Less like this...
& more like this...
I have had a tendency to think of premortal life as being like me, now; but 'floating around' without a body. However, it seems likely that my mind was more like the mind of a young child.
So my agency was like that of a young child. Because I was a fully-physically-competent spirit living in a Heavenly realm I could do lots of stuff. And I was immersed-in divine love (something like a perfectly happy childhood in a perfect family) - God's will could flow-through me to do all sorts of things in obedience. I mostly operated by 'channeling' divine knowledge, motivation, competence...
But my capacity for autonomous thinking and choice was more like that of a child.
This is why (perhaps) I have few and vague memories of that time and state of being (and why many people claim to have none) - because it resembled the memories of early childhood, which are also diffuse and relatively-few (albeit extremely important to me).
And perhaps it also explains the nature of my positive desire and choice (and of almost all of our choices) to live a mortal and incarnate life - to accept the risks in pursuit of progression towards greater divinity (theosis)...
To incarnate in this body, this family, this time and place was the desire, the free and informed choice, of a spiritual-child - and necessarily so, because it was precisely in order to 'grow-up' that the choice had to be made.
But thinking of things like this may help explain not just why we don't remember much about pre-mortal life; but also why some people apparently 'regret' their choice to accept the specific mortal life they once regarded as 'a good prospect'.
They regret, rebel, resent... because all choices are always made on the basis of incomplete information; but this choice was also made by a being of greater spiritual immaturity trying to predict his future response to a situation experienced by a transformed self...
interesting, but how can you with the intellectual capacity of a young child make such important free will decisions like accepting the risk of hell etc?
I did a double take when I saw that first photo. You're officially a Mormon now, Bruce!
@U - The analogy isn't intended to be exact - and surely isn't; but either way how else could such a decision be made? If one had full capacity to know exactly 'what it would be like' to be a mortal incarnate and to experience death, then it would not be neccessary to become a mortal incarnate or to die.
@William - Well spotted (Note: the picture is from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturday%27s_Warrior - for the majority who would not recognise it); but actually I've never got past the first few minutes of the movie, because I found it unbraerable!
It's just an illustration. I could have used one of the more official pictures of the Council in Heaven illustrations from the (Pearl of Great Price) Book of Moses. Of course such pictures are just symbolic, and I don't regard them as wrong - but I suspect the use of adults may be subtly, unconsciously misleading.
I'd guess pre-teen to be the age to symbolically represent pre-mortality.
-Can choose damnation/salvation.
-sterile, not adult.
Well, I think that you have to face the fact that the analogy is necessarily flawed because our premortal state would be even more immature than that of mortal infancy.
However, in the specifically spiritual sense, as opposed to the sense of coming to an engagement with the physical world, it is not the case that we were in the premortal life terribly spiritually immature. For us in mortal life, spirituality (including spiritual maturity) is primarily a matter of learning to ignore the distractions of the physical and instead focus on what we already know as spiritual beings. But that's just to get back to the spiritual awareness we naturally had before having physical bodies. In other words, the second picture should be of extremely aged people meditating.
True, the people who have gone through a long mortal existence and learned spiritual awareness despite their mortal bodies certainly are more mature in their spirituality than premortal spirits can have been. But what they have learned is mostly how to deal with unspiritual experiences and senses that those without physical bodies simply don't have in the first place.
You are right that it is not the risk of Hell that premortal spirits would have trouble understanding, but rather the fear of death. To the mortal man, the difficulty is properly conceptualizing the difference between Heaven and Hell, to the premortal spirit, the problem is seeing the difference between life and death (in the physical rather than spiritual sense).
Nobody can understand the risk of Hell so keenly as a person fully spiritually conscious of the presence of God (literally, no body). In the strictly spiritual sense of understanding the import of possibly choosing to forsake God's presence for eternity (as well as the spiritual understanding of the difference between eternity and merely forever), we are effectively in a state of regression in spiritual maturity due to the distraction of our mortal bodies, much the way that being subjected to excessive distraction can regress one's mental age (or rather in exactly that way, but categorically more).
A complete spirituality (or a fulfilled one, I suppose) is applied to the physical world, it is easy to be spiritual when it doesn't require you actually do anything...it is also pointless. The purpose of spirituality is to inform our free choices, which must result in works (to use the scriptural term for action). So in a full sense, our spirituality was not so much immature as...well, spiritual rather than practical.
Even at that, one cannot forget that a significant number chose damnation even before experiencing the distraction from pure spiritual awareness. So "spirituality" isn't always good, even though the lack of it is a problem.
P.S. There is a newer version of Saturday's Warrior. I wonder if it is more spiritually mature than the previous version.
I would have to assume that we were physically adult spirits in the pre-existence, since Jesus was a fully grown man in his premortal life.
- Carter Craft
@Carter - Clearly there was something different about Jesus; since he co-created this world. He was presumably a spirit, nonetheless, who needed to incarnate, die and (presumably) marry in order to attain full divinity: to procreate spirit children. What this implies for the fullness of Jesus's pre-mortal agency I don't really know; but I suppose that as a spirit living in God's presence, Christ's agency will not have been as full as it later became.
Jesus certainly gained a measure of physical agency (that is, the ability to be the proximate cause of physical events) by incarnation, as do we all.
But did He gain any spiritual agency simply by being born?
Do any of us?
I do not see how the sudden gain in physical agency could not involve a regression of spiritual agency (however temporary).
It is problematic to draw a strict duality between spiritual and physical agency, the spirit and the body are intended to work together for good...in the end. But at the beginning, they must have been entirely distinct, particularly before we had bodies. Learning to be spiritual while also being physical is a different thing from being spiritual when one is not physical.
The maturity we seek is a unity, physical and spiritual, but when one speaks of spiritual maturity as separate from physical maturity, why one has to speak of it as separate.
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