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Pre-Mortal Life—Mortal Life – What Gives?

Don - May 29, 2010

Just a quick question. How much does/did the pre-mortal existence influence who we are, where we are, and what we are doing?


  1. I vote for nearly everything. Otherwise it would be random.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — May 29, 2010 @ 4:04 pm

  2. 66.6%

    Comment by Bret — May 29, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

  3. Eric, It would seem to me if it was everything then this mortal life is for getting a mortal body – all the rest is then predestined?

    Comment by Don — May 29, 2010 @ 5:59 pm

  4. Bret, Is that “new” math, an average or…..?

    Comment by Don — May 29, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

  5. The correct answer is: not at all.

    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.

    1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
    2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
    3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

    Comment by MCQ — May 29, 2010 @ 7:28 pm

  6. I believe the pre-mortal existence extensively influenced the circumstances of our mortality, although I don’t think the quality of our pre-mortal life can be linked to our mortal circumstances. Being born in Katmandu doesn’t mean you were a bad boy on Kolob.

    From the testimonies of numerous Latter-day Saints as recorded in references like Duane Crowther’s “Life Everlasting”, we find that we were given considerable input into our mortal mission. We decided what challenges we wanted to meet, what missions we wanted to fulfill, and how fast we wanted to progress. From this, we were then offered a particular set of circumstances which would best fit the desired profile. Many were allowed to choose their parents and best friends. The “great and noble ones” were offered dispensational missions designed to change the world; they became prophets and major political leaders.

    Some people, in order to advance faster during mortality, even chose major disabilities to contend with. “Life Everlasting” gives the account of an individual named DeLynn, who found out that he chose Cystic Fibrosis as his major life challenge while he was still in heaven.

    Comment by Jack Mormon — May 29, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

  7. Sorry, Jack, but I don’t believe one word of that.

    Comment by MCQ — May 29, 2010 @ 9:39 pm

  8. This is a good question, Don. I think the pre-existence has to have some effect on who we are. It’s hard to believe that this life holds significant weight towards our afterlife condition, but that our pre-existence holds none.

    I tend to think that perhaps progress is continuous. From pre-existence into this life and into the next. The question is how that progress is maintained. I think possibly that those who were more valiant in the pre-existence are closer to their conscience in this life. Or, in other words, the light of Christ is greater within them.

    Comment by Eric Russell — May 30, 2010 @ 9:11 am

  9. “I’ve seen that face before” “I’ve seen that smile before”


    I’ve actually thought of it in the opposite direction. I always figured God knew I wasn’t terribly valiant and knew the only way I’d believe the Gospel was if I was born into it. I don’t have the faith to be a convert:)

    Comment by Bret — May 30, 2010 @ 10:22 am

  10. Bret, I’m not saying we didn’t know each other in the pre-existence. I’m not saying that God didn’t have some reasons for putting us into the situations he did. I do believe what Eric seems to be saying, i.e. that we have been progressing since before we were born. I’m certain that we bring with us into this life the skills and knowledge that we learned as spirits.

    But there’s a danger here when we talk about the things we get from the pre-existence. We shouldn’t act as though anyone deserves their bad situation or their good one because of relative “valiance” or other qualities exhibited there. That’s a trap that destroys hope and charity.

    Mostly, we just don’t know much about what we experienced in the pre-existence, and it seems to me that that’s part of the plan.

    Comment by MCQ — May 30, 2010 @ 10:46 am

  11. BTW, it’s great when people from wonderful LDS families say that they believe they chose their families in the pre-existence, but what about people from abusive families? Or non-existent families? Did they choose too? Or did they not get a choice because they were not so noble, great, or valiant? We need to think about the effect that these folk doctrines have on others. If they are hurtful, then maybe we shouldn’t be so sure about them just because they appeared in Saturday’s Warrior. Maybe that play is just fiction that somebody made up. Maybe it’s not doctrine. Maybe it’s not true.

    Comment by MCQ — May 30, 2010 @ 10:53 am

  12. I’m with MCQ on this one. Speculation about pre-mortal valiance is base on what? – a few verses in the Book of Abraham? What we really know is two steps away from nothing about our time before we came to earth. Unless we want to become Calvinists, lets look at what the whole body of scripture says about it – and stay away from the proof-texting.

    Comment by CJ Douglass — May 30, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

  13. I am not saying that mortal placement is easy. I am sure it is much more complicated than simple valiance. But it is either random, or based on something. If it is not random, then what else would it be based on? And just because the idea might be exaggerated, or used to justify bad stuff, does not mean there can not be something to it.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — May 30, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

  14. I vote for mostly random. Of course, we have all been foreordained to do certain things. Some, like Joseph Smith, were foreordained to do things that required them to be born in a certain time and place, but other than things required for our paricular foreordinations, the time and place and way we come into the world may be just as random as the time, place and way we leave it.

    Comment by MCQ — May 30, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

  15. Meh. Who knows, who cares. Though I’m not really clear what the advantage is to believing the Saturday’s Warrior model. Does it give you extra hope that you would otherwise not have? Does it help you to make more righteous decisions?

    Comment by Rusty — May 30, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

  16. I don’t believe in “mostly random,” and I don’t believe in Saturday’s Warrior either. There is some scale, some weight & measure, of traits, talents, and yes, maybe valiance, that determined where and when we are. It might just boil down to the results of a PPI.

    Comment by David — May 30, 2010 @ 9:32 pm

  17. Like a job interview for mortality!

    Comment by MCQ — May 30, 2010 @ 10:37 pm

  18. I’m with McQ, also. That always rankles me. Because it looks like God has favorites. And I wasn’t one of them.

    Comment by annegb — May 31, 2010 @ 9:28 am

  19. As a single person, the Saturday’s Warrior model only makes me so very depressed.

    Comment by Bret — May 31, 2010 @ 11:33 am

  20. My patriarchal blessing says that I was close to Heavenly Father before mortality. He acknowledges the prayers I offered up before coming here, but he grants only one particular one. It also says I chose the time and place of my birth for a specific reason and it gives that reason. That reason is related to a particular responsibility Heavenly Father has given me in mortality. It also tells me that I knew and reacted with people in the pre-mortal life that I also know and will know here.

    So I’d have to say, at least in my case, mortality is a continuation of part of the life we knew in the premortal realm, only I’m an amnesiac in a blindfold.

    Comment by Ingrid — May 31, 2010 @ 4:11 pm

  21. The actual correct answer is: “we believe that [God] will yet breveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” but He hasn’t answered this one yet…

    However I like the question. The way we individually answer this question reveals a lot about the lens through which we see the universe. It taps into our deepest philosophical assumptions.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 31, 2010 @ 11:38 pm

  22. I have to disagree with you MCQ when you say that believing we had some choice as to our mortal circumstances destroys hope and charity. I don’t see it that way at all. I think I probably chose the family I was born into, and it’s not an easy family to be part of. I at least think I had the opportunity to refuse it, and didn’t.

    My PB says I helped many who were undecided in the pre-existence to choose earth life and that part of my purpose in life is to help those who have been caused to suffer by others’ actions. I think being born into the family I was is all part of that. It certainly helped me become a person who would be able to be sympathetic to others who have been abused.

    What I wonder about as far as the pre-existence goes is how much of who we are in this life is who we really are. So much of who we are is shaped by genetics and our life experiences.

    Comment by Susan M — June 2, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

  23. Susan, the thing I was talking about that destroys hope and charity is the idea that those of us that are born in poor or difficult circumstances are born in such circumstances because we screwed up in the the pre-existence.

    A doctrine like that destroys hope because if we screwed up before we were born and can’t even remember it, then we have no hope of doing anything about it. It destroys charity because it says to those born into good circumstances that they deserve those good circumstances and others deserve ther poor circumstances so there’s no reason to be charitable to anyone else. In other words, “There but for the grace of God go I” does not apply. We earned what we got.

    That is the doctrine I’m disagreeing with.

    What you are talking about is foreordination. Like Joseph Smith, you were foreordained to accomplish a certain calling and like him, you were born into the circumstances that would help you accomplish your calling. I have no problem with that. It sounds right to me.

    Comment by MCQ — June 2, 2010 @ 3:13 pm

  24. Oh OK. I see it as empowering, that we might have chosen the circumstances we were born into. I don’t think we earned them though. But I tend to think we agreed to be associated with people we knew in the pre-existence, if that makes sense.

    I like to compare our earthly existence to our sight. We can see straight ahead and if we concentrate, we can see stuff in our peripheral vision. But there’s all that stuff behind us we can’t see. Just like how we can’t remember the pre-existence.

    Comment by Susan M — June 2, 2010 @ 3:50 pm

  25. I like that, Susan!

    Comment by MCQ — June 2, 2010 @ 4:56 pm

  26. Yeah, MCQ and I had a fight about this a while ago at Mormon Mentality (see here). MCQ, let me preface the rest of my comment by saying that I am totally on board when you say this:

    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.

    Comment by Orwell — June 4, 2010 @ 10:46 am

  27. Geez, Orwell, I hope you haven’t been stewing about that all this time, I barely remember it. Sorry if I was a jerk. I do have a tendency to be sometimes.

    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.

    Comment by MCQ — June 4, 2010 @ 5:35 pm

  28. BTW, Orwell, I’m going to officially disagree with two things you said:

    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. ;-)

    Comment by MCQ — June 4, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

  29. Nah, I haven’t been stewing over it, but I know exactly why I remember it so well. It’s because that was my second post ever as a perma and it was the first time I ever had even a minor controversy on one of my threads.

    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.

    Comment by Orwell — June 5, 2010 @ 11:58 am

  30. You can still find $2 hookers??

    Comment by David T. — June 5, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

  31. It must be one of the advantages he earned in the pre-existence.

    Comment by Orwell — June 5, 2010 @ 12:35 pm

  32. You were probably a fence-sitter on the prostitution thing, David T.

    Comment by Orwell — June 5, 2010 @ 12:36 pm

  33. No, I was just worried how they made ends meet.

    Comment by David T. — June 5, 2010 @ 12:45 pm

  34. I’m sure we can come up with a few folk doctrines to explain it.

    Comment by Orwell — June 5, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

  35. LOL! Niblet!

    Comment by MCQ — June 5, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

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