In my national poll of 1053 non-LDS Christians, we found that if people had the opportunity to ask God any question, the majority would ask about the problems and meaning of life.
And why wouldn’t they? It’s all they know. And many react to the pain of such problems like a child getting a vaccination and not understanding its purpose.
As an analogy, let’s pretend you have never heard of Shakespeare or any of his works. A friend invites you to one of The Bard’s plays, say, Hamlet. You accept. But because of a traffic jam you are late and can’t take your seat until the beginning of the second act.
Hmmm … King of Denmark, ghosts, murder, revenge, confusion, uncertainty, who’s Hamlet …? What’s going on?
Are you mentally swimming? You’d better believe it.
And such would be the case for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Phantom of the Opera, and even The Sound of Music if you enter at the start of the second act.
The obvious parallel: We were born into Act Two of our lives, memory of Act One has been placed in some heavenly computer cloud, and most of the Christian world is swimming.
When we introduce the idea of a pre-earthly existence to our friends and neighbors, even though some may not fully believe it at first, many will sense and hope for such a bigger picture.
That’s what happened when we asked our sample of fellow Christians which of two positions they lean toward, Position A or Position B:
A: We lived with God in heaven before coming to the earth
B: Our life began when we were born
The results indicate the potential:
Seven out of ten don’t see the big picture and their total focus is on this life, Act Two in a three-act play.
But on the positive side, 24% at least lean toward believing we lived with God in heaven before being born on earth, which means 39 million fellow Christians believe as we do but have not yet found the Church.
The rest are mentally trapped thinking life began at birth. In fairness and compassion, how would you look at life if you didn’t know anything about our pre-earthly existence?
The beauty is that as they consider the idea, problems will be seen in a more manageable light because the memory of Act One is still embedded in them.
We bring comfort and enjoyment to a conversation when we mention we lived with God in heaven before being born – we give them the Big Picture.
Our unique doctrine of the pre-earthly existence (aka pre-mortal existence or preexistence) has the power to rearrange people’s belief structure better than almost any other.
Although a local parish here or there may tinker with the idea, no other major Christian religion teaches this doctrine to any substantive extent. To the best of my research, we have this treasure to ourselves.
(But I will give a little shout-out for the 2020 Disney/Pixar animated film Soul that featured a place called The Great Before where pre-mortal souls could get their personalities before going to the earth. Maybe the idea is catching on.)
What happened in our pre-earthly existence – especially Christ’s calling as the Only Begotten Son of God and our Redeemer – sheds more light on the purpose of life, and the necessity of problems, than any sermon the average person will hear from his pastor next Sunday.
It has persuasive power because every event on earth can be tied to an event in our pre-mortal existence.
When people entertain this possibility, other belief structures crumble and our message that Christ’s original Church has been reestablished will have impact.
More national poll results – and ideas how to initiate comfortable conversations – in future articles.
Gary Lawrence is a public opinion researcher and author of a forthcoming book “Millions Believe As We Do But Haven’t Yet Found the Church; Conversation Ideas From a National Poll.”