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I have read somewhere that the LDS teaches that each person existed prior to physical conception. What are the specifics of this teaching?

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This doctrine teaches, in short, that we literally existed prior to birth into mortality on this earth, and were involved in the salvation plan.

See the below excerpts from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism...

Pre-Existence (Pre-Earthly Existence)

The term "pre-existence," or more accurately, "premortal existence," refers to a period of individual conscious and accountable life before birth into mortality on this earth. It is Latter-day Saint doctrine that living things existed as individual spirit beings and possessed varying degrees of intelligence in an active, conscious spirit state before mortal birth and that the spirit continues to live and function in the mortal body. The revelations teach that premortal spirit bodies have general resemblance to their physical counterparts.

Council In Heaven

The Council in Heaven, sometimes called the Grand Council, refers to a meeting of God the Father with his spirit sons and daughters to discuss the terms and conditions by which these spirits could come to earth as physical beings. The terms "Council in Heaven" and "Grand Council" do not appear in the scriptures, but are used by the Prophet Joseph Smith in referring to these premortal activities, allusions to which are found in many scriptures (Job 38:4-7; Jer. 1:5; Rev. 12:3-7; Alma 13:3-9; D&C 29:36-38; 76:25-29; Moses 4:1-4; Abr. 3:23-28; cf. Tpjs, pp. 348-49, 357, 365; T&S 4 [Feb. 1, 1843]:82).

One purpose of the heavenly council was to allow the spirits the opportunity to accept or reject the Father's Plan of Salvation, which proposed that an earth be created whereon his spirit children could dwell, each in a physical body. Such a life would serve as a probationary state "to see if they [would] do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them" (Abr. 3:25). The spirits of all mankind were free to accept or reject the Father's plan but they were also responsible for their choice. The Creation, the Fall, mortality, the Atonement, the Resurrection, and the Final Judgment were contemplated and explained in the council (TPJS, p. 220, 348-50; MD, pp. 163-64; see also First Estate). The plan anticipated mistakes from inexperience and sin and provided remedies. Many spirits were foreordained to specific roles and missions during their mortal experience, conditional upon their willingness and faithfulness in the premortal sphere and their promised continued faithfulness upon the earth. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained, "Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. I suppose I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council" (TPJS, p. 365; cf. 1 Pet. 1:20; Jer. 1:5; Abr. 3:22-23).

Although spoken of as a single council, there may have been multiple meetings where the gospel was taught and appointments were made. Jesus and the prophets were foreordained in the council. A redeemer was to perform a twofold mission in redeeming mankind from the physical and spiritual deaths brought about by the Fall of Adam and also in providing redemption, upon repentance, for sins committed by individuals. At a certain point in the council, the Father asked, "Whom shall I send [as the Redeemer]?" Jesus Christ, known then as the great I AM and as Jehovah, answered, "Here am I, send me," and agreed to follow the Father's plan (Moses 4:1-4; Abr. 3:27). As a counter-measure, Lucifer offered himself and an amendment to the Father's plan of saving mankind that would not respect their agency. The substitute proposal was also designed to exalt Lucifer above the throne of God. The Father's response was, "I will send the first" (meaning Jehovah). Lucifer rebelled and became Satan, or "the devil." A division developed among the spirits, and no spirits were neutral (DS 1:65-66). There was war in heaven (Rev. 12:7-8), and the third of the hosts who followed Lucifer were cast out (Rev. 12:4; D&C 29:36). These rebellious spirits, along with Lucifer, were thrust down to the earth without physical bodies (Rev. 12:9; cf. Isa. 14:12-17). The Prophet Joseph Smith explained: "The contention in heaven was-Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he could save them all, and laid his plans before the grand council, who gave their vote in favor of Jesus Christ. So the devil rose up in rebellion against God, and was cast down, with all who put up their heads for him" (TPJS, p. 357). Heavenly Father and the faithful spirits in heaven wept over them (D&C 76:25-29). Satan and his followers are still at war with those spirits who have been born into mortality (Rev. 12:9; cf. "War in Heaven," p. 788).

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But now my question is that do every man that has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world have preordaining to that very purpose? If yes then I think preordaining doesn't include me. –  laovultai Mar 24 at 21:36
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@Bob Black hit the nail on the head there pretty much. I'd like to add one of my favorite scriptures that actually comes out of the KJV Bible, Proverbs 8:22-30.

22 The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.

23 I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.

24 When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.

25 Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:

26 While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.

27 When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:

28 When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:

29 When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth:

30 Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;

This expounds on and helps clarify some other scriptures as already stated (Job, Jeremiah, Alma, etc). It is clear that we had wisdom and other spiritual faculties in the pre-mortal life. Life does not end at death, why would it merely begin out of nothing at birth?

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The personal pronoun in that chapter is spoken by Wisdom itself, not a person. It doesn't appear to be from the reference of a human, but is saying that wisdom and knowledge existed in the beginning. –  thursdaysgeek Nov 19 '11 at 0:17
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Like many passages in the Old Testament, this one has a dual meaning, purpose, or fulfillment. –  Matt Nov 19 '11 at 1:56
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@Matt I think you should add "according to LDS doctrine" this passage has a dual meaning. It not interpreted as such by other traditions. –  DJClayworth Nov 28 '11 at 17:54
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DJClayworth, this whole question is about LDS doctrine, not other traditions' doctrine. –  Matt Nov 28 '11 at 19:36
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"Life does not end at death, why would it merely begin out of nothing at birth?" An argument made by Plato (via Socrates) in Crito, as I recall. –  Kazark Apr 18 '12 at 20:26
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From an LDS perspective:

*Christ always said he was sent from his father in heaven. He did not just begin to exist from his earthly birth.

We all talk about death like being called home to God . If we are called home that means we use to live there once before. As it states in Jeremiah' before I formed thee in the belly and before thou camest forth from the womb I knew thee and foreordained thee to be a prophet unto the nations."

The plan of salvation enables us God's spirit children to have a chance to come to earth and prove ourselves worthy to return to heaven. We will not be singing and playing harps all day long like some people think of heaven. God will endow us with more knowledge and power to enjoy the things that he enjoys, do as he does, and yes even create as he creates. His angels have a portion of that power now.

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Welcome to C.SE. When you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. You may notice I chopped out parts of your answer that weren't really relevant to the question at hand. What you started with seemed to be pretty good - but then you kind of fell off the tracks into discussion. All in all, not bad - but please remember, we try to be very academic here. Thanks! –  Affable Geek Nov 12 '13 at 15:15
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