Pre-existence

Photo by Julia Ruth Young

In LDS literature, we are talking about the Mormon concept of the pre-existence, and then comparing some of Joseph Smith’s revolutionary concepts with their romanticized versions depicted in Saturday’s Warriors.

We begin with the King Follett discourse, given at the funeral of a man who was crushed in a well. Joseph Smith chose to speak about the nature of God and pre-existent spirits “capable of enlargement.”

The following segment of the discourse is hugely controversial, and one which other religions claim make Mormons not quite Christian. The idea that God (eventually implying God the Mother and God the Father) were comparable to men and women was revolutionary. We see this particularly in the 19th century controversy over the temple endowment, which did include rites similar to Masonic ones. However, LDS temple rituals did what no Masonic ritual had ever done: they included women. This was not only revolutionary but considered heretical by many.

Joseph Smith:

First, God himself, who sits enthroned in yonder heaven, is a man like one of you. That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today and you were to see the great God who holds this world in its orbit and upholds all things by his power, you would see him in the image and very form of a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion and image of God. He received instruction from and walked, talked, and conversed with him as one man talks and communes with another. . .

How consoling to the mourner when he is called to part with a husband, wife, father, mother, child, or dear relative, to know that although the earthly tabernacle shall be dissolved that dear one shall rise in immortal glory, not to sorrow, suffer, or die any more but shall be God’s heirs and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. What is it? It is to inherit the same glory, the same power, and the same exaltation until you ascend the throne of eternal power the same as those who are gone before.

Does this imply that men and women will be completely equal with the gods, or that there will be classes of gods? What do you think?

The Holy Ghost within me comprehends more than all the world, and I will associate with him. The word create came from the word baurau; it does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize, the same as a man would organize materials to build a ship. Hence we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos–chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time He had. The pure principles of element are principles that can never be destroyed; they may be organized and reorganized but not destroyed.

The idea that worlds, humankind, groups, families are ORGANIZED (ordained) rather than created ex-nihilo suggests a kind of creative power that works within existing laws but does not create the laws. How do you imagine a family is ORDAINED or ORGANIZED by God?

I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man, the immortal spirit, because it has no beginning. Suppose I cut it in two; as the Lord lives, because it has a beginning, it would have an end. All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation who say that man had a beginning prove that he must have an end. If that were so, the doctrine of annihilation would be true. But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the house tops that God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself. Intelligence exists upon a self-existent principle; it is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it. Moreover, all the spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible to enlargement.

Do you agree that all spirits are “susceptible to enlargement”? Would they, conversely, be “susceptible to diminishment”? Have you witnessed another’s spiritual enlargement or diminishment? Feel free to comment.

About Margaret Blair Young

Margaret Blair Young teaches literature and creative writing at Brigham Young University. For the past fifteen years, she has specialized in the history of blacks in the west, particularly black Mormons. She has written six novels and two short story collections, but has lately become interested in filmmaking. Her current endeavor is a film to be shot in Zambia called Heart of Africa (www.heartofafricafilm.com)


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