Chapter 10: The Purpose of Earth Life

“Chapter 10: The Purpose of Earth Life,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual (2000), 27–29

“10: Purpose of Earth Life,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, 27–29

Chapter 10

The Purpose of Earth Life


Earth life, though brief, is crucial to us in our quest for eternal life. Here we receive bodies of flesh and bones and are tested in all things. Those who learn obedience and gain self-mastery will return to live with God the Eternal Father. “All of us are but a few years removed from the Eternal Presence, from him whose children we are and in whose house we dwelt. All of us are separated by a thin veil only from the friends and fellow laborers with whom we served on the Lord’s errand before our eternal spirits took up their abodes in tabernacles of clay” (Bruce R. McConkie, in Conference Report, Apr. 1974, 103; or Ensign, May 1974, 73).

Doctrinal Outline

  1. We are that we might have joy.

    See 2 Nephi 2:25; Moses 5:10.

  2. God provided the opportunity for us to obtain a physical body in mortality.

    1. When combined, the spirit and the body compose the soul of man (see D&C 88:15; Genesis 2:7).

    2. A physical body is essential to our obtaining a fulness of joy (see D&C 93:33; 138:17).

    3. The body should be a temple in which the Spirit of God may dwell (see 1 Corinthians 3:16–17; 6:19–20; D&C 93:35).

    4. The body is sacred and should be properly valued (see Exodus 20:13; Genesis 1:26–27; 9:6; D&C 42:18–19).

  3. Mortality is our time of testing.

    1. Mortal life is a probationary period, the time for us to prepare to meet God (see Alma 12:24; 42:4, 10; 34:32).

    2. We are tested in mortality to show whether or not we will keep God’s commandments and overcome sin and opposition (see Abraham 3:25–26; D&C 98:14–15; 136:31; 124:55; Revelation 3:21).

    3. The tests of mortality often take the form of persecution, tribulation, calamity, personal adversity, and loneliness (see 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 1:7; Romans 5:3–5; D&C 101:2–4; 121:1).

    4. Those seeking to be obedient to God will not be tried or tested beyond their ability to bear it (see 1 Corinthians 10:13; Alma 13:28–30; 38:5).

  4. The tests of mortality are for our good.

    1. We taste the bitter fruits of life in order that we may grow and learn to prize the good (see Moses 6:55; D&C 29:39; 2 Nephi 2:1–2, 11).

    2. Mortality is our opportunity to live by faith in God (see Galatians 2:20; 3:11; JST, Romans 1:17; Habakkuk 2:4).

    3. If we maintain faith in God, our trials in life will work together for our good and our eternal glory (see D&C 90:24; 58:2–4; 121:7–8; 122:5–9; Romans 8:28).

  5. Mortality provides us with the opportunity to develop the attributes of godliness.

    1. We are commanded to become perfect as God is perfect (see Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 12:48).

    2. Improvement comes “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little” (2 Nephi 28:30; see also D&C 50:24).

    3. The ordinances of the priesthood place the powers of godliness within our reach (see D&C 84:19–23).

    4. The measure of our creation, through God’s grace, is godliness (see Ephesians 4:12–13).

A father and young son by fireplace

Supporting Statements

  1. We are that we might have joy.

    • “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 255–56).

    • “There is nothing the Latter-day Saints can imagine that would afford them happiness that God has not unfolded to us. He has prepared everything for the Latter-day Saints that they could possibly wish or imagine in order to effect their complete happiness throughout the vast eternities” (Lorenzo Snow, The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, Fifth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 63).

    A father reading to two small children
  2. God provided the opportunity for us to obtain a physical body in mortality.

    • “At one time we were in the presence of our Eternal Father. There is not a soul in this room, not one, that has not seen him. You do not remember it, I do not remember it, but nevertheless there was a time before we ever came into this world when we dwelt in his presence. We knew what kind of a being he is. One thing we saw was how glorious he is. Another thing, how great was his wisdom, his understanding, how wonderful was his power and his inspiration. And we wanted to be like him. And because we wanted to be like him, we are here. We could not be like him and stay in his presence, because we did not have glorious bodies of flesh and bones. We were just spirits, and the spirit does not have flesh and bones. But we saw him in his glory and it was made known to us that by keeping his commandments and observing every covenant that would be given to us on this earth, we could come back again into his presence, receiving our bodies in the resurrection from the dead—our spirits and bodies being united again, inseparably, never again to be divided.

      “If we will just be true and faithful to every covenant, to every principle of truth that he has given us, then after the resurrection we would come back into his presence and we would be just like he is. We would have the same kind of bodies—bodies that would shine like the sun” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Take Heed to Yourselves! 345).

    • “We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The devil has no body, and herein is his punishment. He is pleased when he can obtain the tabernacle of man, and when cast out by the Savior he asked to go into the herd of swine, showing that he would prefer a swine’s body to having none.

      “All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not” (Smith, Teachings, 181).

  3. Mortality is our time of testing.

    • “Is there not wisdom in his [God’s] giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?” (Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, 97).

    • “We are now in a day of trial to prove ourselves worthy or unworthy of the life which is to come” (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, 345).

    • “We knew before we were born that we were coming to the earth for bodies and experience and that we would have joys and sorrows, ease and pain, comforts and hardships, health and sickness, successes and disappointments, and we knew also that after a period of life we would die. We accepted all these eventualities with a glad heart, eager to accept both the favorable and unfavorable. We eagerly accepted the chance to come earthward even though it might be for only a day or a year. Perhaps we were not so much concerned whether we should die of disease, of accident, or of senility. We were willing to take life as it came and as we might organize and control it, and this without murmur, complaint, or unreasonable demands” (Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, 106).

    • “It is only by obedience to the laws of God that men can rise above the petty weaknesses of mortality” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 211).

  4. The tests of mortality are for our good.

    • “We are here that we may be educated in a school of suffering and of fiery trials, which school was necessary for Jesus, our Elder Brother, who, the scriptures tell us, ‘was made perfect through suffering.’ It is necessary that we suffer in all things, that we may be qualified and worthy to rule, and govern all things, even as our Father in Heaven and His eldest son, Jesus” (Snow, Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, 119).

    • “Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery. The sufferings of our Savior were part of his education” (Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, 98).

    • “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven” (Orson F. Whitney, in Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, 98).

    • “I used to think, if I were the Lord, I would not suffer people to be tried as they are. But I have changed my mind on that subject. Now I think I would, if I were the Lord, because it purges out the meanness and corruption that stick around the Saints, like flies around molasses” (John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, 333).

  5. Mortality provides us with the opportunity to develop the attributes of godliness.

    • Perfection is of two kinds—finite or mortal, and infinite or eternal. Finite perfection may be gained by the righteous saints in this life. It consists in living a godfearing life of devotion to the truth, of walking in complete submission to the will of the Lord, and of putting first in one’s life the things of the kingdom of God” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 567).

    • “Christ became perfect through overcoming. Only as we overcome shall we become perfect and move toward godhood. … The time to do this is now, in mortality.

      “… Men do not suddenly become righteous any more than a tiny acorn suddenly becomes an oak. Advancement to perfection can nevertheless be rapid if one resolutely strides toward the goal” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 210).

    • “When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave” (Smith, Teachings, 348).

    • “Each one of you has it within the realm of his possibility to develop a kingdom over which you will preside as its king and god. You will need to develop yourself and grow in ability and power and worthiness, to govern such a world with all of its people. You are sent to this earth not merely to have a good time or to satisfy urges or passions or desires. You are sent to this earth, not to ride merry-go-rounds, airplanes, automobiles, and have what the world calls ‘fun.’

      “You are sent to this world with a very serious purpose. You are sent to school, for that matter, to begin as a human infant and grow to unbelievable proportions in wisdom, judgment, knowledge, and power. That is why you and I cannot be satisfied with saying merely ‘I like that or want that.’ That is why in our childhood and our youth and our young adulthood we must stretch and grow and remember and prepare for the later life when limitations will terminate so that we can go on and on and on” (Spencer W. Kimball, “… the Matter of Marriage” [address delivered at University of Utah Institute of Religion, 22 Oct. 1976], 2).

Navajo Saints taking the sacrament