I recently wrote a blog entry for IEET about the intersection of transhumanism and Mormonism. One paragraph dealt with the Mormon version of the pre-existence:
Mormons, as part of their worldview (known as the ‘Plan of Salvation’), believe in a long state of ‘pre-existence’ for humans as ‘spirit children’, and this belief has historically been used to explain a variety of worldly inequities. For example, those who are less valiant in the pre-existence are somehow punished with a poorer station here on Earth. This Mormon belief seems more like a bad metaphor than doctrine I can relate to.
This comment engendered the following response from Peter Marlow:
Yes, Mormons believe in a “pre-existence” where we (all beings) each lived with God as spirits before coming to this earth to gain a physical body and experience mortality. We are here to learn to love God and one another the way God loves us, Jesus Christ being our perfect example. I believe God places each of us on this earth in certain stations and exposes us to certain experiences in order to best help us achieve our full potential, individually and collectively. I believe He is fully engaged in providing each of us, His children (whom I believe He loves with a presently incomprehensibly great love), with the best possible opportunities to learn and practice His love, regardless of how they may superficially appear to us.
You may have heard speculation from some that “those who are less valiant in the pre-existence are somehow punished with a poorer station here on Earth.” This belief runs counter to established LDS Church doctrine. You will certainly not find such teachings in the Standard Works (our scriptures). We all know of many very valiant people who had been born into extreme poverty. Indeed, Jesus was born among animals in a manger.
All of us, who are old enough, remember being told that one of the reasons that Blacks were not to be given the priesthood was because they were less valiant in the pre-existence. So, at some point in Church history, there was a connection between premortal behavior and where we are placed on earth.
According to lds.org, the sprits in the pre-existence “were not all equally valiant, there being every degree of devotion to Christ and the Father among them. The most diligent were chosen to be rulers in the kingdom (Abr. 3:22-23).” To me, this implies a continued belief in a relationship between behavior in the pre-existence and life here on earth.
Mormon friends who work with the mentally challenged have their own theory about the pre-existence:
These individuals [mentally challenged] were pre-ordained in the pre-existence to come to earth in a less than perfect state. They made the choice or were “selected” as the most choice spirits in the pre-existence, because God knew they were already Celestial Kingdom bound, so this was their trial on earth: to be less than perfect as a test for those of us who are here, i.e., how we react to them, how we provide service, how we judge. . . When we worked on Sundays at the Developmental Center in American Fork [Utah] (formerly the training school), we were told that we were amongst members of the Celestial Kingdom, who are here for OUR benefit/test, not THEIRS.
This concept is a bit difficult for me to grasp. I can’t understand the bifurcation of some individuals coming earth to be tested and other coming to be actors in a grand theatrical production.
It looks like the concept of a pre-existence continues to be a matter for much personal speculation. I can’t help but think that many Mormons believe that gays are the way they are because of something that happened in the pre-existence.