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Your life didn’t begin at birth and it won’t end at death. Before you came to earth, your spirit lived with Heavenly Father who created you. You knew Him, and He knew and loved you. It was a happy time during which you were taught God’s plan of happiness and the path to true joy. But just as most of us leave our home and parents when we grow up, God knew you needed to do the same. He knew you couldn’t progress unless you left for a while. So he allowed you to come to earth to experience the joy—as well as pain—of a physical body.
One thing that makes this life so hard sometimes is that we’re out of God’s physical presence. Not only that, but we can’t remember our pre-earth life which means we have to operate by faith rather than sight. God didn’t say it would be easy, but He promised His spirit would be there when we needed Him. Even though it feels like it sometimes, we’re not alone in our journey.
That doesn’t mean He expects you to be perfect. He knows you won’t be. But He does expect that while you’re here on earth you try to the best of your ability to be more like Him and that you learn and grow from your mistakes. Each time you make a poor choice with painful consequences, that decision leads to unhappiness—sometimes immediately, sometimes much later. Likewise, choosing good eventually leads to happiness and helps you become more like Heavenly Father.
Just as God created the earth as a place for you to live and gain experience, He created you. And gave you a body of flesh and blood in the likeness of His glorified body. In the Old Testament God said, "Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness" (Genesis 1:26). Jacob declared that he had seen God "face to face" (Genesis 32:30). Moses also spoke with God "face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend" (Exodus 33:11). In the New Testament, when the resurrected Christ appeared to His Apostles, He told them, "Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke 24:39).
As God’s first children on earth, Adam and Eve were living in their garden paradise. They didn’t feel any sorrow or pain, which might seem nice, except that without it, they also couldn’t feel joy. They didn’t remember their pre-earth life. If they hadn’t eaten the forbidden fruit, they would have lived like that forever and never had children. Mankind never would have been born or the world populated.
As we know, Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan’s temptations to eat the fruit and disobeyed God who had commanded them not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As a consequence, they were separated from God’s presence physically and spiritually—an event we refer to as the Fall. They became mortal—just as we are—subject to sin, disease, all types of suffering, and ultimately death. But it wasn’t all bad because they could now feel great joy. "Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." (2 Nephi 2:25) But as they were obedient to the Gospel of Jesus Christ Adam and Eve were able to receive God’s inspiration, revelation, and even visits from heavenly messengers.
Once out of the garden, they were able to progress and learn to become more like our Heavenly Father. In addition, they could have children, which meant the rest of God’s spirit children (all of us) could come to Earth, experience physical bodies, and be proven by our daily choices. Just like Adam and Eve, there are consequences to all our choices, good or bad. Lasting happiness and progression come from choosing to do what God wants us to do. The key word is "choosing." Generally God does not step in and prevent us from making the poor choices Satan tempts us to make. He will, however, offer his love, divine guidance, and warnings when we open our heart to Him.
We often fall into the trap of thinking a new car, job promotion, beauty makeover, or some level of fame will make us happy. And often they do—for a time. But it never lasts because wealth, power, beauty and fame simply don’t bring lasting happiness, as much as we wish they would. Rather, true happiness comes from following Christ’s example and developing Godlike attributes such as goodness, love, justice and mercy. It comes from serving others and helping them to follow the example and teachings of Jesus Christ. It comes from overcoming the appetites of our human bodies and instead following the promptings of the Spirit. It comes from working hard and having a healthy lifestyle, friends, family, and personal achievements. Regardless of what you do or don’t have in this life, your deepest, most lasting happiness will come from knowing God’s plan and following it.
We get sick. Loved ones die. We lose our job or home. Our spouse is unfaithful. It’s hard not to ask why God allows us to suffer so much. Know that while God takes no pleasure in your suffering, your difficulties, regardless of their cause, can bring you closer to Him and even make you stronger if you endure faithfully (2 Nephi 2:2, Revelation 3:19).
It’s comforting to know that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, suffered all things. He understands your pain and can help you through your trials. When you have faith in God and His plan, you can be assured that there’s a purpose to all that happens to you here on earth. Our time here is short compared to our eternal life. As the Lord told Joseph Smith during a period of intense suffering:
Coping with calamities can strengthen you and make you more compassionate. It can help you learn, grow and want to serve others. Dealing with adversity is one of the chief ways you’re tested and tutored in your life here on Earth. Our loving Heavenly Father has the ability to compensate us for any injustices we may be called upon to endure in this mortal life. If we endure faithfully He will reward us beyond our ability to comprehend in the life to come (1 Corinthians 2:9). Amazingly, with God’s help you can experience joy even in times of trial, and face life’s challenges with a spirit of peace.
Your mistakes might be as simple as hurting your friend’s feelings, or a sin far more serious. Seeing the pain we’ve caused and feeling the misery of remorse, shame and guilt can sometimes be overwhelming and devastating. We wonder if we can ever overcome our mistakes and feel the peace of being forgiven. We unequivocally can, because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the process of repentance. We can confess our sins to God and ask His forgiveness. And he’s promised that He’ll "remember them no more" (Doctrine and Covenants 58:42). It works because Heavenly Father sent his son, Jesus Christ, to voluntarily suffer and pay for our sins and sorrows by atoning for them Himself. We can’t fully understand how Jesus suffered for our sins. But we know that in the Garden of Gethsemane, the weight of our sins caused Him such agony that He bled from every pore (Luke 22:39-44) . Later, as He hung upon the cross, Jesus willingly suffered painful death by one of the cruelest methods ever known (Alma 7:11).
However, His mental and spiritual anguish went well beyond the pains of the cross. The Savior tells us, "For behold, I . . . have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer . . . even as I" (Doctrine and Covenants 19:16–17).
In addition to asking God’s forgiveness, He also wants us to ask forgiveness of those we’ve harmed, see if we can repair the damage, and promise not to repeat the same mistakes. Then we can move forward feeling God’s love and the incredible peace and joy that come from being fully forgiven.
To make His Atonement fully effective in your life, you need to:
Picture your hand inside a glove. The glove moves only when your hand does. Take your hand out and the glove sits lifeless on the table. This is an easy way to visualize what happens when you die. Imagine your body is the glove being operated by who you really are—your spirit. When you die your body gets left behind, lifeless like a glove, but your spirit lives forever.
Countless scriptures and personal accounts by prophets throughout time have told us this is true.
When you’re the one left behind—the one losing a friend or loved one—the pain of that loss is very real. But there’s a lot of comfort in knowing you’ll see him or her again. And because of Christ’s death, at some point our spirit and body will be reunited (resurrected) and made perfect never to be separated again.
Most of us would probably say we want to live forever. That’s exactly what God gave to each of us when He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die for us and to atone for our sins. It’s called resurrection and everyone born on earth, even wicked people, will receive this gift of immortality (1 Corinthians 15:22).
On the third day after His Crucifixion, Jesus Christ became the first person to be resurrected. His spirit was reunited with His glorified, perfected body and He could no longer die. When Christ’s friends went to visit His tomb, angels said, "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said" (Matthew 28:6).
Yes! God will judge all men fairly and reward them appropriately with a place within His kingdom.