The Pre-Existence.

Public forum to discuss questions about Mormon history and doctrine.
LaLaLove
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The Pre-Existence.

Post by LaLaLove » 07 Sep 2009, 13:47

Hello all. I have a few questions about the pre-existence.
First this has come about b/c DH and I have realized that many friends/family have asked us if we believe "Having more children = Higher degree of Heaven".
I would like to know if anyone has insight into how this "Rumor" or "Theory" has gotten into peoples minds over the years. Was it a theory implied by a leader? Or have non-members and members alike put "Mormons have big families" and "Mormons believe in levels of Heaven" together to eventually come up with "Having more children = Higher degree of Heaven." :?:
As of right now I personally love the theory/doctrine of The Pre-existence. It makes sense to me and is a beautiful concept.
However, (There always seems to be "Howevers" these days) were and is there an agenda with the theory-Completely un-gospel related. IOW I believe it is a part of the plan of salvation but does the Church, do leaders add a little extra something to get the most out of it that they can?
-Does it help bring about large families/ increase membership? Is it used in a way to push us towards making babies at a fast and numerous rate? Is there a sub-consious message in the mix, of have children b/c they are waiting-a type of guilt trip. I've been a member for 5 years now. Many times I've heard we were spirit children in the pre-existence and that millions of spirits are still waiting to be born. Honestly it has made me think to myself "Well I need to do my part - I can't have them waiting". If any of you have come to the conclusion that there is some type of agenda, some type of psychological push to have many children, to ultimately increase membership, to be more pleasing unto God by bringing more children into his Church .. How do you still keep the Doctrine beautiful? Can you admit there might possibly be a sub-consious agenda, or even an open - out there for everyone to hear type of guilt induced teaching to have many children:IN THE CHURCH and still know it is/was a part of the plan of salvation?

Curt Sunshine
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Re: The Pre-Existence.

Post by Curt Sunshine » 07 Sep 2009, 14:47

"Having more children = Higher degree of Heaven".
Sorry, but I have to laugh at that one - especially since there are a number of apostles with three or fewer children, and Shari Dew isn't married and has no children.

Sometimes, really stupid things get translated by some members into "doctrine".

(This might have been popularized by "Saturday's Warrior" - where one of the songs was called "Zero Population" and the central family was very large. It's too bad some people took something in a theatrical work of fiction and thought it was truth.)
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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bridget_night
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Re: The Pre-Existence.

Post by bridget_night » 07 Sep 2009, 15:01

Hi LaLaLove,

Thanks for posting. I have never heard about a higher degree from having more kids (or wives). I know that the church teaches about spirit children waiting to get bodies and if you are healthy (mentally and phsyically) and financially able, they encourage couples to have children. A few years ago in RS, the RS president gave the lesson on having children, and made a big point about a mis-understanding couples have in the church. She said that too many young couples in the church (and we have a lot of young couples who are in Chiropractic college here in Davenport, Iowa), think that they should not plan their children and use no birth control, and have a bunch of kids they cannot financial,emotionally, or physically support. She said these couples think that the church will support them financially because they believe the church wants big families. She said that is not true and there has been a huge problem in the church with too many young couples with too many kids coming to the church for welfare assistance; that the church cannot afford to do this. It kind of surprised me but I was pleased actually because I had several VT companions who told me they never used birthcontrol because they believed that God would prevent it if he did not want them to have children.

One sister who was a recent convert to the church that I had befriended told me how she had gone to a church fireside where a Stake Pres. spoke who told the audience that couple should only have sex with the intent to get pregnant. She said, "I can't get pregnant. Does that mean I should never be initimate with my husband?" These are the kind of stupidities some members have in the church and I think your information on your topic is one of them.

MadamCurie
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Re: The Pre-Existence.

Post by MadamCurie » 07 Sep 2009, 20:01

Whether or not its still considered doctrinal, even in my own lifetime there have been some very strong teachings from the prophets against the use of birth control, and encouraging families to not delay schooling, etc., before having kids. In addition, there have also been talks by BY saying, basically, if we don't give the children tabernacles, then God will have to send the spirits to "brothels". Together, I think that these types of statements have led to the sort of subconscious "God wants us to have as many children as possible, and I should feel guilty if I don't" type of thinking that evolves. Is it doctrinal that our righteousness is directly determined by the number of kids that we have? Nope. Have there been general conference addresses on having as many kids as possible? Yep. We had one recently from Sister Beck where she stressed that:
Mothers who know desire to bear children. Whereas in many cultures in the world children are "becoming less valued," in the culture of the gospel we still believe in having children. Prophets, seers, and revelators who were sustained at this conference have declared that "God's commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force." President Ezra Taft Benson taught that young couples should not postpone having children and that "in the eternal perspective, children—not possessions, not position, not prestige—are our greatest jewels."

Faithful daughters of God desire children. In the scriptures we read of Eve (see Moses 4:26), Sarah (see Genesis 17:16), Rebekah (see Genesis 24:60), and Mary (see 1 Nephi 11:13–20), who were foreordained to be mothers before children were born to them. Some women are not given the responsibility of bearing children in mortality, but just as Hannah of the Old Testament prayed fervently for her child (see 1 Samuel 1:11), the value women place on motherhood in this life and the attributes of motherhood they attain here will rise with them in the Resurrection (see D&C 130:18). Women who desire and work toward that blessing in this life are promised they will receive it for all eternity, and eternity is much, much longer than mortality. There is eternal influence and power in motherhood.
I think by and large the Church these days tries to encourage members to take a prayerful approach to these sorts of things, but the previous counsels by the Church do create an environment where righteousness for women IS tied in with their number of progeny. That's just reality, at least everywhere I have lived. In fact, my bishop just yesterday asked me when we were planning on having our next child, or if we were going to limit our family to just 1 (My 1 and only is currently 2.5). So, yes - the mentality is alive and well. How does one separate "doctrine" from an all-pervasive cultural assumption?

Bridget - That's very interesting that your RS president would stress that. We also live in a student ward, where ~ 95% of the students are on church and/or state welfare (typically both), largely to support growing families (most of the student families move in with 1 child, and have 2-3 more while here for their 4 years in dental/law/med school). It actually is planned upon by many students that they will go on church aid and state aid to pay for their growing family, mostly with the thought that God commanded it.

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Bruce in Montana
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Re: The Pre-Existence.

Post by Bruce in Montana » 08 Sep 2009, 09:47

Interesting thread.
Certainly we live in a time where values have shifted 180 degrees.
God bestowed on Abraham the most valued blessing possible....lots and lots of posterity.
Of course, for the majority of human history, children have been an economic asset....more kids can do more chores and thus generate a higher standard of living. That is not the case now but I try to remember that "now" may or may not be the correct way of doing things.
Children now tend to be burdens for 18 years and then expect parents to pay their way through an education where they can get married (or not) and raise more burdensome video game players. A large family of burdensome children has become no longer an asset.
I submit that we're pretty messed up.

I, too, have always had a "Saturday's Warrior" mentality toward the pre-existance....I'm not sure how doctinal it is however.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
-William S.

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hawkgrrrl
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Re: The Pre-Existence.

Post by hawkgrrrl » 08 Sep 2009, 10:41

L3 - this is definitely a holdover from Saturday's Warrior, but the role of parent is also pretty fundamental to the Mormon view of eternal progression (which could also just be called human development). But having MORE kids means you are MORE righteous - obviously, that was a rumor created by someone with a lot of kids! Sister Beck's opinions notwithstanding, the counsel to make these decisions prayerfully as a couple predates her diatribe on uterine power.

Bruce in MT makes a great point, too - there is a lot of scriptural precedent for children = blessings, partly because if you go back about 100 years, you needed more children to work the farm and help you make ends meet. That was the rule for thousands of years. Also, birth control was not readily available or reliable until about 1960 and has gotten progressively cheaper and more reliable. In England and other countries where females were prohibited from inheriting land, male children were prized so highly that the king went around chopping off the heads of his pretty young brides if they failed to produce a male heir. One of his wives didn't even know she wasn't pregnant when she had a tumor. Hopefully we're not pining for those days. However, there are many folks who like to live in the past, even when it no longer makes sense.

There is a story told of a woman who always cut the end off the ham when she would cook it. Her friend asked her why she did that, and she said it made the ham taste better. When her mother saw her do it she said, "Why are you cutting the end off your ham?" The daughter said, "You always did that. I thought it made it taste better." The mother said, "Our oven was too small to fit a whole ham." I often wonder how many lopped off ham-ends we have due to notions like this that were expedient at one time but are no longer necessary.

Poppyseed
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Re: The Pre-Existence.

Post by Poppyseed » 08 Sep 2009, 11:26

I really don't like notions like this...even if I can see how someone could draw the conclusion. FIrst of all, it isn't doctrinal and secondly, it alienates people who fall outside the box.

I think for the most part the church people understand that having children is a good thing but something that must be done in wisdom. I feel a lack of understanding for anyone who holds onto ideas like lots of children = more exaltation. God isn't gonna demote someone from heaven because they only had three kids instead of ten! Ridiculous!

It is crazy but I actually see the opposite trend in the church today. Seems you get flack if you have too big of a fam or to small of one. I have some friends with 9 children and counting. They have made the choice to have a big family and have made the preparations to accomidate the decision and they are so happy. But they get critical comments all the time from people INSIDE the church. And I have a sister who has one and isn't planning anymore. She gets flack! Too bad we can't all just quit the judging and making assumptions about people.
“Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.” --old Chinese proverb

MadamCurie
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Re: The Pre-Existence.

Post by MadamCurie » 08 Sep 2009, 11:32

hawkgrrrl wrote:Sister Beck's opinions notwithstanding, the counsel to make these decisions prayerfully as a couple predates her diatribe on uterine power.
:lol: :lol: :lol:

Uterine power, baby!!

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HiJolly
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Re: The Pre-Existence.

Post by HiJolly » 08 Sep 2009, 12:19

LaLaLove wrote:Hello all. I have a few questions about the pre-existence.
First this has come about b/c DH and I have realized that many friends/family have asked us if we believe "Having more children = Higher degree of Heaven".
I would like to know if anyone has insight into how this "Rumor" or "Theory" has gotten into peoples minds over the years. Was it a theory implied by a leader? Or have non-members and members alike put "Mormons have big families" and "Mormons believe in levels of Heaven" together to eventually come up with "Having more children = Higher degree of Heaven." :?:

Yes, the theory is implied by Joseph Smith's teachings concerning Polygamy, Polyandry, temple work for the dead, patriarchy and doctrine of adoption.

I think Joseph was trying to make the adage "As above, so below" literal by tying together familial, patriarchal relationships through priesthood sealings, in an effort to duplicate what he saw in Heaven. He explained that the networks of sealed people into linked families increased our power and dominion, etc. in heaven, much like the European royalty did it in the middle ages.

Obviously, if that were worth pursuit, what would make more sense than having a lot of kids with your own wife/wives in the first place? Why adopt if you can have a bajillion kids yourself? So, I think it's all tied together. Saturday's Warrior is simply a sociological outgrowth of this kind of thinking, IMO.
LaLaLove wrote:As of right now I personally love the theory/doctrine of The Pre-existence. It makes sense to me and is a beautiful concept.
However, (There always seems to be "Howevers" these days) were and is there an agenda with the theory-Completely un-gospel related. IOW I believe it is a part of the plan of salvation but does the Church, do leaders add a little extra something to get the most out of it that they can?
-Does it help bring about large families/ increase membership? Is it used in a way to push us towards making babies at a fast and numerous rate? Is there a sub-consious message in the mix, of have children b/c they are waiting-a type of guilt trip. I've been a member for 5 years now. Many times I've heard we were spirit children in the pre-existence and that millions of spirits are still waiting to be born. Honestly it has made me think to myself "Well I need to do my part - I can't have them waiting". If any of you have come to the conclusion that there is some type of agenda, some type of psychological push to have many children, to ultimately increase membership, to be more pleasing unto God by bringing more children into his Church .. How do you still keep the Doctrine beautiful? Can you admit there might possibly be a sub-consious agenda, or even an open - out there for everyone to hear type of guilt induced teaching to have many children:IN THE CHURCH and still know it is/was a part of the plan of salvation?
Wow. I had never even had an inkling that this subterfuge could potentially exist. I'm a lifelong member, and nothing I've ever heard would validate that. Maybe I'm just too naive.

When my wife & I first talked about getting married, we discussed family size. For her, it was a theological duty; for me it was something I really thought was 'cool' because I was a youngest child (of 5) and I knew a few families with 10-12 kids and they were all really fun to be around. In the end, we finished up with 9 children.

When we look at the Church's involvement in member's family size, it is important to keep in mind the legal environment here in the USA. Birth control was *illegal* in many (most?) parts of the US until the 1965 Supreme Court decision striking down the law forbidding it. see http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/un ... .03.x.html So when the 'brethren' spoke on the topic of having children and not limiting the size of the family, it was a matter not only of Joseph Smith's earlier teachings, but a matter of "obeying, honoring and sustaining the law".

When the law changed in 1965, the rhetoric began to diminish in the Church, save for the 'conservative' leaders of whom the Apostles pretty much to the man belonged. A few noteable exceptions were David O. McKay, Hugh B. Brown and... uh, and... well. I can't think of any others...

HiJolly
Men are not moved by events but by their interpretations.
-- The Stoic Epictetus

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Heber13
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Re: The Pre-Existence.

Post by Heber13 » 08 Sep 2009, 13:04

Families are central to the teachings of the gospel. They are eternal. That makes sense to me going forward. My wife and I build our relationships to be one and want our children to be around us also. "The more, the merrier" is usually the accepted thought, I think. But I don't know that the church has evered taught that you need big families for higher exaltation.

I don't know how eternal (defined as no beginning and no end) families work going back to the pre-existence because I view us all as individual spirits trying to progress, not predetermined families where I had one person to find on earth, and there were 5 children waiting to come to the family. I currently have 4 kids, and so are we leaving one stranded? I don't think so, too many variables for sizes of families (divorce, earthly/phsyical problems preventing pregnancy or health of the mother, free agency, cultures, finances, etc etc etc). There would be no way that God's plan could be carried out with all the things that could happen.

I think mormons had large families because the family was taught to be the most important thing, more important than financial aspirations. Add on top of that the teachings that s3x is for one purpose (procreation not pleasure), and contraception is unnatural and over time, you get a trend that mormons have big families and then it becomes an accepted norm that we are different from the world and that makes us special and therefore the younger families want to be like other mormons and want to go along with traditions.

I think it is more traditions than any teaching in the church.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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