Mormonism’s Satan and the Tree of Life: Part 3.3 (“Body”)

3. Why Was It Essential That Premortal Spirits Be Given the Opportunity to Receive a Body?

Joseph Smith taught: “We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The devil has no body, and herein is his punishment.” In LDS discussions of the purpose of the body in mortality, the necessity of being able “to experience the pleasures and pains of being alive” and to seek “perfection and discipline of the spirit along with training and health of the body” are the kinds of reasons most often mentioned. However, the teachings of Joseph Smith also include the idea that the clothing of spirits with bodies would provide power and protection for them. As Matthew Brown succinctly summarizes:

“All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not,” said the Prophet Joseph Smith. The “spirits of the eternal world” are as diverse from each other in their dispositions as mortals are on the earth. Some of them are aspiring, ambitious, and even desire to bring other spirits into subjection to them. “As man is liable to [have] enemies [in the spirit world] as well as [on the earth] it is necessary for him to be placed beyond their power in order to be saved. This is done by our taking bodies ([having kept] our first estate) and having the power of the resurrection pass upon us whereby we are enabled to gain the ascendancy over the disembodied spirits.” It might be said, therefore, that “the express purpose of God in giving [His spirit children] a tabernacle was to arm [them] against the power of darkness.”

The reasons for the importance of a body that Joseph Smith most often emphasized are frequently forgotten in Mormon discussions of the purpose of earth life, yet they seem vital to the LDS understanding of Satan’s efforts to undermine God’s plan.


In recap, we have presented three issues that bring into question core features of popular Mormon assumptions about Satan’s premortal role and objectives. It is difficult to achieve theological precision in these matters, but closer examination of the writings of Joseph Smith and his successors has led us to consider the following as, perhaps, a more faithful representation of these teachings:

1. The idea that Satan’s proposal to “redeem all mankind” was intended to enable only a minimal form of “salvation”;

2. The likelihood that Satan’s ploy “to destroy the agency of man” was something other than the exercise of coercive power to force mortals to do right;

and 3. The acquisition of a body in mortality was to enable not only the new experiences of pleasure, pain, and parenthood, but also to provide a protective power from the influences of Satan. After a discussion of the circumstances of the Fall, we will argue that the significance of these possibilities goes beyond their potential value in revealing unwarranted assumptions about what the Prophet taught, providing, in addition, a cogent rationale for Satan’s actions in the Garden of Eden.

Next: On to the Tree of Life!


  1. Perhaps you meant to get to it later, I don’t know, but I would add that along with a “protective power from the influences of Satan” the physical body gives us an added endowment of life. Let me explain. As I argued here:

    Within the plan of salvation, wherein we can progress and become like God, there are three stages of life we must enter into. Each of which involves a “birth process”. Consider what the Lord told Abraham, “they who keep their first estate shall be added upon” (Abraham 3: 26) which implies that each stage of progression is preceded by a “birth” whereby the individual is “added upon” with greater powers of life. Each of these three stages are: 1. The Spirit birth (see, for instance, Acts 17: 28-29 where Paul states that we are the “offspring” of God. Or Hebrews 12: 9 where Paul speaks of God as being the “Father of [our] Spirits.”); 2. Mortal birth; 3. A “Spiritual” birth, which enables us to enter into the Kingdom of God and gain Eternal Life (see John 3: 3-5). Spirit birth brings life as a Spirit, with a Spirit for a body. Physical birth brings physical life with a physical body. Spiritual birth brings about a “Spiritual Life” with a “Spiritual” body. A Spiritual body is one which has been glorified and sanctified, thus D&C 88: 26-29 states, “Wherefore, it [the body] shall be sanctified; yea, notwithstanding it shall die, it shall be quickened again, and shall abide the power by which it is quickened, and the righteous shall inherit it. For notwithstanding they die, they also shall rise again, a spiritual body. They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.”

    Baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost comprise what is called the “gate” to this spiritual birth. Consider the experience of Adam when he was baptized:

    That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory; For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified; Therefore it is given to abide in you; the record of heaven; the Comforter; the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment.
    . . . And it came to pass, when the Lord had spoken with Adam, our father, that Adam cried unto the Lord, and he was caught away by the Spirit of the Lord, and was carried down into the water, and was laid under the water, and was brought forth out of the water. And thus he was baptized, and the Spirit of God descended upon him, and thus he was born of the Spirit, and became quickened in the inner man. (Moses 6: 59-61, 64,65)

    It is thus, the power of the Spirit that “quickens” or gives life, as the Lord said in a revelation to Joseph Smith that the comforter, or Holy Ghost, “is the promise which I give unto you of Eternal Life” (D&C 88:4) or that the “power of my Spirit quickeneth all things” (D&C 33:16).

    The powers of the Spirit are powers of intelligence and life, and when a person obtains the Glory of God he has an endowment of “Life” which other beings do not possess. Eternal Life, therefore, is more than just being in the presence of God or living the way that God lives, but it is an actual added endowment of life. Parley P. Pratt expressed it this way:

    An intelligent being, in the image of God, possesses every organ, attribute, sense, sympathy, affection that is possessed by God Himself.
    But these . . . attributes are in embryo; and are to be gradually developed.
    The gift of the Holy Ghost adapts itself to all these organs or attributes. It quickens all the intellectual faculties, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.” (Parley P. Pratt, Key To The Science Of Theology, p. 61.)

    Pratt, in the same book mentioned above also said, “the flesh, bones, sinews, nerves, all the organs, all the particles of the celestial body, must be quickened, filled, surrounded with that divine and holy element which is purer, more intelligent, more refined and active, fuller of light and life than any other substance in the universe. (Key To The Science Of Theology, p. 86.)”

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    There is of course an interesting theological glitch occasioned by the 1916 innovation of defining Jehovah as the preexistent Christ. The identities and roles of the Godhead defined then, intended in part to clarify and streamline post Adam-God doctrine, result in the great God of the OT being an unembodied spirit. (This also blunts traditional Mormon apologetic arguments for the embodiment of God taken from OT anthropomorphisms.)

  3. Ronan:

    You ask, “Why Was It Essential That Premortal Spirits Be Given the Opportunity to Receive a Body?”

    Joseph Smith gave the complete answer here: “We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The devil has no body, and herein is his punishment.”

    There is no more to the answer. Sure, you can say the same thing in different ways, but why do you and others have to go and look for other things that aren’t there. It confuses people.

    Heavenly Father needed to protect us from disembodied spirits just as badly as he needed Nephi to build a ship. He didn’t. If his purpose was to protect us… done. He has all the power. He could protect us forever. If he wanted 1000 ships in an instant… done. He can do it all.

    But this is not what He wants. That is neither His work nor His glory. He wants Nephi (and each one of us) to become a Celestial being. No more, no less. He told us this in the most often quoted G.C. scripture, “this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the eternal life of man”.

    Protection over disembodied spirits is a by product of having a body–not the “express purpose”. Ridiculous.

    Satan intended zero form of salvation. None. Nada. Zilch. Living eternally without sin (the crux of Satan’s plan) is not a form salvation–just as Adam and Eve wouldn’t have obtained salvation in the garden–had they remained there eternally. Any eternal state other than celestial glory is damnation. Lucifer’s plan was to destroy agency and therefore forever impede us from obtaining Celestial glory.

    In your post you suggest that Joseph Smith taught other more important reasons for the purpose of having a body than to “present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom”. Show me any quote from J.S. that discusses what you interpret as other reasons for having a body and I will show you a by-product of having a body–not a reason.

  4. To Nate C: While it may be true in some sense that “Any eternal state other than celestial glory is damnation,” God (thankfully and mercifully) seems to have some broader scope of purpose and love for those who fall short of that loftiest height:

    39 For all the rest [except the sons of perdition] shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the triumph and the glory of the Lamb, who was slain, who was in the bosom of the Father before the worlds were made.
    40 And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—
    41 That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;
    42 That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him;
    43 Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him [and the only ones where God says: “it had been better for them never to have been born”–the “only ones on whom the second death shall have any power; Yea, verily, the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord, after the sufferings of his wrath.”].
    44 Wherefore, he saves all except them— (DC 76, italics mine)

    I know somes GAs have said things to the effect that anything less than the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom is not ‘exaltation/eternal life/salvation to it’s fullest’–even the JS quote above infers it. But the declaration in Sec 76 infers that God via Modern Revealed Mormonism “saves” a whole lot more than just the celestial highest–and calls it “the gospel, the glad tidings.”

    As for, “Why Was It Essential That Premortal Spirits Be Given the Opportunity to Receive a Body?” — it could also be simply another manifestation/protection of agency (could God remain God if he didn’t offer the opportunity?). Satan (and a third) chose not to receive a body under God’s plan. The Sons of Perdition (and the rest of us premortal host) chose to receive a body. For most of us, it should prove a blessing (better that we were born), and for others, a curse “he saves all except them”. JS says nothing about being armed against embodied [evil] spirits–good thing they’ll be in outer darkness.

  5. Rob Osborn says:

    “1. The idea that Satan’s proposal to “redeem all mankind” was intended to enable only a minimal form of “salvation”;”

    I find this point a major concern in LDS theology. Must we believe what Satan said? Is it too hard to believe that maybe, just maybe, that Lucifer was lying about him wanting to save everyone?

    The real truth lies in the prelude to what Lucifer says. let us turn to Moses 4:1 and examine the most important part left out of the discussion.

    1 AND I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.

    (Pearl of Great Price | Moses 4:1)

    Notice how in the very opening the Lord tells Moses that the same being who came before him and lied to him about him being the Christ, the savior of the world, was the same being from the beginning at the grand council. He lied to Moses and now the Lord tells us that he was the same from the beginning. So what follows is his deceitful lies! Thus, when Lucifer states that he will redeem all mankind that not one soul shall be lost, all he is doing is lying and trying to trick everyone into thinking he is the true savior.

    The Father’s will here as spoken in verse 2 is that “nothing should be lost” as given to the savior to save (see John 6:39).

    Therefore, as we can see that Satan is the same being with the same plans which was from the beginning, it is not hard to ascertain what Satan’s plans were at the grand council. they are the same plans that he has today. Satan didn’t propose his true intentions at the council because nobody would have believed him. So when people say that Satan’s plans was a minimal form of salvation I say “Not So”. Satan’s plans- his true intentions, were to gain the power of a physical body and immortality and rule in the heavens in an unrighteous dominion forever and ever with gods children as his slaves, not offering them any salvation from their sins. By this he would effectively destroy man agency because all would fall to sin and from there could no longer choose good not having a savior to overcome what they themselves could not overcome.

    This is why the role of the savior- the true savior, enables and reclaims agency after we sin. Sin causes us to lose our agency- the very thing Satan seeks to do- destroy our agency! It is only through the atonement that we become redeemed knowing good from evil and on the good path that gives us the freedom of our agency back. Here read this-

    26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

    (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 2:26)

    This verse describes how man in his fallen condition(spiritually) is “acted upon” and does not have agency. But, because man can be redeemed from their spiritual fall through the atonement, agency is thus preserved and not destroyed. Satan is the “destroyer”, this means that he is the destroyer of our agency. Satan needs us to become prey to sin so that we become powerless under him so he can sift us as wheat as he wills, not as we will. this is what is meant by the “chains of darkness”. Because Christ redeems those who look up to him, they become free, free to act for themselves according to their own will and not the will of the flesh and the devil and certainly not by the laws of God that act upon the sinner consigning him to a punishment of being held in chains.

  6. When I read statements such as “all spirits are matter” — that simply proves to me that I don’t really understand the true nature of matter.

    Similarly, when I read “All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not” — I am forced to admit that I don’t fully understand the nature of embodiment/matter and neither do I understand whether it is embodiment itself that provides power, or some other aspect of this particular construct.

    Don’t get me wrong — I am enjoying this discussion. I am not trying to stop it. It is just the pragmatist in me trying not to see things I can’t really see.

  7. I’m not so sure the assumptions you attribute to all mormons are all that common.

    1.- I don’t think many LDS think the Salvation offered by Satan was full or genuine.

    2.- I am still unsure of your point on this one. I will wait for further posts for clarity.

    3.- This one I agree with, and had a post about here, with all the pertinent JS quotes you mention and a few more. I think it is very important that we as saints think about the fact that the plan of salvation requires us going from a worse state to a better one.

  8. I guess I should note that the post I sight in the last comment was inspired by a post by you, Ronan, so maybe you are ahead of me on this one.

    I’m looking forward to where you go with this.

  9. The likelihood that Satan’s ploy “to destroy the agency of man” was something other than the exercise of coercive power to force mortals to do right

    I agree that it is unlikely that his plan entailed forcing mortals to “do right”. If coercion was involved, effectively preventing them from doing right would be much more practical.

  10. Kent (or anyone else interested in engaging):

    I don’t think we disagree, we just need to better define the terms. I think you need to draw a distinction between exaltation/eternal life and salvation instead of lumping them together, exaltation/eternal life/salvation.

    All of the 2/3 (minus sons of perdition) will be “saved”. Good news for the Evangelicals. And they didn’t even need to accept Christ to be saved.

    I also believe in a merciful God. And the bottom line is that all of us are going to be “glad” wherever we end up–be it telestial, terrestrial or celestial. I don’t believe that judgment day will be a punishment/reward scenario. It will simply be an accounting and display of who/what we truly are. We will end up where we want to be. A terrestrial being will be much more comfortable in the terrestrial kingdom than if he/she were to somehow sneak into the celestial realm.

    That said, Heavenly Father’s purpose is not to save his children. That is already done and is a free gift through Christ. Salvation is a by-product of His work. His purpose (work and glory) is to exalt his children–a uniquely Mormon idea–and is what sets us apart from other philosophies of men.

    Although damnation certainly has a negative connotation, I think we can safely define it as any eternal state other than exaltation/eternal life–still potentially a great place full of glad tidings, but not the reason we are here. Or do you disagree?

  11. Rob Osborn says:

    Nate C,

    I will engage. This is how I see it-

    Exaltation is the highest degree of glory- it happens only to those married in the temple.

    Eternal life comes to all the saved and is different than exaltation. Even though sometimes the church manuals interprets eternal life to mean exaltation, there is no scriptural reference for it. The biggest argument against them being synonymous is that little children are said to possess eternal life. we thus know that little children are not married so they cannot be exalted yet.

    There are only two states man can end up in the end- either that of eternal life or that of eternal death, there is no inbetween.

    It is Gods work and glory thus to bring to pass “salvation” first, and second- “exaltation”.

    Damnation means to be condemned to hell. there will be no saved persons who are damned- that is an oxymoron. If one is saved he is saved from damnation! The scriptures do not teach that any degree of salvation equates to damnation. Damnation always means to be condemned to hell or the state of the condemned in hell.

  12. I don’t really have anything to add to this discussion, except to agree with Rob that we need to remember that Satan was a liar “from the beginning.” It is a very real possibility that what he said his intentions were and what they really were were not the same thing.

  13. Satan meant every word he said. He promised forced salvation to everyone. And therefore, he demanded God’s glory

    Salvation/exaltation = kings/queens, priests/priestess, ruler

    Force = lack of free agency = didn’t earn it, got it for free = antithesis of God’s ways

    God’s glory = God’s authority, power, dominion

    Satan’s proposal? Revolution. A complete upheaval of the order of God that has been the way of exaltation since the beginning of time. Granting exaltation to everyone for free defeats the very purpose of exaltation. Its like giving out gold medals to everyone in the Olympics, but far more tragic in consequence.

    These weren’t gold medals that Satan was proposing to hand out like candy, it was leadership. Leadership given willy nilly from the incompetent, the immature, the inexperienced to the downright evil. God’s way, for lack of a better word, trains His sons and daughters for the burdens and responsibilities of godhood. Not all are cut out for it. This is a fact of nature. Yet Satan’s plan would forcibly ignore that truth and attempt to grant power to those unprepared and downright unsuitable to have such immense power.

    It was a recipe for disaster and chaos. And God by subscribing to such a heinous plan could no longer be God and would have had to relinquish his power, authority, his “glory” to Satan.

    And what a tempting plan it was. To those spirits with little chance at exaltation here was their chance to rise beyond what they were willing to pay the price for. A leader that promises great riches for free is hard to resist. Yet none were “tempted” or deceived into this plan. One third willingly, with full knowledge chose to rebel, to support the destruction of God’s order, His kingdom and purposes. These weren’t poor, misguided individuals simply supporting an alternate plan. They knew full well the consequences of what Satan was proposing. Hence there is no salvation ever for these true enemies of God, for they chose against it.

  14. I have a problem about the definition of “physical body”, because, if I remember well, even the primordial status of “intelligence” implies a “material entity”, since there are no spiritual entities in Mormonism, but only material ones.
    Am I doing the exact deductions? Please let me know, adrian.

  15. Rob:

    “Saved” and “damned” can apply in different ways depending on the context. I would argue that a Telestial soul could accurately be considered both.

    The difference between Eternal Life and Exaltation is irrelevant to this discussion. While I agree with you that there is a difference, it is negligible. My personal opinion is that all Celestial beings (including children and all worthy singles) will eventually marry and therefore become exalted–which is probably why some church manuals, as you say, consider them synonymous.

    Eternal life does not come to all the saved, as you stated above. Eternal life means living in the presence of God forever. Salvation is two parts, first immortality and then eternal life, a.k.a. the first and second deaths respectively. Immortality is a free gift made possible by Christ’s Atonement and is synonymous with ‘life eternal’. All of God’s children have been saved in this sense, but not all of these children will receive eternal life.

    When it comes to “saved” and “damned”, I’m grouping all parties into two factions: those who will live in the presence of Heavenly Father/Jesus Christ and those who will not. You used the terms, “eternal life” and “eternal death”. I agree that there is no in between.

    When referencing God’s stated work and glory, I don’t understand why you substituted the word ‘salvation’ for ‘immortality’ and ‘exaltation’ for ‘eternal life’–especially after you tried to explain that exaltation and eternal life aren’t synonymous–although I would argue that they are. The terms ‘salvation’ and ‘immortality’ are not interchangeable.

    Damnation, in the context to which I’m speaking, means to cease progression–to be damned, stagnant, unable to grow. To bring the term ‘hell’ into the discussion is problematic, because it could apply to several different locations/states–spirit prison, O.D., telestial, terrestrial, etc. or all of them together as these locations/states all contain damned souls–spirit children of Heavenly Father that are no longer able to progress.

    So can there be saved persons that are damned? Yes, if you are speaking of salvation from the first death. And No, if you are speaking of salvation from the second death. As long as you define ‘damned’ as I have.

    Having said that, I agree that to refer to a perment resident of the Telestial and Terrestrial Kingdoms as damned is incorrect because the most understood definition of damned (outside of Mormonism) has to do with eternal suffering–not a cessation of progression. The scriptures teach us that all of the degrees of glory are just that–glorious. Traditional misconceptions of damnation and hell–fiery lakes and red devils don’t really have a place in Mormon theology, IMHO.

    Bottom line is that many of the terms we’re discussing can be applied correctly in different ways to different groups of people. Clarification is important for understanding and is more than just semantics.

    And I still have no idea what the hell Ronan is getting at.