Today We cover the general topic of ascertaining God’s will both from our perspective and all the way to the top of how leaders have done it. We use the specific issue of theology surrounding valiancy in the Pre-mortal life to make the point. The question is simply this. If Church leaders have taught theology and even labeled some as doctrine believing that they had attained some deeper knowledge from God …. and that members of their day held and sustained those teachings as true…… only to have later leaders disavow those teachings and teach contrary to them…. and for todays members to know today’s leaders are right and have worked out the theological kinks, then what chance do any of us have in attaining and real understanding of what God is trying to reveal to the extent that in any given moment we know for sure we have it right? Today we show that what leaders taught in the past on valiance in the Pre-mortal life was not only offensive, and shameful, and hurtful but it runs counter to what the Church teaches on some of those issues today…. and perhaps there could be room to see us doing the same damaging behavior today in over reaching …. just on other things.
Thanks to Jonathon Streeter for his Blog Post on this subject of which with his permission I borrow heavily from!
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On a personal note Elder Craig C. Christensen had to beg my father in law (then Area Authority 70′) to no longer teach in Stake Conferences the doctrine from Bruce R. McConkie that the more valiant spirit children where born into better circumstances in life. That this was the only way God could be fair, because isn’t it unfair for lesser spirits to be born to better circumstances and that not all early circumstances are created equal?
Needless to say my Father followed the advice from his presiding priesthood authority, but it was touching for me to hear that from him. May I add the fact that we are simply men doing the best we can?
Interesting thoughts. A few comments.
1) Sources. It is always useful to identify not only the source, but the position of the leader when they made the statement and where. Sometimes a quote is from a book they wrote, but it’s a requote from a General Conf talk they or someone else made. Not that that should make any real difference since any person has the right to revelation, but the brethren typically hold their tongues a little better on speculative topics when they are speaking in a formal Church setting like General Conf. You won’t get far by quoting from a personal book by a general authority. Most Mormons recognize by now that Church doctrine is not established by a few statements in a leader’s personal book, even if published by Deseret.
2) Harold B. Lee made the statement you quoted and referenced from a book, also at General Conference when he was the prophet: “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 intelligences 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 [Acts 17:24-27] and as the Lord revealed to Moses [Deuteronomy 32:8-9], determined by the faithfulness of each of those who lived before this world was created.
It would seem very clear, then [having just quoted Paul and Moses], that those born to the lineage of Jacob . . . were born into the most illustrious lineage of any of those who came upon the earth as mortal beings. All these rewards were seemingly promised, or foreordained, before the world was. Surely these matters must have been determined by the kind of lives we had lived in that pre-mortal spirit world. Some may question these assumptions, but at the same time they will accept without any question the belief that each one of us will be judged when we leave this earth according to his deeds during our lives here in mortality. Isn’t it just as reasonable to believe that what we have received here in this earth life was given to each of us according to the merits of our conduct before we came here?” –Conference Report, October 1973, p. 5-8.
3) Not sure how the teachings of Pres. Lee and others you quoted make sense in light of the teachings that any child who dies before the age of accountability will go straight to the Celestial Kingdom—regardless of where they were born.
4) How do you reconcile the doctrine of the special treatment of the House of Israel that cannot be expunged by mental gymnastics or high criticism of the Bible? Isn’t God “discriminating?” Why? Prophets have been consistently teaching that from Abraham down to our day, including the Savior who discriminated by not teaching those not of the house of Israel (Matt 15:24).
5) I don’t believe the priesthood ban was from God and I don’t believe the handicapped, etc. and those born into very difficult circumstances are being punished for pre-earth actions. Nonetheless, in my mind it is hard to not see the rational fairness logic of what we do in one phase affects the next.
6) The church leaders and theologians of the past (and today) had a problem. Clearly men and women are not born equal, at least into equal opportunity, so one way to deal with that is to say the deserved it. Done. If that doesn’t seem fair, which in light of witnessing the gross disparity does not seem fair, then we have to come up with another angle that appears fair. That brings us to Church teachings today—we don’t know why people are born in such disparate situations, but God in His love, mercy and justice will make it all fair and acceptable in the end.
6) But, that explanation doesn’t answer why for the special treatment of the House of Israel. The only thing I can conclude is that I don’t know, and I don’t think the Church leaders know to any level of detail, at least they haven’t revealed it to the membership. If I were to speculate, I’d say that I can’t deny, if I believe the Bible at all, that God gives preferential treatment to some groups to help be a light to the rest of the world—but that doesn’t really work, until Peter’s vision, since before then the chosen Israelites were to keep to themselves. So, why He had a chosen people in the Old Testament isn’t clear to me. But, in the bigger picture I suspect that to some degree our actions in the pre-earth realm affect us here on earth, but we don’t really know what, when, to whom or how. Valiance may get you poverty or privilege. It appears that it is all about how we do with what we were given and in the end God will make it right.
7) To your point, I do believe the leaders have changed the understanding of the doctrine over time, and that allows for potential changes in the future on other teachings, but I try not to fixate on it, because there is so much good in the world and in the Church (notwithstanding needed changes which I try and do my little part in moving along) and there is so much good to do and joy to be had in just living the basic fundamentals of Christianity and maintaining balance between truth, goodness and beauty.
All this valiancy in the premortal life doctrine is what I call Saturday’s Warrior Mormonism. And it is alive and real today. Its totally false doctrine, but its firmly established culturally. Look no further than the LGBT issue. Mormon leader’s “know” that all spirits are male and female. How do we know this? We were once inteligences without gender and then we became spirit children. When and how was gender assigned? Is the experience of a trans person somehow a conflict between a female spirit in a male body (or vise versa)? We have no definitive knowledge on these issues. At best we are looking through a glass darkly….. and yet, Church leaders make definitive statements on LGBT issues based on them not being gay or having the correct gender in the pre-existence.
The problem isn’t how little we actually know about the pre-existence. The problem is we think we know infinitely more than we actually know about the pre-existence. And when we connect dots that really have no business being connected on assumptions or vague scirptural passages or literalism taken from the Old Testament or general authorities speculating – we are ripe to fall into false doctrine.
I was wondering how you look back on earlier posts, such as https://mormondiscussions.org/mdpodcast/2016/10/post-faith-journey-taught/ vis a vis how you are looking now
i still very much agree with what I wrote in that post
I grew up in the church (I’m 42 now) believing that the mentally disabled/handicapped were born this way because they had already reached perfection in the pre-existence. They had no need to be tested here so just came to receive bodies. They were too pure to have to muddle through this life like the rest of us. I’m not sure what I believe about the pre-existence now, but I love this teaching because it leads us to love and compassion.
Does anyone know where this idea came from? For some reason I always thought Joseph Smith taught it, but after searching I don’t know that any church leaders ever taught this idea. If they did I would like to find the references. I hope to find something positive like this from our leaders to add some balance to the awful things they have taught.
The church I grew up in,(1960’s and 1970’s) let an obsession with obedience twist its message in such a way that the concept of Grace seemed antithetical to the LDS gospel. We have been taught since we earned our position here in this life, perhaps we really are better than others, all by ourselves, without God’s blessing. The “Graceful” explanation Jesus gave in John 9:3 does not descend into this perspective. It’s interesting that his very human disciples, and today’s very human church leaders, would make the same mistake. I think Jesus is the well-spring, and the church is way downstream. Will it move upstream? Only if it’s real goal is the Source of the stream.
Glad you did this podcast. It makes me reflect on this false doctrine and it’s brother false doctrine, the “doctrine of roulette salvation” one chance, win or loose, where we may not even get a good chance depending on where we’re born and how long we live…
Most will not like this concept which Christ taught = reincarnation, as Moses taught. WHAT? (google it) The teaching was received by Moses from God on the Holy Mountain as is now told in the Kabbalah, more specifically in the Zohar (I’ll let you google that too). This is a foundational Jewish teaching of Moses, about fairness and thus multiple mortal probations, MMP, as Joseph Smith also taught, on the side, like polygamy, and many early Mormons believed and thus had to later be stopped, commanded to stop talking about it (google that too). You can’t control a congregation if they have more than one chance, unless they are Christian Scientists (You can hijack and mess up any teaching of Christ).
Well, just months before my mother died, my wife asked her what she thought of MMP or reincarnation? She was yet another LDS closet believer in this doctrine of Moses and JS, and had not shared that with us, for fear of speaking about it, against the leaders. It turns out about 10% to 20% of LDS seem to closet believe in this and are not aware that JS or Moses taught it. Well hidden secret?
The Zohar teaches that a loving God has given us a second, third and so fourth chance or lives to experience, grow and develop and prove ourselves to Him.
When my wife and I listened to the audiobooks by Dr. Michael Newton, “Journey of Souls, it about knocked our socks off to find that 7000 cases revealed through hypnosis, their previous lives and life between lives, and it all sound eerily like Mormon Doctrine, minus all the BS.