The Sons of God Shouted for Joy
William Blake (1757–1827) “When the Morning Stars Sang Together”
by Trent Dee Stephens, PhD, for the Come Follow Me lesson August 1-7; Job 1–3; 12–14; 19; 21–24; 38–40; 42
We read in Job 38:4, 7, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding…When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
The following is from my book, The Infinite Creation: Unifying Science and Latter-day Saint Theology, Cedar Fort Publishing, 2020, Chapter 3.
Each of us is a child of God, as we are told, for example, in the book of Acts, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” (Acts 17:28) Paul also wrote to the Hebrews, “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Hebrews 12:9)We lived with God in a pre-mortal world where we learned and progressed. “Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth in the due time of the Lord to labor in his vineyard for the salvation of the souls of men.” (Doctrine and Covenants 138:56)
The concept of a premortal life was taught to the first Christian converts in England as shown by the beautiful allegory given in 627 AD by Coifi, the chief Priest of King Edwin, of Northumbria:
“Your Majesty, let us give careful consideration to this new teaching; for I frankly admit that, in my experience, the religion that we have hitherto professed seems valueless and powerless…Your Majesty, when we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting-hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter’s day with your thegns and counsellors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside, the storms of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing. Therefore, if this new teaching has brought any more certain knowledge, it seems only right that we should follow it.”1
We are told in the book of Moses that, “For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth… And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them…” (Moses 3:5) Furthermore, we read in the Doctrine and Covenants, “Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I Am, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made;” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:1-2) Again from the Doctrine and Covenants, “And that it [the earth] might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.” (Doctrine and Covenants 49:17)
In the Saturday morning session of the April General Conference, 2016, Donald L. Hallstrom, of the Presidency of the Seventy, stated,
“Our most fundamental doctrine includes the knowledge that we are children of a living God. That is why one of his most sacred names is father, Heavenly Father…it is among the most extraordinary knowledge we can obtain. A correct understanding of our heavenly heritage is essential to exaltation. It is foundational to comprehending the glorious plan of salvation and to nurturing faith in the firstborn of the Father, Jesus the Christ, and in his merciful atonement.”2
In the Priesthood session of the April General Conference, 2016, Henry B. Eyring, of the First Presidency, stated,
“Before we were born we lived in a family with our exalted and eternal Heavenly Father. He ordained a plan that enables us to advance and progress to become like him…The purpose of the plan was to allow us the privilege of living forever as our Heavenly Father lives. This gospel plan offered us a life of mortality in which we would be tested. A promise was given, that through the atonement of Jesus Christ, if we obey the laws and priesthood ordinances of the Gospel, we would have eternal life, the greatest of all His gifts.”3
The earth was created in order for us to have, “…a life of mortality in which we would be tested…”3 Its creation was one of the key three pillars of eternity. Imagine the thrill we felt when the long-awaited Grand Council was announced. However, in addition to the Council being a thrilling time, it was also a frightening time. We were told that not all of us would pass the test and return to our Heavenly Home. The task ahead was so daunting that one third of our brothers and sisters chose to follow Satan and give up their agency rather than risk not coming through earth life safely. They even chose to follow Satan in being cast out of Heaven in the belief, being convinced by Satan’s rhetoric, that they, with him, could thwart God’s plan and be the ones to return to Heaven to reign under Lucifer’s ultimate triumph.
We are told that we attended that Grand Council in Heaven before the foundation of the world and, at least two thirds of us, the host of heaven, marveled at the great plan of our God (2 Nephi 9:13) and shouted for joy at its prospect. (Job 38:7). Satan, who was from the beginning, at that Council, “…came before… [God], 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.” (Moses 4:1) One can imagine that those evil but alluring words sent a chill down the backs of most of us listening. It would have been hard to comprehend that a brother or sister standing right next to you might have found those words so convincing as to follow his unsettling plan. Then God’s “…Beloved, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me — Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” (Moses 4:2) That plan felt good; it felt right; it was the plan we wanted to follow.
Abraham gave a slightly different, more poetic account of that Grand Council:
“And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever. And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first. And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him” (Abraham 3:24-28).
After Satan’s plan was rejected by the Council, he initiated a War in Heaven in which he drew away one third of Heaven’s host after him. The casting out of Satan and his host is described most poetically in Revelation, “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels… And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth...” This number of Satan’s followers is confirmed in modern revelation, “…the devil…rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency.” (Doctrine and Covenants 29:36)
Apparently, not all the details of the plan were revealed in that first Grand Council. We are told in the book of Moses that, “…Satan…had drawn away many after him…[and that] …he knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world.” (Moses 4:6-19) This scripture suggests that there may have been other meetings of the Council following the War in Heaven and Satan’s expulsion to which he and his minions were not privy.
One such portion of the great plan must have been details of Adam’s role. The scripture just quoted is associated with Satan’s tempting Adam and Even in the Garden – thus Satan may not have been fully aware of Adam and Eve’s key roles in the great plan. In order for Christ’s Atonement to make any sense, Adam’s Fall must also have been discussed in those premortal councils. We must have all agreed to the Fall just as we agreed to the Atonement. Because those councils and those votes were inherently immortal – it would make no difference at all exactly when Adam and Eve were on the earth. There was no “when” in the plan – as that term is strictly a temporal one. The terms “first man” and “first lady” may be applied to Adam and Eve not as temporal statements but as majestic titles. This concept will be discussed in more detail later.
Those of us who followed the Savior’s plan were all foreordained before we came to earth that we would accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, even those who would live and die before the Savior’s lifetime.
“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.” (Romans 8:28-30)
“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:” (Ephesians 1:4)
All of us who hold the priesthood and/or hold specific callings in the Church also were foreordained to those callings before we came to earth.
“And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son …being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works;” (Alma 13:3)
“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.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
“And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.” (Abraham 3:22)
We then watched this grand creation unfold, and even participated in its fruition. (Abraham 3:22-24) Even though we were there as witnesses and participants, we forgot those grand experiences when we came to earth as mortal beings. Some of what we had previously known, but not all, has been revealed from time to time to prophets. As we read in Abraham:
“But the records of the fathers, even the patriarchs, concerning the right of Priesthood, the Lord my God preserved in mine own hands; therefore a knowledge of the beginning of the creation, and also of the planets, and of the stars, as they were made known unto the fathers, have I kept even unto this day, and I shall endeavor to write some of these things upon this record, for the benefit of my posterity that shall come after me.” (Abraham 3:22-24)
But God did not reveal most of the details of the earth’s creation through His prophets. That revelation has come from the hard work of numerous scientists over many years. As Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stated in the April 1989 General Conference, “I believe that many of the great discoveries and achievements in science and the arts have resulted from a God-given revelation. Seekers who have paid the price in perspiration have been magnified by inspiration.”4
One such revelation is that the creation of the earth has proceeded over a very long time. Our ancestors, going back only a couple of hundred years, were very naïve when it came to extremely large numbers. They were only aware that the stars in the sky were innumerable. They were not aware that the Milky Way Galaxy alone has as many as 400 million stars, 5 and that there are that many other galaxies. They were unaware that the human body is made up of as many as 37 trillion cells.6 Most believed that the earth was created only several thousand years ago. They were not aware that the earth began to form around 4.567 billion years ago.7
As we come to grasp these very large numbers, we can better appreciate God, for whom time is irrelevant, meaningless, and the infinite nature of the creation – going all the way back into the timeless premortal life when we existed as intelligences. I worship a God for whom time is irrelevant. “…for all things are present before mine eyes…” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:1-3) It appears that Nephi worshiped the same God, “For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him. For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.” (1 Nephi 10:18-19)
Trent Dee Stephens, PhD
1. Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People, 731 AD; translated by Leo Sherley-Price, Penguin, 1955, 1990, p. 130
2. Hallstrom, Donald L., April General Conference, 2016
3. Eyring, Henry B., April General Conference, 2016
4. Oaks, Dallin H., Alternate Voices, General Conference, April 1989
5. NASA and World Book. nasa.gov. November 29, 2007
7. Gradstein, FM, Ogg, JG, Schmitz, Mark, and Ogg, Gabi, editors, The International Commission on Stratigraphy, ICS's Geologic Time Scale 2012, 118407th edition, Elsevier, 2012