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I work doing support work for adults with disabilities. I have a friend who recently graduated with a degree in psychology. One day we got talking about all the ways that brain damage (through accident, injury, age, disease, etc.) can affect a person.

Both of us being Christian as well, the conversation eventually shifted into a more spiritual discussion about the consistent/unchanging nature of the spirit and the inconsistent nature of the body. We got stumped on a couple of question, but they can be summarized into this one: There is no question whether or not the human brain can store memories – but is the human spirit able to store memories (without a physical body)?

My friend is Christian, I am LDS. Despite having access to the vast knowledge of both Christian viewpoints, we couldn't find any answer to the question with just the two of us looking.

The Bible didn't seem to have any answers (it's a big book though with only two people looking) and the only things I could find in the Book of Mormon were references to a person remembering all their guilt or joy at judgement (i. e., after the resurrection). I'm no scholar in other canonized Christian literature or in the other LDS books, but nothing we found seemed to specifically reference a spirit remembering something without a physical brain.

Is there anywhere in scripture or LDS doctrine reference to a spirit, outside of the presence of God (i. e., fallen man, those in spirit prison, or Satan and his followers), remembering something? Or a doctrine that clearly suggests spirits can remember things?

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    Looking at your answer, if the human spirit retains the memory of the individual, then why are peoples memories affected by physical brain damage? It would look like no one should be affected by brain damage as the memories are stored with the spirit rather than the brain. – user100487 Dec 17 '17 at 22:56
  • @user100487, I can see where you're going with that question, so I'll just cut right to it: I do believe that the human spirit is incapable of memory when outside of the presence of God. However, my question asked for scriptural evidence one way or the other. Like my comment below my answer suggests, that evidence in my answer is sketchy at best - but it's the only thing I have ever been able to find that gives direction one way or the other. My own bias has found many other evidences that my belief is true - but none of that could be used as an answer to this question. – Alamb Jan 16 '18 at 14:47
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    Well, more evidence against my thoughts here. In Russell M Nelson's 1985 talk 'Self-Mastery', he said, "Although your spirit had a veil of forgetfulness placed over it at the time of your birth into mortality, it retained its power to remember all that happens—precisely recording each event of life". – Alamb May 11 '18 at 13:47
  • @so, Alamb, what's your though then about passages like Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 or Psalms 146:3-4. These seem to indicate that thinking and other activities cease when a person dies. – user100487 May 12 '18 at 22:20
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Yes.

Gospel Fundamentals Chapter 35: Life after Death

In the spirit world our spirits will have the same form as when we lived on the earth with bodies of flesh and bones. We will look as we do here. We will think the same way and believe the same things as we did here. Those who are righteous in this life will still be righteous. Those who were unrighteous will still be unrighteous. We will have the same desires after we die as we had while on this earth.

Pay attention to "We will think the same way and believe the same things as we did here." What we think and believe stem from our experiences in mortality. Those experiences are stored in our memories. If we couldn't remember until after the resurrection, we wouldn't be the same person as a spirit. We would be a void so to speak until we regained our memories.

Alma 34:34

34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

The same spirit we have now, will remain with us. This includes our memories.

I hope this answers your question.

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Yes it can, in fact every person on Earth had a perfect knowledge of the universe and of the plan of salvation prior to being born into it. It was for this reason that the Earth was created, and the plan presented. As pre-mortal beings we had progressed as much as possible, and required bodies in order to progress any further.

Upon entering this world, and receiving a physical body, a veil is placed over our minds, and the memories of our spirit are forgotten:

Ecclesiatsies 1:11
There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

The veil does not erase our memories however, it only conceals them, so that we may be tested, to see if we will obey the commandments of God without them. When we are resurrected, the veil will be lifted, our memories will no longer be hidden from us, and we will become aware of how well we performed during the test of our mortal life:

Alma 11:42
The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.

There have been times where individuals have parted the veil, and accessed those memories of their spirits:

D&C 110:1
The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.

Our spirits are not immaterial, they are made of matter, but matter that is more refined and pure than the matter we perceive here on earth. Our Spirits are just as capable if not more capable of retaining knowledge than our mortal bodies are.

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I found it! I won't give the full quotations because the story is well known and it's a couple of longer passages.

In Genesis 3:1-6 and Moses 4:7-12 (two accounts of the same story), we have the story of Satan tempting Eve. It appears, as Satan is talking to Eve, that he knows what the fruit will do to Adam and Eve. He could only know that if he were to remember the council in Heaven where the plan was laid out. Without a memory, he wouldn't have had any other way to know what the fruit would do.

  • That answers my question of a scriptural reference. For the sake of putting down all my thoughts though, it's possible that Satan didn't know what the fruit would do and was just acting antagonistic towards Adam and Eve's avoidance of the tree. I'm not going to search that deep though. This answers the question at a basic, "good enough" level. – Alamb Apr 4 '16 at 18:38
  • I just removed the checkmark that this answers the question. My own study over the past couple years points to this answer being a bit out of context. Elsewhere in the record of this story is the statement that satan "knew not the mind of God" (Moses 4:6). He was there in the counsel in heaven where the Fall was discussed- if he had a memory he would have remembered discussing this key part of the plan! – Alamb Jan 16 '18 at 14:56
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Yes, our spirits can store and remember and recognize truths, lessons, and even people we knew in our prior existence before coming to earth. We didn't have a mortal body before coming to earth, but our spirits have memories or "echos" of something or someone we recognize.

We can't remember now because we have the veil of forgetfulness over us while we are being tested, but after we have passed our tests and as we progress in life, I believe we can get glimpses of these memories back to our conscious minds, not just to our hearts. Here are the LDS articles I'm getting that viewpoint from:

The church also teaches that we, as humans, are "intelligences or spirits that "have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or etermal" (Abraham 3:18)." As you see, they refer to our spirits as intelligences, therefore, our spirits are intelligent and can store memories on a spiritual level even without a physical mind.

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