Caste Systems

Some passages in Mormon scripture (e.g. Abraham 3:22-23) seem to infer that our mortal station has been influenced to some degree by our valiance-quotient in the pre-mortal sphere. My own patriarchal blessing, for example, states that I was born into the LDS covenant by virtue of my status as a “strong leader” in the pre-existence. Such beliefs are not uncommon in the modern church.

Some Mormon authorities have in the past extended this belief to explain questions of race, i.e. that those held to be “cursed with a black skin” were so marked by God as a caste apart from the rights of the priesthood and that they lived under this curse because of their lack of valiance in the pre-Earth life.

The priesthood segregation of blacks in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ended in 1978. The teaching of pre-mortal curses receives no official sanction today although, as stated above, the notion of mortal reward for pre-mortal faithfulness continues. Much of the curse folklore appears to have been a speculative attempt to explain the priesthood ban on blacks. In this regard, it is worth remembering the words of Elder McConkie in 1978:

Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world….[1]

While the Gospel still entertains a belief in degrees of pre-mortal righteousness, there is no indication that this manifests itself with regard to race, class, nationality, or caste. Regarding notions of caste, it is true that ancient “Israel was chosen as a peculiar people, one set apart from all other nations (Ex. 19:5-6; Deut. 7:6; 14:2) and [that] they were forbidden to marry outside their own caste (Ex. 34:10-17; Deut. 7:1-5)” (Mormon Doctrine, s.v. “Caste Systems”); however, Christ brought a new law, one expressed beautifully by Paul:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3: 28)

Historically, caste systems have been vehicles of social and spiritual damnation.[2] By contrast, the Gospel offers equal opportunity for all to come unto Christ and be saved.

However, all that said, this remains a knotty issue for Mormons. If birth into the LDS covenant within a loving, prosperous family is held to be a reward for pre-mortal goodness (cf. my patriarchal blessing, surely not an outlier), what implications does that have for those born into God-awful conditions? Does Mormonism have a coherent explanation for mortal inequities? It seems we remain happy to pick-up one end of the stick, but what of the other?

_____________

[1] Also, Elder Holland: “One clear-cut position is that the folklore must never be perpetuated.”

[2] “Discriminatory and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of a vast global population has been justified on the basis of caste. In much of Asia and parts of Africa, caste is the basis for the definition and exclusion of distinct population groups by reason of their descent. Over 250 million people worldwide continue to suffer under what is often a hidden apartheid of segregation, modern-day slavery, and other extreme forms of discrimination, exploitation, and violence. Caste imposes enormous obstacles to their full attainment of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights” (Human Rights Watch).

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Comments

  1. I think that some may have been more righteous or “noble” in the pre-existence. Jesus was, for instance, more righteous than me.

    However, I have always found the idea that our place in life or geography is somehow connected to how righteous we were in the pre-existence. It is usually expressed in such a prideful way (I must have been more righteous to have been born in the pre-existence). My wife likes to point out that maybe some of us were born in the Church because we were weak, and maybe Heavenly Father realized we needed extra help.

    The the extent that we use this idea to justify our priviledged position in the inequalities of the world, this concept is very much a form of spiritual Social Darwinism. Why should we care about the suffering of others if they only brought it upon themselves by being less valiant in the pre-existence.

    I am addressing this in my dissertation, but I have not gotten to that part, yet.

  2. Natalie B. says:

    This post raises excellent questions. In addition to the situations you mention, I also feel that we have a tendency to believe that we are often blessed (spiritually or financially) as a result of our faithfulness and participation in the church. Even though I personally feel that this is sometimes true, it still makes me uneasy, since surely I am not as righteous as others who do not receive nearly the same level of blessings.

  3. The question of mortality placement is indeed difficult. I can not quite bring myself to believe that mortality placement is simply random. I currently believe it is not random, but that it is likely quite complicated.

  4. Eric,

    Do you think it could be random? I am not convinced that it is completely random, but I feel that it is much more random that we might think and I would not be shock or dissappointed if it is random. I do not have evidence to support this, it is more intuitive for me.

  5. Eric,
    I agree that things may well not be random, or at least not completely random, but problems occur when we assume that pre-mortal status X necessarily produces mortal status y. This is what is pernicious about some religion-based Asian caste systems.

  6. Just as it rains on the just and the unjust so that getting wet is not proof in itself of righteousness, birth in privileged circumstances, however you define them, is probably not proof in itself of pre-mortal greatness.

    On the other hand, in some cases at least, assignments were made and accepted that seem contingent to some extent on circumstances of birth —

    I observed that they were also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God. 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. (D&C 138:55-56)

    It isn’t hard to imagine any number of places or circumstances of birth that would have made it impossible for Joseph Smith, for instance, to have accomplished his assignment.

    On the third hand, few of us would recognize the conditions of Joseph’s birth and early life as being especially privileged.

    That’s a long way to say I agree with Eric Nielson. I don’t believe that birth is entirely random. I also believe it is complicated enough that mortals probably have very little appreciation for or ability to recognize what “privilege” really means.

    Still, with that caveat, the circumstances of my birth appear to have been a blessing and a gift. Whether I did anything to “earn” that in any way beyond choosing to accept the plan of salvation, I can’t say. I do remember that “where much is given, much is required.”

  7. Was Joseph Smith the only one who could have carried out that assignment? Could not others also have been prepared?

    Cannot our birth be a blessing or gift without having been planned or pre-determined?

    These questions are the things which make me unsure of the tendency the Ronan is describing.

  8. Mark B. says:

    Of course, a belief in a strong link between pre-mortal good behavior and good fortune in birth here on earth would provide about the only legitimate basis for sharply restrictionist immigration policies: “If those people had been righteous the way we were, they wouldn’t have been born in Lower Slobbovia.” But I don’t believe such a strong link exists.

    On a completely unrelated note: could we start putting a [sic] after that ghastly “whomsoever” in the McConkie statement? For grammar prescriptivists (like me) it would provide cover. For those who have difficulties with some of what Elder McConkie said (even if not this statement), it would provide a “nyaah, nyaah” moment.

  9. Julie M. Smith says:

    I was born outside the church because I was valiant enough to find it on my own. Some of you poor shlubs had to be born inside the church, because you wouldn’t have had the faith to find it and join it otherwise.

    So there.

  10. John Taber says:

    My father-in-law was born in the Church, to less-than-active parents. For him Church activity was a choice – don’t put him down because his mother’s maiden name happened to be Ricks.

  11. Chris H. (7): Obviously I can’t state whether there were stand-bys for Joseph Smith had he failed or been born elsewhere/when, but it would be a pretty dirty trick on the part of God to foreordain someone to a specific mission and then send him to earth at a time and place where he couldn’t possibly fill his assignment.

  12. But he does send us to earth without any memory of have recieved that mission. Maybe others had failed before Joseph. Sorry, just thinking out loud.

  13. Bro. Jones says:

    #11: I’ve always felt that an implicit part of the Plan of Salvation was that nothing mortals could do would ever thwart God’s larger plans. The D&C contains tons of fairly explicit threats to Joseph that if he didn’t get his act together, he would lose his prophetic calling. Had that happened, it’s not as though God would have thrown up His hands and said, “Welp, I gave the inhabitants of Earth a shot and they blew it. C’mon Jesus, let’s torch the joint.” Another way would have been found.

    Back to the OP: Caste is a horrible, pernicious concept, and I’m just as offended that a section praising casteism is in Mormon Doctrine as anything else. I have Hindu family members, and in one instance a wealthy cousin paid for a priest to fly into Utah and perform some ceremonies for the family (this was before there was a Hindu temple in SLC). The priest flew out, stayed with this cousin, and performed the ceremony. However, he refused to eat any food prepared by my family because they were not from a high enough caste for his taste. Of course their money seemed to be just fine.

    Can you even imagine a bishop who refused to meet with a member because of some uncontrollable, invisible aspect of their birth/family? Or a home teacher who would not enter someone’s home because their last name signified ancestors of “low” birth?

    One of my great testimonies of Christ when I converted was his emphasis (especially in the Book of Mormon) on the availability of salvation to all.

  14. Some Mormons believe that persons born with severe mental handicaps, and infants who die shortly after birth, are extra-valient spirits who did not even need the tests of mortal life. This adds an additional wrinkle to the beliefs Ronan describes in his post. This would leave us with the following:
    –Born into healthy happy circumstances = valient
    –Born into unhealthy unhappy circumstances = maybe not so valient (?)
    –Born into feeble unhealthy body = super valient

  15. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I am generally someone who espouses randomness as an explanation for nearly everything. It helps me to make sense of both my fortunes and misfortunes in life. It also saves me from having to find meaning in many of life’s events. However, when I look around and see the tremendous inequities that exist between my own circumstances and those of others in the world, I actually have a difficult time chalking up those differences to mere chance. I can’t discern anything about myself that would warrant the opportunities I have been afforded, yet the magnitude of the disparities is so unjust that it simply cannot be arbitrary. There are so many throughout the world who suffer that it seems inadequate to explain their suffering as a result of their own decisions, either in this life or in a previous one. I cringe when I hear righteousness as a condition for one’s lot in life, as it just seems so self-serving. However, the odds of me being born to a good family, being raised in comfortable circumstances, and afforded so many opportunities that are unavailable to many others are overwhelming, and there is no way I’m THAT lucky. I reject righteousness as an explaination, and am not persuaded by the alternative argument that I needed extra help because I was/am weak, or otherwise lacking. Whatever the reason, and there must be one, it often results in feelings of guilt for not deserving the “blessings” I have received.

  16. Chris H (12): But not without the talents and inclinations and intelligence, or whatever it was that led them to be the “noble and great ones.” I don’t think our basic natures change with birth, and that if we were susceptible to the truth before, we’ll respond to the spirit now and figure out what we’re supposed to be doing. For many or most of us, maybe that’s just learning ordinary lessons of mortality that we can learn under any circumstances. For a few (or many) others, maybe the mission is so specific that time and place and circumstance matter.

    Personally, I like the idea of a grand quest so well that I wish I could be sure I had a specific and unique assignment. But if I’m only called to lift where I’m standing, I still have to be standing here, and not out gossiping in the parking lot, in order to do any of the lifting.

  17. StillConfused says:

    “there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” If this is true, why are there male only callings in the Church?

  18. I was born in Romania with an abusive father, miraculously brought to the US through my mother’s ingenuity, and baptized into the faith after my parents divorced. What the hell does any of that have to do with my actions in the pre-mortal life? Walk slightly off the path I took and I probably wouldn’t be a Mormon today.

    I wish our prophets today would give us far more concrete explanation of what occurred in the pre-mortal existence. The lack of knowledge has made us turn to fables and myths. The vacuum and dearth of knowledge is being filled with crap.

  19. Bro. Jones,

    #13,

    Had that happened, it’s not as though God would have thrown up His hands and said, “Welp, I gave the inhabitants of Earth a shot and they blew it. C’mon Jesus, let’s torch the joint.”

    Ironic, because that is essentially the argument God used to flood the earth.

  20. dang, I shouldn’t be so quick to “Submit Comment”. not only did God essentially say that to Noah about the flood, but in the Garden story in Jacob 5, the Lord essentially says the same thing, what more could he have done, except to burn the place down.

  21. Anon for now says:

    Shortly after moving to a new ward in a new state, our gospel essentials teacher taught that the most righteous spirits were granted the privelege of being born into LDS families. It was the ultimate “I’m glad there are no visitors here today” moment, but it upset my wife (a convert) immensely. I immediately said “Do you honestly believe that?!” and he referenced a line in his own patriarchal blessing as justification for the universal truth. Fortunately the entire class disagreed vehemently and our wise bishop helped smooth things over as well.

    My wife’s strength of character helped her return to church the next week, but it was definitely a bump in the road for us as we tried to adapt to a new (and subsequently wonderful) ward family. Others who confront these teachings/opinions may not be so lucky.

    I agree that not everything is random, but I have to think that part of the choice to come to earth included an acceptance of some uncontrolled variables. And as Ardis reminded us, we can count on “where much is given, much is required”.

  22. Daniel,

    “The vacuum and dearth of knowledge is being filled with crap.”

    Maybe we need more discussions like this one, rather than waiting for an official church declaration. That is why I challenge the crap at every given chance. A lonely pursuit.

  23. Ardis, you may be right. I just have a different intuition on this one. I can see where you are coming from. Thaks.

    In general, I think we want everything to more more sense that it really does to our limited minds. But, that is why we keep lifting.

    Anyways, I think the Joseph Smith example is an outlier. Ronan asked what all of this says about those born into difficult circimstances. I think it means that we should recognize that we too could have been born in Mali. Instead of thanking our lucky stars or being grateful that we were more valiant (which we likely weren’t), we should follow the admonition of Jacob:

    “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.” (Jacob 2:17)

  24. (#19) Assuming that God actually did wipe out all of the inhabitants of the earth with a flood. :)

  25. I largely agree with #6.

    Its really complicated. I was fortunate to serve my mission in Africa. There I met converts from extreme poverty who had grasped onto the gospel and were noble in such a way that sometimes even as BIC member I felt unworthy around them.

    I also have relatives who are descended from famous name LDS leaders who have been consistently messing up their lives since early teenage years.

  26. Chris,

    Seeing that I believe religion and science are not mutually exclusive flooding only one area of the earth is impossible going by the laws of physics this world is governed by.

  27. I just caught Julie’s #9. From it, I deduce the following about the Smith boys:

    * They are so intellectually inferior that the Lord had to send them to the home of a gifted teacher

    * They are so spiritually weak that the Lord had to send them to an LDS home

    * They are so morally bankrupt that they would be destined for outer darkness were it not for going to a mother who dreams up such engaging Family Home Evening Lessons

    And lucky us! We can look forward to this December’s installment of “Failures, Crimes, and Moral Lapses of the Smith Boys This Year”!

    (Running for the safe room before Julie’s she-bear instincts kick in)

  28. Isn’t one of Ezra Taft Benson’s grandkids a virulent anti-Mormon? He’ll be saved, though; he was valiant in the pre-mortal life as evidenced by his stellar upbringing in this world.

  29. Peter LLC says:

    Another way would have been found.

    Isn’t that the lesson of the 116 Lost Manuscript Pages?

  30. Liberal Mormon says:

    Bruce R. McConkie’s comment there is such a hoot! Gees, no wonder I take stuff I hear from the GAs with a grain of salt and think it out for myself whether it can be backed up by the standard works (scriptures) or its their own opinion!

  31. Chris (4)

    I suppose it could be random. I don’t think it is….but what do I know? The D&C verse that says – whenever we receive any blessing it is predicated on obedience weighs in also. But again, it is complicated. God’s work and glory is to bring to pass our eternal life, and I feel he makes decisions that will bring that about – I’m guessing it is pretty complicated.

    Ronan (5)

    Just because some people abuse an idea does not mean the idea is completely false.

  32. Lol, Mark B. (#8). My grandmother’s default distant land was always Outer Slobovia.

    Ronan, I was thinking of a model that looks like a hybrid between venture capitalism and rewards. Blessings would be given not only because of past accomplishments but also in the hope of some future return (e.g. greater glory to God). But this is no less problematic. Just consider this brainstorming.

  33. Here’s an idea I’ve been batting around, boiled to its essence:

    We believe that children who die before 8 are automatically saved. African children die in much larger numbers before eight than most of the rest of the world. Thus our soteriology is that God is actually saving black Africans in much larger numbers than he saves the western world.

    Now if I were willing to engage in folklore from there, I’d say that it is these African children who were actually most valiant in the preexistence. But that would as presumptuous as them being fence-sitters.

  34. Chris H. says:

    “African children die in much larger numbers before eight than most of the rest of the world. Thus our soteriology is that God is actually saving black Africans in much larger numbers than he saves the western world.”

    That would be a pretty twisted way of looking at it. Plus, it would absolve us of any responsibility to do anything about that suffering.

  35. I have been looking for a quote by Harold B. Lee about our station (place of birth, etc.) in earth life being a “judgment” of our premortal life. I used to teach institute in front of a big poster of Pres. Lee’s words–and I complained about them to the teacher who normally had the room, and to my CES supervisor and to my GA uncle. I’m not going to speculate about pre-mortal valiance, except to say that past leaders have gone way too far with the idea, and it has led to some really silly speculations. But if anyone can find that quote for me, I’d sure appreciate it. None of my key-word searches on Google has found it.

  36. Steve G. says:

    With the teaching of fore-ordination I think it suggests or even demands that there are expectations and circumstances that were seeded in the premortal existence. Its a tough-love argument though and one I’m not entirely comfortable with. My own Patriarchal Blessing speaks to the testimony of Christ I developed in the pre-existence, but stops short of listing blessings I received because of it.

    Logically speaking the formula of progression from 2nd estate to 3rd estate is pretty well established in doctrine and teachings. Our circumstances in the 3rd estate (a degree of glory) are dependent on our actions in the 2nd estate (earth life). It stands to reason that the same holds true from 1st estate to the 2nd estate.

    All that being said, the randomness argument also has some pull on me. I don’t believe God is so interested in the little details. He can judge us from our actions in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in. His hands-off approach to ruling over our lives seems to verify that he leaves a lot to chance and our own agency. When something needs to be done he can accomplish it in a myriad of ways, very rarely needing to interfere overtly.

  37. “That would be a pretty twisted way of looking at it.”

    But that’s our doctrine, right?

    “Plus, it would absolve us of any responsibility to do anything about that suffering.”

    How?

  38. Mark B. says:

    Ben Pratt: neither your grandmother nor I deserve the credit for “Lower Slobbovia.” That all belongs to Al Capp, may he rest in peace, creator of the Lil Abner comic strip.

  39. Chris H. says:

    We do not think that the children who die under 8 are somehow lucky because they automatically get salvation. Especially when we consider the process of starvation that leads to that death.

    It would absolve us of responsibility because we would not have to do anything since they are really better off. It is not the correct way of viewing the world, so it does not actually absolve us of anything.

  40. There are just too many contradictions for us to presume much at all about the premortal existence, first and foremost being what exactly a ‘valiant’ life was back then, and what that really means.

    It’s a silly argument to make that God saved his best and brightest for the last days (not to mention that the only ones making that claim happen to be of this supposed last generation!), because we are also told that we are living in the best and worst of times, thusly God saved his best and brightest, and supposedly also his worst and dumbest for this generation.

  41. This idea (valiance in per-earth life may lead to some condition here) is almost useless. Since we only really have information about our condition here (at least at this point in time — who knows what your condition will be in the future…), trying to draw conclusions about pre-mortal valiance is the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent. God puts spirits where they will be of the most use to Him, and since he operates on a global, nay intergalactic, and eternal scale, any attempts to divine his specific purposes in placing one spirit here and another there is futile, especially given agency.

  42. Steve G. says:

    “God saved his…worst and dumbest for this generation”

    Well at least we have plenty of evidence for that claim :)

  43. “We do not think that the children who die under 8 are somehow lucky because they automatically get salvation.”

    I’m not sure I agree with this statement, but I never said such children were “lucky.” I only said they were saved.

    “It would absolve us of responsibility because we would not have to do anything since they are really better off.”

    I have two sons below the age of 8. I believe our doctrine that if they were to die before 8, they would be saved. But I have not set up a tickler on my Outlook calendar to terminate their lives a couple of months prior to their baptism. In fact, I spend most of my waking days trying to keep them fed, clothed, warm, and safe, and plan to do so well after they turn 8. I assume God expects as much from me.

    My point here is that you’ve set up a non sequitur: the fact that kids who die below the age of 8 are automatically saved really has nothing to do with our responsibilities to humankind, whatever those may be. Stated another way, I’m not twisting the doctrine to make the point you’re making, even if you are.

  44. There are two books that introduce interesting theological questions: Outliers (Gladwell) and the Brain That Changes Itself (Doidge).

    Both books assert, in different ways, that we are all mostly the same. The differences between us can be readily explained by opportunity and other conditioning events.

    For example, in Outliers, the Gladwell cites the 10,000 hour rule. If you want to be good, 10,000 hours is a prerequisite. How much of our “goodness” is due to our social conditioning, opportunity and the 10,000 hours? Are we really better?

    Doidge cites the existence of “brain maps” which are the source of our facility in doing certain tasks. These brain maps can be significantly modified by the right training. There are those of us who have been blessed with the conditioning to develop “good” brain maps while so many have not.

    We do know there is a genetic component. There are people with deficient prefrontal lobes, autism, and inheritable sociopathology. Does God count brain deficiencies against people?

    In courts of law all of these things count, after all, society has the right to protect itself against injury, but in God’s view?

    Are we really special? Who is really special? Were kings and nobility really special? Is Bill Gates really special? (Read Gladwell to find out.)

  45. Does Mormonism have a coherent explanation for mortal inequities?

    From the discussion this post has engendered, the answer to this question seems to be an unequivocal “No.”

  46. Yeah, I can pretty much guarantee for myself that I wasn’t one of the “valiant and great ones.” Some of the best people I’ve ever met have not been members of the Church. I think some souls are placed especially for specific purposes in this life, but overall I feel it’s pretty random and then we do the best we can with what we’ve been given.

    And if children who die before eight are exalted automatically doesn’t that take away agency in the next life? What if they just don’t want to accept the Gospel? I just have a hard time believing they’re automatically exalted.

  47. Terrakota says:

    I think there is a reason why we don’t remember our pre-existence. We can start from scratch. Those who were less valiant in the pre-existence, can become great and righteous people, and vice versa. Those who had priesthood in the pre-existence might loose it, and vise versa.

    As to being born to a specific place, I think it’s like with the missionaries. For some of them God wants them to go to a specific location, for others He doesn’t want them to go to a scpecific location, and for rest – it doesn’t matter. They will do just fine (or not fine) anywhere.

    I agree that being born in the covenant is a blessing, but it’s neither the only, nor the most important blessing of all. It’s more of a responsibility. The more is given – the more is expected.

    My patriarchal blessing too, states that I was valiant and devoted in the pre-existence – and I was born in an atheist family in the country where religion was banned. And now, over the years, I see many advantages to me personally. My father drank, so I was determined to never marry the one who drinks. I thought that there was no life after death, it tortured me as I was growing up – and what incredible joy I felt when I learned I could live forever. I spent 16 years of my life without religion, and once I found it – it was a feast for my soul that fasted for so long, I couldn’t believe my happiness. My father told me not to return home if I get baptized – so the baptizm was a serious step for me. Only God knows what is best for us.

  48. Bro. Jones says:

    #24 Yeah, my point exactly.

    #48 “I agree that being born in the covenant is a blessing, but it’s neither the only, nor the most important blessing of all. It’s more of a responsibility. The more is given – the more is expected.”

    Precisely. If we are going to adopt anything resembling a standpoint that says our mortal station reflects our pre-mortal choices, we need to do so with #48’s spirit in mind, not an atta-boy pat on the back “We’re the best!” mentality.

  49. Terrakota says:

    And if children who die before eight are exalted automatically doesn’t that take away agency in the next life? What if they just don’t want to accept the Gospel? I just have a hard time believing they’re automatically exalted.

    My understanding is that they are so righteous and Godlike that they do not need another probation. They just need a body.

  50. # 13 “Can you even imagine a bishop who refused to meet with a member because of some uncontrollable, invisible aspect of their birth/family? Or a home teacher who would not enter someone’s home because their last name signified ancestors of “low” birth?”

    I have seen more than one instance of behavior similar to what you mention. Perhaps it is more prevalent in the MF than in Ut-Id-Az. Most people my Stake boundaries are less wealthy, less well behaved and less caucasian than our leaders. We baptize a fair amount but end up dropping them afterwards because nobody really wants to fellowship them, much less friendship them. I can’t say we knowingly treat people as second class citizens, but we certainly do it.

  51. I sort of see earth life, and the effect of the pre-earth life, as life full time missions and the effect of a missionary’s pre-mission life. Decisions in the pre-mission life have an effect on whether a missionary can serve at all; so some degree they may or may not have an effect on where the Brethren, through divine inspiration assign.

    I observed also that habits and attitudes from pre-mission life (my own, for example) had an effect on the way we serve as missionaries.

    But the test and the standards and the rules for full-time missionaries were essentially the same, no matter where we were assigned. I had graduated from college before serving; most of my companions had not. Having a college degree, though, did not make it any easier to teach or convert or get along with other missionaries. Bottom line, with a few exceptions, no one really cared what our grades were in school in the pre-mission life. All that seemed to matter was what we did (and what we became) during the mission.

    Since we do not have a memory of the pre-earth life, I do not know how much, if at all, what I learned there or the abilities or attitudes I had there affect my earth life. It would not surprise me that there is some relationship. Similarly, it would not surprise me that the pre-earth life had some sort of relationship with my “assignment” here–just like my pre-mision life may or may not have affected the decision of the mission to which I was assigned. But I don’t really know.

    And, as in my mission, anyway, no one seemed to care about my prior education or grades–they did not seem to matter at all–I don’t think our pre-earth life matters to the decisions we need to make now.

  52. Complete randomness seems a bit too arbitrary for the theology we espouse as a church, as does the idea that our valiance in the pre-existence is the primary determining factor in our placement here.

    I can’t remember who said it, but the idea that if we are born into favorable circumstances gives us a greater obligation to do well and to be more charitable certainly makes some sense.

    The problem for me still is how to figure that there is equity between my birth position in an active family, and someone born into a family without a father, starving in Darfur. I can’t completely reconcile it, and that only emphasizes the greater obligations on me.

    My patriarchal blessing says less about valiance in the pre-existence, but emphasizes the advantages I have due to my ancestors and their sacrifices and lives. I often find myself, as I learn about them, thinking “Would they be proud of me?”. It’s a sobering thought.

  53. Neal Kramer says:

    I just want to affirm what others have said.

    Each person who chose to come to earth, thereby expressing profound faith in the ability of the Savior to fulfill the promise of the Atonement, faces extraordinary tests and challenges.

    The variety of maladies and blessings in this life suggests that our understanding of what it may mean to have special standing before God while here may be influenced more by a fallen understanding of the good than by God’s understanding of the proper character of each individual’s test.

    I have always been troubled by my own willingness to believe that being born in the richest country in the world into a society driven almost exclusively by sex, power, and greed constitutes an unequivocal blessing. Isn’t this just a eurocentric fantasy? How can material excess be a blessing?

    I tend to believe that God has asked some of his children to serve others by taking upon themselves the responsibility of laying the foundation of his Church and Kingdom on earth and then sharing the gospel. To congratulate ourselves simply for being asked puts the cart before the horse. Every day the siren song of profit, purchase, recreation, and leisure calls us into the fleshpots of Egypt.

    Do I hear Satan laughing?

  54. I am very well blessed. I was born into the LDS church. I have a great family. However, I have a really hard time thinking that this was due to anything in the pre-existence.

    One issue I am struggling with is the exclusive nature that forms the basis of the church, where people have to essentially accept a “Mormon” baptism, etc. in this life or the next to ultimately be saved. When less than 0.5% of the world’s population is LDS, and even less have likely had the “gospel”, does that seem reasonable? And if the majority will ultimately be saved whether they’re Mormon or not in this life, does it really matter if you’re born Mormon? In this case, how is being BIC a “blessing” for pre-mortal life if, at the end of the day, most people achieving eternal life were never LDS in mortality anyway?

  55. In defining how we carry out our lives, I don’t think we can set aside the biology or the culture we are born into, which will gives a lot of meaning as to who we end up being, and how we end up acting. This means the same for our parents, and their parents.
    Then, does that mean everyone’s life is pre-set to set up the lives of their offsprings?

  56. Matt W. says:

    When I was in the MTC as a member of 1 year, I was told that McConkie and many others said there normally there were no rules in regards to spirit placement, but sometimes there were, and McConkie said he felt children with special needs were among those specially placed. Not sure of the where and when, just heard it in the MTC. Of course, I also heard in the MTC that Boyd K. Packer said Justice and Mercy are the same thing and that ended up being rubbish.

  57. Interesting post. I’m not convinced that that end of the stick is picked up very much anymore, at least not publicly in the Church. Besides the usual praise on the youth as having been prepared and chosen “to come forth in these last days”.

  58. This is an intriguing question! Maybe God doesn’t choose at all. Maybe we know ourselves to such an extent that we can look at the wondrous genetic diversity in the world and say “That’s me! or close enough anyway.” The only way I can see a way out of the inequalities is to remove the choice and move from divine mandate to personal choice. Maybe when we are looking down from above things like race or income level and such don’t weight that much. Maybe we want to find ourselves. If we act as free agents in the decision, no one is up for praise or blame. There is no assignment. It’s not random. We just choose. (Of course, there might be big fights, for example there was probably some big scramble competition to see who got to be born in Ronan’s body and get that mind).

  59. #59: SteveP, Are you saying Spirits pick their parents? (They will be 50-50 in genes). So A picks B &C as parents, and somehow they meet and marry? Also, somehow it is arranged which genes will be in the 50% each parent provides.
    Or are you saying the pick is made after B & C mate, and a baby is underway?

  60. Maybe we know ourselves to such an extent that we can look at the wondrous genetic diversity in the world and say “That’s me! or close enough anyway.”

    Woohoo, I’ll take that doped up good for nothing redneck mother fo’ sho’! Totally, I want to be raised up by her, no doubt! Yeah, her being high on cocaine might end up disrupting my body’s brain cells, but she’s just da bomb yo!

  61. Maybe we know ourselves to such an extent that we can look at the wondrous genetic diversity in the world and say “That’s me! or close enough anyway.”

    Awww, I really want to be raised up in that bombed-straight-to-hell rubble in Gaza run by fundamentalist crazies. That’s my home alright. Nothing better for me.

  62. Maybe we know ourselves to such an extent that we can look at the wondrous genetic diversity in the world and say “That’s me! or close enough anyway.”

    I’ve always wanted to be born with AIDS in a malaria-infested rain forest where my mother’s genitals are chopped off by religious crazies and they’ll take me at 8 years old, give me a gun and tell me to shoot other kids.

  63. Bob, I don’t think we could pick our parents until they were parents.

    Daniel, who knows what we wanted to learn. You like the idea of God throwing people into bad situations better? People do go to those situations you know. Yes they are horrible situations. Maybe those born there are braver and of more stalwart stuff than you, willing to do the hard things to learn the deeper lessons.

  64. Steve,

    I don’t think God “threw” his children into those situations, but knowing that God is a God of order, it makes more sense to me to believe that things were set in some fashion (which we have no clue of) so that spirits were ready the moment they were supposed to enter a newly formed physical body, regardless of the environmental and social/societal situations that newly formed fetus found itself in.

    My guess is that we, as spirits, were not allowed to watch what was going on on earth, or we may have had a change of heart about our choice to participate. My guess is that spirits preparing to enter this mortality are kept separate from spirits leaving this mortality with a few exceptions. My guess is that we would have not understood what the returning spirits would be expressing, and we would be horrified about going forward. If I had known that I was going into a situation with an abusive father, I don’t know if I would have wanted to go further. Then again, I probably would not have known what that meant. But it would have horrified me.

    From looking at your profile, Steve, it seems you were born in a life of comfort. Are you ready to accept that that means you were weak in the premortal? And that children born with HIV in malaria infested rain forests were more stalwart than you? Would not that mean, then that, now that you are living a life of comfort you would do all in your power to save those children from the terrible ordeal they have to go through? Or say children born in Iraq under a war zone created by comfortable, rich Americans? Aren’t those children, by your logic, of greater stalwart and valiancy than you or the Americans who go there to kill them? If we truly believe that valiancy in the premortal life means something in this life, are we ready to act on that in this life? If those children in Iraq were more valuable to God in the premortal life, why do we value their lives so cheaply now? If the children in the Sudan were more valuable to God in the premortal life, why do we value them so cheaply now in this life? Are we not committing an even greater crime against God by valuing the lives of these “stalwart souls” so cheaply now? Is not God’s anger toward us, the weaker souls going to be even worse because we so devalued the lives of the souls He considered valuable in the premortal existence?

  65. ummmquestion says:

    To Ronan-

    “If birth into the LDS covenant within a loving, prosperous family is held to be a reward for pre-mortal goodness (cf. my patriarchal blessing, surely not an outlier), what implications does that have for those born into God-awful conditions?”

    This statement at the end changes things up a bit for me. You seem to imply that both love and prosperity are part and parcel of the BIC blessing. If the blessing for obedience to a particular law qualifies one only to be born to parents who are sealed in the everlasting covenant-then disobedience would only result in one NOT being born under that covenant. Implying that everyone not born in the covenant is automatically born into “God-awful conditions” is as absurd as implying that a celestial marriage ceremony automatically results in a loving and prosperous family.

    To Steve G.-#37

    “Logically speaking the formula of progression from 2nd estate to 3rd estate is pretty well established in doctrine and teachings. Our circumstances in the 3rd estate (a degree of glory) are dependent on our actions in the 2nd estate (earth life). It stands to reason that the same holds true from 1st estate to the 2nd estate.”

    No matter how many times this issue is discussed, this reasoning always seems to be dismissed or ignored. LDS doctrine is rife with “blessings” that will be granted in the world hereafter, and then only to those who obey the laws upon which they are predicated. Undeniably prominent among them is the privilege of exercising the Priesthood in its fullness. I find it completely inconsistent for someone who agrees with the concept of post-mortal divisions between worlds/ kingdoms/status/rewards vs consequences to have a conflicting stance when it comes to the concept of post-premortal divisions between station/status/rewards vs consequences.

    LDS doctrine teaches that our sins follow us into the spirit world if we do not repent for them here and negatively affect our progress there until we either repent and take advantage of the Atonement or suffer personally for our own actions. Conversely, blessings obtained through obedience during mortality follow us if we remain worthy of them and positively affect our progress there. This is not hard doctrine-it is just and simple.

    If it is acceptable to believe that our mortal sins and acts of obedience can carry over into the spirit world and either vex or bless us there, then it should be equally acceptable to believe that our premortal sins and acts of obedience could also carry over into mortality from the premortal world and either vex or bless us here.

  66. #69,

    But according to the scant sources we have on the subject, the only real question in the premortal life was this: are you in or are you out? There was not a graded score. It was a plus or minus. Plus, you’re in. Minus, you’re out. I’m just going by our scant record on the subject. Maybe God will illuminate us further. But at this point, everyone here enters at the same level. From Osama Bin Laden to Thomas S. Monson.

  67. #66,

    One other thing:

    LDS doctrine teaches that our sins follow us into the spirit world if we do not repent for them here and negatively affect our progress there

    Was there sin in the premortal existence?

  68. “Is not God’s anger toward us, the weaker souls going to be even worse because we so devalued the lives of the souls He considered valuable in the premortal existence?”

    Yes.

  69. re 66: I thought we believed in the innocence of children, no?

  70. Steve,

    So you believe, then, that a guy like Saddam Hussein was more valiant than you in the premortal life? Or Pol Pot? Or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? or Sheik Ahmed Yassin?

  71. Dan,

    Geoff B. over at M* just sent a gentle reminder:

    Dan, a warning. This will not be a thread where you dominate the conversation. I know the chances of reaching you are very slim, but I will try just this once: your behavior on this blog is often rude, like the person trying to dominate all conversation at a dinner table. I know you have been trying lately, and I acknowledge that sometimes you control yourself, but you still don’t get it: the polite thing to do sometimes is just to make one or two comments and then move on. That is what you will be doing on this thread and other threads on this site. You get one more chance to comment, so make it a good one and please move on to other topics on other blogs or on this blog. If you cannot accept these rules, please follow through on your many, many threats over the years not to visit [BCC] anymore.

  72. I’ve always wanted to be born with AIDS in a malaria-infested rain forest where my mother’s genitals are chopped off by religious crazies and they’ll take me at 8 years old, give me a gun and tell me to shoot other kids.

    Do you design video games?

  73. “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation…”

    My family has been in the church for 9 generations, and we have not had a single leader above elders quorum president (sergeant level).

    Our apples don’t rise far on the proverbial tree. We, in large reunions, agree that we were probably family in the pre-existence, of the middle-class variety, a step above the plebes, and a step below royalty.

    Alas, bishops tend to come from bishops; scout leaders tend to come from from scout leaders. It is what it is.

  74. Terrakota says:

    Alas, bishops tend to come from bishops; scout leaders tend to come from from scout leaders. It is what it is.

    Move to a country where the Church is young, and you all will be presidents and counselors to presidents. :)

  75. #66:

    >Implying that everyone not born in the covenant is automatically born into “God-awful conditions” is as absurd as implying that a celestial marriage ceremony automatically results in a loving and prosperous family.

    If we believe — as is often, but not always, the case — that being BIC has something to do with our pre-mortal state, then I’m wondering whether Mormons are willing to follow the implications through, viz. that *not* being BIC (on a continuum from loving non-BIC to God-awful non-BIC) also might say something about our pre-mortal state.

    It’s just a question, not a statement of my own belief. Given that we seem to believe that pre-mortal righteousness has an effect on mortality, then it’s easy to understand why Mormons once unfortunately believed in the opposite: pre-mortal curses and all that stuff.

    Oh, and caste systems are evil.

  76. Yeah Ronan. I remember making a comment years ago on this same subject, and how my daughter, being not BIC, according to churchlore and various teachings in seminary and sunday school, is inherently inferior to all the kids who are BIC, even if they are naughty little brats. It really really stings. It’s not good for the children who are not BIC because I think it could be really damaging to their self worth (we are all God’s children and He loves us equally, but those BIC are actually just a little bit better), and it’s also damaging to parents like me who think, I screwed up my child! Because I didn’t get a temple marriage my children are cursed/inferior/not born of blessed stock/whatever.

    It’s a weird doctrine or semi-doctrine, but it’s even weirder when you kind of have been taught to believe it (like me) and do to some extent. It can wreak havoc on your questions of self-esteem, fate and the futility of it all. Bleh.

  77. Scott,

    Thanks for the warning. I have one final question regarding my line of thinking on Steve’s point.

    Why would God place his most valiant children in situations that would cause them to become people like Saddam Hussein or Pol Pot?

  78. Anne (UK) says:

    I converted as the only member of my family at age 16; one of my closer friends here is BIC. She maintains she was BIC not because she did anything specially righteous in the pre-existence, but because she needed all the help she could get. She sincerely believes being born BIC is more of a sign of pre-existence spiritual weakness than anything else.

    I used to frequent an online (Utah dominated) forum, many of whose members repeatedly voiced the opinion that the biggest sign of pre- existence faithfulness was to be born in the USA. To be born elsewhere in the world designated an implied yet understood lack of faithfulness. I found that more offensive than the BIC question.

  79. Tom Rod says:

    Sorry for not trawling the rest of the comments and throwing in a comment that is off track with the rest of the discussion. Just wanted to point out that the caste system seems to preclude a belief in [i]rewards[/i] based on faithfulness in the premortal life. It struck me as I read that passage mentioned from Abraham 3:22-23 that perhaps the “noble and great ones” were given great responsibilities and trust in this life in lieu of reward. Thus, life wouldn’t necessarily be any easier for these noble and great ones, just different levels of trust and responsibility given

  80. Are all GAs BIC?

  81. Tom Rod says:

    #81, Bob

    No. Bednar is a good example. His dad wasn’t baptized until he was in his 20’s.

  82. chelseaw says:

    81: Joseph Smith wasn’t either.

  83. I don’t believe that recognizing a blessing means that to maintain karmic balance in the universe a related curse must also exist.

    Giving a child additional (educational/sports/musical)opportunities because he has special aptitude in some direction doesn’t mean thateverybody else is deprived, and especially not that some other child has to be singled out to receive fewer opportunities than usual. Being BIC is a blessing at least to the extent that it increases the likelihood of an early, stable gospel-centered life, but that doesn’t mean those without that blessing are cursed by evil surroundings.

    I agree with calls not to demonize people born without some particular advantage — but also think it’s a mistake to fail to appreciate individual blessings, even if we don’t know all the implications of a particular blessing. That seems like a deliberate lack of gratitude, and not something calculated to please God.

  84. Peter LLC says:

    I used to frequent an online (Utah dominated) forum, many of whose members repeatedly voiced the opinion that the biggest sign of pre- existence faithfulness was to be born in the USA.

    They have obviously never lived in Barstow.

  85. After reading most of this discussion I must say … On some things we know more than we think we do and on others we know a whole lot less than we believe.

  86. Molly Bennion says:

    If placement speaks of “reward,” who is to say that the reward might be the opportunity to be born into any situation affording the right opportunity for that spirit to make a significant contribution? The world has need in every corner. God loves all equally. Surely he would place able spirits, of whom there are so many, widely. The idea that the cream is so few deep and has been skimmed only for BIC doesn’t make sense to me.

  87. I have a question on the phrase “caste system” as it relates to church books publications etc.

    I have only found in my reading the phrase used in MD by BRM. Is it present anywhere else? Perhaps in 80 year old manuals?

  88. I don’t think there is, in reality (apart from our own nearsighted assumptions and folklore), anything in our scriptures or core doctrines that should lead us to believe that our mortal situations are any kind of reward or punishment for performance (or non-performance) in pre-earth life.

    That we are foreordained to certain callings is clear. We may, therefore, have been born at certain times and in certain situations that would allow us to best fulfill our foreordained callings. Anything beyond that seems to me a misreading of scripture and just plain malarky.

    Dan:

    “Why would God place his most valiant children in situations that would cause them to become people like Saddam Hussein or Pol Pot?”

    Why on earth would you assume that he did? And why do you assume that “their situations” (as opposed to their own evil choices) caused them to become what they became?

  89. The miracle of the Gospel is that where we’ve been is not nearly as important as where we are going. The Abrahamic covenant promises the same opportunity to all who will make the promise and receive the blessings. Just because someone was born outside of the covenant doesn’t mean they were unrighteous in the pre-existence. Just because someone was born withing the covenant doesn’t mean that their calling and election was made sure before they ever came to this earth, nor that they are any better off now that they’re here.

    We would do well to remember that we are all beggars at the Lord’s table.

  90. MCQ,

    Why on earth would you assume that he did? And why do you assume that “their situations” (as opposed to their own evil choices) caused them to become what they became?

    I’m following Steve’s logic to its end. If God put his most valiant souls into tougher lives, the children of Iraq, of Sudan, of Cambodia, of Afghanistan, those children end up being a Pol Pot, or a Saddam Hussein. If God could see the eventual path his children take in this world, why would he put his most valiant souls into environments that corrupt them so badly as to become the worst people who ever existed on this planet?

    I don’t agree with Steve’s logic, obviously, and I was trying to show that his logic doesn’t work well. As I stated earlier, I think there is a far more random mechanism that unites spirits with bodies, a mechanism we know absolutely nothing about. I think God does put certain people into the world at given times to work His Work. Jesus is the greatest example of this. However, in Jesus’ case, according to the scriptures, God Himself is Jesus’ literal Father. I was a little too disdainful, and got too carried away with some examples, but that’s all I’ll say now on the matter

  91. new seminary teacher says:

    To Margaret Young #36,
    You were asking about a quote by Harold B. Lee. I came across the following while preparing for seminary last night. Maybe it’s the one you remember. The manual suggests that we read the quote to help explain Acts 17:26; the quote is found in “The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles” p. 266.

    ” . . . may I ask each of you again the question, “Who are you?” You are all the sons and daughters of God. Your spirits were created and lived as organized intellligences before the world was. You have been blessed to have a physical body because of your obedience to certain commandments in that premortal state. You are now born into a family to which you have come, into the nations through which you have come, as a reward for the kind of lives you lived before you came here and at a time in the world’s history, as the Apostle Paul taught the men of Athens and as the Lord revealed to Moses, determined by the faithfulness of each of those who lived before this world was created.” (CR, Oct. 1973, p.7.)

  92. See Daniel there was once this really nobel spirit, one of the Sons of the Morning . . . I think the president has been well set for spectacular falls.

  93. Steve,

    well that sure is a perverted take on the last shall be first, the first shall be last. You’re basically saying that in the premortal life, it was not worth the effort to be valiant because being valiant would put you in situations here in the physical world that would lead you to a spectacular downfall. You’re essentially saying that the safe road to eternal life with Heavenly Father in the Celestial Kingdom is to lay low in the premortal life, in the hope that God, seeing you are a weak spirit, would put you in a loving family born in the covenant, thus on a fairly safe path to eternal life. And that if you were too valiant in the premortal life, you are stuck following the same trajectory as Satan himself!

  94. Steve, I think you mean “precedent” not “president.”

    Dan, get a grip.

  95. Yeah, MCQ that’s what I meant. I wish I had been better in the preexistence so my spelling didn’t bite so badly.

  96. Steve,

    It shouldn’t matter how you were in the preexistence, you’re in such a good situation in the now that your spelling shouldn’t bite so badly! ;)

    MCQ,

    I’ve got a grip. Apparently too strong cuz I can’t let go and all. :)

  97. ummquestion says:

    To Daniel #68
    “Was there sin in the premortal existence?”

    Agency can only function if one is able to choose between good and evil. Lucifer and those who followed him were obviously able to choose evil and sinned to the extent of becoming perdition.

    The Prophet Joseph Smith explained, “The contention in heaven was—Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he could save them all, and laid his plans before the grand council, who gave their vote in favor of Jesus Christ. So the devil rose up in rebellion against God, and was cast down, with all who put up their heads for him” (TPJS, p. 357).

    Please note-the statement is that certain souls “would not” be saved, not that they could not be. Even before the great rebellion began, it was known that even if a Redeemer was provided, some still “would not” choose to repent and obey.

    The full gospel plan existed before the foundations of this world and “is the same yesterday, today and forever”. The Atonement (as has been discussed in other posts) is also eternal in nature (applies to the time prior to it as well as after it) and we know that access to it via repentance is available to those in spirit prison/paradise. The Lord states in D&C 29:34 that “never at any time has he given the children of men a law that is temporal”-or that applies only in or to mortality. Thus it stands to reason that it was possible to repent and take advantage of the Atonement pre-mortally just as it is post-mortally.

    To ZDeve #70 “I thought we believed in the innocence of children, no?”

    Innocent yes. But with a qualifier if you will. D&C 74:6 says “But little children are holy, being sanctified through the atonement of Jesus Christ”. This is only one scripture that indicates that the status of purity/innocence that little children are born under is due to, and comes through the Atonement, not because their spirits have never sinned. Christ was the only sinless being.

    By definition-to “sin” is to defy the law of God in some manner. To me, this requires both the knowledge of what constitutes God’s laws and the ability to make an informed, conscious choice between right and wrong. All spirits had both in the premortal estate. As mortal infants we are born under the influence of the veil and are not held accountable for our mortal actions until we are old enough to be capable of both again.

  98. ummquestion says:

    To Ronan #67 “Given that we seem to believe that pre-mortal righteousness has an effect on mortality, then it’s easy to understand why Mormons once unfortunately believed in the opposite: pre-mortal curses and all that stuff.”

    I believe that just as pre-mortal rightousness has an effect on mortality, so does pre-mortal unrighteousness -opposition in all things. I think it is illogical to believe in one but not the other and thus if we accept one, we must be willing to accept the other too. As far as the implications go-since we have not been given a detailed list of exactly HOW or to what extent they affect mortality, the rest is speculation. That is why I objected to the opposite of being BIC being anything other than NOT being BIC.

    For example- Let’s hypothetically say that mortal wealth vs poverty are indeed the consequences related to the obedience or disobedience of an eternal law. That fact doesn’t mean that they are predicated upon the SAME eternal law that determines whether or not we are BIC. After all, there are wealthy LDS covenant families and poverty stricken ones.

  99. Tom Rod says:

    #99 ummquestion:

    I don’t believe being born BIC is necessarily a requisite and necessary outcome to premortal transgressions. Since it’s sacred, I don’t want to discuss particulars, but think about what happens and is mentioned when a child is sealed to a parent.

    If you do not have access to a temple nearby or are unable to attend for any other reason, let me assure you that being BIC or sealed to parents in this life or sealed to parents by proxy are equivalent.

    I think the important point is to recognize we have very limited information (two verses) given to Abraham in relation to his standing as a prophet of God. Abraham did not claim nor guess to be one of the noble and great ones–he was told so by the Lord. Similarly speculating upon what separates the noble and great ones in the preexistence from the fence sitters comes to naught. One would need to have this fact revealed to her or him. And this didn’t happen to Abraham right away either.

    We know that transgression was possible there, as you quoted Joseph Smith. However, transgression implies lack of understanding concerning the law. Noble and great ones probably transgressed as did the rest of us.

    Point is, what are you going to make in the lot you have in this life? As is well said, unto whom much is given much is required. I imagine unto whom little is given, the Lord rejoices when much is offered.

  100. ummquestion says:

    To Meems #77

    Please forgive me posting another, but I didn’t see this comment until after and your words spoke to me.

    I was not BIC. I was raised in the Church and attended Seminary etc all my life but my father was not a member. I cannot recall ever hearing a teacher state or even hint that I was inferior to someone that was BIC. I always felt so blessed to just have the gospel in my life and to have grown up with great LDS friends in a great LDS community.

    I was taught that God gives us more than one chance to obtain His blessings and that He is as fair and just as He is loving and merciful. That meant He loved you and me equally and blessed you and me when we obeyed equally, and withheld blessings from you and me both equally when we disobeyed. Based on that I figured that since God could only bless me as much as I let Him, any blessing I lacked then (or wouldn’t obtain in the future) was my fault, not His.

    I was constantly taught in my youth how important it was to be married in the temple. I wanted my children to be born in the covenant more than anything and made it my goal. When I got older I learned that since my parents died without being sealed to anyone, I could be the key to giving them another chance to obtain that blessing by having them sealed to each other by proxy. I could then seal myself to them and reclaim the blessings I may have lost by not being BIC!! How glorious is the Lord’s amazing plan and His grace!

    My points are A) IF-(and that is an important “if”) being BIC is based on pre-mortal obedience, your children not being BIC is the result of THEIR pre-mortal choices-not YOUR mortal ones. And B) if you and/or your children choose to live according to God’s gospel and obey its principles, you can reclaim those lost blessings just like I did.

  101. ummquestion says:

    To Tom Rod #100 “…let me assure you that being BIC or sealed to parents in this life or sealed to parents by proxy are equivalent.”

    I agree. (see #100)

    “Similarly speculating upon what separates the noble and great ones in the preexistence from the fence sitters comes to naught.”

    I think it was Brigham Young that stated that neutrality (fence sitting) wasn’t allowed there. My personal opinion is that amongst the 2/3 that remained there could have been endless degrees of obedience and disobedience. Even a rebellious spirit could have been smart enough to choose agency and mortality over outer darkness.

    “We know that transgression was possible there, as you quoted Joseph Smith. However, transgression implies lack of understanding concerning the law. Noble and great ones probably transgressed as did the rest of us.”

    I don’t believe that transgression and sinning are equivalents, and I believe both were present there. A just God could not banish 1/3 of His children to damnation because they “misunderstood” the laws. I’m sure the noble and great ones transgressed (and may have even sinned!) right along with the rest of us. I believe that they were there pretty much as they are here-just more willing to repent and submit to the Father than the average bear.

    Personal revelation aside, while the information isn’t plentiful, there is far more in the LDS canon related to the premortal estate than just the verses given to Abraham.

  102. Thanks for those thoughts, ummquestion.

  103. ummquestion,

    Only one problem with your belief that there was sin in the premortal existence, at least among those who did not rebel: even the slightest sin will cause you to be cast out of God’s presence. Thus, if even the “noble and great ones” committed sins in the premortal life, they would have to be cast out of the presence of their Father in Heaven. Where do disembodied spirits—who haven’t even had a chance to come to earth yet!—go if they had committed a sin and must be removed from God’s presence?

    Secondly, does the devil have the capability to tempt them as spirits? See, sinning is tied strongly to the actions of Lucifer.

    OR, does God allow “small sins” to remain present in his spirit children whilst still in His presence? Somehow, I just don’t see that.

  104. Terrakota says:

    Daniel,

    In 2 Peter 2:4 it says “angels that sinned” were “cast down to hell”. Perhaps, Peter is talking about those 1/3 of spirits that followed satan, but usually sin is not something that happens all of a sudden, I doubt that they were all so perfect all that long, and then turned away from God in a moment. They must have sinned before, as I believe we all did, too, but it was that final decision to follow satan that made a difference for them. Like in this life, only very grave sins result in people being cast in the outer darkness, so in the premortal life it could be that way. Otherwise we were all either perfect (all like Christ?) or we didn’t have a moral agency (and we did).

    I don’t think that our sins are tied to satan only. Temples are places where satan has no power, but people still can commit various sins in the temple.

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