There are fundamental questions that everyone eventually must ask themselves. “Why am I here? Where did I come from? Where am I going?” Whether one asks these under the pressures of daily life or with preponderance of a larger scheme, knowing the answer in the larger sense give perspective and meaning to that same question in the smaller sense. It is my endeavor here to put previously published articles on the subject into proper context and perspective in the meaning of life.
Before this Life
See: Where do babies come from?
Before the foundations of this world were laid, God presented a plan to us, which we gladly accepted. This plan was to allow us to come to earth, gain bodies, experiences, learn, grow and prove (to ourselves) whether or not we would use our agency wisely and submit our will to our Father once we were down here. The integral part of that plan was the Atonement, a perfect sacrifice that would afford us the opportunity to overcome our weakness. Jesus Christ was chosen by the Father to fill this capacity and willingly submitted to His Father’s will. God testified of His part in our happiness when He said, “For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39) He is deeply involved and concerned with our personal salvation.
Our First Parents
As the planning came to an end, the first step was to create a world where we could live. This was done by Christ under the direction of the Father as told in the account given in the book of Genesis. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were placed in the garden of Eden where everything was provided for them.
While Adam and Eve lived in Eden, they lived in a state of innocence. That is, they had no knowledge of good or evil, of joy or pain, of sickness or health. They were limited in their capacity and opportunity to grow and experience life. That is why God gave them the choice to stay in the garden of Eden or partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They chose to partake of the fruit and as a result, they were cast out of the garden. This was a known part of our Heavenly Father’s plan, however, and was provided for in the Atonement. This separation from God caused two kinds of death to enter the world: physical death and spiritual death. Physical death came in the form of aging and death. Spiritual death is a separation from God caused by our decisions to disobey His will for us.
See: Our Life on Earth
To this day we must live in a world where spiritual and physical death as well as sorrow and pain exist. That does not mean we must continually be mourning. Our purpose here in life is actually to have joy. The prophet Lehi of the Book of Mormon stated, “Adam fell that men might be and men are that they might have joy.” (2 Ne. 2:25) In other words, the fall was a necessary part of the plan so that we might exist.
While in this life, we ought to be happy and we ought to be preparing to join God in His Heaven after this life. (Alma 34:32) The two go hand in hand. When we choose to prepare to meet God (that is, we choose to shun the evil and pursue the good), we will be happy because it is in God’s nature to be happy and everything that is good comes from God. Every decision we have to make has consequences. We are allowed in this life to choose but we cannot choose the consequences that our decisions incur. God has given us commandments to guide our decisions so that we might more fully enjoy life without being encumbered with additional pains. When we keep the commandments in our hearts and seek to obey them, God has promised a fuller and more abundant life.
The Everlasting Atonement of Jesus Christ
See: What Do Mormons Believe about the Atonement?
Even after everything we could possibly do, there is no way to return to our Heavenly Father’s presence by ourselves. Remember the effects of the fall: spiritual and physical death. Every one of us has sinned, there is no way around it and even one sin would be enough to prevent one from living in the presence of God. In addition, every one of us will die. Our Heavenly Father knew of these things and, in His infinite mercy, planned for them, giving us a chance to change our lives and return to His presence.
By the Atonement of Jesus Christ, that great sacrifice that Christ gave Himself up for us, we can be cleansed from our sins and we will be resurrected to a perfect and glorious body. Christ has provided the way in which we can be perfected in Him, and only on the condition that we follow Him. We follow Him by following His example and by doing what He wants us to do, not what we want to do. We follow Him by believing in Him and loving Him. That is all that He asks us to do and in return, He promises to take away our sins and help us bear our burdens in life. What a glorious opportunity!
Beyond this World
See: Life after death – part 1
When death occurs, which it invariably does, the spirit is separated from the body and returns home to God who gave him life (Alma 40:11). That cognizant spirit will then be received in a state of happiness or a state of misery depending on how their life was lived. It is unknown exactly how this state is, what it’s like or even where it is but we do know that those that were righteous in this life will have rest and continue to teach others the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, even those who never had the chance before to learn about Jesus Christ will be able to accept Him. They will remain there to wait until the day of resurrection.
Eventually, every soul that has ever lived on this earth, be it an hour or a century, will be reunited with his or her own body. Everyone will be restored to the nature and attributes of the person in this life. The difference will be that everyone’s body will be perfect and immortal and that we will have a perfect knowledge of all our actions in this life, be they for good or for evil (2 Nephi 9:13-15). In such a state, we will all be brought to the presence of God to be judged by the Son (John 5:22) who has selected certain men, such as His apostles, to aid Him (Matt. 19:28). Our decisions in this life will be seen then by all and we will be exposed at that moment. Undoubtedly, those that squandered their lives and wasted their chances will feel utterly naked, with nothing to shield them. Others who followed Christ more fully will be able to stand joyfully before God and behold His face without shame, having been cleansed through Christ.
Our Eternal Inheritance
The Judgment will be to divide the sons of men from the sons of God. Those that never accepted Christ, neither in this life nor in the spirit world, will receive Telestial glory, which is compared to the stars. Those who accept Christ, but were not valiant in their belief will receive Terrestrial glory, which is compared to the moon. The others who accept Christ fully and held onto that belief firmly throughout their lives will receive a Celestial glory, which is compared to the sun and is the presence of God. These comparisons to the sun, moon and stars illustrate the differences between these kingdoms. The moon can outshine any star but the sun outshines them all. Even the smallest amount of this glory is more than we can imagine here on Earth and even the most vile of sinners can receive a portion of this unimaginable happiness.
In summary, the Plan of Salvation is a plan of happiness and progress to build us up and strengthen us through Jesus Christ. We fall individually and have fallen collectively due to Adam but we can rise again to a higher plane. We may not know what exactly the future will hold, but we do know that a loving Heavenly Father has created a plan for us to return to His presence. He has provided the path and the means for us but it falls to us to accept them so that we can return to His presence.
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