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What Is the Meaning of Life?

Why am I here? Does my life have meaning? Do I have a purpose? Research shows that nearly 40 percent of Americans feel they don’t understand life’s purpose or that they don’t have a sense of personal meaning (see Emily Esfahani Smith, “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy,” theatlantic.com).

Many seek fulfillment through personal achievements or service to others, but those are just part of the answer. Scriptures explain that God has a plan for all of us. Your life is significant to God, to others, and to your eternal future.

Your life is significant to God

God has a plan for you

Your life didn’t start the day you were born. Your story goes back to when you were in heaven, where you existed as a spirit with God and the rest of His children. As your Heavenly Father, God loves you and wants you to be with Him, but He has expectations for all of His family to meet before they return to Him. In order for us to gain understanding and to mature, God knew that we needed certain experiences in mortal life—we needed to receive a physical body and have the chance to face challenges, make choices, and prove our spiritual capacity and integrity. God’s plan is not random. It is carefully designed to give you the experiences you need to return to Him again as a better person. As the Bible explains, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

God is watching over you

During His ministry, Jesus assured people that God the Father is aware of all things on this earth—even something as small as a sparrow. “Fear ye not therefore,” He promised, for “ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). God knows you personally. He knows what you’re up against because He prepared your life’s path. Like a mortal parent, God does not always intervene in your life—He lets you learn as you use your agency and make choices—but He does give direct help through His commandments, through the holy scriptures, and through prophets who speak on His behalf. And the most powerful assistance from God comes through the Holy Ghost, who provides guidance and unmistakable assurance of God’s love.

God expects you to grow

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma explained the purpose of life to his son: “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors” (Alma 34:32). In the parable of the talents (see Matthew 25:14–30), Jesus taught that God has blessed us with gifts and skills. Whether your advantages are few or many, you are expected to make the most of what you’ve been given. But that doesn’t mean putting personal accomplishments first; it means using your skills, opportunities, and circumstances to fulfill God’s purpose for your life.

Your life is significant to others

You are loved

God’s plan involves a built-in support system for you—your family. From the moment you are born, a family gives you physical care and protection. More important, your family is a source of love, ideally nurturing your spirit as your Heavenly Father would. Knowing you are loved gives added meaning to life. Furthermore, showing your love to your family as well as to others brings you closer to God and helps you better understand His plan. As the Bible teaches, “Let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 John 4:7).

You are blessing others right now.

Your family needs you in your particular role as parent, child, sibling, or spouse. The way you uphold your family values has a direct impact on your family’s behavior, decisions, and even happiness. But your family members are not the only ones that you influence. Your actions, example, and service affect many people around you, both directly and indirectly. What you do counts. As King Benjamin, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, explained, “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). Interacting with God’s other children is part of His plan for you, too.

Your life is significant to your eternal happiness

You will experience good and bad things in life.

You were born in order to get a physical body, make decisions on your own, and prove to God that you can live in a way that allows you to come back to Him. God’s plan may sound easy, but anyone can tell you that life is full of both ups and downs. God doesn’t like to see you stumble or sorrow, but He knows that your experiences in life will refine you. You can choose to make the best of the most trying circumstances, and you can become better because of them. God will be there to support you along the way.

You can prove who you are.

You are a child of God, and your Heavenly Father wants to give you His support. You must be willing to reach out for that help. This means believing that God is there and that He loves you and wants to help you. With this knowledge, you are equipped to pray, find answers to your personal questions in the scriptures, and feel the truth of God’s plan through the power of the Holy Ghost so that you can follow Him. The Apostle Paul explained in the New Testament, “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

You can follow God’s plan.

With faith in God comes a greater desire to know Him. And the more you understand His plan, the more you realize you can’t make it back to God alone. This life can be tough, and you will make mistakes, but your Heavenly Father still wants you to return to Him. Even though “no unclean thing can dwell with God” (1 Nephi 10:21), He made it possible for every sin, every mistake you make during this test of life to disappear and be forgotten. It takes sincere repentance. It takes baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost for guidance. And it takes continuous effort to return to God. But through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the center of God’s plan, you can do it. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

You can find joy.

Returning to God means that “ye shall have fulness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full” (3 Nephi 28:10). Joy is the ultimate purpose of God’s plan, yet we can experience the happiness God has in store for us now. Obeying God’s commandments promises joy, for “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). By the choices you make, you control much of the happiness in your life. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing,” Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wrote, “the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way” (Man’s Search for Meaning [1959], 86). You are on this earth to make choices, to discover God and His blessings, and to be happy. In God’s plan you have a purpose: “Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).

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