Purpose of Life
There comes a time in every person’s life when he or she wonders, “Who am I”? Why am I here”? What is the purpose of my life”? What will happen to me after death”?
Sometimes we can go through life focusing on the tasks at hand. There is plenty going on in the world to consume all of our time and attention. Worldly goals can also grab our yearnings and intentions. The burning questions usually begin to plague us when we feel a sense of emptiness, when our goals fail to be realized, when we can’t solve our own problems, or when a sudden event confuses us, like the death of a loved one. For some, the moment comes when they are unable to explain death to a child. For others, the important questions flood in when they face their own mortality.
Although God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and has created the universe, His greatness does not preclude Him from being an intensely personal God. He hears the petition of every supplicant — every sincere prayer is heard and answered. He knows each of us personally — better than we know ourselves — and He is willing to make up for our weakness when we call on Him.
God actually has a mission statement, and it is found in the scriptures:
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39).
Thus, everything the Lord does is meant to bring us back to Him. The atonement of Jesus Christ guarantees immortality to all who live on earth. All will be resurrected, both the righteous and the wicked. As resurrected beings, we will be forever in our prime, perfect and whole, able to experience a fulness of joy. We will never again be subject to sickness or death. “Eternal life” is a different thing all together. Eternal life means to live forever in the presence of God. God dwells in the highest kingdom of heaven, called by Mormons the Celestial Kingdom. Not all will qualify to inherit the Celestial Kingdom. (Prophet Joseph Smith saw the three degrees of heavenly glory in vision. This revelation is found in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 76. In this vision, Joseph saw that even the lowest kingdom of heaven is glorious beyond all description.)
Where did I come from?
The great poet William Wordsworth said:
“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…”
You existed for eons before you were born into mortality. God is the creator of your spirit; He is, literally, your father in heaven, and you are, literally, his child. You lived with God and were nurtured by God in a spiritual realm. Mormons call this the “pre-existence,” or “pre-mortal life.” Jesus Christ was the spiritual first-born of God, and His Only Begotten Son in the flesh. That means that, spiritually, Christ is your elder brother. In the pre-existence, the Plan of Salvation was presented to all of God’s children. God knew that we would all fall short of qualifying for exaltation, that we all would sin. He knew this, because He had always guaranteed us free agency, and allowed opposition to guarantee our free choice to choose good or evil. Lucifer rebelled against the plan and against God, and he was cast out of heaven with the third of God’s spirit-children who followed him. They will never have the opportunity to obtain a physical body, and therefore, will never be resurrected. Satan (who was Lucifer) and his angels are allowed to tempt us to provide opposition. God provided a Savior and Redeemer for us, through whose grace we can be saved.
The goal of our Father in Heaven is to make us like Him, so that we can have eternal joy. This could not be accomplished in the spiritual realm. The next step in your journey was to be born to earthly parents, to obtain a mortal body, and to live in mortality on earth. As Wordsworth says, our birth is a “forgetting.” We have (at least partially) forgotten our life in the pre-existence. That means that mortality is imbued with a search for meaning. God enables us to find Him. He not only provides scripture, prophets, apostles, and Christ Himself to show us the way, but He answers us personally when we call upon Him.
Why am I here? What is the Purpose of My Life?
Mortality is a testing ground, a time to find God and try to become like Him.
For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors (Alma 34:32).
In the Book of Abraham is a record of God’s conversation with Abraham. The Lord explained to Abraham the reason for the creation of the earth. It was to
“…prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them…”(Abraham 3:25).
Ours is not to obtain a belief in Christ and expect Him to save us in our sins, expecting His grace to exalt us with no effort of our own. Ours is to obtain a belief in Christ and lay hold upon His atonement for us, which sacrifice saves us on condition of repentance. We are expected to lay our sins upon the altar as an offerring to Him. In return, He not only takes the punishment for our sins upon Himself, He also takes upon Himself all our sorrows, insufficiencies, and even our silly mistakes. In everything we do our anything we face in life, we may call upon His strength to make up for our own weakness.
“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).
We are also on the earth to learn:
“Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:18).
Intelligence is not only knowledge, but is scripturally defined as light and truth. Much of this type of knowledge comes from personal revelation, given to us as we grow closer to our Father in Heaven.
“For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:40).
Part of our journey through mortal life is to find out who we were in the pre-existence, where we used our minds and talents to a greater capacity than we do here. We learned many things there that we must relearn here. We made covenants to fulfill certain callings on earth. We also developed solid relationships with others whom we desire to find during mortal life. This kind of searching demands being still, looking inward, and looking upward.
And finally, we become less and less attached to the material world and its pleasures, and we seek after spiritual things. We become more and more interested in discovering God’s will for us individually, for He has special work for each individual. Then, as we fulfill His will, we become more and more like Him.
Where am I Going?
The Plan of Salvation is also called the Plan of Progression. It is perfectly fair to every individual, whenever, wherever the person has lived on the earth. Upon death (which Mormons called the “temporal death,” or death of the body) the spirit and the body separate. The spirit progresses to a place called the Spirit World. The Spirit World had two great divisions — spirit prison, where the spirits of the wicked went, and paradise, where the righteous went. When Christ was crucified, His spirit went to paradise, where He organized missionary work to take the gospel to captive spirits, and thus, the gulf between the two divisions, was crossed, so spirits in prison can progress to paradise. (See Prophet Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the Spirit World.) In the Spirit World, the playing field is leveled. We are judged not only on our thoughts, desires, intentions, and works, but on the difficulty of our lives, the degree of our challenges. We are also judged in relation to the knowledge we have of the gospel. Those who never heard the gospel of Christ on earth will learn it in the Spirit World and have the opportunity to accept or reject it, and also to repent. Mormons perform saving ordinances for their ancestors, so they may (or may not) choose to accept them in the Spirit World. A person who has no knowledge of the laws of God cannot sin, and is not held accountable for his mistakes. Little children are completely innocent in the eyes of God.
In the Spirit World we enjoy the felicity and association with our loved ones who have already passed on. In the Spirit World, we await resurrection and judgment. After judgment, we are assigned to a kingdom in heaven which glory we are able to tolerate, because of the degree of righteousness we have attained. Mormons believe that “families are forever,” and that we are re-united with loved ones in heaven. If we live the laws of God, and if we make and keep covenants ordained by Him through His prophet and the true authority, our families can be “sealed” together eternally. When this happens, we are also sealed to God Himself, and we become co-heirs with Christ. This is God’s desire for us.