I still remember during the vice-presidential debate (in 1992!) when one of the candidates (Stockdale – who was running with Perot) asked, Who am I? Why am I here? That was really hilarious. And every time I think about my own life on earth, those words run through my squirrel-like brain: Who am I? Why am I here?
As funny as it seems, it is a true question? Who are we? What are we doing here? I believe that in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we get the answers to these questions.
In the scriptures, we learn:
“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” – Moses 1:39
In this scripture, God is speaking to Moses. This declaration was made when Moses received the revelation at the burning bush. Moses was learning, from the God, about the purpose of life.
So – the entire purpose – of our lives and everything that God has done is to help us become immortal and receive eternal life. These two aspects are different in nature but equally important:
The purpose of this life is to help us achieve immortality. This is why the earth was created. It is why Adam and Eve were created and put in the Garden of Eden. Our immortality is fundamental to everything the Lord has done.
Yet, we know, that Adam and Eve partook of the “forbidden fruit,” which introduced pain, sickness, and death. The Lord had already prepared a way for the results of the fall of Adam and Eve to be overcome: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Paul succinctly taught:
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” – 1 Corinthians 15:22
Thanks to Christ’s decision to die and then power to overcome death, we are all blessed. We will all be resurrected. We have the chance to overcome death through Christ and God’s work is fulfilled: we are immortal beings. Just as Adam’s choice led to a consequence for every living being on earth, so does Christ’s resurrection extend to everyone who has lived and died. None are exempt from this gift.
Another purpose of this life, and God’s work is to help us receive Eternal Life.
The Lord explains that eternal life is the greatest of all the gifts of God. (See Doctrine and Covenants 14:7). This gift involves eternal peace, joy, and happiness.
The purpose of our lives is to give us the opportunity to be eternally happy.
Of course, it is important to note that this is true happiness – not pleasure or fleeting happiness. What the Lord has to offer and wants to give us is everlasting happiness. It is not easily obtained and won’t be fully experienced during our mortal lives.
Unlike immortality, eternal life and happiness is not automatically granted to every person who has been affected by Adam’s fall (namely, everyone!). Instead, eternal life requires a measure of work on our part. So, the purpose of this earth life is to make a choice:
“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” – 2 Nephi 2:27
In order to inherit the blessings that Christ offers – of liberty and eternal life, we must make a choice: to follow Him.
This is easier said than done. While on this earth, we must struggle. Not only do we face physical difficulties like pain and illness, but we will also succumb to the pain of sin from time to time. We are imperfect people: prone to various problems. As we learn to make good choices and repent for the not-so-good choices we’ve made, we will experience the blessings of Christ’s atonement. We will feel peace. We will feel a measure of happiness. We will get a glimpse of the eternal happiness that Christ offers to those who are faithful.
It is also important to remember that our struggles, trials, difficulties, and temptations are part of what will eventually make us happy. The thing is: God is the source of Happiness. If we want to experience happiness, then we must go to Him – through prayer and covenant-making. Yet, we are naturally slow to go to the Lord. Through trials and pains, we are often encouraged to go to our Maker for His support through difficult times. Our challenges are blessings.
Anciently, Paul suffered from “a thorn in the flesh.” Paul begged the Lord to take this difficulty from him, yet it remained. Paul got the big picture, and stated:
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” –2 Corinthians 12:9-10
We can be happy – even in our weakness – through Christ’s mercy and grace. Like Paul, we can go to Christ who will make us strong even when we are weak. The difficulties we face in life are a necessary part of our process to receiving eternal life. When we choose to accept God’s will and humbly receive Christ’s grace, then we will come to know Him. We will receive His gift of eternal life. We will be filled with peace, and will become happy.
There is a purpose to our lives. The Lord wants us to live forever. And he wants to grant us eternal joy. Neither of these gifts would be possible if we didn’t have the opportunity to come to this earth, be born into families, experience difficulties and blessings, and make choices. We can find peace in our lives now when we come to truly know our Heavenly Father and His plan.