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Friday, October 25, 2013

Dear Sally - "I Ain't Got No Body:" Pre-mortal Existence (4 of 7)

An excerpt from my pen-pal correspondence with a prison inmate, who happens to be Mormon. LDS stands for Latter Day Saints. This is a continuation from the previous post.

LDS references (at from the Bible regarding Pre-mortal Existence:

1.  When God laid the foundations of the earth, all the sons of God shouted for joy: Job 38:4–7

Here's the context:

 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
7 When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

God is actually rebuking Job: “OK wise-guy, if you know so much, then where were you when I created the earth you’re living on?  The obvious answer is, Job didn’t exist yet. So this verse is has been taken out of context by Joseph Smith.

The reference to “sons of God” is widely understood by Jews and Christians to mean the angels in heaven who, being created beings themselves, were present with God at the Creation.  Genesis 6 even recounts how the “sons of God” co-habited with the “daughters of men.”  Again, these “sons of God” are not disembodied human spirits, but are fallen (in this case) angelic beings.

2. The spirit shall return unto God who gave it: Ecclesiastes 12:7

Here's the context:
6 Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed,
Or the golden bowl is broken,
Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain,
Or the wheel broken at the well.
7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it.

Yes, God is the creator of the human spirit. Upon death, our bodies return to the earth without our spirits - they go home to God, because, as believers, we belong to Him and heaven is where He is. The spirits of those who have trusted in Jesus Christ to redeem them from the power and penalty of sin will go home to the Father, for “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8).  I don’t see how LDS can use this text as the basis of a pre-mortal existence, however.

In heaven, we will not be disembodied spirits floating around on a cloud.  We will have glorified bodies just like our Lord Jesus.  Bodies are pretty special to God - when Jesus came to earth the first time, through the womb of Mary, He came in a BODY.  Christians believe in the resurrection of the physical body, which will have been glorified, as is Christ’s physical body.  That is a component of our ultimate victory over death. (I Cor. 15:52-54)

3. Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee: Jeremiah 1:5

Here's the context:
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.

God is speaking to the ministry He had determined for the young prophet, even before Jeremiah was born. God is not bound by time or space. But we are - no body, no existence.  Jeremiah would never have fulfilled his purpose without a BODY, and neither will you nor I. 

4. We are all his offspring:  Acts 17:28; 

Look at the entire verse:
28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

It was actually the pagan Greek poets who said, “for we are also His offspring.”  This verse is from Paul’s sermon to the idol-worshiping Greeks. He quoted their poets because in every person there is the awareness that we exist because God created us.  It is not, however, a supporting text that we had a pre-mortal existence.  You can read the entire sermon in Acts 17:22-32.  Verse 26 is revealing:

 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,

5. God chose us before the foundation of the world:  Eph. 1:3–4; 

Here's the context:

 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

True. We are chosen before the foundation of the world, but we are chosen IN HIM, that is, in Christ.  CHRIST is the point of this verse, not pre-mortal existence!  Again, God is not bound by time or space; He is omniscient (all-knowing). He has foreknowledge of everything and everyone. There is simply no support for a pre-mortal existence in this verse. 

6.  We are to be in subjection to the Father of spirits: Hebrews 12:9

Look at the context:
6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?

The context is, we should give God our heavenly Father at least the same obedience we gave our human fathers. A person who is not obedient is not a “son,” be they male or female. This is yet another example of proof-texting in support of pre-mortal existence.

7. The Devil and his angels were cast out:  Rev. 12:9; 

Here's the context:
And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 

First of all....YEAH BABY!  HALLELUJAH!  Now back to the discussion.

People are not fallen angels (fallen, yes, but as humankind, not as angelic beings). They were never cast out of heaven as spirits. So how is this verse a support for the pre-mortal existence of humans? 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Dear Sally - About that Joseph Smith Guy...(3 of 7)

 An excerpt from my letter to an incarcerated pen-pal, modified for this post.

Dear Sally,  

    Thank you for the “rebuttal” on the “What Mormons Teach” article. I think I have ten years worth of correspondence from your LDS materials. I realized, by the way, that the article would probably be offensive. I didn’t send it for the purpose of offending you, but sometimes offenses can’t be helped.  (Can you accept that I care enough about you to speak about it? ) I think that Mormons will always have this challenge of being offended because Joseph Smith himself seems to have assured continual offenses to Mormon sensibilities right from the start of his new religion.  His testimony states that he:

    “retired to the woods...on a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty.” His purpose was to “inquire of the Lord... which of all the sects was right.” He “kneeled down” and “was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame” him. “Thick darkness gathered around” and then a “pillar of light” appeared over his head “above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon” him. It was then that he saw “two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description.” One of the “personages” then called him “by name and said, pointing to the other - This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him!” (source: Another Gospel, © 1989 Ruth A. Tucker, Academie Books, Zondervan.)

At any rate, when he asked the question on his mind, “which of all the sects was right” and “which should I join?”  The answer came back, “they were all wrong.”  Interesting. His own father and grandfather used to say the same thing quite frequently, being both opposed and disdainful of “organized religion,” according to his biographers.  I imagine Joseph Smith heard “they’re all wrong” a lot as he grew up.  It’s really too bad Dale Carnegie wasn’t around yet - young Joseph could have used one of those classes in “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”  I’m pretty sure that announcing, “Hey!  Jesus himself told me that you guys got it all wrong!” is not exactly the best way to win people to your spiritual viewpoint.

Since you quoted from Psalm 139 in regard to the Mormon doctrine of pre-mortal existence, I thought I would investigate. So here is what that Bible says:

Psalm 139:13-16 NKJV
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
 Marvelous are Your works,
 And that my soul knows very well. 
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
 When I was made in secret,
 And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
 And in Your book they all were written,
 The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.

There is no mention here of a heavenly pre-existence for the psalmist; the references are to being formed in the womb, a very earthly process. 

Christians believe Jesus Christ was pre-existent, but not human beings. Some Christian churches have a doctrinal position on it and some don’t. Is there a problem with believing in a pre-mortal existence? Perhaps not (it's not clear to me why Joseph Smith made such a big deal out of it). But it sure leads to some strange doctrinal positions by the LDS - like the reason we ended up on earth with bodies was to accomplish the growth we couldn’t attain to as disembodied spirits in heaven. This is something apparently required by the LDS for “exalted god-ness.” More on that later.  Evidently, Joseph Smith was great at proof-texting, but terrible as a Bible scholar.

Next installment:
LDS references
(from from the Bible supposedly supporting Pre-mortal Existence.