes in predestination would read the words “from the beginning” as suggestive that all those who are destined to be saved were selected at the time denoted as “the beginning” in Genesis 1:1, i.e., the creation of the world. But Paul wrote that those “chosen…to salvation” were thus selected “through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth,” i.e., they had come to believe and received the Spirit. To these, they had been “called…by our gospel.” The term “gospel” means “good news,” and “our gospel” must refer to the good news preached by Paul and his companions. Hence, “the beginning” alludes to when these converts to Christ received the message Paul brought to them.
Elsewhere, Paul wrote “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Romans 10:13-15). His words suggest that salvation depends on hearing the gospel message and accepting it. Indeed, they reflect Jesus’ words to the apostles just prior to his ascension: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16). None of this suggests predestination of some to salvation and of others to damnation.
2 Timothy 1:9-10
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”
This passage informs us that God exercised his grace toward us in the premortal world, when Christ was assigned the responsibility of bringing about the atonement. Our Savior “abolished death” for all of humanity, thus providing a resurrection for all who were born into mortality. This is the salvation that requires no “works” on our part, for both the righteous and the wicked will be resurrected (John 5:29). “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Salvation by resurrection overcomes the physical death that came into the world through the fall of Adam and Eve. Our first parents also suffered a spiritual death, being cut off from the presence of God. Christ overcame this death, too, but only for those who willingly submit to his conditions for the spiritual salvation that brings us back into the presence of God (see D&C 29:40-49; 2 Nephi 9:10-13; Alma 12:16; 42:2-16).
2 Timothy 2:19
“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.”
Though some believers in predestination may not see this as evidence for their view, Calvin cited this passage in support of the idea. It is more readily understood as God knowing which members of his Church are truly striving to do his will.
But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
While Paul wrote that we are justified by divine grace, he also notes the necessity of baptism by water (“washing”) and “the Holy Ghost.” Throughout the scriptures, the Lord stresses that we will be judged by our works, but the atonement of Christ did not come “by works of righteousness which we have done, but [by] his mercy.” Indeed, Christ suffered and died for us because we were sinners, not because we earned salvation by good works. God foreknew that we would fall into sin, so he provided the atonement to enable us to acknowledge the gift of mercy and turn from wickedness. Consequently, being saved by the grace of Christ does not imply that we are predestined to salvation or damnation, only that the gift of the atonement, as a means of rescue, was provided for all who would grasp it.
1 Peter 1:2
“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”
Latter-day Saints acknowledge God’s foreknowledge but do not see this passage as evidence for predestination in the sense that it does away with free will. Alma wrote of ancient high priests who were “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” (Alma 13:3; see also verse 7). We therefore believe that, as spirits in a premortal world, we were allowed to choose between God’s plan and that of Satan and that from those who accepted the plan that Christ save them and bring them back to the Father, God chose leaders who would implement his plan in mortality.
The apostle Peter wrote of Christ “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you (1 Peter 1:20). The Greek term rendered “foreordained “means “foreknown,” which is the way the New English Translation Bible translates it. Since all Christians would acknowledge that Christ had an actual premortal existence, should we not be able to suppose that God’s foreknowledge of mortals also suggests that they existed before coming to the earth?
1 Peter 2:6-8
“Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.”
Predestinationists consider the words at the end of verse 8 (“whereunto also they were appointed”) to be evidence for their case. JST leaves out this wording and reworks these verses. But the real question is whether the passage means that God placed people into a state of disobedience or whether they are put under the stone to be crushed because of their disobedience. I presume that no one would suggest that God is the cause of evil, so the second proposition would be correct.
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
This passage refers to those “whose names are not written in the book of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The reference to the foundation of the world is to Christ as the chosen sacrifice, not to the time when the names were inscribed (or, in this case, not inscribed) in the book. Revelation 3:5 suggests that names can be blotted out of the book of life, which is clear evidence against the idea of predestination to salvation or damnation.
“The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.”
On the surface, this seems to suggest that those predestined to salvation have their names inscribed “in the book of life from the foundation of the world.” But in the same book of Revelation, Christ told John, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Revelation 3:5). Since one’s name can be blotted out of the book of life, it is clear that we are not predestined to salvation or damnation. That names can be blotted out of the book of life because of sins is also affirmed by other Bible passages, as noted earlier in the section entitled “Names Written in Heaven.”
Judged by Their Works
The Bible clearly teaches that God will judge us by our works. The apostle John wrote, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works” (Revelation 20:12-13; cf. Daniel 7:10).
Jesus explained the principle of salvation to Nicodemus, saying that “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God… Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5). He then added:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:14-21)
From this, it is clear that, in addition to baptism by water and the Spirit, faith on Christ and good deeds are necessary for salvation. Moreover, the passage also notes that God “loved the world,” not just some people in the world, and that he sent Christ “that the world through him might be saved.” The fact that God contemplated the possibility that his Son could save the entire world, excludes the concept of predestination, since all would have a chance to hear the word and act in accordance therewith.
Repentance and Baptism
Since we are to be judged by our works, it is logical that we can be judged more harshly by committing more sins and blessed more as we repent of our sins. This is illustrated by Jesus’ parable of the servants in Luke 12:42-48, where we learn that “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” The servant who is faithful to his absent master will be made “ruler over all that he hath,” while the unfaithful servant “shall be beaten with many stripes.” “But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.”
The principle of repentance is essential to salvation. This is clearly illustrated in the Lord’s words to Ezekiel, in which he charged the prophet to warn the wicked to repent so he can be saved. The repentant sinner will be saved, while the righteous man who turns to sin will be punished. In addition, the prophet himself will be rewarded or punished according to his attempts to turn the sinner to God or his failure to do so (Ezekiel 3:18-21; 18:21-24; 33:11-16). Exodus 34:6-7 describes the Lord as “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty,” suggesting that he does not save the unrepentant.
The principle underlying the responsibility to preach the word is explained in the Lord’s word to Joseph Smith: “Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor” (D&C 88:81). The apostle Paul explained the principle thus: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Romans 10:13-15). In 1 Thessalonians 2:16, he explained that the Judaizers were “Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved.” Clearly, salvation comes by hearing the gospel message and obeying its ordinances.
The Savior himself had this principle in mind during his final admonition to the apostles, when he said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16). Peter followed this commandment when, on the day of Pentecost, he responded to his audience’s question about what they should do. He declared, “repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). This passage (along with Hebrews 6:1-2) lists the four things necessary for salvation, as explained in Articles of Faith 3-4:
We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Note that article 3 does not say that “all mankind will be saved,” only that they “may be saved.” As in the Acts 2 passage, baptism is said to be “for the remission of sins.” The term “faith” is not used in Acts 2:38, but the fact that one is “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” suggests that baptism is of no effect without faith in Christ. Other New Testament passages that indicate that repentance and baptism are necessary for the remission of sins are Mark 1:4 and Luke 3:3; 24:47; Acts 2:38.
And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true. (Mosiah 4:12)
The basic premise of predestination is that God appointed some of us for salvation and others for damnation. This concept is refuted in Jesus’ parable (Matthew 13:37-39) in which the “sower” (the Lord) sows wheat (the righteous), while his “enemy” (the devil) sows tares (the wicked). God did not place wickedness in the world; that was Satan’s doing. The parable of the sower indicates that it was “the wicked one” who brought sin into the world (Matthew 13:19).
The implication of such passages for those who believe in predestination is that God would also have predestined the devil’s evil works, making God the source of evil!28 For those who, like the Latter-day Saints, believe in the free will of mankind, the devil exercised his agency to reject God and become evil and continues trying to influence others to do likewise.
The Book of Mormon admonishes us to “retain a remission of your sins” (Mosiah 4:12; Alma 4:14). We do this by continually repenting of sins and renewing our baptismal covenant by partaking of the sacrament in remembrance of Christ’s atonement. Nephi hinted at this concept in his discussion of the necessity of baptism as the gateway to the strait and narrow way that leads to God’s presence (2 Nephi 31:17-18). He wrote:
And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. (2 Nephi 31:19-20)
The Savior taught that we cannot enter into the kingdom of God without being baptized by water and by the Spirit (John 3:3-7). Peter wrote that those who “purified [their] souls in obeying the truth” they were “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God” (1 Peter 1:22-23). The Lord told Alma, “Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 27:25-26). Alma subsequently taught “that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness” (Alma 7:14; see also Alma 5:14).
1 Related to this discussion is the debate over grace/faith vs. works. See my “Salvation by Grace Alone?” posted at http://www.fairlds.org/Misc/Is_There_Salvation_by_Grace_Alone.html.
2 Not all Christians who believe in predestination accept all of Augustine’s premises.
3 See Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.21. For a comparison of the views of Martin Luther and Joseph Smith, see Dillenberger, John. “Grace and Works in Martin Luther and Joseph Smith,” in Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian Parallels, ed. Truman G. Madsen (Provo: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1978).
4 For a discussion, see chapter 41 (“Becoming as Little Children”) in John A. Tvedtnes, The Most Correct Book: Insights from a Book of Mormon Scholar (Bountiful, UT: Cornerstone/Horizon, 1999), 278-281.
5 The Greek text actually reads “for the whole world (cosmos),” and the King James translators added the words “the sins of.”
6 Christ’s last admonition to his apostles, uttered in the garden of Gethsemane before his arrest, was to “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation) (Matthew 26:41). This commandment is repeated in other passages of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants. See the discussion in chapter 28 (“Watch and Pray”) in my The Most Correct Book.
7 Evidently alluding to Judas Iscariot.
8 Revelation 17:14 says that those who will participate with Christ in the final war against evil are “called, and chosen, and faithful.” The term “faithful” indicates that something was expected of them and that they were not arbitrarily chosen for salvation. This reminds us that Nephi wrote that “the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Nephi 1:20). Other Book of Mormon passages indicate that Christ chose his disciples because of their faith in him (3 Nephi 19:20, 28).
9 Chief among the biblical passages used to support the idea of man’s premortal existence in the presence of God is Jeremiah 1:4-5: “Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”
10 Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:172.
11 Citing Deuteronomy 30:15, 19. A number of early pseudepigrapha indicate that God said the same thing to Adam.
12 Citing Isaiah 1:16, etc.
13 Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:177.
14 Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series (reprint, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 11:471-472.
15 E. H. Gifford, translator, Eusebii Pamphili Evangelicae Praeparationis (Oxford, 1903), 3:281.
16 Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.22.8.
17 See also JST Isaiah 34:16; Alma 5:58; 3 Nephi 24:16-18; D&C 76:68. Similar statements are made about records kept on the earth: Mosiah 26:36; Alma 1:24; D&C 85:5, 11-12 (alluding to Ezra 2:61-63).
18 Cf. Psalm 109:13. For blotting out names from church records, see Alma 6:3; Moroni 6:7; D&C 20:83.
19 An allusion to Isaiah 6:10,which is cited in Matthew 13:15; John 12:40; Acts 28:27; 2 Nephi 16:10; 3 Nephi 9:13; D&C 112:13.
20 Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 11:472.
21 The Latter-day Saint view is reflected in D&C 88:33: “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.”
22 Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.22.3.
23 Some Latter-day Saints, citing Joseph Smith, believe that all priesthood holders were foreordained to the priesthood in the premortal world. The relevant passage, in History of the Church 6:364: “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. I suppose that I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council.” I read the words “a calling to the inhabitants of the world” as those holding keys for the entire world, which would mean that only apostles were intended by the prophet Joseph, though it may apply only to presidents of the Church or dispensation leaders. See also Abraham 3:23. For Joseph Smith’s foreordination, see also D&C 127:2 and History of the Church 5:143.
24 I am aware that God’s thoughts and ways are infinitely greater than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), but since it was theologians and not God who devised the false concept of predestination, their view must be subject to reason.
25 There is a translation problem in this passage, but it does not affect what is said here.
26 KJV uses the word coast to denote a border, though modern English uses it exclusively in the sense of the seashore.
27 Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers (reprint Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 9:324-325.
28 I have no doubt that some might rationalize this in ways other than I have described here.