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Subject: The Mormon Doctrine of Pre-Mortal Existence rss

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It occurs to me that there is a fundamental aspect to Mormon beliefs that is unique to Mormonism within Christianity yet has an enormous effect on how Mormons view the world. Mormons believe in a pre-mortal existence, sometimes called "pre-mortality" or more colloquially and oxymoronically "the pre-existence".

This doctrine is most explicitly stated by the prophet Abraham in Abraham 3:24-25:
Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was ... And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them ...

Abraham continues to relate in Abraham 3:24 and 4:1 how those pre-mortal beings--which is to say, all of us--helped to create the Earth:
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 then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth.

President Joseph F. Smith stated in the Doctrine & Covenants 138:56 that ...
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.

I'm not going to get into a deep exploration of the extent of these beliefs or their ramifications on the Mormon thought. I note that I've only barely mentioned Jesus' role in all this and His willingness to be our savior is a pivotal aspect. However, the gist is that:
1. We--that is all people who have ever lived on Earth--were created in Heaven and dwelled in the presence of God prior to being born on Earth.
2. In that pre-mortal state we participated in the creation of the Earth.
3. We were educated with regard to what mortal life on Earth would be like and the specific challenges we might face as individuals.
4. Being well informed we consciously chose to experience Earth life.
5. As bad as our existence may be on this Earth, there is value in that existence.
6. It's our duty to find the value in our own lives and help others find value in theirs.
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Jeff Brown
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Is there a reason this came to your mind now?
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jeff brown wrote:
Is there a reason this came to your mind now?


My thought when I saw this as well.

I've made the conscious decision to not share particulars of doctrine in a way like this, only as it relates to particular events already being discussed. So while this is one of my favorite parts of doctrine and I would love to join in a discussion of it, context is everything for me. So I am curious as well what brought this up now.
 
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Possibly an irrelevant observation: the auto term "pre-owned," now sometimes used for "used," has never made sense to me.
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Chad Ellis
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This is an element of Mormon theology that I've always found interesting. It definitely recasts the mainstream Christian theology of eternity starting (for humans) with our mortal existence with us as pure creations.

A few questions:

Does Mormon doctrine (or do Mormon scholars/philosophers) have any particular insight as to why pre-existence souls would either choose or be slotted for such radically different experiences? I've always understood the concept to be about experience and growth (please correct me if I'm wrong) and I can see how various life experiences might be what different souls need to experience but I have a harder time seeing the merit of dying in childbirth. Not trying to make this a problem of evil "gotcha" but more like, "OK, what did that accomplish?"

Does Mormonism hold that pre-existence souls know what path they are going to take? That is, to what extent is their mortal experience pre-destined and known -- and what are the thoughts about how those lives are chosen either by or for them (if they are chosen at all vs. the decision being merely to have a mortal life).

Do some souls choose not to have a mortal experience? Do any choose to have more than one?
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Carl Parsons
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If we were well informed ahead of time and chose life then we would know what we were getting into. So, how do you explain why so many people commit suicide?
 
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The timing of the creation of the soul was actually a lively topic in early Christian theology, and the idea that all souls were created at the beginning of creation and embodied later was one of several views that were all considered fully respectable within Christian orthodoxy. Origen argued for it.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origen
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Jeff Brown
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Hope you don't mind a little bit of fisking:
Chad_Ellis wrote:
Does Mormon doctrine (or do Mormon scholars/philosophers) have any particular insight as to why pre-existence souls would either choose or be slotted for such radically different experiences? I've always understood the concept to be about experience and growth (please correct me if I'm wrong) and I can see how various life experiences might be what different souls need to experience but I have a harder time seeing the merit of dying in childbirth. Not trying to make this a problem of evil "gotcha" but more like, "OK, what did that accomplish?"
Experience and growth is one important aspect. Receiving a physical body is another one. We believe that in order to progress to a higher level and become like God we need to receive a physical body. Resurrection will be the reuniting with their physical body permanently, with some upgrades to make them eternal and immortal.

So dying at birth still accomplishes the receiving a physical body. All will be resurrected with the physical body.

There have been some other thoughts that Joseph Smith has mentioned about that as he had several children die at birth but I would have to look that up.
Quote:
Does Mormonism hold that pre-existence souls know what path they are going to take? That is, to what extent is their mortal experience pre-destined and known -- and what are the thoughts about how those lives are chosen either by or for them (if they are chosen at all vs. the decision being merely to have a mortal life).
We believe that some souls are "fore-ordained" for certain jobs (like prophets) but beyond that probably not. I don't think we know what is going to happen to us. We don't get to choose either.

Quote:
Do some souls choose not to have a mortal experience? Do any choose to have more than one?
We believe that those who chose to follow God all chose to have a mortal experience as it is the only way to progress. Those who chose not to have stopped their progression and are the followers of Satan.

You don't get to choose more than one.

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jeff brown wrote:
Is there a reason this came to your mind now?


I asked.

So we chose to live on Earth in order to grow and experience and get a physical body?

What if we had not chosen that? What would we have?
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batman wrote:
If we were well informed ahead of time and chose life then we would know what we were getting into. So, how do you explain why so many people commit suicide?


We don't remember anything before our birth. We call it the veil.
 
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Chad Ellis
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On a separate note, with SLaG no longer here, I'm not sure of the protocol. Who is supposed to say, "magic underwear," you or me?
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jeff brown wrote:
Is there a reason this came to your mind now?

Mainly this:
https://boardgamegeek.com/article/26956194#26956194

But I also find that I want a link like this to refer to whenever those "problem of evil" threads pop up. In my understanding this type of argument has been a historically common response to the issue of theodicy ever since Joseph Smith introduced this doctrine.
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bowen wrote:
The timing of the creation of the soul was actually a lively topic in early Christian theology, and the idea that all souls were created at the beginning of creation and embodied later was one of several views that were all considered fully respectable within Christian orthodoxy. Origen argued for it.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origen


It is our belief that there are a lot of doctrines that were fully a part of early Christian theology but were lost or changed later.

That's why we believe that there was a restoration of the original gospel that needed to be performed.
 
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jeff brown wrote:
batman wrote:
If we were well informed ahead of time and chose life then we would know what we were getting into. So, how do you explain why so many people commit suicide?


We don't remember anything before our birth. We call it the veil.


I'm not sure how that answers the question. The idea is that before we come to earth we are fully cognizant of what life would be like. Wouldn't we then know if life would be too difficult for us to handle? With the knowledge that life is so miserable we will be ending it prematurely, why would we come here at all?
 
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batman wrote:
jeff brown wrote:
batman wrote:
If we were well informed ahead of time and chose life then we would know what we were getting into. So, how do you explain why so many people commit suicide?


We don't remember anything before our birth. We call it the veil.


I'm not sure how that answers the question. The idea is that before we come to earth we are fully cognizant of what life would be like. Wouldn't we then know if life would be too difficult for us to handle? With the knowledge that life is so miserable we will be ending it prematurely, why would we come here at all?

Honestly I'm not sure how fully cognizant of what life would be like we were. We were told things would be difficult and that we would be tested but I'm not sure it would have been possible to really understand especially since we didn't have a physical body at the time which is the window with which we experience the world.

I think we were well informed as Rayito mentioned but I don't think we could really possibly know the full ramifications of what it means to be here without actually coming and receiving a physical body.
 
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I'm always curious on such things whether your average everyday Mormon really believes this stuff, or if it's just something they acknowledge as part of their lore.
 
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EMBison wrote:
I'm always curious on such things whether your average everyday Mormon really believes this stuff, or if it's just something they acknowledge as part of their lore.


I guess it depends on what you mean by average everyday Mormon.

If that means Mormons who actively attend church each week, I would say most believe it.
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Chad_Ellis wrote:
On a separate note, with SLaG no longer here, I'm not sure of the protocol. Who is supposed to say, "magic underwear," you or me?


You could say "temple garment".

I had a morman client who I gave chair massage to for a couple years (til he moved). He would remove his dress shirt but keep his temple garment on.

To me, wearing the temple garment sits about the same place as not shaving, or not wearing bright clothing, or wearing clothing that covers as much of the body as possible. I suppose the burka is pretty close too. "one of those odd religious beliefs".

Most mormon's I've known fell into the "friendly religious person" category. I never had to deal with missionaries but boy they looked hot riding bikes in the summer heat in formal wear (plus temple garment underneath!).

Here's a wiki on the outfit and it's history.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_garment

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rayito2702 wrote:
jeff brown wrote:
Is there a reason this came to your mind now?

Mainly this:
https://boardgamegeek.com/article/26956194#26956194

But I also find that I want a link like this to refer to whenever those "problem of evil" threads pop up. In my understanding this type of argument has been a historically common response to the issue of theodicy ever since Joseph Smith introduced this doctrine.


Makes sense. That seems to be the instances when I bring up pre-mortal existence as well. Just was wondering when and where it was needed.
 
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Chad_Ellis wrote:
This is an element of Mormon theology that I've always found interesting. It definitely recasts the mainstream Christian theology of eternity starting (for humans) with our mortal existence with us as pure creations.

A few questions:

Does Mormon doctrine (or do Mormon scholars/philosophers) have any particular insight as to why pre-existence souls would either choose or be slotted for such radically different experiences? I've always understood the concept to be about experience and growth (please correct me if I'm wrong) and I can see how various life experiences might be what different souls need to experience but I have a harder time seeing the merit of dying in childbirth. Not trying to make this a problem of evil "gotcha" but more like, "OK, what did that accomplish?"

Does Mormonism hold that pre-existence souls know what path they are going to take? That is, to what extent is their mortal experience pre-destined and known -- and what are the thoughts about how those lives are chosen either by or for them (if they are chosen at all vs. the decision being merely to have a mortal life).

Do some souls choose not to have a mortal experience? Do any choose to have more than one?


These questions are precisely why I love this doctrine. For me, the answers show such beauty in how God cares for each of us.

So we lived before we came here, learned the plan, etc etc etc. But in that process, we each also developed somewhat as individuals. Otherwise, why would some accept the plan and others reject it? So not everyone was the same.

So now here we are on earth. And not every circumstance is the same. And that's because not each of us came to earth needing the same lessons. So one person gets put on earth in a family that is poor because the lessons they need to learn to refine themselves are about how to be loving when faced with scarcity. Others are born into opulence where they need to learn to be loving when faced with enough wealth to be able to disregard so many others. Those who are born into the LDS faith will need different lessons than those who are born outside the faith... and so on and so on. For me, it all comes down to this:

Ether 12:27 wrote:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.


So we are put in positions in life where we can face different adversities. But those adversities are for the good of "completing the process," so to speak, of smoothing off the rough edges of our souls that came into being before we got here on earth. And since each of us developed different rough edges... different trials.

 
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jeff brown wrote:
EMBison wrote:
I'm always curious on such things whether your average everyday Mormon really believes this stuff, or if it's just something they acknowledge as part of their lore.


I guess it depends on what you mean by average everyday Mormon.

If that means Mormons who actively attend church each week, I would say most believe it.


Pretty much this. The LDS church is fairly unique from other churches in that it has a very "corporate" feel to it. So the same doctrine is taught in each church. You will get the doctrine taught in Virginia that gets taught in Utah that gets taught in Mongolia that gets taught in Brazil. And since so much of the faith is based on the revelation of living prophets, it gets really difficult to reject different portions of the teachings without rejecting the concept of revelation and prophets. Once you start rejecting those... it's not really all that far from straight-up apostasy.
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GameCrossing wrote:
jeff brown wrote:
EMBison wrote:
I'm always curious on such things whether your average everyday Mormon really believes this stuff, or if it's just something they acknowledge as part of their lore.


I guess it depends on what you mean by average everyday Mormon.

If that means Mormons who actively attend church each week, I would say most believe it.


Pretty much this. The LDS church is fairly unique from other churches in that it has a very "corporate" feel to it. So the same doctrine is taught in each church. You will get the doctrine taught in Virginia that gets taught in Utah that gets taught in Mongolia that gets taught in Brazil. And since so much of the faith is based on the revelation of living prophets, it gets really difficult to reject different portions of the teachings without rejecting the concept of revelation and prophets. Once you start rejecting those... it's not really all that far from straight-up apostasy.


I think that's a feature of size and age. I imagine the mormon church in 1,000 years would look like other 1,000 year old faiths.
 
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I'm still confused as to why we needed to come to Earth to learn these lessons.
 
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maxo-texas wrote:
GameCrossing wrote:
jeff brown wrote:
EMBison wrote:
I'm always curious on such things whether your average everyday Mormon really believes this stuff, or if it's just something they acknowledge as part of their lore.


I guess it depends on what you mean by average everyday Mormon.

If that means Mormons who actively attend church each week, I would say most believe it.


Pretty much this. The LDS church is fairly unique from other churches in that it has a very "corporate" feel to it. So the same doctrine is taught in each church. You will get the doctrine taught in Virginia that gets taught in Utah that gets taught in Mongolia that gets taught in Brazil. And since so much of the faith is based on the revelation of living prophets, it gets really difficult to reject different portions of the teachings without rejecting the concept of revelation and prophets. Once you start rejecting those... it's not really all that far from straight-up apostasy.


I think that's a feature of size and age. I imagine the mormon church in 1,000 years would look like other 1,000 year old faiths.


Depends on whether there really is or isn't revelation going on. If not, I would agree. If there is revelation happening that isn't with other faiths, then I would say otherwise.
 
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quozl wrote:
I'm still confused as to why we needed to come to Earth to learn these lessons.


"Love one another as I have loved you."

A fine commandment.

Now, we are in the presence of God. There is no adversity. How do we learn to love?

Conversely, my daughter tells me today that she will never ever love me again simply because I tied a double knot in her shoes so they don't come undone at school. And the house is a mess. And I chose poorly last night and stayed up until 3am watching a documentary so I'm exhausted. But I still have to learn to love.

A parent loses a child to a drunk driver. And that parent needs to learn to love.

There is depth of experience that comes through adversity. But if we stayed in God's presence, we would miss that depth.
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