The Purpose of Life
One of the burning questions that plagues men on earth is, “Why am I here”? Many people wonder what is the purpose of life, and if more people understood the real answer, many things on earth would change. The material world—possessions, property, territory, riches, power, prestige, comfort, and pleasure—would lose much of its allure. Men would cease sacrificing all for these worldly treasures; many wars would be averted.
The Lord’s Plan of Salvation teaches that we lived before we were born onto the earth as spirit-children of our Father in Heaven, and that the purpose of life on earth is to exercise our freedom of choice, our guaranteed volition, or “agency,” to choose good and to choose Christ. Earth life is but a blip in our eternal existence—we existed for eternities before we came to earth, and we will exist forever after death. Earth life is a short test that determines our future status.
None of us remembers the existence we enjoyed before coming to earth, though some get a glimpse of the nature of the “pre-existence” through revelation. The Lord revealed to Abraham,
Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
And there stood one among them [Jesus Christ] that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
And they who keep their first estate [pre-existence] shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate [earth life] shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever (Abraham 3:22-26).
The Lord revealed to Abraham that he was one of the noblest of God’s spirit-children in the pre-existence and was chosen to be a prophet before he was born. This same sort of information was revealed to the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah:
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; … and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).
It is obvious that if every one of us remembered the pre-existence, there would be no need for faith during life on earth. We would all remember the creation of the earth, the nature of the Godhead, that Jesus Christ is both Creator and Savior, and that Lucifer fell and became Satan. In fact, the entire need for earth life as a time of testing and proving would fall away and thwart the plan of God, which is to make us like He is. That we have forgotten the pre-existence guarantees our agency on earth, and forces us to develop faith, patience, and compassion.
There have been scientific articles written regarding the basic needs and motives of animals and men. Some scholarly research has shown that though food, water, and shelter are basic needs, the need for defined territory overrides them. An animal will starve to death defending its territory from encroachers. He will guard the border rather than abandon it to search for food. Likewise, men will waste their eternal potential to grab what is attractive in the material world. To do so is to reap unhappiness. A paraphrase of an old Taoist saying proclaims that men are unhappy to the extent that they hold tightly to material things.
The message of the Plan of Salvation is a message of love. The plan was created, because God loves His children. The end goal is exaltation. A person who gradually develops a real sense of the plan and its purpose loosens his hold on the temporary material world and envisions eternal territory, which is permanent. Such territory is actually the only safe place, and more real than anything on earth:
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal (Matthew 6:19, 20).
For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation (Isaiah 51:8).