Posted by: Jay | May 3, 2007

Preexistence of our spirits?

I don’t know how many churches support the idea of preexistence, but the idea is pretty important in the LDS Church. I’m curious to know what other think about the biblical references to a pre-mortal existence. Here are a few scriptures to ponder. (I have quoted the verses in whole for convenience. They are taken from the KJV.)

“These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,
And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.” – Genesis 2:4-5

“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” – Ecclesiastes 12:7

How do you return to somewhere you have never been? If we never lived with God before wouldn’t it be more correct to say, “go unto God who gave it.”

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.” – Jeremiah 1:5

Doesn’t this imply that God knew each of us before we were born?

“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.” – Acts 17:28-29

This scripture clearly states that we, you and I, are literal offspring of God. We are the offspring of mortal parents. God is the father of our spirit, right?

“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” – Revelations 12:7-9

Now this is very interesting because it talks about angels fighting each other. Some of the angels followed Satan and fought against Michael. Surely, this is proof of preexistence. This event obviously happened before the earth was formed because Satan was cast down to earth with his angels.

“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 1:6

What is the meaning of “first estate”? LDS scholars interpret it as a reference to the preexistence. The preexistence was our first estate those that kept it came to earth to receive bodies. Those that didn’t came to earth without bodies (i.e. Satan and his angels).

“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” – Ephesians 1:4-5

Also if there is not a belief in orthodox Christianity of life before mortal birth, then why are Christians generally opposed to abortion? Is it strictly a matter of ethics for them?

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Responses

  1. There’s basically two views in classic Christianity.

    1) God creates souls and gives them bodies when an embryo is formed (this view obviously falls somewhat in line with LDS pre-existence).
    2) Souls are created in the same way and at the same time physical bodies are created. Just as we take on part of our parents physical traits, we also take on some of their character an personality (separated twins are often very similar)

    Neither view is discussed all that much because it’s not generally all that important to us (Protestants at least).

    Most of the verses you mentioned have more to do with debate concerning pre-destination in Protestant cirlces.

    If God cast Satan down to earth before he created the earth, how did he cast him down to earth? It wouldn’t have been created yet.

  2. I have often had feelings and thoughts about having come from God’s presence… and knowing I existed prior to coming here. That was one of the many things that while talking to the Sister Missionaries I would feel the Spirit testify to. So many things that I KNEW but didn’t realize anyone else KNEW.

    Many times I would think it was just pride talking thinking I knew things others didn’t seem to know. So I would try to push those thoughts away. But something in me just knew and I couldn’t push those thoughts away as it felt like I was pushing God away when I tried to do that.

    One biggy was Baptism for the Dead. I was always taught in other churches that the subject was resurrection, not baptism, but that Paul was just using that to show resurrection was a true principle. Or that he was just being sarcastic…

    One day it hit me like a ton of bricks… You can’t prove a true principle by citing a false one. It would be like saying, Gee, the pagans baptize the dead, therefore the dead rise. Well, how does that prove anything if you don’t believe what the pagans do?

    And he is sooo serious when he says it. He combines it with ‘and why do we stand in jeapardy every hour.’

    That was another Holy Spirit moment. I came to realize that while I didn’t understand what baptism for the dead was, it was a true principle and the churches should be practising it.

    I was totally blown away when the Sisters told me the Church practised it and explained what it was. What an amazingly loving link between the generations. The Spirit of Elijah welding the generations together. So they without us could not be made perfect and we without them could not be made perfect. And what a selfless and loving thing to do for those who coudln’t have the ordinances in their own lives.

    And for those non-LDS, we perform the ordinance by proxy, but it is up to them to accept the gospel just as with anyone.

  3. greetings and salutations

    typically, protestants view the bulk of the verses you quoted as having to do with god’s foreknowledge, in that he knew us before he created us.

    as for *returning to god* well, yeah, he created us. he gave us our spirit. but the verse itself doesn’t detail a preexisting consciousness (ie, god could create the spirit and place it in the body all at the same time)

    not sure why you included the verses about plant life, which verses explain god’s reason for holding back, nor do i understand you inclusion of the verses dealing with angels.

    you say that humans came to earth to receive bodies and the devil and his angels did not, yet in the verse you quote it is the devil and his angels who leave their first estate.

    in any case, there is no mention of humanity in this verse. there is only mention of angels.

    can we extrapolate from that into humanity? of course. but you must admit it to be speculation rather than proof.

    as to abortion, yes, i believe the embryo has a soul. it has a body, it has a soul. that does not point to pre-existence, merely to a complete creation.

    that said, the jews believed in the pre-existence of souls and a lot of christians do too. certainly catholics have such a belief and many protestants, though it is not taught in their churches, privately hold this belief.

    i myself am not opposed to this belief, i am only saying that the verses you are quoting don’t prove it. many of them don’t even point in that direction.

    i think, perhaps, one of the big mistakes mormons make is trying to prove things exclusively with the bible. i get the reasoning (average joe protestant doesn’t want to hear anything extrabiblical) but it kinda undermines the stance that the book of mormon is legit when you try to prove things without it.

    the power of the bible is not in its provability but in the faith of those who are already convinced of its authenticity.

    i think you would have much more luck making your point by first citing the book of mormon and then showing correlations in the bible to back it up. but that’s just my opinion.

    good site. i am only two posts into it and i’m already pretty sure you’ll end up on my blogroll before i leave for work today.

    πŸ˜‰

  4. I think there is a real difference in the approaches of Protestants and Mormons… in that Mormons search and ponder the Scriptures and seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost to understand a precept. Whereas the Protestants seek to PROVE a precept by who is the best Scripturemeister.

    So a lot of Mormons are simply not ‘equipped’ for that kind of engagement. AND we are encouraged not to engage in it because we know all the different things that can be taught by the same scriptures because you are then simply engaging the *mind* and not the *spirit*.

    So while I will cite these passages, I will not attempt to ‘prove’ anything by them, but encourage you to ponder them and pray about them. Yes, ask God yourself. I have every confidence that you too can hear from the Spirit.

    1 Cor 2:13

    Gal 1:12

    Eph 3:5

    There are many more. Our Church is one of revelation, not ‘prove it!!’ And since 134,763 schisms and sects exist in Christianity, I’ll let that be ‘proof’ enough that so-called inerrant and ‘not up to your interpretation’ doesn’t work so hot.

    When the Spirit shows you the truth of the Church, you are then able to accept by faith those things you don’t yet understand and as time goes by you come to see the truth of it through continuing revelation in your own life. And by living the principles and seeing that they are true by living them.

    An example for me was the Bible being a very confusing thing after 20 years of every teaching imaginaable. After accepting the Church through prayer and receiving that confirmation, I then listened to the discussions of the Sisters and simply said to myself, okay, I’m going to accept the truth of that for the moment and reread the Gospels and see how it goes. And whalah! The Gospels made perfect sense when aligned with correct teachings! Same with Revelation which I used to think a VERY difficult book to understand and comprehend even with much prayer. Again, whalah… it made sense. I’m not saying I suddenly knew everything and no longer have anything to learn. What I have found with the Spirit is that we receive revelations when we are READY for them. Line upon line, precept upon precept. Here a little, there a little. So while things then made sense on that basic level which they hadn’t ever before, I still learn more every day. Or see a new way to apply it to my life to make me a better person.

    So we (Mormons) cite Scriptures, but try to stay away from the ‘prove it!’ mode of thinking. We’re more the ‘pray it!’ mode.

    That’s the other wonderful thing about the LDS Church is that we are at all times encouraged to pray and get answers for ourselves. The Church is SO confident in what Christ teaches and so confident in this being His Church that we’re not afraid to have people pray to know for themselves. Truth is consistent and while there are areas in people’s lives where they will get a different answer than someone else pertaining to their own lives and own personalities, they know that where the big things are concerned we all get the same answers because they come from the same Spirit.

    And that’s why in some things the Prophets know they have the moral authority to call some things out. Like our Proclamation on the Family, etc.

    Jesus always worked through authority of Prophets to show people where and when they were going astray… and if you read the book of Acts you’ll see how His Church is to be set up.

    Just some things to ‘ponder’… πŸ˜‰

  5. Jayleen,
    Baptisms for the dead is seems very clear to me too. It is scriptures like that that keep pulling me back to the LDS Church. There are many uniques beautiful teachings only found in the LDS Church.

    Brahnamin,
    Thanks for the critics. I’ll consider adding BOM verses in brackets beside the Bible verses. I am currently reevaluating the BOM, looking at it through new eyes so it is more difficult for me to include it right now. Also, with Bible and BOM quotes my posts could get really long. I’m not sure many people would want to take the time to read them then. I try hard to keep them short and to the point.

  6. Dando,
    Thanks for the comment and for the last point. I really do have to be more careful when I put up a post. I’m finding out that it is easy to be careless. I don’t think I made the best case I could for this subject. I’ll probably revisit it some other time.

  7. Jayleen,
    Somehow I missed your second comment before. I agree that it is very hard to come to any conclusion based on the Bible. Again you touch on one of those gems I have learned in the church. God must guide us somehow I am still convience that the Bible supports the idea of the Holy Ghost teaching us. I believe He does this through prayer.

    I have come to understand though that Christian sects do agree on some things, such as the Godhead. Although there are different creeds that they believe in (I’m not sure what to make of that). Since you have been to so many different churches maybe you can comment on any differences between the different creeds (i.e. Apostolic creed, nicene creed, etc.).

  8. @jayleen
    i agree that the idea of *proofs* is somewhat counterintuitive in a life of *faith*

    maybe that is why i am quick to pick on them πŸ˜‰

    with all the several denominations afoot and everyone insisting that everyone else see things *their* way, it can get way confusing way quick.

    i agree that the HS must be our ultimate teacher

    that said i have to admit i am thoroughly disgusted with the *pray it* phillosophy, not because i am against seeking god’s wisdom in prayer, but because if i *pray it* and god’s wisdom leads me down a different path than the mormon i am talking to, i am suddenly told that i either did not pray enough or didn’t study enough or just wasn’t faithful enough to earn an honest answer from god.

    from there it quickly degrades into a battle of hog-tied intellects, because of oourse, they want to know *why* i didn’t believe, or *what parts* i might disagree with.

    and then it inevitablly does become a *prove it* game.

    sorry to vent.

    i have encountered this attitude among protestants and even atheists, but mormons thus far (or at least the bulk of the one’s i’ve had these conversations with) have been the most vehement offenders (and in a catagory that includes atheists, that is saying something).

    i like your approach best, actually.

    if christians were more concerned with the truth of faith rather than the truth of doctrine i think we’d find whole worlds of agreement to play together in.

  9. Ahhhh, you would ask me that… well, here’s the thing. I hope you read my ‘Journey from Grrr to There of the Spiritual Sort’ so you understand my original experience. Because that original experience told me Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ were two separate beings but as I understood it, along with the Holy Ghost made up what we refer to as the Godhead.

    Going to those other churches I rarely encountered discussion of the ‘creeds’. So in my mind those creeds applied to Catholics, Lutherans and some ‘other’ religions but didn’t belong in the churches I was attending. And since those churches referred to God the Father, and God the Son (Jesus Christ) who is our Savior and Redeemer it never occurred to me that they subscribed to the ‘doctrine’ of the Trinity. (There are many Scholars and splinters of Christianity who reject the Trinity Doctrine and I know at least a couple of the main churches I attended rejected it as well. So no, they don’t really agree on the Godhead, it just may SOUND like they do because they rarely discuss the actual creeds themselves.)

    Quite honestly in all that time I only encountered the Trinity Doctrine a couple of times and I chalked it up to just one of those ever present differences between the churches. Although while I attended one I tried to wrap my brain around it and it most definitely affected my thinking (can you say confusion?) I really didn’t realize most believed it until the Sisters told me that most all Protestants agreed with at least one of those creeds. So I called some Christian friends and asked them and when they told me that IS what they believed I was quite honestly a bit shocked.

    But… there is a website by a guy named Jeff Lindsay and I think it is a stupendous site with all kinds of great stuff for LDS and non-LDS to ponder.

    http://www.jefflindsay.com

    http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/index.html THIS one is the index to find almost all answers Mormon. And don’t forget his blog!!

    http://mormanity.blogspot.com/

    I think you will find HOURS of reading pleasure there and many answers to your questions.

    When I first converted a friend gave me the book, ‘Are Mormons Christian’ and challenged me to prove it wrong. So I read it and sat down with my Scriptures and had one of the most profound experiences of my Spiritual life. Over the course of several evenings *I* (not! clearly it was the Holy Ghost!) found Scriptures I had never seen before and found answers to pretty much everything in that book. (I had to go to the internet to find some of the answers concerning Joseph Smith) I made notes of all the Scriptures and was quite pleased. I made an appointment to talk to my friend and when I got there the Holy Ghost stopped me from showing her those things. I felt him tell me to not engage in contencious discussion that she was not ready to hear, but to simply bear my testimony of my conversion and then if she later wanted to hear those answers I would do so. So that’s what I did. She learned several things from my testimony and I know that she pondered those things but she never did want to hear the answers concerning the book, but the Holy Spirit told me those answers were for ME at that time and not for her. So I know I did what was right at that time. She was SO anti-Mormon at that time when she found out I was getting baptized into the Church she broke down sobbing and thought I was getting ready to sacrifice children, drink kool-aid and go off in the comet’s tail in a spaceship. So dealing with that book would not have brought any peace to her or to our friendship, but only would have brought contention. Whereas bearing my testimony she was able to see that it was heartfelt and real and she also realized she could not disuade me so she ceased her attacks.

    Then a couple of months later I stumbled across Jeff Lindsay’s site and was astonished at all the info and found places where he had found the same scriptures I had. My first reaction was thinking how much time I had wasted looking all that up, but I immediately realized that that time was precious to me and built a solid testimony within me and then finding his site simply confirmed what I had been led to. But he is far more eloquent than I am so there are his links and have fun!! πŸ™‚

    And remember, Jesus can’t sit at the right hand of a God who doesn’t have hands!! LOL

  10. Brahnamin… so tell me why you don’t believe and what parts you disagree with and I’ll tell you why you’re wrong. *DUCKING* (I owe you that for what you said in my other blog!! LOL)

    I must talk too much, because I just realized my comment right before this one is ‘awaiting moderation’!! and I wasn’t aware this blog did that… LOL

    Seriously, I can’t say anything because you’re comments are very general and I don’t know. But I’ll be happy to give my honest opinion… (and we all know about opinions…) if you get more specific. But maybe ask something over at tsard… so poor Jay doesn’t have to moderate me so much. πŸ˜‰

  11. Oh, I get it.. I left three links in that other reply so it’s sitting in askimet right now… sniff…

    Jay, please rescue my * from askimet!! There’s so much I could say right now… but won’t… because I am a very nice Mormon and *we* don’t say such things… (except when we’re out of hearing distance from other Mormons!) and it’s Jay’s blog, not mine… la la la…

    Don’t mind me Jay, sometimes I’m like a red-headed step child! And and… I’m a CONVERT… one of THEM… 😯

    Okay, really, I’m shutting up now… 😳

  12. sorry about that jayleen. I’m still experimenting with things. I’m going to change that right now:)

  13. Actually, I don’t think you can change the way askimet catches stuff. It’s designed to catch any post with more than three links and I already know better, or should have. I just forgot. πŸ™‚

  14. Geesh, that’s TWO links… TWO… not three.

  15. I think you can change it. If it is the same thing we’re thinking about. I change it to 5 links. I think the default is 2. By the way the eye thingy is kind of spooky:)

  16. @ jayleen
    i might email you w/ questions @ some point, but i’m not going to tie up another blogger’s comment section with it.

    keeping it general(ish) was intentional.

  17. two links is default, but you can change it. i wouldn’t though.

  18. Brahnamin,

    Why should I leave it at two? Is there some disadvantage to having more?

  19. Yes, Spammers! Spammers very frequently have more than two links. You might leave it as you changed it and see if you have a problem with it. If you do, then change it back to 2…

  20. i’d leave it at two unless you regularly get legitimate posters using multiple links in your comments. because then you are inconveniencing your readership needlessly.

    but that is usually not the case. if you go through the spam you have collected thus far you will find a great deal of it is just multiple link pages of cialis and viagra ads.

    *shrugs*

    your blog

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