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Who are the “noble and great ones” mentioned in Abraham 3:22?

Who are the “noble and great ones” mentioned in Abraham 3:22? The answer to that question can be found in Doctrine and Covenants 138:54-55:

“Including the building of the temples and the performance of ordinances therein for the redemption of the dead, were also in the spirit world. I observed that they were also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God.”

So, according to the revelation received by President Joseph F. Smith in 1918, now section 138, the noble and great ones are those who have helped build the temples and who have performed vicarious ordinances in the temples for the dead.

Then, we are taught in Abraham 3:23-24, “…God…stood in the midst of them [us], and he said: These I will make my rulers…” And Abraham was among that number. So was Christ; “…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;…” Adam was there too and he helped create the earth.

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith taught in his book Doctrines of Salvation, (1:74–75, 1954): “It is true that Adam helped to form this earth. He labored with our Savior Jesus Christ. I have a strong view or conviction that there were others also who assisted them. Perhaps Noah and Enoch; and why not Joseph Smith, and those who were appointed to be rulers before the earth was formed?

In the cited pages in Doctrines of Salvation (1:74–75), Elder Smith also castigated “evolutionists.” He said,

“EVOLUTIONISTS RIDICULE GOD AND RELIGION. Now, my good brethren and sisters, this damnable doctrine that is so prevalent in the world today, that is taught in the colleges throughout our country, and has swept over the face of the earth like a destructive flood of evil, is striking at the fundamentals of your faith -- that is the doctrine so circulated ridiculing the Son of God, making light of his Father as a cruel monster (I was going to say inhuman but I cannot say that) because he would permit his Son to suffer for you and for me.”

I agree that many evolutionary biologists have brought religion into their discussions of science and have claimed that the theory of evolution negates the need for Adam, or the fall, or the atonement. I disagree with them. I also agree with Elder Smith that such doctrine, inappropriately taught by many evolutionary biologists is “a destructive flood of evil… striking at the fundamentals of your faith…” However, the theory of evolution is not the flood of evil, but the rhetoric of those who interpret it to ridicule God and religion. I address these and many other such issues in my book, The Infinite Creation (Cedar Fort, 2020).

Back to the subject at hand: Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated that the noble and great ones in the pre-existence included faithful women,

“This we know: Christ, under the Father, is the Creator; Michael, His companion and associate, presided over much of the creative work; and with them, as Abraham saw, were many of the noble and great ones. Can we do other than conclude that Mary and Eve and Sarah and myriads of our faithful sisters were numbered among them? Certainly these sisters labored as diligently then, and fought as valiantly in the war in heaven, as did the brethren, even as they in like manner stand firm today, in mortality, in the cause of truth and righteousness” (Kimball, Spencer W., Woman, p. 59, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1979)

Speaking at the 1998 General Women’s Conference, Carol B. Thomas, First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency stated,

“Abraham said, ‘Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these … were many of the noble and great ones.’ Do you know that he was talking about you? You are each noble and great, born to live at this time on the earth.” (Understanding Our True Identity, Ensign, May 1998)

In his 1998 book, Perfection Pending, then Apostle Russell M. Nelson stated,

“If my fondest wish could be granted, it would be that we could know who we really are, and that we know we come from premortal realms where we were numbered ‘among the noble and great ones’ who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God.”

We know, then that as noble and great premortal spirits, we were called by our elder brother Jesus Christ to assist him and Adam in creating the world. What were we doing when they were making the earth and all things on the face thereof? What was our role in the creation? We are not told, either in the scriptures or by science. In my book, The Infinite Creation (Cedar Fort, 2020) I propose many possible activities in which we may have been involved as part of the creation.

Trent Dee Stephens, PhD

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