Purpose of Life
Most people come to a point in life when they begin to wonder, “Is this all there is to life?” They may have successful careers and relationships, and yet life seems empty, especially when they realize that death could come at any moment to undo everything they’ve achieved.
Who am I?
The message of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church, is that mortal life is just a blip in the eternities, and that we not only existed for eons before earth life, but will exist for eons after earth life. Life on earth is part of our journey as eternal beings. Not only that, but our relationships with the people we love most can also last eternally.
The brilliant romantic poet, William Wordsworth, wrote the following:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home…
–William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality
Where do I come from?
This is one of the questions that plagues us. Our birth is not the beginning. Before we were born onto this earth through our earthly parents, we lived with our Father in Heaven in a spiritual realm Mormons call the pre-existence, or pre-mortal life. We are literally the Spirit children of a loving Heavenly Father, and therefore carry the seeds of immortality and the potential to become more like him than we presently are. The firstborn of Heavenly Father’s spirit children was Jesus Christ, and He is more intelligent than all the rest of us put together. Through Christ, referred to in the Bible as “The Word,” all the worlds were created.
The late Neal A. Maxwell, a modern day Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, once said:
Trying to comprehend the trials and meaning of this life without understanding Heavenly Father’s marvelously encompassing plan of salvation is like trying to understand a three-act play while seeing only the second act. Fortunately, our knowledge of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and His Atonement helps us to endure our trials and to see purpose in suffering and to trust God for what we cannot comprehend. (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Enduring Well“, April 1997 Ensign).
In the pre-mortal world, the Lord guaranteed us our free agency to choose right from wrong. God will never compromise this principle. God has a mission statement: “For this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Eternal life is defined as immortality in the presence of God.
Why am I here?
The desire of Heavenly Father is to lead us along to progress and become more like Him. By being born onto the earth and into mortality, we advance toward this goal. We come to earth to gain mortal bodies, through which we can learn and be tested. We also come to earth to form relationships and develop compassion for others through the things we experience, not all of which are pleasant.
Since our earth life is a test, the Lord has given us guidance in the form of commandments.
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them… (Abraham 3:25).
Those who believe in Christ and keep this “second estate,” will be exalted in heaven:
…and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever (Abraham 3:26).
This is the goal of our Heavenly Father for us, and it means eternal joy.
In pre-mortal life, Heavenly Father presented this plan to us. Because the world is imperfect and difficult, and because we are imperfect, the Lord knew we would fall short of qualifying for His kingdom in heaven. Therefore, He provided a Savior for us, who would perform a perfect atonement for our sins, suffering for us the wrath of a perfect God, so that we would not have to suffer, if we would only repent and believe in Him. When Heavenly Father presented this plan, Christ stepped forward and said, “Here am I. Send me.” Lucifer also stepped forward, but he not only wanted to rob us of our free agency by forcing us to live correctly, but he wanted the glory for himself. There was a war in heaven over this, and Lucifer was cast out with his angels. He became Satan, and he does everything in his power to make us fail. He wants us to be miserable.
And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first. And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him (Abraham 3:27, 28).
And this we saw also, and bear record, that an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God, who rebelled against the Only Begotten Son whom the Father loved and who was in the bosom of the Father, was thrust down from the presence of God and the Son, And was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him—he was Lucifer, a son of the morning. And we beheld, and lo, he is fallen! is fallen, even a son of the morning!
And while we were yet in the Spirit, the Lord commanded us that we should write the vision; for we beheld Satan, that old serpent, even the devil, who rebelled against God, and sought to take the kingdom of our God and his Christ— (Doctrine and Covenants 76:25-28).
One thing Satan does for us is provide the necessary opposition for us to make choices. Thus, the Lord allows Satan to tempt us. The more we rely on the grace of Jesus Christ, the more protected we are.
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so,… righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility (2 Nephi 2:11).
The fall of Adam and Eve were part of God’s great plan for us. Because God knew they would fall, He centered His plan on the atonement of Christ. The atonement paves the way for us to return to our Father in Heaven and continue to progress in the eternities to follow.
Where am I going?
When we die, we go to the “Spirit World,” seen by Prophet Joseph F. Smith in vision, as recorded in section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants. The spirit world is divided into two parts, one for the wicked and one for the righteous, called “Paradise.” During the three days between His death and resurrection, Jesus went to the spirit world and taught the gospel, and ordained those who served Him on earth to serve in the spirit world, teaching those who never had a chance to hear the gospel of Christ. Therefore, those who died without law, are not held accountable to live it, and those who never heard the gospel can receive it in the Spirit World.
This is why Mormons perform baptisms and other work for the dead. It takes a body to be baptized, and these ordinances performed by proxy in the temples of God can be accepted or rejected at will by spirits in the spirit world.
The apostle Paul said,
There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory (1 Corinthians 15:40, 41).
Paul was describing the three degrees of glory in heaven. God dwells in the highest level of the highest kingdom, the Celestial. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw these kingdoms in vision, as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 76 (link above). They saw the kinds of people who will inherit each kingdom. In the telestial kingdom (with a glory like that of the stars) they saw “…they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:103). These in the lowest kingdom must wait until after the millennium for resurrection, and because they willfully rejected the saving power of Jesus Christ, will have to suffer for their own sins. However, even this, the lowest kingdom of heaven, is glorious beyond description.
Thus, Mormonism teaches a God of love, who is willing to continue to teach and forgive people who have not received Him on earth, and then accept nearly everyone into heaven. Mormonism is not like other Christian faiths, that profess that only they can go to heaven and non-believers go to hell.
And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness; That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him; Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him. Wherefore, he saves all except them…(Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76:40-44)
Some friends of other faiths are angered because Mormons claim we can become godlike in the afterlife. Do they consider that eternity is a long time, and that during the millions and millions of years that we serve Christ in heaven, we might become more like Him? “Theosis,” the idea that men are destined to become “gods,” was preached by the early leaders of the orthodox Christian church, and Mormonism is the restoration of Christ’s original church. As it says in the Bible…
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together (Romans 8:17).
Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ (Galatians 4:7).
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen (Moroni 7:48).
Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s (Doctrine and Covenants 76:58, 59).