“Question and Answer,” Tambuli, June 1978, 16
Steve F. Gilliland, director of the Institute of Religion, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
As I understand it, we do not know the answer to this question. It is a question that has often been raised by Latter-day Saints, particularly as we contemplate the nature of our premortal experience. Thus, because members of the Church have raised the issue, the leaders of the Church have occasionally made some observations on the subject. Let me identify some of the observations that I am aware of, observations that give some orientation that I have found to be helpful.
First, we know from the writings of the prophets that many of us made covenants with the Lord prior to mortality. For example, Joseph Smith stated: 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 that I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council. (History of the Church 6:364.) (See also Alma 13:3–9.)
How general or how specific these were, I do not know. I have heard of occasional Latter-day Saints whose patriarchal blessings have stated that they made premortal covenants with their spouses.
However, concerning a universal application or general principle, the First Presidency in 1971 stated that “we have no revealed word to the effect that when we were in the preexistent state, we chose our parents and our husbands and wives.” (Letter to Joe J. Christensen, Associate Commissioner for Seminaries and Institutes, June 14, 1971.)
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, in 1931, wrote on this issue: “It is possible that in some instances, it is true, but it would require too great a stretch of the imagination to believe it to be so in all, or even in the majority of cases.” (The Way to Perfection, Genealogical Society, p. 44.)
Concerning one of these specific cases some members of the Church like to quote an article by Elder John Taylor in 1857, in which he suggests that, at least in one case, he felt that a premortal agreement had been made. (See “The Mormon,” August 29, 1857.)
But the answer we have been given by the Brethren is that “we have no revealed word” on this matter. And in this and many similar matters, Church leaders have counseled us to avoid teaching doctrines that are not clearly defined in the scriptures or by current prophets. (Elder Harold B. Lee, address to seminary and institute personnel, July 8, 1966, pp. 6–7.) This is good advice, even for members who feel that they have had personal revelation on this subject.
Certainly, the wisest course for any of us to take is to build a relationship on its own merits, rather than on any premortal contracts we suppose have taken place.