Return to About Mormons home
by Richard N. Williams
In Latter-day Saint terminology "soul" is used in various ways, with diverse connotations found throughout the scriptures and in other Church writings. However, the word also has a precise definition given in latter-day revelation: the soul is the united entity of the spirit with the physical body (D&C 88:15-16). This concept is enhanced by an understanding of (1) the creation of humankind as a uniting of the spirit body and the physical body (Gen. 2:7; Moses 3:7; Abr. 5:7); (2) the knowledge that God himself is embodied (D&C 130:22); and (3) the doctrine that all mortals will ultimately undergo a literal resurrection of the physical body (Alma 40:17-23; 41:2; 2 Ne. 9:13). Only in this resurrected and permanently united form can a soul receive a fulness of joy (D&C 93:33-34; cf. D&C 138:17). The glory with which the soul arises in the resurrection is related to the glory, form, and qualities of the resurrected body (1 Cor. 15:40-45; D&C 88:28).
"Soul" in a generic sense, however, means a person. This was common usage in the nineteenth century and earlier (i.e., Gen. 17:14 and Mosiah 18:28) as it is today. "Soul" is sometimes synonymous with "the whole self," or what might be described as one's "being" or "essence." Scriptural passages speak of "enlarging" the soul (Alma 32:28; D&C 121:42) and of imploring others with all the "energy" of one's soul (Alma 5:43). The word occasionally also appears as a metaphor implying "strength" (D&C 30:11; 31:5) or "heart" (2 Ne. 26:7, 10-11). "Soul" often is likewise used to refer to a person's intimate feelings or desires, as when one pours out one's "whole soul" (Enos 1:9; Mosiah 26:14) or when one is commanded to love God with "all thy soul" (Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30-33; Luke 10:27). Other connotations are suggested by the word when it describes an entire community (Num. 21:4; 1 Sam. 30:6; Acts 4:32).
"Soul" is often used where the term "spirit" might also apply (1 Ne. 19:7; 2 Ne. 1:22; D&C 101:37). Here the soul is essentially that aspect of all human beings which persists independent of the physical body (Matt. 10:28; 1 Ne. 15:31; Mosiah 2:38; Alma 40:11). In LDS doctrine the soul, in this sense, exists both before and after mortal life, and is truly eternal (Abr. 3:22-23; see also Intelligences).
Consistent with the idea that all spirits (or souls) existed prior to their mortal life, LDS doctrine holds that all vegetable and animal life was created spiritually before the physical creation (Moses 3:5; cf. Gen. 2:5). In this sense, every living thing (plant, animal, human) is spoken of as having a soul (Moses 3:9, 19).
The human soul is innately endowed with an agency that should be honored and guarded as sacred and eternal (D&C 134:4). The soul (spirit), being eternal, cannot be fully destroyed but can suffer a type of destruction or spiritual death through sins that result in total and ultimate estrangement from God (1 Ne. 14:3; Alma 12:16-18, 36; 30:47; 42:9, 16). Scripture teaches that all human souls are children of God and are of infinite worth (Matt. 16:26; Alma 39:17; D&C 18:10-16). God has great joy in a repentant soul, and there is no more important work than the saving of souls and bringing them to God (D&C 18:10-16; 15:6; 16:6).
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 3, Soul
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company
All About Mormons