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Mormonism and the Pre-existence of Spirits

By John Finton

I. Statement of the Problem

        The origin of the soul (i.e., the metaphysical or immaterial aspect) of the descendants of Adam has three different explanations. Did the spiritual aspect of man pre-exists, or is transmitted from the parents to the child, or is it created within us at conception? The three views are expressed as follows:

        A. Pre-existence. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism states:

The term ‘pre-existence,’ or more accurately, ‘premortal existence,’ refers to a period of individual conscious and accountable life before birth into mortality on this earth. It is Latter-day Saint doctrine that living things existed as individuals spirit beings and possessed varying decrees of intelligence in an active, conscious spirit state before mortal birth and that the spirit continues to live and function in the mortal body. The revelations teach that premortal spirit bodies have general resemblance to their physical counterparts (http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Pre-Existence ).

        Their major Biblical support for this view includes Job 38:4-7; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 9:2; Hebrews 12:9. The preexistence of spirit beings has its roots in Greek philosophy as is seen from the following quote from the New Dictionary of Theology (653):

         Platonism inspired the belief that souls enjoyed some higher existence prior to their entry into individual human bodies. This view often coexisted with notions of a pre-cosmic fall and the transmigration of the souls. Among Gnostics and others, it presented the soul as an emanation from the divine substance itself. Although championed by Origen, it was widely condemned in the 5th and 6th centuries.

        B. Traducianism. This is the teaching that not only the body but also the soul is passed down by natural generation. Biblical support for this view is Genesis 5:1-3; 46:26; John 1:13, and Hebrews 7:9-10.

        C. Creationism. This view holds that each individual soul is created out of nothing (ex nihilo) by God and implanted at conception. Biblical support for this view is Ecclesiastes 12:7; Isaiah 57:16; Zechariah 12:1; and 1 Peter 4:19.

        D. Preferred view. The preferred view is creationism. Though traducianism presents some thought provoking arguments, mostly from a theological perspective, creationism seems to have the best exegetical support. However, the majority of what follows will be in answering the Mormon’s support for preexistence rather than answering traducianism. In doing this the exegetical data will also demonstrate creationism as the better view. What follows will demonstrate that Mormons constantly read meaning into Scripture (eisegesis), basing their interpretations on pre-understanding or preconceived ideas.


II. LDS Support for Pre-mortal Existence

        A. Job 38:4. Where was thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou has understanding.

        In order for Mormons to get pre-existence from the Bible, they have to read it into the text. For example in the question asked of Job (38:4) “Where was thou when I laid the foundation of the earth? In the Mormon’s mind “Job had to be somewhere by the very nature of the question.

        The purpose of the question is to convince Job of His ignorance. “To understand the cause of things, man should have been present at their origin” (Jamison, Fausset and Brown, “Job,” Commentary on the Whole Bible, 340). Certainly God is not asking because He does not know. Neither is the nature of the question to the sense that Job was somewhere but somehow missed the creation of the earth? Where were you Job that you missed the creation of the earth? This is an unlikely understanding of the question, since it would be hard to explain how Job could be somewhere but miss the creation of the earth. The consensus among biblical scholars is that Job was nonexistence at creation. Commenting on Job 38:4-21 Kline states “This section opens and closes with references to Job’s nonexistence at creation (vv. 4, 21; cf. 12). Hence his ignorance of how the earth was founded” (“Job,” WBC, 487). Zuck says the same thing:

        “Job was immediately confronted with his insignificance, for he was not present when God created the earth. Since he did not observe what had taken place then, he could not understand it. How could he hope to advise God now?” (“Job,” BKC, 767).

         Smick is also in agreement:

        The irony in the Lord’s words “Surely you know” (v. 5; cf. v. 21) is sharp and  purposeful. Job had dared to criticize God’s management of the universe. Had he been present at the Creation (an obvious absurdity), he might have known something about God’s management of its vast expanses (vv. 4-6). But even the angels who were there could only shout for joy over the Creator’s deeds (v. 7) (“Job,” EBC, 1035).

        This last quote is significant in that it makes a distinction between angels (“the sons of God”) and Job. If Job was premortal, one would expect him to be among the angels who sang for joy at the creation. In Mormon doctrine angels and premortals are one and the same. Demons are premortals kicked out of heaven and have lost their chance to receive physical bodies.

        The Bible, however, teaches no such doctrine. Not only can it be demonstrated that there is no premortal life of mankind (as seen below), it can also be demonstrated that angels are created. Psalm 148:2-5 indicates that the angels as well as the heavens were created by the direct command of God. Both John 1:1-3 and Colossians 1:16-17 indicate that Jesus Christ who is Himself God was the cause of every created thing:

        For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or  powers—all things were created by him, and for him; And he is before all things,  and by him all things consist” (Col 1:16-17).

        There is a general consensus among biblical authorities that the terms “dominions and principalities” refer to angels (Rom 8:38; Eph 3:10; 6:12). Since angels are heavenly beings (as well as capable of being invisible to humans), they are included in all things that are in heaven. That the angels