There are three questions that are in the back of everyone’s mind. Few have ever been able to answer these questions and its been the biggest source of frustration, hopelessness, and misery for eons of people throughout centuries of human existence. Those three questions consist of:
- Where did we come from?
- Why are we here on this earth?
- Where are we going after we die?
1. Where Did We Come From?
For hundreds and thousands of years, there has really only been two fields of thought on this question. The scientist will tell you that the “Earth formed around 4.54 billion years ago by accretion from the solar nebula” and then offer hundreds of different theories as to how life began on this planet. None of them really know…and they change their mind every time they release a new textbook. On the other end of the spectrum you have the dedicated Christians, Jews, and Muslims who have defended the notion that the earth was created in 6 days. Out of the the early Christian counsels came the doctrine of “creatio ex nihilo” which means “creation out of nothing”. So… for years and years, pastors would perpetuate the teaching that God created the earth out of nothing. After that spontaneous creation of our home, (earth) we, (humans) soon followed after. Catholics and the reformers upheld that we were first created here on earth and that we existed previously only as a mere thought within God’s infinite mind.
But when Joseph Smith came on to the scene, he challenged the status quo. He questioned whether the earth was really created out of nothing and dove into the word “create” as it was found in the Old Testament. He looked at the Hebrew for a more accurate meaning and also asked God for guidance. He said “the word create came from the word baurau, which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter, which is element. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning and can have no end.” (King Follet Discourse)
One day in college, I was sitting in biology class listening to my professor (who…go figure…was an atheist) and I stumbled across two scientific laws that have remained virtually unchanged and universally accepted among the scientific community. The first of those laws was called the First Law of Thermodynamics. Without getting too detailed, this law stated that there was a constant amount of energy and matter within the universe. It stated as well that matter/energy could not be created or destroyed. Energy could be transferred and matter could be transformed but never was new energy or matter created, neither was it destroyed. Imagine you’re camping and you put some firewood in the pit. The wood burns but it’s properties do not cease to exist. Some of the wood turns to gas, some to smoke, some to ash. The elements are rearranged but not extinct.
Do you realize what this means? It means that Joseph Smith was teaching one of the only scientific principles that has remained virtually unchanged throughout the years of scientific scholasticism. According to Wikipedia, “The first explicit statement of the first law of thermodynamics, was by Rudolf Clausius in 1850″ which means Joseph had been dead for about 6 years before the law had ever even become well known. This means that Joseph Smith was able to correct a false doctrine that had permeated Christianity (creation out of nothing) and at the same time bring the principle of reorganizing matter into perfect harmony with a scientific principle (1st Law of Thermodynamics) that had not even been known or accepted. He proved that true religion and true science do not contradict…but compliment one another.
So what does all of this scientific mumbo jumbo have to do with where we came from?
While most of the world believed we (humans) were non existent prior to the earth’s creation, we learned from the Bible that we were a major part of God’s life in a pre-mortal realm. The Lord told Jeremiah that “before He formed Him in the belly…He knew him”…and that he had ordained him to be a prophet before he had even come to earth. (Jer 1:5) Then the Lord asked Job where he was when the world was framed, and told him that “all the sons of God shouted for joy” because of the creation of the world. (Job 38:7). We also read of the Lord showing Abraham “the intelligences that were organized before the world was”, and then teaching him that many of us actually helped in the creation of the world out of unorganized matter. (Abr 3:22-25) John the Revelator was given a vision of the pre-mortal battle that took place. He recorded that we were there with God and Christ to fight against the devil and his angels. (Rev 12:7) And finally it was given to Alma to know that “we were called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of our exceeding faith and good works.” (Alma 13)
The most important thing that any human being could know during this mortal life is that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ knew them before this life and continue to know them by name. To understand that we lived with God, loved Him, and fought with him against evil will impact the way a person acts while on this earth.
2. Why Are We Here?
If we know where we came from…then we have a much better idea of why we are here. We previously lived in the presence of God as spiritual beings. We wanted to be like Heavenly Father and He wanted us to become like Him as well. So in the pre-mortal councils, Heavenly Father laid out His plan for us to become like Him. Mormons call it the ‘Plan of Salvation’ or the ‘Plan of Happiness’. It was not Christ’s plan, which is a common misconception among people in the Church. Heavenly Father asked for a volunteer that would become the central figure in His plan to act as the Savior for all mankind. “Whom shall I send” is what Heavenly Father asked. (Abr 3:27 & Isa 6:8) Satan, who was also a son of God and a brother to Christ, volunteered. He wanted to save everyone…which seems like a nice gesture but he had some strings attached. First of all, he would save everyone regardless of whether they wanted to be saved or not. That is short for… “you have no choice.” Say goodbye to that great gift of agency that was given to us from Heavenly Father. Second…he wanted all of the glory if he was to save everyone. “Give me thine honor” said Satan to Heavenly Father during that Heavenly Council. “I will send the first” was the divine decree. And Christ was henceforth known as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
But if we were already with Heavenly Father in heaven, then why did we need to have this “grand council” and decide on a Savior, let alone come down to this fallen world and go through pain? In addition to that…why in the world did God need to cast Satan and his followers down to earth? Just to mess with us?
When we were in heaven, our Father and Mother had glorified and resurrected bodies of flesh and bone. They had proven themselves in eons past by taking upon themselves flesh and blood and overcoming temptations. After they overcame and proved themselves worthy… they eventually reached the station of a God. The honor that they have now was not mystically bestowed upon them by chance. It was earned.
We on the other hand only had spirit bodies. We wanted to become like them so we trusted in God’s plan and in the love of our brother Jesus Christ. We needed to receive mortal bodies so that we could receive a resurrected body in the next life through the power and redemption of Christ. We also needed to be tempted by the flesh, which is the primary exploit in Satan’s strategy book.
So we chose to follow Christ down to this earth to receive a body and go head to head with that old serpent.
One of our biggest tests takes place in this life. God said, “we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them”. How will we act when we are not in his presence? Will we exercise faith? Are our spirits pure enough to gain “all that the Father has?” That is what He needs us to experience before he bestows upon us power that we cannot comprehend. Christ’s atonement opens the door to that eternal stairwell of progression. Without that gate/door being opened through His atonement, we’d all be standing there, vulnerable to the ruthless storm of mortality and the attacks of the devil. In fact, there would be what is called a “negative atonement” in which we would be made “at-one” with satan instead of Christ. When Christ performed the atonement, he unlocked that door and provided an escape route that leads to our Heavenly Father. However, that route is not an easy climb. It’s not an escalator or an elevator. Once we’ve gone through that door, it is up to us to climb those troublesome stairs to where God is and not fall back down and out the door.
3. Where We Are Going?
Where we are going depends entirely upon us. We chose to come to this earth in pre-mortal councils and we will choose where we live after this life. The Lord has promised us so much and He is “bound when ye do what [He] says; but when [we] do not what [He] says, [we] have no promise.” (D&C 82:10) One thing we know for certain is that everyone that has ever come to this earth, with the exception of a select few, will live in a place more glorious than any of us can imagine. Before we reach our final destination, we will go to a “spirit world” that “will have the same sociality that exists among us here” (D&C130:2) The spirit world will be divided into two groups.
“The spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow.
“…the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.
“Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection” (Alma 40:12–14).
The righteous believers in Christ in this spirit world have been organized by Christ himself into a missionary force similar to that which has been done here on this earth. They are preaching to those that have not yet decided to exercise faith in Christ and repent. It says in 1 Pet 4:6 that “the gospel was preached also to them that are dead…that they might be judged according to men in the flesh but live according to God in the Spirit.”. You might think to yourself, “why would anyone need to exercise faith in the spirit world?” Wouldn’t it be pretty evident that you died and are still alive in some kind of spirit world?
If you did not accept or know Christ in this life…then you will need to accept and know Christ in the next life. If Christ just appeared to everyone in the next life, it will deprive them the opportunity to exercise faith.
“The spirits are classified according to the purity of their lives and their obedience to the will of the Lord while on earth. Spirits may progress as they learn gospel principles and live in accordance with them.” Remember that stairwell of progression? Christ needs to open that door for you personally whether it is here or there. Baptism for the dead is done for those that did not have the opportunity to be baptized by one holding the proper authority on this earth so that everyone has an equal opportunity to progress. The spirits in paradise can teach the spirits in prison and help exercise faith in Christ, repent and accept vicarious works that have been done on their behalf. We/you get to help them up those stairs of progression. (see D&C 138). see LDS.org
Once the millennium has ended, a final judgement will occur. Paul indicates that there are three “glories” in heaven. A glory of the sun, the moon, and the stars. He was using those objects to describe the difference in glory between the 3 kingdoms. Within each of these kingdoms will be varying degrees of glory. Paul saw a man caught up to a “third heaven” (2 Cor 12:2-4) and John records that in God’s house are “many mansions”. (John 14:2) Some Greek experts have rendered that verse to say “In my Father’s house are many stopping places”. Whatever the most accurate translation might be, we are certain from the scriptures that we are on an eternal journey, and that our destination is to become like our Heavenly Father and Mother. The phrase “eternal journey” denotes two things. One, the journey is a long one…and two… at the end of that journey we become “eternal”. One of God’s names is “Eternal” or “Endless” (D&C 19:11-12) As we approach perfection…which is what Christ asked us to become (Matt 5:48) we will become just as God is, Eternal.
One only has to watch/read the end of the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis to see what our final destination is. Kings and Queens are what we can become, “heirs and joint heirs” (Rom 8:16-17) is what God would have us to be. Sons and daughters that are “drenched in destiny”…we are.