The apostle Peter told his generation of Saints that they were a chosen generation. There are three ways of looking at this – that they were fortunate to live at a time when there were living apostles leading the Church and the Church of Jesus Christ was spreading throughout the known world; that because they lived worthily, God had chosen them for salvation; or that they had been fore-ordained by God to live during that period in that location so they could participate in the establishment of Christ’s Church. Mormons would say that all three are true.
The Early Saints Were Fore-Ordained and Fortunate
Scripture and modern prophets have taught us that we were created spiritually before we were created physically on the earth. This applies to all living things and is alluded to in Genesis, but again when a war in heaven and the fall of Lucifer are spoken of. Mormons, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the Mormon Church, understand that God is the literal Father of our spirits, and that we lived with Him before we were born on earth. Fore-ordination was an important aspect of our premortal existence. Fore-ordination is the ordination to perform certain tasks during mortality, if we agree. This is different than predestination, which incorporates no aspect of free choice. Many choice spirits have been foreordained to help with the Lord’s work on earth, including all the prophets and many great leaders and innovators.
This idea is expressed plainly in the Book of Abraham, part of the Pearl of Great Price in Mormon scripture:
Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born (Abraham 3:22, 23).
Jude 1:6 also talks about premortal existence, which is also called our “first estate.” “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” Jude refers to Satan and his angels, who were cast out of the premortal world and will become sons of perdition at the end of the earth, to be cast into Outer Darkness, or Hell.
The Trial of our Faith
In 1 Peter 1:7 Peter refers to the “trial of our faith” and how it leads to salvation. The trial of our faith is to see if we will remain faithful through our afflictions. Mormons call this “enduring to the end,” and along with ongoing, sincere repentance, see it as a good part of our necessary works on the earth. If we fail the trial of our faith, it doesn’t mean that we will go to “hell,” but that our glory in heaven will be less. Those who truly endure to the end will dwell in the very presence of God for eternity, receiving a fullness of His glory. Mormons call this “exaltation.”
In verse 14 Peter tells us to be “obedient children.” Obedience, if enacted in faith, leads us to the spiritual experiences in which God reveals Himself to us. If done right, not because we are blind, but because we see, obedience brings rich blessings.
In verse 20 Peter refers to Christ’s own foreordination as the Savior of this world, “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you….” Christ was chosen and ordained to be our Savior before the world was created, and we all agreed to support, sustain, and uphold Him in that role. Those who refused became Satan and his angels and were cast out of heaven.
A Royal Priesthood
1 Peter 2:5, 9 are a few of many scriptures in which the early saints are called a “royal priesthood.” Many Christians believe that Christ was the final high priest, but early worthy men held the priesthoods of Aaron and Melchizedek. The “priesthood” is the power and authority to act in the name of Christ and is always found on the earth when there are worthy followers, whether before or after Christ’s ministry on earth.
Spirits in Prison
In 1 Peter 3:19 Peter talks about how Christ preached to the “spirits in prison.” Mormons have some special insights into this verse. When we die, and before resurrection, we dwell as spirits in either Spirit Paradise or Spirit Prison. Late Mormon Prophet Joseph F. Smith experienced a glorious vision of the preaching to the spirits in prison when he was pondering upon these verses in 1 Peter.
On the third of October, in the year nineteen hundred and eighteen, I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures; And reflecting upon the great atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God, for the redemption of the world;. . .
As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great (Doctrine and Covenants 138:1, 2, 11).
President Smith saw that Christ greeted, praised, and preached to the righteous in Paradise, but not the wicked in Spirit Prison. He saw that the Savior called missionaries, many of them the faithful prophets of old, to teach and preach in Spirit Prison. To read the full account of the vision, go here.
In 1 Peter 4:6, Peter again speaks of the gospel being preached to the dead: “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” This is why Mormons perform ordinances, such as baptism for the dead, so that those who accept the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Spirit World might lay hold of those ordinances and receive exaltation. As Paul said, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:29).
Calling and Election
In 2 Peter 1:10, 11 Peter urges the early Saints to make their “calling and election sure”:
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.
This means to receive the promise from God that you will be exalted to the highest kingdom of heaven and dwell in His presence forever. This promise may be attained to in this life, if a person is found to be faithful in all circumstances. In verses 19-21 Peter says he and the other apostles have the “more sure word of prophecy.” This means they have seen the Christ and have a sure knowledge (which transcends faith) that He is our Creator and Savior.
Mormon Doctrine – More Knowledge
Scriptures in addition to the Bible, and the revelations of modern prophets help Mormons understand messages conveyed in only a verse or two of the Bible. This is the main role of the Book of Mormon and modern revelation, to uphold and clarify doctrine barely touched in the Bible. The Lord wants us to understand and to have His gospel in its fullness.