“Death is not the end. Death is really a beginning—another step forward in Heavenly Father’s plan for His children. Someday, like everyone else, your physical body will die. But your spirit does not die, it goes to the spirit world, where you will continue to learn and progress and may be with loved ones who have passed on.
Death is a necessary step in your progression, just as your birth was. Sometime after your death, your spirit and your body will be reunited—never to be separated again. This is called resurrection, and it was made possible by the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:20-22).”
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the welfare plan of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church Security Plan—which would later be renamed the Church Welfare Plan—was first announced in April 1936 in the Great Depression era by president Heber J Grant. The program helps people through temporally difficult circumstances in order to help them become self-reliant.
“The intent of the Church’s welfare plan … involves promoting self-reliance as a way of life. President Thomas S. Monson has taught that self-reliance—’the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the necessities of life for self and family‘ 1—is an essential element of our temporal and spiritual well-being.2
While studying the scriptures recently, one particular point was brought to my attention that I would like to share with you today. In the book of Revelation it is often mentioned that in the midst of all the plagues, destruction, and ruin, that there will be those that overcome the world.
“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Rev. 3:5).
“He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Rev. 21:7).
There are numerous other references to those great people who were clothed in white, who praised God and who were blessed by Him. What stuck out to me, however, was the statement, “and he shall be my son.” In a previous article titled, “Is Jesus the only son of God?” on this site, the nature of our relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ was explained. Our opportunity to become sons and daughters of God was listed as the third point. This is the entire reason behind our beliefs and the purpose of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. As the apostle John wrote, “Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). To become a son of God, in this sense, is to be like our Savior. This is our ultimate goal for this life and all that we do ought to progress us further in pursuing that goal.
That goal, however, is impossible to achieve alone. In and of ourselves, we do not merit anything remotely approaching a return to our Father in Heaven or to be called sons of God. In spite of everything we could ever do, our mistakes and imperfections prevent us from ever returning to our God. He did not send us out from His presence for the purpose of losing us though. His perfect plan accounted for our weakness by including the infinite sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
It is through Christ’s suffering in Gesthemene and His death on the cross that He became our advocate to the Father. Without Christ, we would have to accept all the consequences of our actions, that includes being forever separated from God. Christ paid the price of justice on our behalf, making us debtors to Him and no longer to sin. Sin would condemn us forever, but Christ has set His own conditions that allow us to obtain mercy. Those conditions that He gave us are simple enough. He wants us to give Him our will, the only thing we really have of ourselves to give Him. He asked us to believe in His name, love Him, keep His commandments, enter into covenants, and to repent.
To fulfill those requirements He has given us, it first requires faith on our part. Faith in His name and in His word causes us to follow His teachings, repenting when necessary. Repentance leads to baptism which prepares an individual to receive the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost provides the guidance we need to further emulate Christ, particularly in serving our fellow man.
When baptized, an individual makes certain covenants or agreements with the Lord. We agree to take His name upon ourselves and to always remember Him. Taking His name upon us is a major step in becoming a son or daughter of God. It means to act in His behalf and do as He would do. If we are true and faithful to His name throughout our lives, we will become like He is. We will be like our Father, just as we are commanded to be (Matt 5:48).
This is a great truth that has sustained me in this life. We have infinite potential! Even the lowest, meanest person on earth is spiritually a son of God and can become like Him. We should all take strength in this knowledge and be faithful to it. The greatest blessings of Heaven and Earth are available to the faithful.
Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord—I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God. For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died, to redeem them from their transgressions. And now, are they not his seed? -Abinadi (Mosiah 15:11-12)
Question: What is so special to you about The Family A Proclamation to the World? I would like to hear some ideas from you, to help me understand.
I’d like to start with a brief summary of our relationship to God. Because in my opinion, that relationship is the key to understanding the purpose of life. One of our basic beliefs is that we are children of God. Before life began on the earth, we all lived with God as His spirit children. Our Heavenly Father presented a plan to us there. This plan was an opportunity to help all of us, His children, to learn, grow, and eventually become like Him. To quote a church article written several years ago, “We were given laws. We were commanded to walk in paths of truth and light and of virtue and integrity so that we could advance and progress. The ultimate goal held out to us was that if we were obedient in all things, eventually we would become like him. We would live in the eternal family unit as he lives in it, and we would have might, power, glory, and the omnipotent creative ability that he possesses. The name of the kind of life he lives is eternal life.” (“Households of Faith”, Ensign, April 1971, 4).
If our purpose in life is to eventually live as families as God does, then the need of the Proclamation to the World is clear. Families are the fundamental units of society. They are what children look to, to understand what is ‘normal’. They are what God has given us to understand what life will be like after we die. Since the definition of families in our world is becoming more obscure and confused, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made a statement clarifying the definition of family. In my opinion, The Family: A Proclamation to The World provides an answer to a lot of the confusion children are growing up with now. Below are nine issues in the world today that I think the Proclamation addresses. You may click here to read The Family: A Proclamation to The World in its entirety.
“In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life…The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave.” (3rd Paragraph) “The family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” (1st Paragraph)
Are families important? Yes. We lived as part of God’s family before we were born. We live in families here. We can live in families in the next life. If we lose focus of what constitutes a family, then we lose focus of what we are aiming for in the next life.
“All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents…Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose. (2nd Paragraph)
Did God mess up? Was I supposed to be male/female instead of female/male? No. We were either a son or a daughter (male or female) when we lived as part of God’s family before we were born. We were born on earth with that same gender, and that gender is essential in our family. I want to point out that we’ve also been given varying talents and abilities. We are not limited in what we can do. There are men who love music, art, dancing, etc. Good. There are women who love science, math, sports, etc. That’s fine too. Talents don’t constitute gender.
“The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife…We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.” (4th Paragraph)
Do I need to be married? I want to have a child. Can’t I just make arrangements on my own? No. The very first commandment that God gave on earth was to have families. In my opinion that shows just how important families are.
A man and a woman should be married before having intercourse or starting a family. I’ve unfortunately seen two different shows in the past year or two where successful women have good careers and decided that they now want to have a child. So they ‘shop’ around for good genes. Then they raise the child on their own. What kind of family is that? Poor kid.
“We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.” (5th Paragraph)
I’m not ready for a child. Can I get an abortion? Getting an abortion is a serious matter. Please read the Church’s official statement below (found here).
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, the Church opposes elective abortion for personal or social convenience, and counsels its members not to submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange for such abortions. The Church allows for possible exceptions for its members when:
Pregnancy results from rape or incest, or
A competent physician determines that the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy, or
A competent physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.
The Church teaches its members that even these rare exceptions do not justify abortion automatically. Abortion is a most serious matter and should be considered only after the persons involved have consulted with their local church leaders and feel through personal prayer that their decision is correct. The Church has not favored or opposed legislative proposals or public demonstrations concerning abortion.”
“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children…Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.” (6th Paragraph)
What does being a good mother/father mean? Children look up to their parents’ example. Parents are the most influential teachers children have.
Families are important to God. He sends us innocent children who look to us for guidance. He will hold us responsible for how well we fulfilled that trust.
“Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” (7th Paragraph)
Children don’t get to pick their families. But they deserve good ones.
“Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.” (7th Paragraph)
While fathers are given the responsibility to provide for their families and mothers to nuture their children, we adjust to make things work.
“We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.” (8th Paragraph)
Once again, families are really important to God. If we abuse or neglect family members, He will hold us accountable.
“Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.” (8th Paragraph)
Families are what God has given us to teach us about what kind of life we can have after we die. If we destroy that perspective, our children will have a much harder time finding their way back to God. Should we be surprised that calamities will come as a result?
There are many different questions and answers that can be found by reading the Family Proclamation, but these are the ones that stood out to me the most. I hope they help. Our Father in Heaven loves us and wants to help us return to live with Him. He has given us the Family Proclamation to clarify the importance of families in His plan for us, and the role they play in our lives and on into eternity.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.