THE Existential Question

That’s right, I want to address the big one: from an LDS doctrinal perspective, what is the purpose of earthly life in the context of the doctrine of immortality? Just what we likely are all pondering on a Monday . . . Here is my understanding of the setup and why I think it is circular. Of course, we have the classic Moses 1:39, where God tells Moses, “[t]his is my work and my glory–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man [sic].” Supplemental explanations include 2 Nephi 2:25: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (I’ll dispense with all the “sics” but let’s take these statements to include women)

I assume in this space that we believe that the purpose of this life is to come unto Christ, to understand his great and expansive plan for the salvation of all human beings born into this world and to live that plan, thereby gaining salvation through serving Him and our fellow persons. I’m on board with this. I believe we gain great joy in living the gospel as it is set forth in our scriptures and many of our church teachings, and I’ll even buy that living that gospel can bring “salvation,” to God’s children, whatever that actually entails. Next comes death, judgment and for those who have come to know Christ, salvation (and, I believe, eventually that salvation comes for everyone, or nearly everyone, as we continue to progress). We don’t know much specifically about what salvation entails, but we do believe in eternal progression, much like Origen and even the great Athanasius (too bad about the Nicene creed), that we can progress to the point of deification.

What I wonder about is if the point of this life is to come to know Christ and to be saved in his name, and then the purpose of immortality is eternal progression (should we continue to exercise our will to that end), then in what sense do we progress? Everything we know about salvation and spiritual progression in this life comes in the context of following Christ. Are we talking about eternally progressing through some spheres of understanding the overarching principles of existence? What are those principles? Do those also come through Christ? What exactly is the purpose of becoming gods with eternal progeny, only to replicate the process endlessly? Is anyone curious about these things?


  1. Jennifer J says:

    Hmm, why is there a divine family of God? I can think of one reason based on logic instead of love (this is less warm and fuzzy):

    We are made in God’s image, the earth is also made in the image of celestial spheres(Kolob?). So, it is probable that the same natural principles apply in both.
    If so, then I think the following argument works:

    All life is a form of energy,
    energy moves,
    Life as energy is in motion or is still.
    As such, life must move/change in some direction or it must be still.
    We must grow/progress, stagnate, or regress.
    As single units souls can only progress so far.
    So, God is facilitating our further progression for which we need each other and His power to connect us so we can all grow together.

    But why? Maybe because:

    God is corporeal which means He is made of matter and energy too.
    So, God must also grow and progress. If He is already perfect, omni-potent, etc., then God can’t grow anymore as a single being.
    He can grow by having progeny which are sealed to Him and become part of his kingdom/family/divine net, thereby expanding both it and God’s power.
    As long as His progeny have progeny who have progeny . . . He and his children can grow infinitely.

    Basically: grow or die. God can’t get any better so he is having progeny to grow his kindom and power.

  2. I like that answer, D. I wonder how those lessons will be learned in the life to come and in what way the atonement of Christ will or will not be able to help us in that process after we die.

  3. I think D.’s on the right track. It’s to learn how to love, how to extend that love to generations and generations and to make it as personal and real for each of those millions as Heavenly Father’s is for us.

    Why we should learn to love is another question.

  4. Jennifer J says:

    If the spirit does work throuhg Haloscan as was speculated in a previous thread, and I lose my comment about this AGAIN, then I will keep my thoughts to myself.

    I had an experience in which I think I got one kind of answer to this question. And it’s funny, because it’is not the kind of answer I wanted or would wish for. (See my Temple post and you’ll understand.)

    Remember the scripture about ‘Elijah turning the hearts of the children…or else all would be for naught.’ It says something like that. But the last part always bugged me, why was Elijah so important that it all would mean nothing, and what ‘all’ was being referred to? I think I got an answer.

    [Take this with as much salt as you like, I’m not saying it was revelation or that I interpreted it correctly. But if it was, then here’s what I understood.]
    One night I was explaining baptisms for the dead to a friend of mine. Suddenly an image came into my mind, I could see the whole world of every generation of people all connected together in one chain or more like a web, and it all started with God. Then I thought, ‘that’s it. That’s the purpose of all of this. If it weren’t for sealings then there would be no web, we couldn’t join the divine eternal net (you could call it a family too) to be with God and be part of God forever. Without sealings all of Christ’s work and all of our work trying to follow Him would yield nothing of true value in the end (just our solitary bodies and memories but no where to go, nothing to learn and no one to go with.) I could then see how life and creation and the atonement would have been a waste and for naught without the connections/sealings.*

    *This is only my personal understanding or conjecture.*

    I think this perspective gives us one way to answer Christina’s questions. God wants all of us to join him in his divine and celestial family web so that we can then grow that family and so on to infinity. The only way to be worthy to join God’s celestial family is through Christ, following Him and everything that entails. As D and Steve said, love is a big part of that, and knowledge, obedience, etc.

    As to the purpose of that celestial family and progeny, I can only guess that God’s love is so inifinite he wants to spread the joy we’re promised to as many spirits as possible. I’m sure there is more to it than that, but I really think that’s partly why.

  5. Is that the essence of happiness, to be together? I like it, it just also begs the question of why?

  6. D. Fletcher says:

    It’s easy for me understand the need for the earth, for physical bodies, for “opposition,” because I understand learning. I know that friction is required for creation, progress, and fulfillment. The mortal existence provides the friction, literally.

    Much, much more difficult for me to understand what may be required in the next life to achieve the same goal, to learn how to love. No mortal bodies? No friction? No opposition?

    There’s a kind of catch-all doctrine in our Church that suggests anything that can’t be accomplished in this life will be accomplished in the next. But if it can be accomplished in the next, why bother with this life at all?

    For instance, many millions of people came to this earth without any knowledge of the Gospel or Salvation. Presumably, they will have a chance in the next life. So why were they sent here at all? If everything can be achieved in the next life, why are we bothering with rituals for the dead, etc.?

    Why did God set up a world where only a very miniscule amount would ever know of a Jesus Christ, let alone come unto Him?

    I can only presume, we cannot fathom the purpose of the next life, the laws and blessings must be significantly different.

    Meanwhile, I think it’s important for me to concentrate on this life, and to feel the blessings and light given to me, and not worry about the next life so much.

    My life is about, this life — I do not make choices based on what my possibilities may be after I die.

    How do we learn how to love? We make choices, each choice leading to another set of choices, and another set. We often choose correctly, and just as often, we choose wrongly, and must arduously correct those mistakes. Slowly, like practicing the piano, we are learning to make better choices.

    The Gospel is simply a helping instruction manual. See these sins? says Jesus — these are ALWAYS the wrong choice. I’m making it easier for you.

  7. No that’s not what the temple teaches. The main themes of the temple are you can only have sex with your spouse and if you think that’s not easy get ready for the law of consecration!

  8. That’s a great image, and I think an accurate one, supported both by church pronouncements and by the teachings of the temple. No need for the disclaimer, IMHO.

    As for there being something “more to it than that,” I know what you mean — can God’s work & glory just be as simple as that? But what other motives would a God of love have?

  9. Jennifer J says:

    That’s what the temple teaches? Maybe I don’t need to go through after all ;-). I added the disclaimer because I don’t have scripture references, though I know it’s in accord with scripture. And also because I don’t have the authority to proclaim to know God’s purposes.

  10. The authority to proclaim to know God’s purposes? Hey, we all ask the question and come to some kind of conclusion even though we know we only have part of the picture. Mormons have a better explanation for this world, even if it isn’t complete.

  11. D. Fletcher says:

    To learn how to love.

  12. We were just globs of energy. We ALWAYS existed but to see God and his power and creativity…that’s a lot funner than just being a glob of energy! He created a way for us to obtain spirits and then bodies so that we could become powerful and creative like he is. That is joy! To create worlds! Like he does! We are his creations and we can become creators.

  13. We were just in NYC for the open house and then broke the sabbath at the museum of natural history (more nudity there than at the matthew barney exhibit!)…that harrison ford narrated space film sure would make a good temple movie…there are worlds without end…Love your ideas Jennifer J!

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