I am strongly opposed to the idea of past lives or reincarnation. I have always considered it a false and pernicious doctrine that leads one to do less than their best in this life, thinking they will always have another chance to get it right in the next life. Some people have said that the church teaches this doctrine and that it is called Eternal Lives (plural). I disagree, believe that most LDS believe as I do, that Eternal Lives means eternal increase and would like to address that in this position paper.
Associated with Adam-God Theory
By way of background I’ve written a little about this before in an essay where I reviewed a book entitled “Teachings of The Doctrine of Eternal Lives.” For some reason, this subject seems to be related to discussions of the Adam-God theory, which I have also written about previously. My position hasn’t changed even though I’ve had many people engage me in private dialog on the subject. They come up with all kinds of weird spins on what we are taught in the temple.
Adam and Eve Immortal at Birth
I remained convinced that Adam was born an immortal child of God our father and his heavenly mother. Eve was also an immortal child of those same resurrected beings. Jesus Christ did not have a mortal experience until he was born unto Mary. What he put aside was not an immortal and exalted body but simply his status as the most intelligent and most advanced of all of Heavenly Father’s children.
No reintroduction of the Veil
I do not believe we have more than one opportunity to pass though mortality. The same applied to God and to Jesus Christ. There was no “reintroduction of the veil” to God, to Christ, to Adam or to any mortal being ever born on this earth. Elohim does indeed mean Gods – plural – which is in line with what I believe that many of us were Gods – and still are. The veil of our mortal bodies simply hides that fact from us for a season.
Definition of the Fathers
The Fathers, in my opinion, are those early patriarchal prophets who have been resurrected and await our joining them when we finish our mortal probation. We are to be like them and to be sealed unto them with the sealing power that can only come from the voice of the Lord. None of them has ever entered the womb again. That simply cannot and does not happen. They are resurrected and exalted beings now. We would do well to emulate their examples in following Christ.
God only Experienced Mortality Once
I do not believe Gods experience mortality more than once. I have re-read the accounts of the King Follett discourse several times. I simply do not see that Joseph taught that doctrine. Jesus helped to frame the worlds under the direction of our Father by virtue of his position as the most intelligent, the most obedient and the most advanced of all our Heavenly Father’s children. He was assisted by Michael, who was to become the first mortal of this earth – Adam.
No Immortal [Exalted Being] Can Become Mortal
I disagree that our Heavenly Father and Mother became mortal again after they were immortal [and exalted]. Sorry. That’s a false doctrine. Yes, it’s true that came to they earth and ate of the fruit of this world. Adam and Eve were born to them here upon this world as immortal beings, from immortal parents. Adam was created of the dust of this earth in the sense that his parents ate of the fruit of this world when he was conceived. They had already had countless spirit children, but Adam and Eve were the first immortal children they brought forth on this world. This was not the first time they had done this. They had brought forth immortal children on countless other worlds before this one.
Immortal Beings Bear Immortal Children
Again, there is never, was never, will never be a time when the veil is reintroduced to an immortal and exalted being. The mortal body is the veil. An immortal [exalted] being will not become a mortal being for any reason. Not even Jesus did this. Yes, he was a God before he was born because he had obtained all knowledge available to him before mortality. But he was not an exalted being. That requires immortality. Immortal beings cannot bring forth mortal children (*See excellent comment from Donald below). Adam and Eve were immortal [but not exalted] until they partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, then became mortal.
Update 4-10-13: I added the words in brackets above
No Past-Life Mortal Experiences
We establish ourselves as valiant in the pre-mortal life by our obedience to the commandments there and our faithfulness to the performance of assigned duty. There are no past-life mortal experiences to be remembered or relied upon as a source of growth or experience. Past-lives is a false doctrine explained by the presence of spirits who have attached themselves to us, which can be easily detected by those with spiritual insight or priesthood keys of discernment. This is clearly taught in books by Mel Fish and Doug Mendenhall.
Pre-Mortal Life is as a Spirit
Adam did not choose to become mortal again. He chose be born as an immortal child of Heavenly Parents and then chose to become mortal just as we are taught. I have never had a mortal life before my present time on earth. I learned and grew in a pre-mortal life in the presence of my Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. I am fairly certain I had some say about the timing of my birth into this world. Like Adam, I am searching for authorized messengers to teach me more. Up to this point I have accepted what I have been taught by prophets in scripture. But I know there is more that can only be received from heavenly messengers or from Christ.
We do not Cycle Through Mortality
I disagree with many on the interpretation of what Joseph taught in the last few months of his life and which Brigham tried to systematize in the endowment. I have studied many interpretations of others on what Joseph and Brigham taught. I have considered many versions of Adam-God theories from numerous individuals who have shared them with me. I simply have never found anything better than Elden Watson’s great summary. It is settled in my mind and has been for many years. I have yet to find anything that can convince me that we will ever become mortal again. That is not what eternal lives means.
Share Greater Light and Knowledge
This is my position paper. If I am wrong, show me where. Provide me with further light and knowledge. Point out my flaws in logic. Let me know where I have misunderstood prophets. I’ve shared this position many times over the years and most everyone has agreed that this is an orthodox understanding of what we as a church believe about the purpose of life and mortality. If you want to know more about the source of the idea of past-lives, let me know and I’ll be happy to share. Past-lives is not a doctrine that originated with God, but it can be explained. If you’re interested, I can add that in the comments.