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Premortal Life

Catholic Doctrine

There is no doctrine of premortal existence in Roman Catholicism, although Origen (considered an early father of the church) was said to have believed in the theological concept. The Catechism of the Catholic Church alludes to the soul of each man and woman as “immediately created” by God (Catechism, Sections 93, 94, and 96). Although the term “immediately” is not specifically defined, its use implies that God creates the human soul at the moment of conception—and not before.

The Catholic doctrine which holds that life, both physical and spiritual, begins at conception can be supported from the writings of Isaiah (Isaiah 44:2, 24, and 24), where the prophet speaks of the Lord “... forming one from the womb ...”. Isaiah’s words could be taken to mean that the soul (or spirit) is created at the time of conception, or shortly thereafter. This doctrinal position is said to have been supported by early Church fathers; hence the word “immediately” in the Catechism. In this context at least, the doors of Catholicism may be closed to the belief in a premortal existence.

Latter-day Saint Doctrine

The doctrine of premortal existence is a key element of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and helps tie together a number of principles that are taught in several advanced doctrines. It is the doctrine of the premortal existence that distinctly answers the many questions that were posed at the opening of this chapter regarding “where did I come from?”

The doctrine of the premortal existence begins with the basic belief that every person ever born to the earth is a spirit child of Heavenly Parents, reared in the premortal existence, and endowed with a unique set of talents and capabilities towards a specific purpose in life on earth. Our purpose on earth is but a continuation of our eternal progression which began in the premortal existence, but which required us to come to the earth as we could progress no further in a premortal state.

Life on earth is viewed as a testing ground prior to the eternities, where each of us as God’s children are sent by design to experience mortality, progress in knowledge and understanding, and gain a testimony of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As a testing ground, our memory of the premortal existence is “veiled” in order that we may choose good or evil for ourselves without any predisposition or knowledge of our premortal state. Because our Heavenly Father knew of the challenges we would face on earth he has given us the capability to recognize truth when we hear it again on earth, while providing us a Savior in Jesus Christ to help us gain forgiveness from our sins and overcome physical and spiritual death. In our premortal state we were presented the plan of salvation in its entirety by our Heavenly Father as part of the grand council in Heaven.

See chapter 3 in Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest for a more comprehensive explanation and commentary on the Premortal Life

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