The following article, theologically enlightening (but rather mean-spirited and ill-informed, if I may editorialize very briefly there for a moment), previously appeared as Orson Pratt, "Past and Future Existence", The Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star 28/46 (17 November 1866): 721-723.
There are but few persons, who have correct ideas, concerning any state of existence, except the present. They find themselves here; but where they came from, or whither they are going, they have but a faint idea. Indeed, the greater part of the millions of Christendom, do not believe in the Bible doctrine of pre-existence: they look upon the natural birth of man as the origin or commencement, not only of the body, but also of the spirit. They readily admit the pre-existence of the materials which enter into the composition of the body; but discard the idea of a pre-existing spirit either organized or disorganized. They suppose each individual spirit to be created from nothing at or about the time of the organization and birth of the infant tabernacle. That then, it is supposed, we awoke from nothing to consciousness, from non-existence to existence, from vacancy to substance, that thoughts and perceptions sprang into being, assumed identity, and began their career as movable intelligent souls. This unscriptural, and most absurd, and unreasonable doctrine originated in the brains of a corrupt Priesthood, and is unworthy of the consideration of any but lunatics and madmen.
It is strange, that men professedly wise, capable of reason, and common sense, could possibly work up their minds into a belief that human spirits are called into being from nothing at the average rate of about twenty every minute. How much more consistent is it to believe that the substance of our spirits, like the substance of our bodies, had a pre-existence; that both are eternal, and that not one particle of either ever sprang from nothing; that creation signifies organization of pre-existent materials, and not the production of these materials from nothing? The former is a Scriptural truth; the latter a vague, foolish, unphilosophical, absurd speculation of men who believed in an immaterial god "without body or parts," which is equivalent to no God. When will man burst the shell of his traditions, and have common sense! When will he turn from such disgusting absurdities to the word of God!
Man is not only ignorant of his pre-existence, but seems to have but a very imperfect idea of his future state. It is true, Christendom expect a future state of being, but have endeavored to make such a state, as shadowy, as unlike everything connected with real existence, as they could possibly imagine. Their heaven is a spiritual, immaterial world, "beyond the bounds of time and space," having no connection with time, no relation to space, no parts, no whole, nothing in common with matter. Their future being is immaterial, shapeless, bodiless, occupying no space, has nothing to do with duration, is destitute of all properties common to matter, possessing, like their imaginary god, neither "parts nor passions." Such is their own description of their imaginary heaven; such their avowed belief in regard to their future existence. The Devil could not possibly invent ideas more atheistical, than these. The worst forms of heathen divinities do not begin to compare with the absurdities of the sectarians' god: a heathen heaven is a place compared with the sectarian heaven, excluded from time and space: the heathens' idea of a future existence, though false, is incomparably better than an "immaterial existence," which is only another word for total annihilation.
It is, indeed, comforting to know whence we came, and have a correct understanding in regard to our future. This interesting and most important knowledge is only to be obtained by divine revelation. God has abundantly revealed these things that man might rejoice in them. There are no people upon the earth who have so great reason to rejoice as the Saints; for to them God has spoken, and plainly manifested much, concerning both the past and the future; and hence, they know what kind of an existence to pray for, what blessings to hope for, and where they shall receive their everlasting inheritance.
A Saint, who is one in deed and in truth, does not look for an immaterial heaven, but he expects a heaven with lands, houses, cities, vegetation, rivers, and animals; with thrones, temples, palaces, kings, princes, priests, and angels; with food, raiment, musical instruments, &c.; all of which are material. Indeed, the Saints' heaven is a redeemed, glorified, celestial, material creation, inhabited by glorious material beings, male and female, organized into families, embracing all the relationships of husbands and wives, parents and children, where sorrow, crying, pain, and death will be known no more. Or to speak still more definitely, this earth, when glorified, is the Saints' eternal heaven. On it they expect to live, with body, parts, and holy passions: on it they expect to move and have their being; to eat, drink, converse, worship, sing, play on musical instruments, engage in joyful, innocent, social amusements, visit neighboring towns and neighboring worlds: indeed, matter and its qualities and properties are the only beings or things with which they expect to associate. If they embrace the Father, they expect to embrace a glorified, immortal, spiritual, material Personage; if they embrace the Son, they expect to embrace a spiritual Being of material flesh and bones, whose image is in the likeness of the Father; if they enjoy the society of the Holy Ghost, they expect to behold a glorious spiritual Personage, a material body of spirit; if they associate with the spirits of men or angels, they expect to find them material.
Materiality is indelibly stamped upon the very heaven of heavens, upon all the eternal creations; it is the very essence of all existence. While an immaterial substance does not exist, in heaven, earth, or hell, and cannot even be conceived of, thought of, or known, as substance. The very idea never could have been originated, only in the wild wanderings, and vague hallucinations of disordered brains.
We smile at the absurdities incorporated in heathen mythology, and pity the poor weak minds which could be gulled with such superstitions; but we defy the whole race of modern Christendom to show from heathen ethics one feature so glaringly absurd, as the modern Christians' immaterial god, consisting of three persons "without body, parts, or passions." How one of these bodiless persons could have been crucified, is among the incomprehensible mysteries of sectarianism! How one of these persons, "without body or parts," could have been dead and buried, or could have arisen and ascended into heaven, is another most astounding mystery of sectarian theology!
Such are the absurdities incorporated in the ethics of nearly two hundred millions of human beings, calling themselves Christians. With such disgusting nonsense in their creeds, it is very difficult to persuade ones self that it is possible for them to be sincere: yet from the exertions which many make to sustain these monstrosities, it is evident that some of them are so lost in the depths of idolatry, that they really do believe in the absurdities above alluded to. It is a shame and disgrace from man, to think that any portions of his species have fallen so far below the fables of heathenism, as to render themselves so supremely ridiculous, and so apparently devoid of all glimmerings of reason or common sense.
It may have been a wonder to some, why the heathens have not sent forth missionaries, among the benighted nations of Christendom, to convert them. But it is evident, that the frightful disgusting picture of the modern Christians' creed, would have disheartened the most zealous among them, from undertaking so hopeless a task. There are none, perhaps, who would have courage and fortitude to attack so formidable a monster, unless he were armed, like the Latter-day Saints' missionaries, with divine authority from heaven. It is not to be expected, however, that even an angel from heaven, will arouse those who have been in such gross darkness, whose traditions have so long cherished the worship of a being "without parts."
But let the Saints bear with patience the gross ignorance of this degraded race: let them be filled with pity towards the deluded masses: let them seek by reason, by the word of God, by kindness and long-suffering, to reclaim as many as possible; or, at least, if they cannot lift them up out of the deep mire, to faithfully discharge the duties of Saints towards them, that the consequences of their false religions may be upon their own heads, and not on the heads of the children of the kingdom. Teach them, that in the great judgment day, they will learn to their sorrow, unless they repent, that eternal justice will be executed by a God who has passions, whose fury will come up in his face, and whose wrath will burn to the lowest hell, upon all the unrighteous and the ungodly. Teach them that he who sits upon the throne is not an inconceivable nonentity "without body or parts," but a glorious Personage, a mighty King, a wise Law-giver, a great Judge. Teach them that a future state is not an immaterial, dreamy, shadowy, existence, but a tangible, substantial, material reality, a heaven that has foundations, a world that has stability.