Re: the “pernicious lies” that this idea is often used to prop up, I am totally on your side, and my attitude isn’t “meh.”
As for the actual idea itself, I honestly don’t care that much because these things are entirely unknowable, ultimately. I probably gave the impression that I cared more than I did on that MM thread, but that had more to do with the fact that I thought we were talking about different things (and I was frustrated over our inability to agree that we really didn’t have anything to argue about) than any emotional investment in the concept.]]>
1. There’s no way that your attitude toward this is “meh.” Nor should it be.
2. We did not have a “fight.” More like a frank exchange of views between friends.]]>
I guess I’m just irritated by the ideas that people have (and still do, to a lesser extent) used this doctrine to support. Those are some bad attitudes and scary ideas. I think it was used wrongly for a long time in order to keep people down and to justify some terrible things. I don’t like it for those reasons, and I don’t like thinking that anyone starts out their life with a premortal strike against them (or in their favor, for that matter) and that others might use that thought to make them feel badly or to make themselves feel superior.
The idea that we come here with labels already attached like “noble and great” or “fence-sitter” or something in between seems very, very wrong to me. I like thinking that we all made the cut to get here, so we’re all noble and great and we’re all born with some advantages and some disadvantages and that some of those things are just more obvious to our mortal eyes than others.
Obviously, I approach this whole idea differently than some. Maybe I bring more baggage to it than is appropriate. To me though, the baggage and the danger is still hanging all over it, like a prom dress on a $2 hooker with a stiletto in her purse: no matter how you dress it up and try to pass it off, it’s going to make for a very bad night.]]>
It’s a pernicious lie that some people are born into poverty or slavery or other awful situations because they were “less valiant” in the pre-existence. That lie has been used by otherwise good people to justify everything from slavery to the priesthood ban to poverty. It’s a way of saying that people deserve the situation they are born into. If you were born into wealth or other advantages it was because you were one of the noble and great ones and if you were born with AIDS in Rwanda, well you must have been a real coward in the war in heaven. It’s total BS.
That said, I just cannot logically dismiss the possibility that the pre-existence does, to some degree, affect this life. I said this over there, which pretty much sums up why:
First and foremost, [in the pre-existence] there was a distinction made between followers of Satan and followers of Christ. We all know that the former did not end up with bodies, so there is at least one documented advantage that we can ascribe to “worthiness.” Besides, given LDS theology’s rejection of polarized, binary eternal destinations after death, why should life after birth be any different? Come to that, if we are so comfortable — zealously so — with the idea that righteousness in this life affects our place in the eternities, why should the idea that pre-mortal faithfulness gives us a better start here [whatever that even means] be so controversial?
I suppose a large part of the problem lies in how one classifies an advantage or disadvantage. There are all kinds of offensive ways to do this — plenty of which, most unfortunately, have been used in the Church over the years, usually to make people feel better about themselves by attributing unknowable sins to others — I need not enumerate these. [...]
[...P]erhaps the heart of the problem is that the Lord’s ways are mysterious and he doubtless administers everything on a case-by-case basis — and we simply cannot always fathom his reasons. An advantage to one looks like a curse to another. We all know that you do not necessarily have to be righteous to find good fortune nor transgress to find the opposite: “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” I do not think the Savior meant “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents… in this life, anyway.”
My point is that we just never know. Who are we to speculate about whose trials are deserved because they might have stolen our spiritual lunch money and who gets a summer home because they never ran with pre-embodied scissors? So why give ourselves airs for being so pre-mortally righteous when we may have just been given all of our blessings (whatever form they may take) to make sure that we do a good and thorough job of condemning ourselves so that we can’t argue with the sentence handed down on judgment day.
And from a later comment:
First, there is plenty of evidence to support different levels of progress or faithfulness (or whatever you want to call it) in the pre-existence: Most conspicuously, Christ is at the top and Satan is at the bottom. Unless you believe that everyone that went with Christ was as great or worthy as he was, and everyone that followed Satan was as bad, you have to acknowledge a gradation of some sort.
In addition, a few of the in-betweeners are mentioned (though they are, admittedly, on the high end), like Michael (who was permitted to help form the Earth), the “noble and great ones,” and those that were “chosen” for whatever it is that God chose them for.
These gradations are reflected in mortality: Christ was to be the Savior. Michael became Adam, the first man. Abraham, a prophet, was told by God that he was one of the “noble and great ones.” These do appear to correlate with what we know about their relative “status” (for lack of a better word) in the pre-existence. “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.”
Obviously, not all of us are cut out to do these jobs – not everyone could be the Savior. The Lord, in his wisdom, had to place all of these people in a situation that would be suitable for them to accomplish their mission, we have been using the word “advantages,” but you can call them whatever you like. Follow this to the logical conclusion, and it is reasonable to suggest that everyone is put here with whatever “advantages” they need to do whatever it is they are supposed to do.
I don’t think any of these points proves anything, I’m just throwing them out there for the sake of argument (which is all I was doing there). In addition, I’ll be the first to admit that, even if this is true, there is no way of knowing exactly how any degree of worthiness or unworthiness in a previous life is made manifest here. You can pretty much interpret anyone’s life situation as being a reward or punishment (e.g. He is poor because he is less worthy / He is poor because he is more worthy — ridiculous, the both of them).
So, I agree 100% that speculation and teachings like those mentioned in comment #5 have got to be stamped out. I don’t believe for a second that they are correct. I have no problem with never teaching this idea at all solely to avoid these kinds of pernicious lies. And, for what it’s worth, I don’t agree with any of the stuff Jack Mormon is talking about in #6.
However, logically speaking, I cannot completely dismiss an effect of some kind. Perhaps in the next life we will see how the pre-existence did affect us here and it will be in ways — unique to each individual — that we never would have supposed.
Mostly I’ve got to side with Rusty’s #15: “Meh. Who knows, who cares.”
Anyway, MCQ, I like you and all, but I never understood why that post rankled you so much. Still don’t. I mean, I even cited the same scripture that you do in #5 for pretty much the same reason.]]>