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Mortality is the time between birth and death. The word "mortality" has no meaning, however, unless there is such a thing as "immortality." The doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teach that mortality is a vital part of the Plan of Salvation, which is God’s plan for His children. Latter-day Saint doctrine teaches that God's desire is to prepare mankind to be exalted:
- For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39).
The "Plan of Salvation" teaches that before we were born on earth, we lived as spirits with God, and that God is the literal father of our spirits. God created the earth whereupon we would live through His son, Jesus Christ:
- 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-mortal life] 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 [life on earth] shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever (Abraham 3:24-26).
One of the main purposes of mortality is the obtaining of a physical body. The passions and appetites of the physical body certainly provide a way through which men and women can be tested, but the body also provides power to act. A physical body is a great blessing. Love cannot be fully expressed without it. Through the physical body, family relationships can be formed, men and women can become co-creators with God by bearing and raising children, ordinances can be performed, and men and women can learn charity by providing for the poor, sick, and afflicted. Man's sojourn on this earth gives him experience, helps him to develop wisdom and compassion and faith.
Another purpose of mortality is a deliberate separation from God. Mormon doctrine teaches that a "veil of forgetfulness" keeps people in mortality from remembering their pre-mortal existence. Therefore, men must develop faith in order to retain and improve their connectedness to God, their Father. God does not leave men comfortless. Every person born on the earth brings with him the light of Christ, which behaves as a conscience, guiding the person to have a natural sense of right and wrong. Man is given his agency, his freedom of choice. The more righteous his choices, the greater the light that abides with him, and vice versa. God has given mankind prophets, scripture, personal prayer, and greatest of all, the gift of His Only Begotten Son, an infinite sacrifice to bridge the gap between man and God. Through the atonement of Christ, men may leave this life prepared to meet God and inherit a portion of His glory.
The necessity of opposition
The only way the sons and daughters of God can exercise freedom of choice is if there is "opposition in all things."
- And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement—
- For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, ...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.
- 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 (2 Nephi 2: 10-11, 15).
There was opposition in the pre-mortal world. The Lord knew that man would fall, so He prepared a Savior, Jesus Christ, to fulfill the earthly mission of atoning for our sins, and to live a life of perfect example for mankind to follow. Lucifer, one of the first born of God's spirit children, railed against the plan. He offered to save every man by force, robbing man of his agency. Satan drew a third of the host of heaven after him. At that point, the progress of Lucifer and his followers ended. They were denied bodies (and by inference, the possibility of resurrection) and cast out. All who have been born or will be born on earth accepted Heavenly Father’s plan and gained their second estate (or mortality). In mortality, Satan tempts man in an attempt to make him miserable, misery being separation from God.
- How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations (Isaiah 14: 12)!
- And was called Perdition, for the heavens wept over him—he was Lucifer, a son of the morning (Doctrine and Covenants 76: 26).
- ...an angel of God, according to that which is written, had fallen from heaven; wherefore, he became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God.
- And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind (2 Nephi 2:17, 18).
Mortality is a probationary state
Lance B. Wickman described mortality in this manner:
- It is a proving ground, a probationary state, a time to walk by faith, a time to prepare to meet God ... It is in nurturing humility (see Alma 32:6–21) and submissiveness (see Mosiah 3:19) that we may comprehend a fullness of the intended mortal experience and put ourselves in a frame of mind and heart to receive the promptings of the Spirit. Reduced to their essence, humility and submissiveness are an expression of complete willingness to let the “why” questions go unanswered for now, or perhaps even to ask, “Why not?” It is in enduring well to the end ... that we achieve this life’s purposes. I believe that mortality’s supreme test is to face the “why” and then let it go, trusting humbly in the Lord’s promise that “all things must come to pass in their time” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:32) (Lance B. Wickman, “But If Not,” Ensign, Nov. 2002, 30).
In comparison with the duration of eternity, mortality is a very brief time. Nevertheless, it is during mortality that we make the choices which will effect how we will spend the rest of eternity. In the words of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin "Mortality is very brief but immeasurably important" (“The Time to Prepare,” Ensign, May 1998, 14).