The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only major Christian denomination, today, teaching that we lived with God as spirit children before we were born. WHY? This video describes that this doctrine was taught by Biblical prophets, believed by the early Christian Church, and then was dramatically rejected in the 6th century by Roman Emperor Justinian, whose violence towards anyone who opposed him led to the doctrine being labeled as heresy.
Okay. So on this Evidences video I want to talk about the premortal existence of man. If you think about this, this is one of the great truths of all religion is that we are children of God, not in a metaphorical sense, which are what many Christians believe, but literal children. Our spirits. Our Father in Heaven is our Father of our spirits. And that we lived with him before we were born brings our relationship so much closer to Him. And if you think about it, Satan would love to extinguish that knowledge and that doctrine.
Think about when he came to Christ to tempt Him. He said, “If thou be the son of God,” doubting him. Think when he came to Moses and he called him a son of man, and Moses stood up to him and said, “I am a son of God.” And so this is important. This is important. This would be a great victory for Satan if he can pull this knowledge away from people of this relationship that they had, that they existed before they were born.
So I want to talk about Christian religions today and their teachings on this topic or their belief in this topic, comparing them to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints. I want to look at what the Bible says, what the early Christian Church had to say with different Christian Fathers, Church Fathers, and then how everything blew up in the sixth century and why and how that led to everything where it is today in Christianity. So I’m going to read to you. This is a great resource. I highly recommend it, religionresourcesonline.org. You can actually go in and they’ve got the doctrine for the major Christian denominations. They actually have world religions in there as well.
But you can go and pick a topic and they’ll give you what different churches, their stance is on that. So this one is the premortal existence of man. So the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints, ours, as you know: “Before life, we lived as spirits with God our Heavenly Father. When we are born, the spirit unites with a body of earthly substance. The spirit is immortal.”
Okay, so let’s look at these major religions here. Seventh Day Adventists: “There is no mortal existence of man. Pre-mortal existence of man. Man begins to exist when he is born into the world.” Okay. Baptist: “Do not believe in pre-mortal existence of man. Jesus Christ, God, only had such. He lived before this life.” Okay. Catholics: “Christ, as God, was from all eternity. Do not believe in the pre-mortal existence of man.” Let’s go to Eastern Orthodox: “God, meaning the Holy Trinity, only had pre-existence. All of us were created on this earth by God, spirit.” Okay. Episcopalian: “God lived before His birth at Bethlehem and is the only one to live before birth. Do not have any knowledge of the pre-mortal existence of man.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses: “Christ had what is called the pre-human existence as a spirit person, was born a mortal man, and does not have an immortal soul. Our personal existence begins with our birth.” Lutherans: “Do you not believe in the pre-mortal existence of man.” Methodist: “Do not believe in the pre-mortal existence of man.” Presbyterian: “No doctrine as such. Only speculation.” The Unitarians: “There was no pre-mortal existence of man. Man began here on this earth.” The United Church of Christ: “Most do not believe in an existence before birth, but there may be some that do. This is a matter that is left up to the individual, and is not a matter of concern for the church.”
Now to to be fair, this can vary somewhat by congregation to congregation. The only two major religions that have correlated teachings worldwide are the Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that come from one central place remain the same across the globe there. So there could be some variations, like I said, from local congregations.
Okay, so now let’s look at some scriptures. So Job 38 verses 4 and 7, “Where was thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast to understanding. When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” So here are all these sons of God shouting for joy when the foundations of the earth were laid. That certainly sounds like some people were existing before earth, the very beginning.
Jeremiah 1:5, of course, this is the famous one to Jeremiah. This is so specific. “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” Very powerful. This isn’t just the foreknowledge of God. He’s saying he ordained him.
Ecclesiastes 12:7, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” How can you return somewhere that you haven’t already been.
John 9, in the New Testament now verses 1, 2, and 3, “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him saying, ‘Master, who did sin, this man or his parents that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither hath this man sin, or his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.'” Read between the lines. It was just given that everyone believed that you were born maybe from different things in a pre-mortal life that would have triggered you to be born blind. So he existed before, this sort of reading between the lines clearly there.
Revelations 12: 7-11, “And there was a war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found anymore in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out.” Now think when this happened. Cast out. “That old serpent called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world, he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Now think when this happened, the Garden of Eden time, the beginning. “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death.”
This is a great one. I love it. This war in heaven happened, and this was before Satan was cast down, which was the beginning, in the Garden of Eden. So I love that one.
Okay. Now a couple of early Christian Fathers, Church Fathers, Clement of Alexandria, “The Logos is not to be despised as something new, for even in Jeremiah the Lord says, ‘Say not “I am too young,” for before I formed thee in the womb I knew thee, and before that camest forth from thy mother I sanctified thee.’ It is possible that in speaking these things, the prophet is referring to us as being known to God as faithful before the foundation of the world.”
And then Origen of Alexandria, who is considered by many to be the most important Christian theologian of all time, “Writing in the third century, he stated a belief that differences evident among men on earth were attributable to differences in rank and glory attained by those man as pre-mortal angels. According to Origen, God could not be viewed as no respecter of persons without such a pre-mortal existence. In fact, if the differences of men on earth were not related in some way to our pre-mortal condition, then God could be viewed as arbitrary, capricious, and unjust. Origen felt that just as there would be a judgment after this life, that a sort of judgment had already taken place based on our pre-mortal merit, with the result being the station to which we were appointed in this life. As an example of this concept supported in the Bible, Origen referred to the Old Testament story of Jacob being preferred over Esau. Why was this so?” He says, “According to Origen, because we believe that he was even then chosen by God because of merits acquired before this life.”
Now the Reverend William De Arteaga, a noted Christian historian, 1983, wrote this book, Past Life Visions: A Christian Exploration, and this quote in there, he said, “This question was hotly debated by Christians of late antiquity,” of pre-mortal existence, “and the faction of the Church which was bitterly opposed to pre-existence gained the upper hand. By the sixth century, belief in pre-existence was declared heresy. All of this is quite astonishing in view of the clear and repeated biblical evidence for pre-existence.”
Now, maybe Origen had gone too far with his pre-existence assumptions, and they kind of threw the baby out with the bath water in a sense. Now, how did it happen? How did this happen in the sixth century? How did this all blow up? That really led, if you can see, there’s not a single major Christian religion today that believes in the pre-existence, pre-mortal existence of man.
It all came back to this in 543 A.D. Here’s what happened. And this is in Ramsay MacMullen’s book, “Christianity and Paganism in the 4th to 8th Centuries.” So he says here, “In the sixth century, there was an edict by Pope Vigilius in 543 A.D. that rejected the doctrine of pre-existence taught by Origen of Alexandria. Historical records indicate that the edict, called Anathemas Against Origen was actually pinned by the Roman emperor Justinian.” Now take a note here, look at my little asterisk, and go down to Justinian. “An energetically brutal ruler. Enjoying a very long reign, he pursued the goal of religious uniformity as no one before him. He did not see it as a murder if the victims did not share his own beliefs. Those he disagreed with, he was likely to mutilate if he didn’t behead or crucify them.”
So this edict that was signed by the Pope was actually pinned by this brutal Roman Emperor, Justinian, and signed by the Pope and other bishops present at the Second Council of Constantinople. “Tales of the relationships between early Popes and Roman emperors make for great reading. The relationship between Pope Vigilius and Emperor Justinian is no exception. Many records indicate that the anathemas declared against Origen had their roots in political posturing regarding doctrines of the early church. Regardless, many scholars regard the papal edict in 543 A.D. as the reason that the concept of pre-existence is generally considered extra-biblical today. It is clear from the record that before this time, the concept was freely taught by many within the church.”
And if I can share one last time, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the statement “Before life, we lived as spirits with God, our Heavenly Father. When we are born, the spirit unites with a body of earthly substance. The spirit is immortal.” To me, that is comforting. It feels right, and correlates with the Old and New Testaments and with the early Christian Fathers and their teachings.
I hope you enjoy this Evidences video. Subscribe for more.
I forgot to mention this beautiful poem in the video: William Wordsworth (1770-1850), Ode on Intimations of Immortality (from Recollections of Early Childhood) — excerpt:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home
Fairmormon website links: https://www.fairmormon.org/evidences/…
Latter-day Saints’ Q&A is a video series not produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by me, an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an independent voice, with a passion for studying Church history and defending the faith. In this series, I provide evidences for the restoration, and address tough questions posed by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering faithful answers based on accurate research and historical references which will be posted at the end of each video.
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Johns Long saysFebruary 14, 2021 at 7:53 pm
I appreciate this article and video. I am learning about Mormonism and have been stuck on this subject since finding reference to it in D&C. Thank you.
Jeff Roundy saysMarch 29, 2021 at 11:42 pm
Thank you – glad you found it helpful!