Chapter 19: Eternal Life

“Chapter 19: Eternal Life,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual (2000), 51–52

“19: Eternal Life,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, 51–52

Chapter 19

Eternal Life


President Harold B. Lee instructed the Latter-day Saints on qualifying for eternal life:

“The first goal in that eternal plan was for each of us to come to earth and gain a physical body, and then, after death and the resurrection which would follow, the spirit and the resurrected body would not thereafter be subject to death. All of this was a free gift to every living soul as Paul declared: ‘For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.’ (1 Cor. 15:22.)

“What this means to one dying with a malignant malady or to a mother bereft of a child may be illustrated by the expressions of a young mother whom I visited in the hospital some years ago. She said to me, ‘I have thought all this through. It doesn’t make any difference whether I go now or whether I live to 70, 80, or 90. The sooner I can get to a place where I can be active and doing things that will bring me eternal joy the better for all concerned.’ She was comforted by the thought that she had lived such a life as to be worthy to enter into the presence of God, which is to enjoy eternal life” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1973, 9; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, 6).

Doctrinal Outline

  1. Our quest for eternal life began in the premortal existence.

    1. The promise and possibility of eternal life was made known to us before this world began (see Titus 1:2).

    2. Having kept our first estate, we who enter mortality become heirs of eternal life through our faithfulness and diligence (see Ephesians 1:3–4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13–14).

    3. Among God’s children in the premortal existence were the noble and great ones chosen to be rulers among men (see D&C 138:56; Abraham 3:23; Jeremiah 1:4–5).

  2. Those who come to mortality are called and elected to receive added blessings in this life.

    1. Part of our mortal experience is to receive a physical body of flesh and bones (see Genesis 2:7; Hebrews 2:14).

    2. We are given commandments and a chance to prove ourselves in a mortal probation (see Abraham 3:25; 2 Nephi 2:21; Alma 12:24; 42:4–5; D&C 29:43).

    3. We receive an opportunity to partake of the eternal ordinances of salvation (see Alma 13:16; D&C 124:38–40; Articles of Faith 1:3).

    4. Those who seek God’s blessings by keeping His commandments and observing His ordinances make their “calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10; see also vv. 3–9).

  3. Making our calling and election sure is an important quest of mortal life.

    1. The elect of God are those who hear His voice and obey Him (see D&C 29:7).

    2. To make our calling and election sure requires diligence and effort in developing godlike attributes (see 2 Peter 1:10–12; Mosiah 5:15; 2 Timothy 4:7–8).

    3. While many are called of God to receive His blessings, comparatively few become worthy of them (see Luke 13:23–24; Matthew 22:11–14; D&C 121:34–40).

    4. We are free to choose for ourselves (see 2 Nephi 2:27; 10:23; Helaman 14:30).

  4. Those who make their calling and election sure inherit eternal life.

    1. Eternal life is the greatest of all the gifts of God (see D&C 14:7).

    2. The faithful and diligent are joint heirs with Christ and inherit all that the Father has (see Romans 8:17; D&C 84:38; Galatians 4:6–7; Revelation 3:21; D&C 88:107; 131:5).

    3. Those who inherit eternal life dwell in the presence of God and are crowned with honor and immortal glory (see D&C 20:14; 75:5; 76:62).

Supporting Statements

  1. Our quest for eternal life began in the premortal existence.

    • “Election and foreordination are based upon and grow out of preexistence. These doctrines can be understood only in the light of the following eternal verities:

      “1. That God is our Father, literally and actually, in the full sense of the word, and that we are his children, his spirit offspring;

      “2. That we dwelt with our Eternal Father in the pre-mortal life for an immeasurably long period of time, during all of which we were subject to his laws and endowed by him with agency;

      “3. That, as a consequence, we developed an infinite variety and degree of talents and capacities; and

      “4. That when we are born into this mortal probation, we bring with us the talents and capacities gained in the pre-mortal life” (Bruce R. McConkie, “Are We Foreordained to Be Exalted?” Instructor, Feb. 1969, 40).

  2. Those who come to mortality are called and elected to receive added blessings in this life.

    • “The object of our being here is to do the will of the Father as it is done in heaven, to work righteousness in the earth, to subdue wickedness and put it under our feet, to conquer sin and the adversary of our souls, to rise above the imperfections and weaknesses of poor, fallen humanity, by the inspiration of Almighty God and His power made manifest, and thus become indeed the Saints and servants of the Lord in the earth” (Joseph F. Smith, in Conference Report, Apr. 1902, 85).

    • “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. But we cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received. …

      “… Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 255–56).

    • “Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles. …

      “All men who become heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ will have to receive the fulness of the ordinances of his kingdom; and those who will not receive all the ordinances will come short of the fullness of that glory, if they do not lose the whole” (Smith, Teachings, 308–9).

  3. Making our calling and election sure is an important quest of mortal life.

    • “After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, ‘Son, thou shalt be exalted.’ When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure” (Smith, Teachings, 150).

    • “Those members of the Church who devote themselves wholly to righteousness, living by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God, make their calling and election sure. That is, they receive the more sure word of prophecy, which means that the Lord seals their exaltation upon them while they are yet in this life” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 109).

    • “The elect of God comprise a very select group, an inner circle of faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are the portion of church members who are striving with all their hearts to keep the fulness of the gospel law in this life so that they can become inheritors of the fulness of gospel rewards in the life to come” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 217).

    • “Man can transform himself and he must. Man has in himself the seeds of godhood, which can germinate and grow and develop. As the acorn becomes the oak, the mortal man becomes a god. It is within his power to lift himself by his very bootstraps from the plane on which he finds himself to the plane on which he should be. It may be a long, hard lift with many obstacles, but it is a real possibility” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 28).

    • “There are many who are called to serve in the kingdom of God. … The Lord has never promised to those who are unfaithful, who have received the call and appointment but have not endured, that they shall receive the blessing. While there are many who seemingly feel this to be the case, only those who serve and are faithful shall be chosen. The reason why so many fall away is explained to be, ‘because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men.’” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:177–78).

  4. Those who make their calling and election sure inherit eternal life.

    • “The theme I have in mind to discuss is ‘Making One’s Calling and Election Sure.’ To do this one must receive a divine witness that he will inherit eternal life. The supreme objective of men who understand God, their relationship to him, and his designs for them is to gain eternal life. This is as it should be, for eternal life ‘… is the greatest of all the gifts of God.’ (D&C 14:7.) To bring men to eternal life is God’s ‘work and glory.’ To this end he conceives, brings into being, directs, and uses all his creations. (Moses 1:38–39.)” (Marion G. Romney, in Conference Report, Oct. 1965, 20).

    • “Eternal life is the quality of life which God himself enjoys. The gospel plan, authored by the Father and put into operation by the atonement of Jesus Christ, brings eternal life within the reach of every man. The Lord gave this assurance when he said, ‘… if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, …’ (D&C 14:7.)” (Romney, in Conference Report, Oct. 1965, 20).