Pre-existence.LDS, Catholic viewpoints

In the LDS church the idea of pre-existence before birth is a sine qua non. I would like to hear what the various positions on this in the RC church have been and what they are now, because I have been out of it for a while. I don’t think the early fathers were unanimous on the topic.

I tend to accept some period of pre-existence but the idea of being an “eternal intelligence” along with God - while it explains agency really well - doesn’t make me feel like a child of God from all time like Jesus.

Any thoughts or comments are welcome.


The ECF are univocal. If they weren’t, they would not be ECF.

But the hypothesis of Basilides says that the soul, having sinned before in another life, endures punishment in this–the elect soul with honour by martyrdom, the other purged by appropriate punishment. How can this be true, when the confessing and suffering punishment or not depends on ourselves? For in the case of the man who shall deny, Providence, as held by Basilides, is done away with. I will ask him, then, in the case of a confessor who has been arrested, whether he will confess and be punished in virtue of Providence or not? For in the case of denying he will not be punished. But if, for the sake of escaping and evading the necessity of punishing such an one, he shall say that the destruction of those who shall deny is of Providence, he will be a martyr against his will. And how any more is it the case, that there is laid up in heaven the very glorious recompense to him who has witnessed, for his witnessing? If Providence did not permit the sinner to get the length of sinning, it is unjust in both cases; both in not rescuing the man who is dragged to punishment for righteousness’ sake, and in having rescued him who wished to do wrong, he having done it as far as volition was concerned, but [Providence] having prevented the deed, and unjustly favoured the sinner. And how impious, in deifying the devil, and in daring to call the Lord a sinful man! For the devil tempting us, knowing what we are, but not knowing if we will hold out, but wishing to dislodge us from the faith, attempts also to bring us into subjection to himself…Wherefore the Lord was not prohibited from this sanctification of ours. if, then, one of them were to say, in reply, that the martyr is punished for sins committed before this embodying, and that he will again reap the fruit of his conduct in this life, for that such are the arrangements of the [divine administration], we shall ask him if the retribution takes place by Providence. For if it be not of the divine administration, the economy of expiations is gone, and their hypothesis falls to the ground; but if expiations are by Providence, punishments are by Providence too. But Providence, although it begins, so to speak, to move with the Ruler, yet is implanted in substances along with their origin by the God of the universe. Such being the case, they must confess either that punishmerit is not just, and those who condemn and persecute the martyrs do right, or that persecutions even are wrought by the will of God. (Clement, 1888, book IV, chapter XII)

Is the most cogent argument. A belief in a pre-existence justifies social injustice. Which Mormonism, in its traditional form, does in spades.

There is also this, which shows that the best were consistent in their decision.

But their transmigration from body to body we may overthrow by this circumstance, that should remember not at all any of what was before. For if they were sent out with this view, that they might pass through every kind of working, they ought to remember the things that were done before, in order to fulfill what was wanting, and not toil in wretchedness, always wallowing in the same things without intermission. For the admixture of body could not entirely blot out all memory and contemplation of what they had before: especially, such being the purpose of their coming…
…But those who deserve punishment will go away into the same, having also themselves their own souls also, and their very own spirits, wherein they have pleased God. But those who deserve punishment will go away into the same, having also themselves their own souls and their own bodies, wherein they fell away form the grace of God. And both sorts will cease from propagating any more, and from being propagated; from marrying and being married: that the race of mankind, completed to the just proportion according to God’s predestination, may preserve the harmony framed by the Father. ( Keble, trans., 1872, p. 195-198)

The Church Holds and has always held the direct creation of the Souls by God during gestation. Just because a Church Father has an Idea doesn’t automatically mean it’s part of the Canon of Belief, Tertullian split from the Church and joined a schismatic group later in life but he is still considered a church father for his earlier work and life. Some fathers(i.e. Origen-note the lack of Saint, we can’t be certain), in addition to having good insights were overly influenced by platonic philosophy and held to a pre-existence of the soul. Some later thinkers were overly influenced by a dodgy reading of Aristotelian texts(De Anima 3:5) and held that there was some form of single active intellect shared by humanity. Their positions(ECF’s and later thinkers) were condemned by the Church at the time and still are today.

Thank you. I was thinking that all the ECF’s were saints.

ETA: Sort of a bad pun, isn’t it?

As others have stated the idea of a “pre-existence” is contrary to Catholic teaching. But what I find puzzling is your thought that in the few years since you were an active Catholic the church would have changed it’s teachings?? Why would you think that?

Z - I think all faiths change their doctrines or the interpretations thereof from time to time, particularly LDS. Also, thanks to all for the great reading.

Catholic dogma does not change, Mormon dogma does change. Truth does not change.

I didn’t know the below facts previously about other views besides orthodox catholic doctrine. Thanks be to Google, :stuck_out_tongue:

Bible can be unclear. For example, in Jeremiah 1:5 it says, “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.”

Islam teaches of pre-existence

Judaism can teach both views.

  • Rabbinic literture has the souls of all humanity being created during the six days of creation (book of Genesis). And when each person is born, a preexisting soul is placed within the body. (See Tan., Pekude, 3). Conversley, the Tanakh has a passage that teaches the spirit within humans did not pre-exist, but was created within each person in the womb:

Plato was a believer in the pre-existence of the soul

Most Christian Scientists believe in pre-existence

Quakers leave it up to the individual

Most of the rest do not believe in, or do not have any doctrine on pre-existence.

Personally, if it was important, I think there would be more scripture on it.

"Personally, if it was important, I think there would be more scripture on it. "

Good point!

This is a little off pre-existence subject but want to mention this:

Stephen hit the nail on the head: TRUTH does NOT CHANGE. I would say as the Catholic Church CAREFULLY ponders things as it has done in the past 2000 years, even taking centuries to decide on something. Interpretations improve as time goes on, for example: the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery in the 1940’s was a boon to researchers. The Didache (discovered 1880’s or so & from circa 80 - 90 A.D.) condemns abortion - a 1st century practice for some. The Church condemned it then, now & will forever - we understand it to be an intrinsic evil & can never be justified in any circumstance.

The culture constantly attempts to change the Church! Truth is the Church CHANGES the CULTURE, not bend to it - and the cost is very high as evidenced by MILLIONS of martyrs tortured, burned, beheaded, shot, stabbed for 2000 years by the Romans, English, French, Germans, Chinese, Russians, to name just a few - even (the North) American martyrs who shed their blood on this soil. One of my favorite’s: St Lawrence’s quote as he was burning on a spit: “Turn me over, I’m done on this side!”

They died for The Truth -> Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever.:smiley:

Yet another reason to rejoice in the fact that Christ founded a visible Church on St. Peter nearly 2000 years ago, and which continues to this day.

As per Jeremiah & “I knew thee” refers to God’s knowledge regarding all things. There is NO TIME in eternity as God lives in the eternal NOW. He is not CONSTRAINED by time. He is all-knowing: past, present & future; KNOWS who & what he is going to lovingly create, knows every single person and when conception occurs, he immediately creates the soul and fuses it to the body (as far as I have read).:cake:

To say He “knew us” as in a person that lived in a “pre-existence” is altogether off the mark. The LDS have promoted out of ignorance something obviously contrary to scripture. Did any of the LDS authors ever consult with any Christian prof’s of the day? Did they research the greek & hebrew texts, have any scholars to consult, consult any other denom at all??? Not! Just winged it I’m afraid with no apparent, genuine concern for scholarship whatsoever.

Funny how things creep into to a denomination. Another example would be “the Rapture” (was that Darby??? - it’s way early in the a.m. & not awake yet:sleep:) promoted in 1800’s, a johnny come lately belief on the theologic scene, a grand example of scripture twisting to be sure. Saw a row of books yesterday in a store a couple of authors have turned into a cottage industry! Actually made staggering millions of dollars promoting a sheer fantasy & misinterpretation. That 60 million dollars plus would have been much better spent studying any of the books on website - for example on the Eucharist!

[LEFT] That would be my understanding. That God has known me throughout all of eternity. But in the light of Christ, it is Christ that is known in me. Out of nothing I was created, I was given a soul and freedom to live out this life either searching for my Creator / Jesus and what He has planned for me, (love) or searching out myself in what I plan for myself. (death) One being of Christ, the other from the dark-side. We are already graphed upon Christ through our Baptism into His life and His death in order to rise in Him for Him.

The problem with LDS theology is that its faith is built around the family, built around themselves in the hope of being together eternally. The Catholic faith is built around Jesus in the hope of being with Him eternally. And this is where our family is found…in Him, within the Trinity. Another problem for the LDS is before they come to earth they take on a chore in order to be found worthy. In Christianity only Jesus is found to take on this chore. To bridge the gap for us sinners between heaven and hell by way of His Cross. All we can do to find worthiness is to cling to Jesus and His Cross.

Our love for each other whether it be our earthy mothers and fathers, our children and grandchildren, will not be measured in Heaven by each of us as Gods love for each of us is not measured. We will all be His Children loved forever by Him. We will love all because He loves all. We can not understand this kind of love…but we will and it will be immense. Take the one you love most here on earth and multiply it by all.


I’m not sure what you’re referring to. A pre-mortal chore? Sure; there’s implications that we may have served as angels in the pre-mortal life. That’s the best answer I’ve seen to reincarnation … that the memories that some people have of previous lives, aren’t their own previous lives, but rather the lives of mortals that we may have helped when we served God as spirit-angels before entering mortality.

But we didn’t serve in premortal “chores” in order to be “found worthy.” I’m unaware of any such doctrine, and despite my manifest personal failings, I’m well-versed in the doctrine and scriptures of the LDS church. Please clarify.

Tell that to poor Origen, who was excommunicated after his death for writing speculations that only became heretical after his death. :frowning:

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