It’s a question that has been debated for centuries by theologians, philosophers, and ordinary people. What is the meaning of life? Where did we come from? Why are we here? What will happen when I die? It is impossible to make the best use of our time on Earth unless we know the answers to these questions.
Mormons—a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—have the answers to all these questions and live their lives accordingly. The answers begin with events that occurred before we were born, and even before the earth was formed. It’s a wonderful story, even more wonderful because it’s true.
God created our spirits long before we were born. As spirits without bodies, but with personalities, character, and most importantly, agency (free will), we lived with God for a time. We can read mentions of that time in the Bible:
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
We can’t return to a place we’ve never been, so we must have been with God before our births.
Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations (Jeremiah 1:4-5).
This tells us that during the time we lived with God, He came to know us. We decided what sort of person we wanted to be and how much we cared about God’s teachings. There were varying levels of obedience and spirituality there, just as there is on Earth. Jeremiah was so righteous God knew that even the temptations of mortality would not make Jeremiah unworthy, and so God ordained him to be a prophet even before his birth. God knew him that well, and He knew us equally well.
Eventually, we had progressed as far as we could there. To progress further would require a body and the need for faith. To have faith, we would have to leave God’s presence and forget that we had ever known Him. God outlined His plan to us. We would come to earth, born into a family. We’d gain a body, lose our memories except for periodic unexpected remembrances, and have experiences. Some of these experiences would be trials, but God would allow them, knowing how much we can learn from a trial if we allow ourselves to. Throughout our lives, our experiences, good and bad, would help us to become everything God knows we can be.
He sent help, of course. He knew we would not be perfect, and perfection was required by the laws of justice for a return home to God’s presence. He used the laws of mercy to approve a Savior, someone who would voluntarily come to Earth as the Son of God, but also the son of a mortal woman. This would give Him the unique ability to be both mortal and divine. He would have experiences and trials, just as we would, allowing Him to better understand us. He would die only if He was willing to do so, which He was. Jesus Christ volunteered for the role and He was actually the only Being who could. Without His willingness to take our sins on Himself, despite being sinless, we could never return home. We could be saved in no other way but through the atonement of Jesus Christ. When He was resurrected, it broke the bands of death for everyone.
Why are we here, then? We are here to have new experiences, to be tested, to grow, and to find God and Jesus Christ. When we humble ourselves and open our hearts to the idea of faith, we accomplish the most important thing we need to do. Faith will allow us to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and to become the type of person He asked us to become.
Mortality is not always easy. We have to be sad to appreciate the joy, lonely to appreciate company, and poor to appreciate being reasonably well-off. Every experience can be used to make us stronger and teach us lessons if we are willing to be taught. Mortality is a wonderful gift from God, but we have to choose to face it joyfully and with faith.