5 Things Pixar’s “Soul” Gets Right About Pre-Mortal Life

“Soul,” Pixar’s newest animated hit, was released to Disney+ members on Christmas day. This adorable film explores the life of middle school band director, Joe Gardener, and his experience of dying suddenly. His journey back to the pre-mortal life is an interesting one.

At the beginning of the movie, Gardener dies and his soul is sent to “the great beyond” but he just wants to go back to earth. In his efforts to escape and return home, Gardener ends up in “the great before” by accident.

There he meets new souls, yet to go to earth, and becomes a mentor to a particularly difficult soul. This film made me laugh and cry and reflect on life and will quickly become a Pixar classic. Here are 5 things about the premortal life or “the great before” that this film gets right.

That there is a “great before.”

pre-mortal life in "Soul"

One of my favorite things about this movie is that they acknowledge that pre-mortal life is real! Obviously, we don’t know a lot about our pre-mortal life but we know that we existed before our life on earth.

Doctrine and Covenants 138:56 says, “Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first lessons in the world of spirits and were prepared to come forth…”

This verse and many others in our canon of scripture prove the existence of a pre-mortal life. This is why it is a permanent part of our doctrine in the plan of salvation. While we believe in it, many other Christian faiths don’t have a stance on this topic, so the fact that it made its way into a Pixar movie is amazing.

Related Link: Did You Choose Your Family in the Pre-Existence?

We learned new things “the great before.”

Pre-mortal life in "Soul"
photo courtesy of Pixar Post

Each little baby soul in the great before is required to develop skills and learn new things before they are given their “earth pass.” We know that God prepared us to come to earth, so while it probably looked different, the sentiment is the same. Learning and growing were necessary for us then and it continues to be important now.

While we believe that the learning we did was less about how to be human and more about the gospel and its teachings, this part is also correct. We were required to learn and progress in our premortal lives in order to be prepared for life on earth.

That we each developed personalities there.

Pre-mortal life in "Soul"
photo courtesy of arstechnica

In the great before, the baby souls have no names yet, so they are referred to by their numbers. They are also blank slates and have yet to be molded. Each soul wears a patch on their chest that indicates when they learn certain things or develop certain attributes. Once all the bubbles on this patch are filled, the patch turns into an earth pass that the soul will use to go down to earth when they are ready.

One of the requirements for this earth pass involves the souls going through different personality pavilions where they are assigned different personalities. Paul Abadilla, the film’s art director said that each pavilion is designed as an abstract representation of the personality trait.

In the movie, the line “What? Do you think they’re just born with it?” is said in reference to personalities. We do honestly believe that we came to to this earth with our own developed personalities.

That we don’t remember the “great before.”

Earth Jump from Pre-mortal life

The veil of ignorance, more commonly referred to as the “veil of forgetfulness,” is also mentioned in this movie. Once the souls make the jump from the great before to earth, they forget the experiences that they had in their pre-mortal lives. This is the reason why Joe is so intrigued when he discovers the great before in the first place.

In a February 2015 issue of the New Era, the article “What We Know About Premortal Life” states, “Much like we cannot remember the first few years of mortal life, our memory of premortal life has been withheld. This was necessary to help us learn to walk by faith and prepare us to become like Him.”

Thankfully we will one day be able to regain these memories; it just might be after we pass on from this life. Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “Among the ‘all things [that] shall be restored’ will be memory, including, eventually, our premortal memories.”

Related Link: Everything you Forgot About the Veil (or never knew in the first place)

We come to earth to get a body.

photo courtesy of CNN

One cute scene involves a character teaching Joe that in our pre-mortal life we couldn’t smell, taste, or feel. She explains that the reason for this is that they don’t have bodies.

When Joe dies at the beginning of the movie he is just a soul without a body. He does not go into the light of the great beyond so we aren’t really sure of Pixar’s views on life after death. Within the Church, we understand that one of our sole purposes for coming to earth is to gain a body.

Overall, this movie is adorable and will tug at your heartstrings just like Pixar movies are known to do. Even if “the great before” is not 100% accurate to what we believe the pre-mortal life to be, this was a wonderful glimpse into God’s plan for our lives.

Have you seen “Soul” yet? Share in the comments. 

Zoë Holyoak is currently a BYU student, photographer, and writer. Her hobbies include long walks through the ice cream aisle at the grocery store and correcting bad grammar. She is also a proud member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and served a mission for the Church in Portland, Oregon.