Meaning of Life
Most people come to a point sometime during life when they wonder, “Is this all there is?” You’re born, you grow up, maybe start a family, get a career, and then you die. There’s plenty going on to fill the hours for most people, but perhaps there is something bigger and better than the material world and the pursuit of titles and possessions.
There is. There is a plan, created by God, that fills eternity and provides eternal progress and a fulness of joy. The day you were born is not the point where your life began. You existed before you were born, as a spirit child of your Father in Heaven, carrying the seeds of divinity within you. As the poet 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…
–William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality
Heavenly Father knew you and knows you intimately, in fact better than you know yourself, for He knows you as an eternal being with huge potential. The Lord has a mission statement for His great work:
For this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39).
Immortality is already yours, for all will be resurrected after death. Resurrection will provide you with an eternal, perfect body, not subject to disease, injury or death. Eternal life, however, is another matter. “Eternal life” is the kind of life God lives. It is an eternity in His presence. This is called exaltation, and it is not a free gift, like resurrection.
The late Elder 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).
The Lord’s plan provides a way for you to realize your divine potential. Mormons call the life before mortality, the pre-existence, or pre-mortal life. There, everything that would be on the earth was created spiritually. As a spirit, you had the same personality you have now. You had many talents, probably more than you now manifest, because the Lord gives us weakness in earth life, so that we will seek Him for help. However, you could not become like God the Father until you experienced mortality and gained a body.
A central part of God’s plan is “agency,” the ability to choose right from wrong, and to choose God and eternal life. So that you could make choices on earth, the Lord allowed opposition in all things:
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, 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).
When we exercise our agency, we either grow closer to or farther away from God. The Lord does everything He can to draw us closer to Him, without taking away our agency. It is because of opposing choices and the guarantee of agency that causes evil to exist in the world. The Lord knew that we would make wrong choices and that we would sin. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for the sins of mankind, that through His suffering, we might not have to suffer for our own sins. All we have to do is to believe in Him, and repent. Notice that last word. Resurrection is a free gift, but salvation is not. To make Christ’s atonement effective in our lives, we must lay our sins upon the altar and be healed by His eternal love.
Death is the portal to life eternal. At death, the body and spirit are separated. The spirit goes to a place called the “spirit world” to await resurrection and judgment. In the spirit world, we have the same personalities we have here on earth, and the continued ability to make choices. Much will be accomplished in the spirit world. Those who have never heard the gospel will have that chance. We will enjoy our friends and family there, too.
Paul explained that there are three kingdoms in heaven—the Celestial, the Terrestrial, and the Telestial (1 Corinthians 15:40, 41). God dwells in the highest realm of the Celestial Kingdom. Joining Him there will be those who have made eternal covenants in holy temples and lived righteously, believing in Christ. Here, marriage and family can be eternal. Mormons do not believe that they are all going to heaven and everyone else is going to hell. Mormonism teaches that nearly all people will inherit a kingdom of heaven, and that hell is reserved for those who commit the unpardonable sin, that of denying the Christ after having a perfect knowledge of Him. However, those who reject His gospel after having heard it will have to suffer for their own sins.
Our life in heaven will last a long time—an eternity. The Lord hasn’t revealed much about heaven, but He has revealed the principle of eternal progression. We will continue to learn and progress for eternity. For those who truly desire it, this progress will make them more and more like their father in heaven.
You are an eternal being with divine potential.