Is the Veil of Forgetfulness that was placed upon us when we were born into this world still in place upon those who have died and are in the Spirit World? I assume that it will definitely be removed after the resurrection, but what about before? Do those who have died remember their pre-mortal lives or will that not happen until after the resurrection? Thanks!
Thank you for your question regarding the veil of forgetfulness and the timing of its removal.
While the word “veil” has many uses as it relates to the gospel, we are only focused on the 4th lds.org definition: “a God-given forgetfulness that blocks people’s memories of the premortal existence.”
As it pertains to the eternities, the veil of forgetfulness is only a temporary measure and serves a specific purpose. The veil is/was placed upon all those who enter mortality. In a talk entitled Self-Mastery, Elder Russell M. Nelson says:
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…
Once the veil of forgetfulness has served its intended purpose, it will no longer be needed and in consequence will be lifted. Elder Neal A .Maxwell in the Ensign, Oct. 1980, p. 31 stated:
We define the veil as the border between mortality and eternity; it is also a film of forgetting which covers the memories of earlier experiences. This forgetfulness will be lifted one day, and on that day we will see forever–rather than “through a glass darkly” (1 Cor. 13:12).
Elder LeGrand Richards in the book A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, pp.281-282 shares:
Ultimately the veil of darkness, or forgetfulness, which deprives us of the recollection of our existence in the spirit world before this earth was made and of the acquaintances we had here, will be lifted. Then we will see as we are seen and know as we are known and as we were known before earth life.
At this point we understand when the veil of forgetfulness was originally “placed” over us and we know that at some point it will be “lifted”. Personally, I really appreciate the use of the words “placed” and “lifted”. These two words bring images to my mind of the sacrament being both prepared and administered by the Priesthood. I envision the careful and reverent effort taken to gently lower and “place” the sacrament cloth over the bread and water each week, thus veiling it during the sacrament prayers. I then picture the Priests as they slowly and gradually “lift” the sacrament cloth to unveil the bread and water.
In contrast to a light switch, which functions to simply flip on and off current, when the veil of forgetfulness is eventually lifted, it will be lifted slowly and gradually over time, not all at once like a switch that is suddenly flipped from off to on.
In a 1995 Ricks College devotional, Bro. Daniel H. Ludlow (former director of the Correlation Department for the Church) shared his thoughts regarding the speed at which the veil will be lifted, saying:
Some in the Church have erroneously concluded that somehow that veil is automatically removed at the time of physical death; and at the time of physical death that we automatically remember everything that took place in our pre-earthly existence as well as everything that has taken place in the first part of our second estate here in the earth. The fact of the matter is, the scriptures and the prophets do not teach that.
Along this same thought, on lds.org in Introduction to Family History Student Manual Chapter 9: The Spirit World and Redemption of the Dead, Elder Neal A. Maxwell states:
“The veil of forgetfulness of the first estate apparently will not be suddenly, automatically, and totally removed…”
We now understand:
1. When the veil of forgetfulness was placed
2. That it will be lifted/removed at some point
3. When it is lifted it appears not to be “suddenly, automatically or totally removed”.
We are now left with the the main question, “when” will the veil of forgetfulness be removed?
We will first turn to the Church-produced, First Presidency-approved movie, Man’s Search for Happiness, written and narrated by Apostle Richard L. Evans. In the 1986 edition, it states, while talking about going to the Spirit World (approx at 9:00 min. mark):
After death, though your mortal body lies in the earth, you, your spirit self—being eternal—continue to live. Your memory of this life will remain with you, and the knowledge of your life before birth will be restored.
Like coming out of a darkened room into light–through death you will emerge in a place of reawakening–and find loved ones waiting to welcome you.
There with your loved ones, you will await the resurrection—which is the reuniting of your spirit and your body. There you will continue towards the limitless opportunities of everlasting life.
We will now look at the rest of Elder Maxwell’s previous quote:
“The veil of forgetfulness of the first estate apparently will not be suddenly, automatically, and totally removed at the time of our temporal death. This veil, a condition of our entire second estate, is associated with and is part of our time of mortal trial, testing, proving, and overcoming by faith—and thus will continue in some key respects into the spirit world. …
“Thus, if not on this side of the veil, then in the spirit world to come, the gospel will be preached to all, including all transgressors, rebels, and rejectors of prophets, along with all those billions who died without a knowledge of the gospel (D&C 138)” (The Promise of Discipleship , 119, 122).
While we do have some insight into your question, there does not appear to be a simply stated black and white, clear cut answer as of now. This inevitably leads to additional questions such as: When exactly does the process start after temporal death? Is the timing the same for each individual? Do those in spirit paradise have their premortal dormant memories restored to them faster than those in spirit prison? What percentage of those memories will be restored before the resurrection? Can the process of having the veil lifted be accelerated do to one’s actions, belief and faith? (Ether 3:19-20)
While we might not know the exact details, we can appreciate that the veil of forgetfulness serves a purpose in our eternal progression and it appears that it will remain with us until that purpose has been fulfilled for us individually.
Thank you again MormonMama for your question.