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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Mormonism and Pre-physical Existence (Part Two)

Mormonism and Pre-physical Existence – Part Two
By Sean Killackey
February 6th, 2016

“Then God said: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.”” – Genesis 1:26
                                                   
As shown in the previous essay (here), the Mormon doctrine of premortal existence is seriously challenged by some of the specific cases that supposedly demonstrate it (for example, Cyrus, Jeremiah and Jesus). In fact, Cyrus’ example, specifically that he did not know God when he was anointed as opposed to the idea that God selects, or foreordains some for special missions on earth, when they exist in heaven, where they all know God, seems to implies that premortality is a false doctrine. Now, we will examine a few supposed general descriptions of premortal existence from which Mormons assert their doctrine is implied. We will examine Genesis 2:4,5, Numbers 16:22, and Ecclesiastes 12:7. Our primary source for Mormon beliefs will be the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.
Genesis 2:4,5 is used to support the notion that “all things, even the earth itself, had a spirit existence before the physical creation,” how? Because that passage (KJV) “says that the Jehovah God made “every plant of the field before it was in this earth, and every herb of the field before it grew.”” The “mystery” that the Book of Mormon elaborates upon and “solves” is: how can God create something before it is on the earth? Moses 3:5 answers, “I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.”
This would be a useful interpretation, perhaps even one that opens up a hidden secret, were it not for the fact that the supposed implication of pre-physical creation arises from a now awkward construction in a translation last revised in 1769. The New International Version, last revised in 2011, renders Genesis 2:4,5 as, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they created, when the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground.” And the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, last revised in 2013, says, “This is a history of the heavens and the earth in the time they were created, in the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven. No bush of the field was yet on the earth and no vegetation of the field had begun sprouting, because Jehovah God had no made it rain on the earth and there was no man to cultivate the ground.”
These two translations and along with the English Standard Version, the New American Standard Bible, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the NET Bible and the International Standard Version among others, give no indication that God made something before it was on the earth. Rather, they all bring out the point that before God made plants on the earth, he made man on that earth;[1] there are not two acts of creation for plant life, one spiritual and the other physical. Just as Adam, who was made from the dust of the earth and had his absolute origin on that physical earth, plants likewise have their absolute origin in the physical realm, the only place where they were created.
Supposedly the doctrine that “[God] made the world, and all men before they were in the flesh,” as found at Moses 6:51 is an implication of Moses calling Jehovah “the God of the spirit of all people [lit. “all flesh”].” (Numbers 16:22) It is not, however, for Jehovah gives to all men their spirit, or the breath of life and has power over our lives; nothing more is implied by calling Jah “the God of the spirit of all people.” Since this is the case, just as there is no explicit support for premortality in Numbers 16:22, there is no implicit support for this verse – none that necessitates the doctrine at the very least.[2] If it did, would it not also imply that he procreated the spirits of animals? (If not, is he the God of their spirits in a different sense?[3] If so, then the Mormon interpretative framework admits that being “the God of the spirit . . .” does not require God to procreate the spirits that he is the God of.)
Ecclesiastes 12:7, which says, “The dust returns to the earth, just as it was, and the spirit returns to the true God who gave it,” is also marshalled for proof that we existed in heaven. God is in heaven, where our spirit, which is supposed to contain our mind, [4]  returns, so it would make sense that, because our spirit was given to our physical body, it must have predated it, and would, therefore, constitute a pre-physical man existing in heaven. This latter statement matches with the Mormon pre-physical premortal life,[5] so that doctrine must be true, right? No, for, as we have already seen, our absolute origin is traced to the earth, so even if the spirit is the location of the mind, it does not prove that we existed pre-physically. If the spirit is the location of our mind, it is never said to contain our mind before its joining with our physical bodies.
We can conclude confidently that the Mormon doctrine of premortality, with its implications that we existed pre-physically, and were literally procreated and can become like God, since he was like us, are all wrong. If they were right, we would be tasked with the impossible task of harmonizing why Christ is from heaven, yet we are not and explaining how a temporal infinite regress is possible.[6] But since such tasks are not possible, we must discount Mormon doctrine, preferring to stick to a biblically harmonious teaching, one that does not imply pre-physical and pre-mortal existence.[7]



[1] Some suppose that the two descriptions of creation contradict each other. They do not, as has been shown elsewhere, so this essay will not address that claim.

[2] Job 12:10 states, “In [Jehovah’s] hand is the life of every living thing [a]nd the spirit of every human.”

[3] True, the scriptures do not explicitly call Jehovah “the God of the spirit of all animals,” but they too are said to have the breath of life, or a spirit in them, and they are created by the same one who made mankind, so are we to say that he is not God over them?
[4] Psalm 146:4 shows that the mind is not in the spirit, for the thoughts perish when the spirit goes out.

[5] Though, even if this was true, it would not imply that God procreated us, or that he existed as we do, or that we can become gods.

[6] Since we were are said to have existed eternally in Mormon thought, this denotes that there has been an infinite number of instants prior to now. However, this is not logically possible (for example, you cannot build an infinite from a finite amount by adding a finite amount, or by multiplying it by a finite amount). That is why it is said that God was atemporal (without time and changeless) “prior to” (or sans) creation, yet temporal (inside of time) subsequent creation.

[7] Some may describe Adam and Eve before they sinned as immortal, but this would be using the weaker definition of immortal (never going to die) vs. the stronger definition of immortal (unable to die). Adam and Eve were already mortal before they sinned in the sense they could have died if they did not eat or breath; they were not self-sustaining beings.

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