President Howard W. Hunter spoke in the October 1989 general conference about the pre-mortal existence and what the knowledge of that state brings to individuals. He said:
"Part of our reassurance about the free, noble, and progressing spirit of man comes from the glorious realization that we all existed and had our identities, and our agency, long before we came to this world. To some that will be a new thought, but the Bible teaches clearly of just such an eternal view of life, a life stretching back before this world was and stretching forward into the eternities ahead."God said to Jeremiah,
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.' (Jer. 1:5.) At another time God reminded Job thatall the sons of God shouted for joy' before there was yet any man or woman on the earth God was creating. (Job 38:7.) The Apostle Paul taught that God the Father chose us `before the foundation of the world.' " (Eph. 1:4.)
President Hunter said that this happened long before man's mortal birth, in a great pre-mortal existence where individuals developed their identities and increased in their spiritual capabilities by exercising their agency and making important choices. "We developed our intelligence and learned to love the truth, and we prepared to come to earth to continue our progress," he said.
President Hunter explained that the Lord wanted His children's growth to continue in mortality and to be enhanced by their freedom to choose and learn. "He also wanted us to exercise our faith and our will, especially with a new physical body to master and control," he said. "But we know from both ancient and modern revelation that Satan wished to deny us our independence and agency in that now-forgotten moment long ago, even as he wishes to deny them this very hour. Indeed, Satan violently opposed the freedom of choice offered by the Father, so violently that John in Revelation described `war in heaven' (Rev. 12:7) over the matter. Satan would have coerced us, and he would have robbed us of that most precious of gifts if he could: our freedom to choose a divine future and the exaltation we all hope to obtain.
"Through Christ and His valiant defense of our Father's plan, the course of agency and eternal aspirations prevailed. In that crucial, pre-mortal setting, a major milestone was passed, a monumental victory was won. As a result, we would be allowed to continue to pursue what President David O. McKay once described as the
eternal principle of progress.' Later Christ Himself would come to earth, President McKay noted,to perfect society by perfecting the individual, and only by the exercising of Free Agency can the individual even approach perfection.' (In Conference Report, April 1940, p. 118.)
"So we came to our mortality, like Jeremiah, known by God as His literal spirit children, having the privilege to choose our personal path on matters of belief and religious conviction. With Christ's triumph in heaven in overcoming Lucifer, and later His triumph on earth in overcoming the effects of Adam's fall and the death of all mankind,
the children of men' continuefree forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not be acted upon. . . .
" `Wherefore, men are free . . . to choose liberty and eternal life, through
ChristT the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.' " (2 Ne. 2:26-27.)