In LDS Mormonism there is a doctrinal and cultural belief that by having children you are bringing Heavenly Father’s spirit children into the world, which otherwise would not be here. You are giving these pre-mortal spirits their physical bodies, and doing God a favor by so doing. You are participating in God’s “plan” to bring all “His” spirit children from the spirit world to Earth to partake in this mortal journey back to God’s Presence. Hence, big Mormon families.
I think this is an inaccurate and possibly harmful literal belief in a spiritual reality, one that I hope to offer a better perspective of in this article.
I suggest there is no other pre-mortal world where there are spirit children “waiting” there to come to Earth, a la “Saturday’s Warrior” (a Mormon play I actually took part in once when I was young). That is a myth, and should not be taken literally. God (and “His” “wife”) does not literally “birth” spirit beings in another place somewhere before they are born here on Earth.
The “self” that we think we are did not exist before we were born on Earth. This “self” identity has been constructed over a lifetime of experiences here on Earth, in mortality, beginning when we were one or two years old and started to recognize our “self” as an independent being in the world, and has grown ever since as we add more attachments to it. All our experiences begin to construct this identity of “self” that we recognize ourselves to be, attached to this particular body-mind, but this particular body-mind had no “pre-existence.”
The emergence of the “self,” I think, is also synonymous with the Judeo-Christian “Fall.” Before this Fall, from our conception to “self-awareness,” “we” exist in a kind of primitive oceanic nondual state of consciousness, at-one with all reality, especially our mothers, in the Presence of God, until we become individuated and separate from them, which is where I perceive the mythology of the Garden of Eden and an Earthly paradise partly comes from and the Fall.
I submit that the myth of premortality is pointing to a much deeper spiritual reality. Our essential nature is not this “self” that we usually think we are, attached to this particular body-mind. It is much much deeper than that, and is more synonymous with the universal nature of all reality itself, and even Nature itself, the totality of the All, and beyond. Our true Self or true Divine nature is that which is eternal, which existed before we were born, and will never die. In fact, it is never really born, ever, and thus never dies, it just transforms from one form to another, forever.
This is the eternal universal One or Spirit of the cosmos, the Divine energy itself, even Ultimate Reality itself, the Judeo-Christian “Father” or Yahweh/Elohim. We might see echoes of this in physics’ first law of thermodynamics, aka the law of conservation of energy, that energy cannot be created or destroyed. Ever. It is thus eternal, and forever just changes form. Where do we think the energy that makes up all the matter and energy flow in our bodies comes from? It comes from and is That.
Being Born in the World
By being born into this world this Spirit-nature of Reality, the energy of the Singularity if you will, is seemingly reduced or limited to a particular finite body-mind, it is formed into a localized being, giving it the consciousness and energy and power to be a living breathing organism. So, yes, the Word (this universal principle, energy, nature, or absolute reality) becomes flesh, all flesh.
In being born, the unmanifest Divine Spirit or energy becomes incarnate in the physical world, which is where the tradition of Christianity gets its idea of the Incarnation of God in Jesus, that the Word was made flesh. By God becoming manifest, incarnate in human beings and all life, these finite expressions of that Divine Being are sometimes known as “children” of that Divine essence, the “Son” of God, “offspring” of God, like leaves on a tree, or waves in the ocean. They are not separate from the Divine, but are actually expressing the Divine itself. They are Reality itself expressing itself, becoming itself, even coming to know itself through these cosmic forms and living expressions, as astrophysicist Carl Sagan once suggested.
There are no pre-existing independent distinct spirit bodies that each then take on physical bodies. There is just One Eternal Spirit or Divine Singularity of the cosmos which takes on a multiplicity of bodies, forms, manifestations, expressions, emanations, objects, personalities, lifeforms, dualities, etc. By giving birth to children, we are actually giving birth to God’s Spirit in the world, which I suggest is partly where Christianity gets the mythology of the virgin birth. That Spirit is pure, it is whole/holy, it is One, it is God’s, it is the energy of the Cosmos, it is Divine and innocent, and only thereafter becomes “defiled” through its “Fall” into subjective self-separation and individuality, which dualistic separation is the root cause of “sin.”
Helping God bring spirits into the world?
But we are not necessarily doing God any favors in giving it birth to its own Spirit on Earth. God doesn’t need us to birth it as much as we can in order to bring God’s “spirits” down to Earth. No one is waiting upstairs for you to birth them, so we can relax. God will take care of its incarnation as God pleases. In fact, I think by giving birth too much, we can actually overpopulate the Earth with God’s living “children,” and give each one a less abundant life (an abundant or full life being something Jesus/Christ seems to have wanted all to have; see John 10:10). If everyone on Earth gave birth like Mormons do, the world would very soon be depleted of its resources. Birth control is a good thing.
In fact, we are already depleting the Earth’s resources with our 7.7 billion people and counting, as evidenced by our ecological destruction and planetary climate change, just at a slower rate than Mormon rates of reproduction would likely produce. There is clearly a finite threshold to the amount of human life that this planet can sustain, and it seems we are quickly approaching that limit, if we have not already surpassed it, before we suffer many consequences for our rampant reproduction and destructive human activities, especially if we assume Western lifestyles of selfish over-consumption in extreme excess of our true human needs. There is a degrowth movement underway, which I think is wise, both ecologically and spiritually.
Less Children is not Sin
Having less children does not mean you are leaving behind spirit children in a premortal heaven. This is my main point. That literal belief can lead to thoughts of shame, guilt, and an undesired compulsion to parent more children than necessary, more than we can personally sustain and nurture, or are truly desirable for an abundant life for yourself or for them. And it can lead to unsustainable population growth, which can further damage the Earth. Every additional child we have requires a certain amount of resources to live, and that does have a measurable impact on the Earth.
Have children if you desire them, yes. My wife and I have beautiful children, and we love them dearly. Give birth to God’s One “Spirit” in the world, this One Divine consciousness that you and I are, but I suggest doing so in a way that is wise, that will allow each embodied manifestation of this Divine Spirit to be cared for properly, sufficiently, abundantly, within reason, sustainably, without excess, with appropriate nurturing, support, opportunities, experiences, with appropriate frugality and simplicity, with full awareness of the very real problems that our Earth is currently having from human activity. For we are also this Earth, this “Adam” (the Hebrew adamah meaning “ground” or “earth”), and so we should desire to take care of our Self. It is the only habitable home we know of in the cosmos that has life.
God Continues with or without Humans
I don’t know about you, but this particular manifestation of God wants to keep Earth habitable for God’s future evolution. By being unconscious of our true Divine Self, we can unwittingly destroy ourselves. Yes, unconscious manifestations of God can cause God’s own extinction in the world, at least in the form of humanity. But God will always continue, in human form or not. Humans are not requisite for God to incarnate itself. The Divine has been doing fine manifesting itself for billions of years in other forms long before humans ever arrived on the scene, and will continue long after humans are gone, if we extinguish ourselves through unconsciousness and unwise actions.
Perhaps a future race of intelligent creatures will evolve on Earth and their form of archaeologists and anthropologists will look back at the Anthropocene era of Homo sapiens sapiens and frown at what we did to ourselves by not waking up to who we are, but by remaining egocentric and aggrandizing ourselves to all kinds of outrageous excess and immoderation we drove ourselves to extinction, and took a host of other species of life down with us as well. It’s not a pleasant prophecy, but it is a plausible one, one that is even currently taking place, one that many wise people have also echoed. God is calling us to wake up to our true Self, which is God, itself, to become mindful of all our actions, to become deeply aware of our interconnectedness, to become fully conscious of all we do and its impact on the Earth and all those around us—to be wise.
As a Mormon scripture says, “O be wise; what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:12).
What do you think? Did we exist before we came here? How so? Is having more children desirable to God, or having less? Perhaps there is a Goldilocks principle here, otherwise known in spirituality as a “middle way.” Let’s discuss it.