1. Pre-Earth Life: God’s Purpose and Plan for Us
Many people wonder, “Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?” The plan of Salvation gives us answers to these questions. God is the Father of our spirits. We are literally His children and He loves us. We lived as spirit children of our Father in Heaven before we were born on this earth. We were not like our Heavenly Father, nor could we ever become like Him without the experience of living in mortality with a physical body. The following scriptures teach us we are children of God:
- Acts 17:29: Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.
- Hebrews 9:12: Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
We also learn of our pre-existent creation in Moses 3:5 which reads: “And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had not caused it to rain upon the face of the earth. And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air.”
God’s whole purpose is to enable us to enjoy all of His blessings. He has provided a plan to accomplish this and we understood and accepted this plan before we came to the earth. Jesus Christ is central to God’s plan. Through His atonement, Jesus Christ fulfilled His Father’s purpose and made it possible for each of us to enjoy immortality and eternal life.
Gods Purpose is outlined in the following scriptures:
1. John 17:3: And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
2. Moses 1:39: For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
Satan, or the devil, is an enemy to God’s plan. Agency, or the ability to choose, is one of God’s greatest gifts to His children. Our eternal progression depends on how we use this gift. We must choose whether to follow Jesus Christ or follow Satan. We are physically separated from God during life on earth, but He wants every one of His children to find peace in this life and a fullness of joy in His presence after this life. He wants us to become like him.
2. The Creation
Under the direction of the Father, Jesus Christ created the earth as a place for us to live and gain experience. In order to progress and become like God, each of us had to obtain a body and be tested during a time of probation on the earth. While on the earth we are out of God’s physical presence. We do not remember our pre-earth life and so we must walk by faith. We learn of the creation in the following scriptures:
1. Moses 6:63: And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me.
2. Abraham 3:24-25: And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.
3. Agency and the Fall of Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were the first of God’s children to come to the earth. God created them and placed them in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, with bodies of flesh and bones. While they lived in the garden they were still in God’s presence and could have lived forever. They lived in innocence and God provided for their needs.
In the Garden, God gave Adam and Eve their agency. He commanded them not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Obeying this commandment meant that they could remain in the garden but could not progress by experiencing opposition. They could not know joy because they could not experience sorrow and pain.
Satan tempted them to eat the forbidden fruit and they chose to do so. This was part of God’s plan. Because of this choice they were cast out of the garden and out of God’s presence. This event is called the Fall. Separation from God’s presence is spiritual death.
Adam and Eve became mortal—subject to physical death or separation of the body and spirit. They could now experience disease and suffering. They had the ability to choose between good and evil, which made it possible for them to learn and progress. It also made it possible for them to make wrong choices and sin. They could now also have children, so the rest of God’s spirit children could come to earth, obtain bodies and be tested. Only in this way could God’s children progress and become like Him.
When first teaching this doctrine, do not teach everything you know about it. Explain very simply that God chose two of His children, Adam and Eve, to become the first parents on earth.
After their transgression they were subject to both sin and death. By themselves they could not return to live with Heavenly Father. The Lord spoke to Adam and taught him the plan of salvation and redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ. By following that plan, Adam and his family could have joy in this life and return to live with God (see Alma 18:36; 22:12–14).
4. Our Life on Earth
Life on earth is an opportunity and a blessing. Our purpose is to have joy and prepare to return to God’s presence. In mortality we are subject to physical and spiritual death. God has a perfect, glorified, immortal body of flesh and bones. To become like God and return to His presence, we too must have a perfect, glorified, immortal body of flesh and bones. However, because of the fall, every person on earth has an imperfect, mortal body and will die. If not for the Savior Jesus Christ, death would end all hope for a future existence with Heavenly Father.
Along with physical death, sin is a major obstacle that keeps us from becoming like our Father in Heaven and returning to His presence. In our mortal condition we often yield to temptation, break God’s commandments and sin. During our life on earth each of us makes mistakes and sin always leads to unhappiness. Sin causes feelings of guilt and shame and because of our sins, we are unable to return to live with Heavenly Father unless we are first forgiven and cleansed.
While in mortality, we have experience that bring us happiness. We also have experiences that bring us pain and sorrow, some of which is caused by the sinful acts of others. These experiences provide us opportunities to learn and grow, to distinguish good from evil and to make choices. God influences us to do good; Satan tempts us to sin. As with physical death, we cannot overcome the effects of sin by ourselves. We are helpless without the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
The following scriptures teach us about our life on earth:
- 2 Nephi 2:21: And the days of the children of men were prolonged, according to the will of God, that they might repent while in the flesh; wherefore, their state became a state of probation, and their time was lengthened, according to the commandments which the Lord God gave unto the children of men. For he gave commandment that all men must repent; for he showed unto all men that they were lost, because of the transgression of their parents.
- 2 Nephi 9:27: But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!
- Mosiah 3:19: For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
5. The Atonement
Before the world was organized, our Heavenly Father chose Jesus Christ to be our Savior and Redeemer. The atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ made it possible for us to overcome the effects of the Fall. All of the prophets since the world began have testified of Jesus Christ as our redeemer.
We will all suffer physical death, but Jesus Christ overcame the obstacle of physical death for us. When He died on the cross, His spirit became separated from His body. On the third day, His spirit and His body were reunited eternally, never to be separated again. He appeared to many people, showing them that He had an immortal body of flesh and bone. The reuniting of body and spirit is called resurrection and is gift promised to each of us. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will all be resurrected regardless of whether we have done good or evil in this life. We will have a perfect, immortal body of flesh and bones that will never again be subject to disease, pain or death. The resurrection makes it possible to return to God’s presence to be judged but does not guarantee that we will be able to live in His presence. To receive that blessing, we must be cleansed from sin.
God sent His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to overcome the obstacle of sin in addition to the obstacle of physical death. We are not responsible for the Fall of Adam and Eve, but we are responsible for our own sins. God cannot look on sin with any degree of allowance, and sin prevents us from living in His presence. Only through the Savior’s grace and mercy can we become clean from sin so that we can live with God again. This is possible through exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.
To fulfill the plan of salvation, Christ paid the penalty for our sins. He alone was able to do that. He was called and prepared in pre-earth life. He was the literal Son of God in the flesh. He was sinless and completely obedient to His Father. Though tempted, He never gave in to temptation. When the Father asked His Beloved Son to pay the price of the world’s sins, Jesus was prepared and willing. The Atonement included His suffering the Garden of Gethsemane and His suffering and death on the cross, and it ended with His Resurrection. Thought He suffered beyond comprehension—so much so that He bled from every pore and asked whether it were possible that this burden be lifted from Him—He submitted to the Father’s will in a supreme expression of love for His Father and for us. This triumph of Christ over spiritual death by His suffering and over physical death by His Resurrection is called the Atonement.
Christ promised to forgive our sins on the condition that we accept Him by exercising faith in Him, repenting, receiving baptism by immersion, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and striving faithfully to keep His commandments to the end of our lives. Through continuing repentance, we may obtain forgiveness and be cleansed of our sins by the power of the Holy Ghost. We are relieved of the burden of guilt and shame, and through Jesus Christ we become worthy to return to the presence of God.
As we rely on the atonement, He can help us endure our trials, sicknesses and pain. We can be filled with joy, peace and consolation. All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. In paying the penalty for our sins, Jesus did not, however, eliminate our personal responsibility. We must show that we accept Him and that we will follow His commandments. Only through the gift of the Atonement can we return to live with God.
6. The Spirit World
Even though Christ conquered physical death, all people must die, for death is part of the process by which we are transformed from mortality to immortality. At death our spirits go to the spirit world. Death does not change our personality or our desires for good or evil. Those who chose to obey God in this life live in a state of happiness, peace, and rest from troubles and care. Those who chose not to obey in this life and did not repent live in a state of unhappiness. In the spirit world the gospel is preached to those who did not obey the gospel or have the opportunity to hear it while on earth. We remain in the spirit world until we are resurrected.
7. The Resurrection, Judgment, and Immortality
When our bodies and spirits are reunited through the resurrection, we will be brought into God’s presence to be judged. We will remember perfectly our righteousness and our guilt. If we have repented, we will receive mercy. We will be rewarded according to our works and our desires.
Through the resurrection all people will become immortal—they will live forever. Immortality is a free gift to all people, whether they are righteous or wicked. Eternal life is not, however, the same immortality. Eternal life is a gift of God given only to those who obey His gospel. It is the highest state that we can achieve. It comes to those who are freed from sin and suffering through the Atonement of Christ. It is exaltation, which means living with God forever in eternal families. It is to know God an Jesus Christ and to experience the life they enjoy.
8. Kingdoms of Glory
During our mortal lives we make choices regarding good and evil. God rewards us according to our works and desires. Because God rewards everyone according to deeds done in the body, there are different kingdoms of glory to which we may be assigned after the Judgment. Those who have repented of their sins and received the ordinances of the gospel and kept the associated covenants will be cleansed by the atonement of Christ. They will receive exaltation in the highest kingdom, also known as the celestial kingdom. They will live in God’s presence, become like Him, and receive a fullness of joy. They will live together for eternity with those of their family who qualify. In the scriptures this kingdom is compared to the glory or brightness of the sun.
People who do not accept the fullness of the gospel but live honorable lives will receive a place in the terrestrial kingdom. This kingdom is compared to the glory of the moon. Those who continued in their sins and did not repent in this life will receive their reward in the lowest kingdom, which is called the telestial kingdom. This kingdom is compared to the glory of the stars.