Purpose of Life
Philosophers have spent thousands of years debating the purpose of life and the nature of man. It seemed no two people could ever really agree on the nature of God and man’s purpose on the earth—if, in fact, such a purpose existed at all. Anyone who has wondered about these questions does not understand his true relationship to God. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormon Church) answers all of these questions with confidence, because the answers to these questions were revealed to a modern prophet by God and Jesus Christ.
Who am I?
The most important knowledge we can be in possession of on this earth is that we are literal spirit children of a Heavenly Father who knows us and whom we can know. Philosophers have distorted the truths they were given because these truths did not mesh with theories men had already put forward. So, simple, plain, and wonderful truths were manipulated to fit the false theories of men. These philosophers claimed that God is an unknowable entity and that our bodies are holding us back from becoming more like God.
Mormon doctrine teaches that what the Bible teaches—that we are created in the image of God—is literally true. God has a body, just like we do. We are made in His image. He is a being who loves us, knows us, and cares about what happens to us. He is no respecter of persons. Though He wants us to obey His laws, He loves each of us equally, the sinner as well as the one trying to be righteous. No matter how many mistakes we may have made in this life, God still loves us and wants us to turn to Him for forgiveness, love, and strength.
Where did I come from?
Latter-day Saints are unique in believing that there was an existence before this earth. Not only did God exist, but each of us existed as well, in spirit form. God created us there, in His image, though we did not have bodies. He taught us eternal principles and wanted us to continue learning and growing. We learned in the Pre-Existence, as Latter-day Saints call this time, that in order to continue progressing and becoming like God, who is our Heavenly Father, that we would need the opportunity to gain bodies. We would also need the opportunity to make our own decisions without the direct influence of our Heavenly Father. In order to accomplish both of these things, God presented all His spirit children with a plan. He would create a world for us where we could go and gain bodies. We would be taught the principles of His laws without being in His presence ourselves. We would forget all we had been taught before this life so we could prove that we would follow His commandments. Pain, sorrow, sin, and death would all be consequences of coming to this earth. Sin would prevent us from ever being worthy to enter the presence of our Heavenly Father again. The solution to this problem was to have an intermediary step in on our behalf. He would pay the price for our sins and thus let us re-enter God’s presence. Jesus Christ stepped forward and volunteered to be the one to take upon Him this burden, and all the glory would go to God.
Mormon doctrine teaches that at the Council in Heaven, when God presented His plan to us, another spirit child stepped forward to offer his idea. This was Lucifer, who would become Satan. Lucifer offered to lower the standard for returning to God. He would also take away our freedom to make choices. Thus, we could never sin. This would guarantee we would all return to God’s presence with bodies, but we would not have accomplished the second purpose for coming to earth. Latter-day Saints believe that free agency, or the freedom each of us has to choose for ourselves, is an eternal principle. God could not and would not take this freedom away. Thus, all His spirit children were free to choose which plan they wanted to follow. This did not mean that God would change His plan, however. Modern revelation teaches that one-third of God’s spirit children in the Pre-Existence chose to follow Lucifer’s plan. They were cast out of heaven for their rebellion, and the other two-thirds earned the right and privilege to come to earth.
Each of us has different circumstances and challenges during our lives on this earth. Satan and his minions try to influence us to make choices contrary to God’s plan, ensuring that we will be miserable like they are, never again worthy to enter the presence of God. However, each of us continues to have the gift of free agency, to choose to follow God or to follow Satan. While we are on the earth, we have the opportunity to choose to follow our Savior and accept the gift of His Atonement in our lives. We can repent, try harder to follow the commandments, and help those around us to do the same. Or we can be selfish, yield to all the temptations this world has to offer, and pretend like there is nothing coming after this life.
Where am I going?
Mormon doctrine has a unique view of heaven and what comes after our earth lives are over. Some people think of heaven as a peaceful, happy place, where we will live in paradise and relax in joy in the presence of God. Work is an eternal principle, however, and there is no lasting joy to be found in doing nothing. God’s plan for His children is that they become like Him. Latter-day Saints believe that there can be eternal increase for each of us who follow God’s commandments. This does not mean we will continue to gain material things, but rather the things that bring true joy: family and creation.
Mormon temples are an essential part of this doctrine. Mormons believe that God demands a higher law be lived for those who wish to enter His presence; this higher law is perfection. Though none of us can ever reach perfection in this life, we must each be striving for it. There are essential ordinances each of us must receive before we can live in the presence of God. These ordinances must be performed on this earth. This is what Mormon temples are for. Inside Mormon temples, people learn even more about their true relationship to God and what they must do in order to return to live in His presence. This work must be done on this earth, but there are billions of people who have lived on this earth without the opportunity to hear of the gospel or to receive these ordinances. Most of Mormon temple work is done by proxy for those who died without this chance. This work is done for family members who did not receive a knowledge of the gospel in this life. Then, Mormons believe, they have the opportunity to choose (the eternal gift of free agency again) whether or not to accept this work.
Once a Latter-day Saint receives Mormon temple ordinances for him- or herself, each time he or she returns to the temple, this work can be done on the behalf of others. This is to prepare us for the next part of our eternal existence, of which our life on this earth is only a small part.
Mormon doctrine teaches that families are eternal units. We are meant to be together forever, but this blessing is only available if we follow the criteria the Lord has set. The power which seals a family together for eternity is only available in Mormon temples, but it is truly one of the greatest blessings God has given us.