The LDS church would criticize me for these comments because in these posts, I will disclose what is not being said explicitly to those who they say are not spiritually ready to handle the full and complete information—milk before meat. (Or, as Nicholson told Tom Cruise, you can’t handle the truth!) This is proper, as St. Paul said it first. See I Corinthians 3: 1-2— And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
I believe full disclosure is best. When words and phrases are defined to mean different things, even if that meaning is simply a cultural difference, then it is incumbent upon a teacher to ensure the student understands what is being said. Hell is the place we do not want to be, but describing it as a hot place to an Eskimo might not get the point across as well as telling them it is impossibly cold. Cultural differences. Many cultures use the word we translate as “hand” to refer to the entire arm. Hearing one say she got a shot in the hand to us sounds more painful than one in the upper-arm. Definitional issues.
Ok, everyone has a glass of water and is seated comfortably and the two missionaries are ready to begin the first discussion, which starts with something virtually every Christian will agree to:
[LDS position are in red. My commentary is in blue.]
Lesson Principle: God is Our Heavenly Father.
Sounds right: the Lord’s Prayer starts: Our Father who art in Heaven. . .
Next principle: We are His children.
Ok, if God is our father, then we are his children. No problem there.
Then: He has a body of flesh and bone that is glorified and perfected.
Hold the horses. When most Christians say that God is their Father, if they think about it at all, it is an appropriate name for that which created the world, all in it and us. Orthodox Christian doctrine does not teach that God has a body of flesh and bones, nor that God is the same as humans. Orthodox belief is that God is something other than human, discrete. The Nicene creed puts it as follows:
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen
God, to the Orthodoxy existed before creation, was not created, but always existed. The LDS belief regarding the nature of God is that he was once a man—human—and was exalted by his God to his current position of our God. Flesh and blood, he was once subjected to temptation, overcame it, was obedient to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel and progressed to his current exalted position.
If the conversation did not break down there, they will continue with the next principle:
He loves us. He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices when we do what is right.
He wants to communicate with us, and we can communicate with Him through sincere prayer.
He has given us this experience on the earth so we can learn and grow. We can show our love for Him through our choices and our obedience to His commandments.
If you love me, keep my commandments Jesus said.
Heavenly Father has provided us, His children, with a way to be successful in this life and to return to live in His presence.
Wait a minute. Back up the bus. There is just a ton of information in here.
First: return to His presence?
The orthodox views are that humanity did not exist before being born; however, there are those who taught otherwise, including Origen, who taught that the soul was assigned a body as a penalty for its sin of looking downward toward the corrupt earth. And it cannot be argued that there can be found, if one looks for it, “evidence” of preexistence in the Bible: Jeremiah 1:5 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.
The LDS church position is that these are some of the “Plan and precious things” that got lost during the Great Apostasy, during which the complete and true gospel was taken from the earth, and teaches that humans existed before they were born on earth.
11 Thus I, Abraham, talked with the Lord, face to face, as one man talketh with another; and he told me of the works which his hands had made;
12 And he said unto me: My son, my son (and his hand was stretched out), behold I will show you all these. And he put his hand upon mine eyes, and I saw those things which his hands had made, which were many; and they multiplied before mine eyes, and I could not see the end thereof.
13 And he said unto me: This is Shinehah, which is the sun. And he said unto me: Kokob, which is star.
16 If two things exist, and there be one above the other, there shall be greater things above them; therefore Kolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam that thou hast seen, because it is nearest unto me.
22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
See the Book of Abraham text here.
There is a lot here. Tons.
First, God lives in a physical place called Kolob.
Second—and this is covered elsewhere—we existed in a place with God. But we needed a body to progress, to achieve everything we could, to possible become a God in our own right. Jesus presented a plan as did Satan. God chose Jesus’ plan over Satan’s and a war broke out and a third of the humans in heaven fought with Satan. They were cast out of heaven, never to get a body: damned for all time.
The rest of us fought on the Lord’s side. Those more valiant than others were chosen by God to be the leaders on earth. The most valiant were selected to be borne in the latter-days, with the cream being born to LDS families.
This handicaps our life on earth. Since we are living now, when the true Gospel has been restored by Joseph Smith, they say, then we were more valiant than those born when the gospel was not on the earth. Ditto for being born where the gospel is present—the Unites States, Utah, Salt Lake City.
Being born LDS makes it easier to be LDS, just as being born in an Evangelical community makes it more likely to grow up to be an Evangelical. We are, in large, the product of our culture.
I cannot cover the topic of pre-existence fully in this or any one post. Please read about it. Also, please comment if you find factual error in my posts.