The One and Only Myth

In the early 1840s Joseph Smith proposed to Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner. Elizabeth recorded “Joseph said I was his before I came here and he said all the Devils in hell should never get me from him.”  Joseph further told her, “I was created for him
before the foundation of the Earth was laid.”
(Todd Compton. In Sacred Loneliness pg 212 italics added) This may have been the
early beginnings of a pre-existence forming in Joseph Smith cosmology. His words were similar to some of his other wives. For instance in 1841 Joseph made it known to Zina Diantha Jacobs (Huntington Young) that the Lord, “had made it known to him that Zina was to be his wife.” (Ibid. pg 80 italics added)

Perhaps these and other 19th century marriages helped plant the idea in the Mormon psyche that people met and fell
in love in heaven, promising to marry once on earth, foreordained if you will.

I find the myth of the one and only problematic for a number of reasons, one which can be illustrated with a passage from the
patriarchal blessing of a now deceased person, given in Logan 1949.

While in the spirit world you met and loved one of the noble daughters of God. You vowed with her that when you came to earth she would be your mate, the mother of your children. I admonish you to seek the inspiration of the Lord in choosing your mate that you may not make a mistake in this all important matter.

The blessing continues with promises of wonderful things if he marries the right person. But what if she didn’t keep her end of the deal? Would he be doomed? What would happen to her if he failed to keep his end of their pre-existing pact?

It makes me wonder if this article (and President Monson) is right. Are men (and women) looking for their
one and only soul mate, paralyzed by fear that they will marry the wrong person?

I’m kind of fond of the words of Spencer W. Kimball:

 “Soul mates” are fiction and an illusion; and while every young man and young woman will seek with all diligence and prayerfulness to find a mate with whom life can be most compatible and beautiful, yet it is certain that almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price.

I don’t believe in a one and only, never have. My husband doesn’t either. But sometimes I think it would be nice for him to think I was so special that he couldn’t have married anyone else. Sometimes I wonder if people aren’t only looking for their pre-destined soul mate, but really want to be that special too, rather than the random person chosen from several options. And I’ve seen a few divorces of friends who were so convinced they had married the wrong person, they ended it to be with the person they were convinced they made marital promises with in the pre-existence (or find that person). The truth is none of us are that special.

Comments

  1. I clicked the link, listened to the first line, shut it off quickly, realizing it was exactly as schmaltzy as I remembered, but it was too late: Melissa heard it, and sang the complete song for me, despite my repeated cries of pain. And now she’s singing “He’s Just a Friend” (“a kind unselfish boy who understands my pain!”). AAAAARRRGGHHH!!! Damn you, mmiles! Damn you, Lex de Azevedo! Damn you all!!!

  2. “the one and only problematic for a number of reasons”

    Joseph Smith and polygamy should put an end to the idea of the “one and only” part ;)

  3. I think both ends of the pendulum are sketchy: 1) one and only; 2) any two righteous people can be happily married.

  4. mmiles says:

    J. Stapley,
    It kind of reminds me of my mission. I was suddenly transferred to break up two other sisters who were fighting. The mission president said, “They’re both really great and great missionaries, they just can’t get along.” It kind of goes for married couples. I think there has to be some compatibility to begin with.

    RAF,
    It gets worse with age.

    Ben S,
    Touche!

  5. Martin says:

    I know there are people who think they were meant for each other from the pre-existence, but I thought they were all newlyweds.

    Personally, I’m not only convinced that “any two righteous people can be happily married” is false, I’m actually convinced that there are righteous people who simply cannot be happily married at all. Maybe it depends what one means by “righteous”.

  6. britt k says:

    I’ve never believed in a one and only. My husband does. huh.

  7. Kristine says:

    The problem with “any two righteous people can be happily married” is not with the content of “righteous,” but with the shifting ground of “happily married.” If he’d said “almost any good man and any good woman can make a long-term economic compact and childrearing partnership, be civil to each other most of the time and refrain from inflicting bodily injury…” he’d have had a point. But once you say “happiness” and “success” you’re cueing a lot of 20th-century expectations, and coupling them to a 19th-century version of marriage is highly problematic. That’s not to say that the 19th-century model doesn’t better approximate the ideal of Christian marriage–it very well might–only that people who have grown up with 20th-century ideas about affection and emotional fulfillment in marriage (and, one might add, had those expectations drilled into them for years in YW) are going to be deeply disappointed by a 19th-century marriage.

  8. Spoilsport. Next you’ll be telling me there are no guardian angels. I’m stuck in the middle on this. I’m not so sure about the premortal planning, but I wonder if some couples are drawn together by more than just gene combinations and hormones – for future-tweaking purposes. I admit to not understanding what I just wrote.

  9. mmiles says:

    WVS,
    I think I get what you are saying, I just disagree with you.

    From my own life I can say there were moments when I’ve felt lucky to meet certain people (not always potential marriage partners). Every relationship is a gift. I also think my life could have taken several different paths, all good. I just chose one of the many.

  10. I know people who carry this a step further and believe that children chose their parents in the premortal existence. One of these days I’m going to ask one of them what they think is my situation: Was I so awful that nobody in the pre-existence was willing to choose me as a mother? Did some choose me, but now don’t get to have a mortal existence because I failed them? Were “my” children foisted off onto parents who didn’t want them because I failed them? Pick any “solution” you want, and what does it say about making covenants that are partially dependent upon others over whom you have no control?

    You could ask very similar — and pointlessly unanswerable — questions about people who believe in premortal pacts to marry.

    I blame Nephi Anderson.

  11. I rather think that in the pre-existence I owed my wife money.

  12. gst (or “cuz” as I call you in my mind) I can understand.

  13. The “one and only” idea is sure sweet, but it’s a myth that won’t go down easily. I have a suggestion for curing any male who is devoted to this suspect but oh-so-easy-to-love notion: Make them a bishop or a bishop’s counselor, and give them the specific assignment to determine what the mother’s day gifts will be and how they will be distributed. Believe me, nothing strikes more fear into the heart of a bishop than this particular practice, and nothing will make them drop sentimentally-based notions of marriage, love, and motherhood more quickly. A few years ago my brilliant young bishop accepted his first mother’s day assignment by giving a tender talk in which he plead with all the members of his congregegation who were lucky enough to have mothers living still to call them right after church and tell them they loved them. Oh, and he gave all the sisters in the congregation a nice little picture and poem about Mary, mother of Jesus. Well, this poor guy practically got his rear end handed to him after church. The women who were missing their roses or chocolate strawberries that day really let him have it, and of course many other women simply fell apart when they got home because the talk on Mary was just one more reminder of why they didn’t really measure up as a mother or woman. Well, the result was legendary. I doubt anyone in that congregation seriously entertained the notion of of a “one and only” for the next five years,” and I also caused future bishoprics to default to the traditional “safe” position on mother’s day. We seem to solve this problem at Father’s Day by treating it in a joking, kind of after-thought manner. They guys are just happy if they end up with 1/4 of that seran-wrapped cookie.

  14. MikeInWeHo says:

    Is that song for real? Why does it end with an ominous thunderclap?

  15. mmiles says:

    MikeInWeHo,
    You are missing out. Youtube Saturday’s Warrior.

  16. mmiles, are you asserting that no relationship is suggested to the parties by divine influence?

  17. Mark Brown says:

    I think a credible case could be made that Saturday’s Warrior has had a greater influence on how people who came of age between 1975 and 1995 understand the gospel than any other influence, president of the church included. Many of the ideas were already floating around, but SW popularized them and spread them through the American church. It is amazing how so many people of that generation know every word to those songs. We probably listened to them hundreds of times.

  18. mmiles says:

    WVS,
    No. The opposite. I think sometimes people are put in our pathways. But I don’t think any of it was predetermined before we came to earth.

  19. mmiles says:

    @MB,
    Sounds like a really great topic for a symposium on material culture.

  20. Mark Brown says:

    You’re right!

  21. Martin says:

    Ardis, you make an interesting point, but I don’t think it’s a good argument against Saturday Warrrior doctrine. Agency means people actually can fall from preordained positions, contracts, whathaveyou. And, should they fail (or a spouse fail them, or whatever), I assume they just go on with an alternative available option.

    I mean, there seem to be many people preordained to something who didn’t seem to pull it off — Samson, David, Judas Iscariot, etc.. Of course, things moved on without them, but not necessarily all that well. Why couldn’t it be the same with potential marital/family choices made in the pre-existence? Maybe there’s some kid who chose Bathsheba and Uriah, but Uriah got killed and Bathsheba, uh, remarried, and the kid showed up elsewhere — say, an unplanned extramarital pregnancy.

    I’m not making a strong argument, more a black humor argument, but I’m simply pointing out that I see no reason covenants made between people in the pre-existence, should they exist, would be any different than those made here. People are free to mess things up.

  22. mmiles says:

    Martin,
    I think in more recent years church leaders have made it pretty clear we don’t believe in determinism or predestination. Foreordination to priesthood callings I would put in a different category (simply because we have Alma 13 to back it up). I don’t think we can say anything else was preset, but it’s pretty darn Mormony folk doctrine that we chose our parents, our spouses, our trials–none of which I personally believe.

  23. Josh B. says:

    I suppose it could be either way. We just don’t know.

  24. @MikeInWeHo: You’ll like this version:

  25. Mark Brown says:

    In addition to the choice of or covenant with spouse/parents/children in the premortal life, we also have the idea of promising friends in the premortal life that we will bring the gospel to them. I’ve heard the song I’ll Find You, My Friend performed at dozens of missionary farewells.

  26. KerbearRN says:

    It’s interesting to me the idea of “finding that one and only”. When we first got married, my husband and I were head over heels, sickeningly in love. While we knew that it was good and right and approved of by God that we married, i dont think either of us harbored illusions that either was a “one and only soul mate”. However it is the years of trial and error amd struggles and triumphs and failures and the trial by fire of parenthood that have made us “soul mates”. It’s not a pre-existing condition, but I think one that you earn, or that at least is born of deep mutual experience.

  27. I think that it is probably better not to feel it was preordained during the dating stage, but to develop that feeling in the marriage without thinking the idea is necessarily valid for other people. Thinking your children are foreordained gives you a little extra patience and can help you deal with the more difficult ones. It deepens the sense of family. So these ideas have utility if they are applied at the personal level.

  28. When I was younger and naive, I loved the idea of having a soulmate or being foreordained for a particular mate. But like so many romantic notions of my teens, that idea wen the same way as my crush on Bon Jovi. When I got married, I thought I had found the One, but now, a decade and a half, three children and a divorce behind me, I look on my previous notions with a kind of wry tolerance, like I would a cute puppy chewing on my shoelaces.

    Life is hard. We make the best of hard things. Like Kristine, I do not think any two people, like Tetris cubes, can have a successful marriage- there are too many human variables. I also no longer believe in the the One. There are many paths to happiness and many people that might perhaps walk that path with us. Like all things in life, we have to use our best judgement in what that means and seek accordingly- but fulfillment and joy can be found flowing down many different tributaries of the river.

  29. Mommie Dearest says:

    I was barely out of high school in 1975 and I was just addle-brained enough to think that Saturday’s Warrior was fine and inspiring art. It’s been a steady uphill climb since then.

    I was sitting here wrestling a pithy comment about the beauty of chaos, and what a crapshoot life is for some of us (not Joseph Smith of course, but me–certainly) and yada yada, when the random demons of Safari attacked my computer and _poof_ it’s all gone. Just another accidental fluke. I’m going to bed.

  30. Martin, an argument against your argument is its cascading effect. Uriah and Bathsheba’s “covenant daughter” didn’t get born to them but was instead born as an illegitimate daughter in the southern provinces of Israel. That meant she was geographically unavailable to meet and marry her one-and-only, who was a Levite priest serving in Jerusalem. That meant that he prematurely snapped up the daughter of Solomon’s armor-bearer before she had a chance to meet her own one-and-only the following spring when he came on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The children who should have been born to them, therefore, were born to two different couples in the tribal area assigned to Gad and one in Babylon, which meant that they

    Even if spirits waited until the last possible moment before birth to make such promises, they’d have virtually no chance of keeping them, and entirely through no fault of their own. That’s a new definition of original sin: We’re all born as covenant-breakers, forced into such covenant breaking by the actions of others!

  31. Romantic love can be a debilitating delusion and an invitation to dishonor. Romantic love can be a heady, affirmation of life and the underpinning of all that is wonderful in it. Pearson/de Azevedo should–no, will–go down in history for having so successfully encapsulated this inherent duality within Rousseau’s Julie, ou La Nouvelle Héloïse.

  32. [From the lede of Wikipedia's article about this novel of Rousseau's: "A common interpretation is that Rousseau values the ethics of authenticity over rational moral principles. He also illustrates that you should only do what society asks of you when it's congruent with the "secret principles" and feelings which constitute your core identity. Acting inauthentically is self-destructive."]

  33. John Mansfield says:

    A few times I heard Hartman Rector Jr. speak in fireside-type settings about the conversion of himself and his wife. These would have been around 1980. As an aside, he would express a playful conviction that he and his wife were committed to each other from the pre-existence. Approximating from memory, “Some of the brethren tell me that I shouldn’t say that, that it isn’t doctrine. I tell them the idea probably doesn’t apply to them, but just to us.”

  34. Researcher says:

    We’re all born as covenant-breakers, forced into such covenant breaking by the actions of others

    Interesting way of putting it. I can’t say whether it would hold up under scriptural scrutiny, but isn’t that point or a similar point repeatedly made in the Old Testament with the stories of Tamar (seduced her father in law), Rahab (the harlot), Ruth (the foreigner) and Bathsheba (had a fling with King David). They were all ancestors of Jesus, and the circumstances surrounding His birth could certainly have been the subject of a lot of gossip in the village.

    On the subject of the original post, the simple mention of those songs makes me want to go wash my brain out with soap and water.

    And on my opinion as to whether we have a “one-and-only” and get to choose our families. Do we get to choose our friends, neighbors, ward members, and mortal enemies as well?

  35. Why would it have to be all one or the other? Obviously, if there was a pre-existence, there must have been associations there. If there were, I’m sure promises were made.

    I’m guessing that some made promises to each other, and some didn’t. When I married, I never felt I was his one-and-only, but he felt that way. (Of course, he probably felt that way about his first wife, and he probably tells his new wife he feels that way about her, but that’s another issue altogether.)

    Equally obviously, there can’t be a literal ONE-and-only, or our salvation would be determinate on others’ agency.

    But I think it might fall back on the “many are called, few chosen” thing. There are probably many called to perform certain functions in life, and not all actually do it. Sometimes for their own mistakes, sometimes for others. I truly believe that if my ex had not chosen to be abusive, if instead he had come to own his own mistakes and find it in himself to forgive me mine, we could have had an eternal family. But he didn’t. And now, someday now or in the eternities, I’ll find someone who will live up to his potential if I live up to mine.

    I don’t think pre-mortal promises are necessarily the same thing as destiny. And I don’t think we are special enough to be someone else’s salvation. We each have to work out our own salvation.

    But we can all be special enough to work out our own salvation arm-in-arm with someone else working out theirs. And to me, that is far more romantic than destiny.

  36. Ardis,
    That’s a great illustration of how one person using their agency and marrying the wrong person could bring down the whold plan of salvation.
    Good thing the concept of one and only is a crock. I do believe in the other side of the coin however…. There are combinations of people who simply should not get married because they have nearly no chance of making it work. That’s the real reason we are counseled to make our choice of a mate a matter of much prayer.

  37. o Man! I’m geeking out cuz I haven’t heard this since that we wore through the ol’ vinyl. I’m right on-board with 17 and 19. A material culture panel–say, at this year’s SS Symp.–could be useful, interesting, or at least a nostalgia-fest. How ’bout a SW sing-along instead of hymns, this year? The “Saturday’s Warrior” generation surely got the shaft of bad doctrine. Or, maybe someone’s clock “sprung forward” and they forgot to tell us?!

  38. proud daughter of eve says:

    Someone in my home ward was told in her patriarchal blessing that she and her husband (already married by that point) had promised in the Pre-existence to meet and marry.

    I think that there are some such “destined” couples but that everyone else can be as happy together as they want, depending on how hard both partners are willing to work at it.

  39. proud daughter of eve says:

    Ardis (#10); I remember being told that I’d chosen my parents in the Pre-existence and I used to wonder what exactly that meant. I have an older half-brother from my mom’s first failed marriage; what did the idea of choosing our parents in the pre-existence mean in the context of blended families? In the end, I decided it meant that spirit children chose their parents from the pool of “available” parents.

  40. it feels really unfair to be committed to pre-existent promises and covenants and callings we can’t remember!

  41. Last Lemming says:

    This is the part where I sound like a broken record for those who have followed my comments over the years.

    First, on the subject of choosing our parents in the pre-existence. Ardis raises some good points, but for me, the deciding factor is how the idea could affect a child who is being abused. Do we want to send the message that they chose to be abused when they selected the abusive parent? (It doesn’t matter whether the logic is sound–it is an easy jump for a child to make.) Not me. In fact, this is the only thing I have heard preached over the podium that prompted me to complain to the Stake President.

    On the subject of the “one-and-only,” allow me to repeat a joke told by a regional representative at a University of Utah Stake conference ca. 1979.

    He: “I have had a revelation that we covenanted in the pre-existence to find and marry each other on earth.”

    She: “Well, I may have made that mistake once, but I’m certainly not going to make it again!”

    Now for something new. My moustache is part of my identity. I never shaved it until I got my pre-mission picture taken, and I have never shaved it since I reported my mission to the High Council. But this post reminds me that I have an even longer identity-defining streak. I have never once–not even on my mission, when it was the only permitted nonclassical music–listened to the Saturday’s Warrior soundtrack. Not one line of one song. Now you know everything important that there is to know about me.

  42. Cognito! says:

    I tend to lean toward the Kimball line of thinking on the topic, and am skeptical of how we sometimes interpret the doctrines of premortality foreordination in general.

    I remember my mission president’s wife sweetly proclaiming at a zone conference that we were all foreordained to be at that particular mission when we were, so that we could find the people only we could touch. My first reaction was “wait, I didn’t leave until I was 20 because I wasn’t spiritually prepared at 19, and my companion is freaking 23! Are you saying that God foreordained us to inactivity so we could get our acts together in time to be called to this mission now?” Of course I doubt she meant any such thing but I think we often neglect to think through the implications of weighty concepts like foreordination. If we really believe in agency and repentance then aside from the horror of falling short of our foreordination (what if Joseph Smith was actually the first-alternate Prophet of the Restoration?) some of us must be accomplishing things beyond our foreordinations.

    Having said all that, my wife firmly believes that she was meant to find and marry me, which I am unable to disprove and not foolish enough to try ;)

  43. #41, You’re right. I was told by my parents when I complained about the abuse in the home that I “chose my parents and siblings”. In other words, stop complaining. I picked the home.
    Later when I attended Ricks College I committed myself to studying the scriptures and asking alot of questions. Needless to say I find Saturday’s Warrior to be total bs.

  44. Are men (and women) looking for their
    one and only soul mate, paralyzed by fear that they will marry the wrong person?

    That and X-Box, but mostly X-Box

  45. I know my dating life became a lot more fun after I gave up on the one-and-only stuff. What pressure!

    Believing in one-and-only leads to us subtly giving away our agency and right/responsibility to choose. There’s the “I must not have married the right person” thinking already mentioned and the “God told me this was right, so it’s really his fault things are crappy. I don’t need to change” kind of thinking that does wonders for a relationship, and the “I will overlook these glaring red flags and warning signs because I’m sure this is my one-and-only. I’m not even going to entertain the idea that I’m horny and/or getting scared I’ll be single forever” thinking. Basically what I’m getting at is this: one-and-only –> not using agency/not taking responsibility for choices. Agency = important to God’s plan. Therefore one-and-only = evil doctrine of Satan. It only follows that Saturday’s Warrior should be banished from the kingdom and never spoken of again.

    MikeInWeHo, don’t listen to any of them. Save your sanity and don’t YouTube Satuday’s Warrior.

  46. mmiles says:

    #27 Paul2
    I think that’s why a lot of people go with the–all our relationships were predetermined. It makes it easier to sometimes stay together in a marriage (how can it fail if it was foreordained?) Or be more patient with children. But is that a good reason to make up doctrine?

    Ardis,
    Great example of the mental gymnastics that ultimately must be done to follow though on a theology of a predetermined existence.

    SilverRain,
    I’m just not sure how much promises could be made. We hadn’t experienced mortality, and wouldn’t have any memory of those promises, so what’s the point of making them? I know this has to be the case with Jesus, but I’m not sure we can extend it to too much more.

    And yet, I know God has intervened in my own life in subtle yet glorious ways.

  47. mmiles says:

    Becca,
    That’s what I see too as the practical problem that plays out in real life.

  48. “And yet, I know God has intervened in my own life in subtle yet glorious ways.”

    This is the nexus of it for me- the grand ball got rolling, and a lot of stuff just happens by nature of living on this side of the veil, through the glass darkly, fallen world, etc.. It’s what we do with it that matters- and every once in a while, in the middle of the mayhem, we feel the warmth and love of our God, who has peeked in and allows his light to shine on us.

  49. Michael says:

    I’ve also heard a General Authority fireside where the speaker told about having a revelation that the girl he saw on campus had promised to marry him in the pre-existance.

    George P. Lee certainly knew how to put on a good fireside.

  50. I love the smell of dying sacred cows early in the morning

  51. Mark Brown says:

    I have never once–not even on my mission, when it was the only permitted nonclassical music–listened to the Saturday’s Warrior soundtrack. Not one line of one song.

    Last Lemming, this explains why your comments are usually so cogent and persuasive. You didn’t destroy so many brain cells back in the 70s and 80s.

  52. it's a series of tubes says:

    But we can all be special enough to work out our own salvation arm-in-arm with someone else working out theirs. And to me, that is far more romantic than destiny.

    Exactly. Thanks for expressing this more clearly than I ever could.

  53. jimbob says:

    True story: I once gave a talk on marriage where for some reason I mentioned that we don’t know if we knew our spouses in premortality. I was even politic about it–surprising, I know–saying something along the lines that it very well that we did know one another, but that we have no doctrine along those lines, so don’t not get married because you’re not sure if your significant other covenanted to married you in the preexistence. I thought it was relatively unobjectionable. But after sacrament meeting, a couple came up to me and the bishop while we were still on the stand and pretty angrily asked for the bishop to correct my false doctrine. The bishop politely refused, and the couple refused to talk to me again.

  54. Re: 40. “it feels really unfair to be committed to pre-existent promises and covenants and callings we can’t remember!”

    Yes, but that seems to be the flavor of the month in terms of looking at women’s roles as explained in the temple, especially as interpreted by Valerie Hudson and Beverly Campbell.

  55. Great story JimBob. I wonder how much longer that couple stayed together….

  56. “the deciding factor is how the idea could affect a child who is being abused. Do we want to send the message that they chose to be abused when they selected the abusive parent?”

    Amen. So much of our foreordination doctrine rests on a subconscious foundation of self-congratulation that totally ignores the implications for those whose lives simply suck – for lack of a more genteel way to say it. It’s not that we actively believe we are such better people that we got the good life, but that’s the underlying doctrinal implication.

    Even, “There but for the grace of God go I,” implies God was gracious toward us and not gracious toward those whose lives we don’t want to live.

    I marreid my hig school sweetheart – the only girl I’ve ever loved – the girl I “recognized” the first time I saw her (literally felt like getting reacquainted with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long, long time) – the girl I view as my “split-apart”. We met 29 years ago next month; we will have been married 25 years this December; I married her six weeks after returning from my mission; etc. We are as close to the Saturday’s Warrior description as it probably is possible to be in all objective ways.

    I don’t believe in the one and only idea.

    This is one of those issues that I don’t understand in the slightest – and all I can do is be glad I live my life, without having any idea whatsoever why my life is mine.

  57. mmiles says:

    Gable,
    I don’t follow. Could you explain?

  58. “married my high school sweetheart” – *sigh*

  59. kevinf says:

    My wife and I have done well together, and we both felt confirmation about the choice to get engaged. There’s more to that part of the story, but too long for this comment.

    If we were predestined to be married (which I do NOT believe) then that predestination required my wife’s previous boyfriend (to whom my wife fully expected to get engaged) to die in a military hospital in Vietnam following a freak accident.

    Neither one of us needs the guilt that would imply. We just have felt very fortunate to have found each other. And when we had the misfortune to have to sit through two or three different performances of SW shortly after we married, we both came to the conclusion that it was a bunch of bogus doctrine. We fortunately never exposed any of our children to it.

  60. 57: Nope, because Gender Equality discussions were just forbidden at BCC. Sorry!

  61. I agree that both extremes are unwarranted. As to the pre-existence having some effect, I think it is reasonable to think that once a couple is married and living righteously, certain Spirits in the pre-existence might be designated in some way to come to earth through the bodies that will be created through their union. This is why many married couples in the Church receive premonitions and spiritual promptings about individuals who will be joining their families. For example, a couple with two children already feeling strongly that a third child is waiting and perhaps even receiving more specific inspiration or revelation about the identity of the additional family member. This is different than saying all these covenants and contracts and promises have been made in the pre-existence (as depicted in Saturday’s Warrior and elsewhere in 1970s Mormonism); rather, it’s far more practical than all that.

  62. Last Lemming says:

    You didn’t destroy so many brain cells back in the 70s and 80s.

    Thanks. But the key phrase is “so many.” I must confess to having listened to “Feelings,” “Seasons in the Sun,” “Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room,” and “Jim Dandy to the Rescue” more than once each.

  63. Correlating “The Myth’s” premises, and other comments on pre-existing covenants: My mother had been made distressed on not just one occasion when Mormon peers suggested her MS (which caused her passing, age 50) was condition of her being less valiant in the pre-existence.

  64. Mark Brown says:

    mmiles, Gable is too polite to say it, but I’m not.

    The Hudson/Campbell school of thought suggests that in the pre-mortal life women were given a peek at what their lot would be like in mortality, and they agreed to it before being born. Therefore, women have no basis for complaint now, and they ought to just shut up, stop complaining, and quit making waves.

  65. Benjamin says:

    “The Hudson/Campbell school of thought suggests that in the pre-mortal life women were given a peek at what their lot would be like in mortality, and they agreed to it before being born. Therefore, women have no basis for complaint now, and they ought to just shut up, stop complaining, and quit making waves.”

    Can I get an amen…..anyone…..anyone…anyone at all?……
    aw nuts! :)

  66. mmiles says:

    Mark,
    Srsly? Yes, let’s not go there on this thread, but thanks for filling me in.

    john f,
    I believe that’s true. My own experience with each of my children’s births has brought with them impressions too personal to share, but would go along with what you are saying.
    I think the difference between that and the Saturday’s Warrior scenario is God working with the choices we make here and then the options for children yet to be born vs God planning who goes where in a premortal counsel, all planned out before any of us breathe our first breath-a kind of determinism I find antithetical to the gospel.

  67. Yes, that’s exactly the difference.

  68. Kevin Barney says:

    Mark no. 64, I was going to be born as a woman into this mortality, but when I saw what the deal was going to be I up and refused, so God changed me to a male, and here I sit today in all my XY chromosomal glory.

    Here’s a bit of advice to avoid parental malpractice: Never, ever, let your daughter set foot on a BYU campus, until you’ve drilled into her that no RM has the right to receive a revelation to the effect that she is to be his wife. (And also, drill into your RM sons not to try to pull such a stupid and silly trick.) There are no soulmates, there are no priesthood revelations demanding it, there are only two people falling in love and making a mutual decision. (BRM didn’t even pray over the decision to marry his wife, he just knew it was right, and ymmv, but I kind of like that.)

  69. Oh Ardis, #30 is only an argument for the hard-bitten realist!

    Of course Uriah and Bathsheba’s covenant daughter was born elsewhere, but her Levite one-and-only, smitten though he might be by the armor-bearer’s daughter, would know that something was missing, that he had a work to do, a mission to accomplish, and in his travels (or in hers) they somehow meet, fall in love, and he marries her despite her lowly station!

    ‘Course, in the modern Hollywood movie version the Levite priest’s secretly a disreputable scoundrel messing around with the armor-bearers’ daughter (among others), but they meet, she reforms him, he discovers the she’s his true love, and they live happily ever after! (no sequels to rom-coms).

    Romance squishers! Why couldn’t there be people who were “meant” for each other? It’s no sillier or more harmful than “everything happens for a reason” or “God gave me {this particular trial} because He knew I needed ….” If somebody’s patriarchal blessing says she chose her family pre-mortally, well, maybe she did.

    Actually, I don’t have a dog in this race, because I pretty much agree with Ardis and mmiles. My hang-up is that the real argument against such thinking (so long as it’s not actually preached as doctrine), seems to be the danger of disillusionment, of never being able to reach the ideal. Well, that’s the same argument against preaching the wonderfulness of families at church. I’m probably not over that from the thread in Tracy’s post.

  70. Ron Madson says:

    multiple mortal probations clears this all up…..

  71. Martin rocks.

  72. Saturday’s Warriors, Added Upon, Pride and Prejudice, Cinderella and her PC, Isaac and Rebecca, Adam and Eve–humanity has a long history glorifying one-and-only-meant-to-be-made-for-each-other love. Old people (who’ve already eaten their slice of reality pie) scoff at the idea and the young continue to believe/hope.

  73. mmiles (#46)—The same way we make promises here, without knowing what they’ll entail. That would be my guess, anyways.

    But I have taken comfort in the Lord’s declaration to Joseph that even should the worst things happen to him, the Lord will turn it to Joseph’s good. I think that speaks powerfully to the abilities of the Lord, and gives good insight on the concept of destiny.

  74. Martin, I see your point. And I can almost reconcile myself to my one-and-only running off with that stake president’s daughter in Poughkeepsie instead of coming to MHA a couple of years ago where I could have met him, but I cannot forgive all you younger-than-me-spirits for finding me so premortally vile that none of you chose me for your mother. If you had, I just know our combined faith would have sent that Poughkeepsie gal over an African waterfall before she ever had a chance to sink her claws into my man.

  75. “I love the smell of dying sacred cows early in the morning”

    Awesome.

  76. Growing up I had little exposure to the Saturday Warrior soundtrack. I guess I was to far away from the West.

    I find the idea to be possible for some I suppose. I generally though think that there are for all us a few possible matches. I know a few girls before I was married that I probably could have married and been happy with. But there was only one whom I got a spiritual witness to marry.

    I see the SWK comment as more of an attempt to inspire those amongst the Saints in struggling marriages to try harder. (outside the marriages where there is abuse and cheating of course)

  77. I grew up in the 80s but for some reason I have never seen Saturday’s Warrior, although I heard a little bit about it. Perhaps I should watch it with my kids so my teenage daughter can learn true 80s doctrine about the preexistence.

  78. Jami,
    Yes, Adam and Eve were made for each other. I don’t remember anything sayin Isaac and Rebecca were. As for your other examples, I give you the words of dear old Grandpa Simpson: “Pure Unadulterated Pap!”
    This concept is great for fairytales. For doctrine, not so much.

  79. Eve Tassen says:

    Kevin B.
    I fully agree with the advice to parents. This is awesome and should be read in general conference!

    until you’ve drilled into her that no RM has the right to receive a revelation to the effect that she is to be his wife.

    But I’m kind of wary about your statement about there are “no soulmates”. Maybe you didn’t mean it as absolute as it sounded, I know that a belief in soulmates is ascriptural, but isn’t believing that they don’t exist just as ascriptural? Shouldn’t we be more tolerant and agnostic about this rather than militantly atheistic about it?

    I’m certainly not saying I accept the western worlds viewpoints about romance and soul-mates, just expressing a bit of skepticism about your certainty.

  80. Eve Tassen,
    There are so many mental gymanstics involved to make that fit on global scale, I lean toward ‘No, there aren’t.’

  81. Ron (78), my fault for misspelling Rebekah’s name.

  82. Kristine N says:

    Strange, I grew up in Utah in the 80′s and yet have never seen Saturday’s Warrior (or, if I have, it’s been blocked from my memory). Wonder if my democrat (obviously semi-apostate) parents can be blamed for so seriously failing to teach me correct doctrines in my youth.

  83. I’m elated that so many of you can find humor in this potentially huge doctrinal issue. For those of you who, like me, grew up in the late 70′s/early 80′s with the psychological problems created by all the false doctrines of SW and Bruce R, I hope you can laugh right out loud (as it seems many of you are in the mood for laughing today), like my oldest son did, when I revealed the following to him the following. There was lots of familial background to the story, so I hope you still get the gist of the situation, but it comes down to hearing the news of the 1978 revelation on the priesthood on TV (we lived in Utah so it was an “interrupted” news flash) and being so psychologically damaged by bad doctrine up until then, that we honestly thought the world was coming to an end instead of being able to rejoice in the good news. After all, Bruce R had said it couldn’t happen until the end of the world, so we believed it heart and soul. How sad, really, but my oldest son had a good hearty laugh about it when I told him. I guess all these old doctrines die off, but I’m glad y’all can let them do so with some humor.

  84. Kevinr,
    Humor aside, I actually think pre-existence determinism is very damaging, especially to marriages (and especially to lots of other things-ie priesthood ban).

  85. To the extent that I get all mushy, mystical, and cosmic about marriage I like to think that one of the powers of the sealing power is to “seal” a couple both forward AND backward in time. It aligns not only our present and future but also our past paths that led us to the point of commitment. We choose our “soul mates”. They are not predetermined. On a more realistic basis, the life stories and the way we make sense of them I think are absolutely altered by such big events as marriage. We write each other in different ways into our pasts. For me this is evident in that I married a girl I knew since 8th grade. So all our interactions back then take on “new meaning” now that we are married. Of course, I could not have married my DW and married an Alternative DW (ADW) and then those same interactions with DW would be understood in a totally different way and I would come up with different ways that ADW and my histories meld to make us the couple we are. Of course, in marriages that become bad I could see the need and total desire to unseal people’s lives. I imagine for many people who get divorced they want to desperately disconnect themselves history and all from the other person. Of course in some divorce situations the people involved come to want to keep and cherish at least some parts of their histories.

  86. Wow, I was in YW in the late 70s and not only listened to the record MANY times over, but saw the live musical extravaganza at the Oakland Temple. Woohoo!

  87. “I’m simply pointing out that I see no reason covenants made between people in the pre-existence, should they exist, would be any different than those made here. ”
    I haven’t read any of the comments since #21 and someone may already have addressed this better than I can. But one big difference I can see between making pre-existent covenants and making them here is that we can know and remember that we made the ones here.

  88. When it comes down to it, whether there is or is not a premortal existence or an afterlife, this life is the only one we really know anything about. All the rest is supposition, hearsay, superstition or faith. Take your pick.

    So even if there is a “one and only,” it doesn’t matter, because we can live only in the here and now, we can only “see through a glass darkly,” and anything that we interpret to be a message from either before or after this life has been filtered through our corruptible mortal brains and bodies. We simply can’t know that sort of thing with certainty in this life.

  89. Mai Li,
    Yep.

  90. mmiles, you keep saying things like determinism and predestination. Both those words imply an inflexibility and lack of choice that is out-of-line with Mormonism, but to me, they don’t really apply here. Words like prophecy and foreordination are closer, because they’re both conditional. The idea of families choosing each other premortally seems to be even a step down from that, because God isn’t even involved (necessarily) in the choosing (or do I misunderstand this?)

    Nor is the false doctrine accompanying the priesthood ban in the same category, because it creates externally-applied limits in this life based on presumed and unknowable choices before, whereas “the one and only” concept doesn’t limit choices in this life (except in the cases like Kevin Barney’s RMs in #68), but rather fits into “searching for higher meaning” that religion is for.

    I don’t understand why you say it’s so damaging to marriages.

  91. anon for this says:

    SW has long been banned in my house since I married and then divorced one of the actor’s from that lovely production. Sadly, the behind the scenes stories I heard about many of the people who were in that movie make me QUITE sure that nothing inspired came out of that set. Seriously…I had forgotten how horrible that soundtrack was until I clicked on the YT link and then wanted to grab the nearest trashcan.

  92. John Mansfield says:

    I have heard that our Father in Heaven notices the deaths of dime-a-dozen sparrows. Not that he particularly cares whether any particular bird is alive or dead. But he notices.

  93. Paul Bohman (88)

    what a buzzkill man…

  94. it's a series of tubes says:

    anything that we interpret to be a message from either before or after this life has been filtered through our corruptible mortal brains and bodies. We simply can’t know that sort of thing with certainty in this life.

    I disagree with this. Paints with too broad a brush. I’ve had experiences that I would assess as enabling me to know some things on the topics you mention with MORE certainty than anything else.

  95. Is there a correlation between the use of the phrases by men toward their would-be wives such as “I was created for him before the foundation of the Earth was laid” and polygamy? Are women just more aware of life now and wouldn’t succumb to such sweet nothings? Although I suspect more than one mis-directed RM has tried that line… repeatedly until he got a taker.

  96. mmiles says:

    Martin, I’m using the word determinism (but should probably say predetermined) because if there is a one and only, there are so many factors in life that would have to be into play for that to happen that it seems necessarily deterministic to me.

    The priesthood ban fits the same category in the same way because it is based on choices premortally (or promises to other people) I’m supposing that a sanctioned marriage on earth, predetermined in heaven, would also have to be sanctioned in heaven by God.

    I’ve seen it be damaging to marriages when a couple hits a rough patch and struggling comes to the conclusion in loneliness that the reason was because he/she married the wrong person; not so much in a mismatched way and thinking they are super incompatible, or that they need to work things out and it will be hard, but rather failed to find the promised person in heaven. Spouses then see they have no option but divorce to fix destiny.

    Or, I also have a friend who prayed and felt good about a marriage and so naturally married the guy. The marriage deteriorated over the years, and she even had 2 bishops suggest divorce for her sake (it was really bad). She wouldn’t leave because she received an answer before marriage and was certain that meant they made promises to each other in heaven that she needed to keep.

    me,
    Hah! I know a guy who did pretty much that until he got a taker, convinced that the girl was failing to listen to the spirit if she blew him off.

  97. Thomas Parkin says:

    Especially if we were to any recognizable degree conscious individuals in the pre-mortal life, it makes sense that we would have formed relationships in that life of various kinds. It may be – because we didn’t have bodies – that we couldn’t form bonds based on the kind of erotic love we are talking about. That would be a way of nipping the soulmate thing in the bud. However, it looks like we grouped ourselves based on affinity to certain ideas (war in heaven just being the obvious one), and with the amount of time available, who knows how that may have played out. I know that this kind of thinking has lead to abuses, and that it is disliked for that reason – but the other view is that the relationships that we must have formed have no bearing on on this life, and so can’t be strung together to the next life – and that is unacceptable to me.

    Do I think it was predetermined that my father would be my father in this life? No. Because life may have gone such a way that my father didn’t have any children. But I do think that we had a long standing association. I think the same is probably true of many of my friends, and even people on these blogs.

    I also follow Plato’s arguments about certain kinds of knowledge coming to us as memory from before we were born – and I think associations are part of that as well.

  98. What Thomas just said.

  99. Martin says:

    mmiles, w/respect to marriage, you could just as easily swap your two examples and have the struggling couple stick together because of their promise in heaven (and grow close again), and have your second woman divorce because her (presumably abusive) husband wasn’t her “one and only”, but simply a mortal experience she was meant to have until she found him.

    Hanging by a rope can take your life if it’s around your neck, but it can save your life if it’s around your waist. Same with any ideal, including established doctrines like temple covenants. Your should-divorce friend could just as easily have used those to explain her choice to stick with it.

    I don’t believe in “one and only”, but I don’t think it deserves debunking, because I don’t find it all that nefarious.

  100. I have no idea what the plan is. Someone has pointed out that our lives have been affected in deep and spiritual ways.

    I met my first wife I was 19 and she 17. We dated for two years while I finally fell in love with her. She married someone else (I saw her a week before she was married and knew then that it was a mistake) and I went on a mission. When I came back she was divorced. I had never ever considered such a relationship. Even then it was an uphill battle to convince her. We had the most happy life together we had similar goals and aspirations. We liked the same things. We have a good family and sufficient grandchildren. I have missed her.

    I have since remarried. This relationship is much different, of course, but we find ourselves, even after this short time, thinking the same thoughts. She had thought we were “soul mates.” I, an old hand at happy marriage, knew that there is no such thing as submersion in each other like that. But as time progresses we are astonished by our convergences and our patience with each other.

    I might add that these two women are both strong and independent and fully individual. Both spiritual giants to my spiritual see-saw. It is amazing to me the “grace of God.” It is not that I am particularly worthy: the phrase meaning, effectively, the luck of the draw.

    So, were the three of us predestined to be sealed together for time and eternity? If ever there was a match made in heaven it was with my first. Yet I have ample knowledge that my first picked out and approved of my second. I have written proof(!) that my second knew that I was one of only two people she could have married and, turning down a multitude of proposals, unintentionally waited.

    I have no idea about the plan. But, now, one step enough for me.

  101. mmiles says:

    Martin,
    “your second woman divorce because her (presumably abusive) husband wasn’t her “one and only”, but simply a mortal experience she was meant to have until she found him.”
    So God wanted her husband to be abusive so she could have the experience? Try and follow it through and it doesn’t work.

  102. Martin says:

    mmiles, I’m missing you. I have no idea why she prayed about that marriage and felt good about it for real. Returning to the hypothetical, assuming she still felt she’d actually been inspired, she has to explain it somehow, and I don’t think “he’s my one in only” is the only option.

    But I fear I’ve become tedious, so I’ll bow out.

    Good topic, though!

  103. mmiles says:

    Thomas Parkin,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    I’ve thought about this a lot over the years. One obvious difference is that we will remember this life in the next. We don’t remember our relationships in the former life now. I just don’t see how we could know of any previous groupings in the here and now. I guess we can go on feelings, but that seems precarious, and groupings themselves seem like a slippery slope.

    And as a mortal, I can’t imagine what affinities there might be. I also can’t fathom how our affinities there would place us together here, but acknowledge that just because I can’t fathom it doesn’t mean it isn’t so.

  104. mmiles says:

    Martin,
    I think God can approve a marital decision because it is a good one at the time, and also approve a divorce later because it is a good one at the time. I don’t think He necessarily warns of a bad marriage to come. Eg. -I have two family members who both married their spouses and felt good at the time, and don’t regeret their decisions to marry; but also don’t regret divorces later.

  105. But_ I do believe in luck (44 yrs married).

  106. Luck and endurance (45 yrs married)

  107. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I believe that part of why me and my Man and I are so special to each other is that we’ve chosen each other in spite of having other good options. That said, I always kinda subscribed to the idea that finding a mate wasn’t all about statistics: when I was single I figured God would provide opportunities for me to meet compatible men as he saw fit.

    From the other end, it’s pretty interesting to consider that we all probably had some relationships before coming to earth, possibly with people with whom we interact mortally. Is that in any way significant? No idea.

  108. Having lived in the Salt Lake Valley from 1978 to 1985, I never saw SW and would not know as song from it if I heard it. Though I’m sure if I heard one I could make the connection.

    And despite many hits to the head, I was smart enough not to hit the links in this thread.

  109. I believe in soul mates ( I found mine), I believe children have a choice in who there pairents will be ( we have twins on the way) I believe we understood and chose some of our trials ( circumstances from birth ment that it was extremely difficult for me to have children without medical intervention)

    Life sucks and is unfair for some, I don’t know why but I believe God will make up the difference, as pre earth spirits we were all different we have different requirements for growth & development, some only need gain a body, others need to work things out through marriage or children, many fail dramatically, but God will balance all things out in the end.

  110. “The Myth’s” premises also presuppose that Mormons have fully canonized the doctrine that the nature of gender is eternal (“gender essentialism”) and not merely an accident of mortality. I have not heard, for example that the essential doctrine on gender has yet been accepted as “scripture” in the traditional Mormon way, for example, in the way represented in “TPOTF”. It is the sense of some smart editor I know that the Procalamation it has not yet been (canonized). Yet, it does seem to have a lot of traction as a developed doctrine. Here, I extract some relevant reflections from an early essay on the subject of spirit gender by Jeffrey Keller. I’d also re-suggest checking out “Mormon and Queer at a Crossroads” in the spring 11 edition of Dialogue for more thoughts on this:

    “There has never been a consensus among Mormon theologians as to when we acquire our premortal individual characteristics, including sexual identity. Church founder Joseph Smith’s original teaching on the subject stated only that ‘the Spirit of Man is not a created being; it existed from eternity.’ Though the prophet never explicitly mentioned gender, and indeed used a neuter pronoun to describe one’s eternal spirit, some of his contemporaries inferred preearthly gender. Joseph Lee Robinson, for example, wrote, ‘As we understand, [our spirits] are organized upon the principle of male and female.’

    “Though later church president Brigham Young and several key apostles were never as direct in elucidating a doctrine of spiritual gender as Robinson, they assumed that ‘the spirit is in the likeness and shape of the body which it inhabits.’ Apostles John Taylor and Orson Pratt referred to ‘male and female spirits,’ and Taylor further proclaimed that courtship between spirits led to sexual covenants in a preearthly life. According to Taylor, women in a pre-earth life ‘chose a kindred spirit whom [they] loved in the spirit world … to be [their] head-stay, husband and protection on earth.’

    “Decades later Elder B. H. Roberts became the first church theologian formally to postulate gender before spiritual birth: ‘There is in that complex thing we call man, an intelligent entity, uncreated, self-existent, indestructible, … possessed of powers that go with personality only, hence that entity is he, not it, …’ Apostle James Talmage similarly proclaimed six years later, ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirms as reasonable, scriptural, and true, the doctrine of the eternity of sex [i.e. gender] among the children of God.’ Talmage unintentionally anticipated future questions when he also declared: ‘There is no accident of chance, due to purely physical conditions, by which the sex of the unborn is determined; the body takes form as male or female according to the sex of the spirit whose appointment it is to tenant that body.’”

  111. Lest there be any confusion–this particular “editor” to whom I refer in 110 has no official connection to this blog.

  112. mmiles says:

    Brent,
    Let’s not go there. It’s hardly relevant.

    Mr Q&A,
    Lots of people feel the way you do. Thanks for commenting.

    Thanks all. It’s been a great discussion.

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