We are the spirit-children of our Heavenly Father. We lived with him in Heaven before we were born on earth. We had intelligence, and we learned and progressed. Some of us were chosen by God to be his leaders during our mortal lives. As we contemplate these sacred events, we wonder why God created this earth and what is the purpose of everything?
Reasons for Being Here
Let us be assured that God did have a purpose in creating this earth. The creation was not by chance or accident. Isaiah spoke of the creation of the earth and stated that God’s purpose was that the earth might be inhabited. One reason for our being here is that the earth is our home.
For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:18)
One difference between our existence here and our existence in our pre-earth life is that here we have physical bodies while there we were spirits. We needed to have physical bodies to experience the increased development that those bodies would allow. Thus, we understand another of God’s purposes in creating this world: we came here to get bodies of flesh and bone. Our bodies are important and in their own way are sacred. Paul spoke of this sacredness in writing to the Corinthians.
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
In addition to being temples, our bodies are sacred because as we follow Christ and obey his commandments, they become sacrifices to him.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)
Another reason why we are here was given by Joseph Smith when he explained that those who gain knowledge in this life will have an advantage in the next life.
And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. (D & C 130:19)
The Lord revealed we should gain knowledge through study in all good books.
And set in order the churches, and study and learn, and become acquainted with all good books, and with languages, tongues, and people. (D & C 90:15)
Our learning should not only be from books and languages but from faith in God.
And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. (D & C 88:119)
Through our faith and prayers, we can gain wisdom from God.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5)
God will reveal truths to us, knowledge that has been withheld from the world.
God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now; (D&C 121:26)
Through gaining knowledge, we have truth or intelligence, and the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that the glory of God is intelligence.
The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. (D&C 93:36)
A Time of Preparation
The reasons given above for our being here, i.e. to have a home, to gain a body, and to gain knowledge, are secondary reasons. The primary reason for our being here was declared by God as he planned the creation of this 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)
Mortality is a time when we learn to be obedient to God and do all things asked of us by him. The best analogy I can think of for explaining the purpose of mortality is that it is a time of refinement. Just as metals are refined by having impurities removed, so we are refined by experiencing mortality and learning to follow God and having our weaknesses and faults removed.
The Book of Mormon prophets understood this purpose of earth-life. Mormon explained that the Lord refines us and blesses those who follow him.
Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.
Nevertheless–whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was with this people. (Mosiah 23:21-22)
Alma referred to it as a time of probation, a time when we prepare to return to God.
And we see that death comes upon mankind, yea, the death which has been spoken of by Amulek, which is the temporal death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead. (Alma 12:24)
Tribulations Bring Growth
Through the ages, prophets have taught that we are refined by the things we experience. This began when Adam and Eve were in the garden. They were told because they had partaken of the fruit in the Garden of Eden they would know good from evil.
And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: (Genesis 3:22)
We are here to learn good from evil. We need to have physical bodies so we can discern good from evil through experiencing the temptations of the flesh. In doing this, we will rise to spiritual heights as we follow God, or we will sink into corruption as we yield to the flesh and follow our physical appetites.
Paul understood this purpose of mortality. He encouraged the followers of Christ to be strong in the Gospel, that through experiencing problems in life and successfully solving them, they might enter into the Kingdom of God.
And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,
Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:21-22)
Paul explained that tribulations strengthen us.
And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope; (Romans 5:3-4)
The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that the problems we encounter in life are central to our growth.
For verily I say unto you, blessed is he that keepeth my commandments, whether in life or in death; and he that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven.
Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.
For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand. (D & C 58:2-4)
That through my providence, notwithstanding the tribulation which shall descend upon you, that the church may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world; (D&C 78:14)
For after much tribulation, as I have said unto you in a former commandment, cometh the blessing.
Behold, this is the blessing which I have promised after your tribulations, and the tribulations of your brethren–your redemption, and the redemption of your brethren, even their restoration to the land of Zion, to be established, no more to be thrown down. (D&C 103:12-13)
This principle, that tribulations strengthen us, was learned by Joseph Smith through the many difficulties he experienced. In addition, the Lord counseled him that his problems were allowed by God because they were for his good.
If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;
If thou are accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;
And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. (D&C 122:5-7, emphasis added)
The Lord reminded Joseph that he, Jesus Christ, had experienced all of the problems that Joseph was experiencing, and more, and he counseled Joseph to remain strong.
The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever. (D&C 122:8-9)
Peter referred to the temptations we experience as a trial or test of our faith. He spoke of our hope in life due to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the eventual inheritance to those who have faith. He said we rejoice in this, although now as a temporary thing we are burdened with temptations which refine our faith.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (1 Peter 1:3-7. emphasis added)
Moroni also taught that our faith will be tested and that we receive blessings from God only after our faith has been proven to be strong.
And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith. (Ether 12:6, emphasis added)
Our society uses testing in a negative way. For example, tests are used to separate the “best” from the “mediocre”. We are tested to see if we are “good” enough to become members of particular organizations. Tests become our judge. When the inspired prophets, however, speak of our faith being tested, I think they are using the phrase “test” in a different way. The Lord has not put us here in mortality to “test” us and see if we are “good” enough to enter the Celestial kingdom. He has put us here to experience mortality, to grow from those experiences, and to choose for ourselves which of the “many mansions” we would like in the next life. As we make our choices in life, we become our own judges. We determine which kingdom we will inherit, because we become the type of person we have chosen to become. When the prophets speak of our faith being “tested”, I think they are referring to our faith being refined through our experiences, to our choices between good and evil.
Opposition in all Things
Some people say God can not test or refine us because he can not do evil, and many of our tribulations involve evil. Those people have a good point. When the scriptures speak of God trying us, they mean that God allows Satan to tempt us. Lehi explained why the Lord allows Satan to tempt us.
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.
Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God. (2 Nephi 2:11-12, emphasis added)
Without opposition, Lehi said, there could be neither righteousness nor wickedness. This is because if there were no evil, people would automatically follow good but in so doing would not grow or develop. In his wisdom, God allows evil and sin. In addition, he allows opposition from natural sources such as disease and the weather. These opposites require that we make choices, and through making choices we grow. Consider, for example, a temptation to use dangerous drugs. If the drugs did not exist, then no one would be addicted to them. We might think this would be a desirable condition, since no one would be harmed. However, from God’s eternal viewpoint, we would not grow nor develop since no other possibility existed, and choices were not made. However, in our real world, drugs do exist. If we choose not to use them, we are still unharmed, but in addition our character is strengthened due to our having chosen to refrain from drug use.
Lehi explained that God put opposites in the Garden of Eden so Adam and Eve would have to choose what they would do.
And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.
Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other. (2 Nephi 2:15-16, emphasis added)
Adam and Eve had to choose between eating from the Tree of Life and continuing to live as innocent children in the garden, or eating from the Tree of Knowledge and becoming mortal and allowing the human race to exist. God gave them opposites in choice and agency to select their course.
From another viewpoint, opposition allows us to develop appreciation for our blessings. If we lived without problems of any kind, we would not really appreciate our blessings because we would take them for granted. However, because problems do occur, we lose our blessings and begin to realize how important they were to us. Later, as conditions change and our blessings return, we have greater appreciation for them and greater desires to use them for righteous purposes.