“The idea of a forever forward is not more or less simple than that of a forever backward. Yet, in our culture, one idea is commonplace, the other startling, even unthinkable.”
I always find myself in a little conundrum when I’m teaching about the mysterious pre-mortal life (from the approved materials, of course!), and how we were all born spiritually. Spiritual birth discussions always lead to the Abraham scripture about intelligences, and everything gets stuck there. Who can really say what “intelligence(s)” is? Some have taken a stab at it:
“Intelligence or light and truth, is also used as a synonym for spirit element. Scriptures using both terms speak of the self-existent nature of the substance involved… intelligences were organized intelligence or in other words the spirit bodies were born from spirit element.” – Bruce R. McConkie
“The spirits of men “are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” Through that birth process, self-existing intelligence was organized into individual spirit beings.” – Marion G. Romney
“The spirit [intelligence] of man is not a created being; it existed from eternity, and will exist to eternity. Anything created cannot be eternal…” “The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is coequal with God himself.” “Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit [entity] from age to age, and there is no creation about it.” “The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end.” “Intelligence or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.”
It seems these quotes are saying that our spirits were formed from some sort of mass intelligence (like The Borg?). Obviously, we do not know exactly what “intelligence” literally consists of, but what do you think of the idea that we all came from the same substance? In this sense, it seems we have not always existed—rather, the stuff our spirits were made of is what is eternal.
- Is this an important doctrine, or is it just interesting speculation, of no pertinence to salvation? If not, do note that it is still being taught (currently in the Joseph Smith manual).
- Is the idea of a “forever backwards” more baffling than a “forever forwards?”
- This idea (at least the idea of a pre-mortal life) has been used to justify everything from suffering, skin color, priesthood ordination, poverty, and even mental retardation. I do not think the idea of reward here based on our prior life is an offensive one. What is offensive to me is when doctrinal speculation is used as justification for inequality. Does the belief in a pre-mortal life still have influence on Mormon culture?
- Is there any Biblical support for this doctrine? Is it unique to Mormonism?