Our mortal bodies become old and crippled. We become sick, injured, abused, tired. It seems that almost all of the tribulations of mortality are connected with our bodies. Because of this, many people question whether our bodies are a blessing or a curse to us. Some religions teach that our bodies are obstacles to our spiritual progress, and that upon death our spirits become free of that impediment. The scriptures, though, teach that our bodies are a blessing to us and are an important part of our eternal progression. The scriptures teach that the purpose of mortality is to gain physical bodies and to experience all of the aspects of life that are related to our bodies. Let us explore this in more detail.
The Lord revealed to Moses his purpose in creating the universe.
For behold, this is my work and my glory–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39)
I love that scripture, because it tells us why God does what He does. Because of that knowledge, many pieces of the puzzle of life fall into place. We know that everything God does is done for a reason, because God loves us.
Why God Created the Mortal World
God revealed to the ancient prophet, Abraham, why he created the earth.
And there stood one among them 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; (Abraham, 3:24-25)
Our Heavenly Father created this world so we, His spirit children, could learn to obey Him. Because everything God does is necessary for our immortality and eternal life, living on this mortal earth and experiencing the trials and joys of mortality is necessary for our immortality and eternal life. Thus, our having mortal bodies is part of God’s plan, one step on the road to immortality and eternal life.
Trials of Mortality Bring Us Growth
In 1839, Joseph Smith was in the Liberty Jail in Missouri. Sections 121 and 122 of the Doctrine and Covenants were written during that time. Joseph pleaded with the Lord to know how long the Saints would be subjected to the persecution they were experiencing. Finally, the voice of Peace came to Joseph.
My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. (D&C 121:7-8)
Starting with verse 5 of Section 122, the Lord taught Joseph the real purpose of mortality. In verses 5, 6, and part of 7, the Lord described the trials that Joseph might be asked to face. Then, at the end of verse 7, the Lord explained the value of those trials.
…know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. (D&C 122:7)
Trials and tribulations will be for our good and will give us experience! What greater way to learn patience than to endure conditions that tax our patience. What greater way to learn to love others and to forgive others, especially our enemies, than to suffer persecution at the hands of those people. I am not saying that God creates trials and tribulations. Nature does that, and wicked people do that. God, however, uses the trials as experience to help His children grow and progress. These trials and tribulations could not occur to us while we were in Heaven as God’s spirit children. It was necessary for us to change our environment such that we could have new experiences.
We read from Abraham 3:25 that the Lord created this earth to prove us. The 1828 edition of Webster’s Dictionary gives several definitions for the word “prove”. The definition that best fits the scripture from Abraham is the following.
To experience; to try by suffering or encountering; to gain certain knowledge by the operation of something on ourselves, or by some act of our own.
The Lord created the earth to give us experience; to try us by suffering or encountering; to enable us to gain certain knowledge by the operation of something on ourselves (nature, acts of others), or by some act of our own. What a wonderful description of mortality!
It’s Up to Me
We are in a wonderful school to help us traverse the road to immortality and eternal life. How much we gain from this school of mortality is up to us. When I’m in a situation that I dislike, a situation that is hard for me to handle, I ask myself, “What does the Lord want me to learn from this?” When someone hurts me or takes advantage of me, I ask myself, “What should I be learning from this?” When I’m sick or am suffering from other natural disasters, I ask myself, “How can I benefit from this?” I’m certainly not perfect, and I have my times of discouragement and despair, but realizing that I’m in mortality to experience and learn helps me have a good attitude about life. It helps me realize that the bad times will pass. It helps me kneel on my knees and acknowledge the presence of God in my life and to thank him for both the good times and the difficult times in my life, for both give me experience!
Well, What About My Mortal Body?
I’ve been talking about the importance of mortality in my eternal progression. My mortal body is the key to mortality. Because of my mortal body, I experience pain, suffering, grief, despair, discouragement, happiness, joy. The trials of mortality are trials only because I have a mortal body. I am part of mortality only because I have a mortal body. Without a mortal body, my progression would stop. I’m an avid runner, and I enjoy running miles and miles, feeling the strength of a strong body. In fact, my strong body from 30+ years of running saved my life a few years ago when I was in an automobile accident and was in a coma for three weeks in intensive care. With a weaker body, I probably would have died.
The Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Resurrection
I’m thankful for my mortal body, because it allows me to experience both the trials and the joys of mortality. But, I’m grateful that I won’t have a mortal body forever. I’m grateful to my Savior, Jesus Christ, for his providing the resurrection for all people. When my spirit, the real me, leaves my physical body at my death, I expect my spirit will be both happy and sad. Happy that I’m no longer subject to the miseries of mortal life. Sad that I am again limited in things that require a body.
When I am resurrected and have a new body that is perfect and will never die again, I expect I will rejoice at being reunited with my body, this time a perfect body. At that time I will be able to look back at my progression from a spirit-child with Heavenly Father, to my time on earth as a spirit combined with a mortal, imperfect body, to my time after death as a spirit, and finally to my spirit permanently combined with a perfect body. At that time, I will turn to my Heavenly Father and to my Savior and say, “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to progress to be like you.”
A Fullness of Joy
The Lord explained why it is so important that we have a resurrection that rejoins our spirits with our bodies.
For man is spirit. the elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy.
And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy. (D&C 93:33-34)
As explained in D&C 76, having a fulness of joy is to receive all things from Heavenly Father (D&C 76:55).