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What Death Can Teach Us about Life

By Mormon.org
Grandmother and grandson

Life, Death, and Perspective

Learning to understand death is an important part of life. Sooner or later we all have to take a closer look at what awaits us, physically and spiritually. Thinking about the human condition of life and death from time to time is a healthy practice. It helps us keep what’s called an “eternal perspective,” which is like a bird’s-eye view of our existence that includes before birth, birth, life, death, and after death. This perspective can help us focus our limited time on earth on what really matters.

What Is Spiritual Death?

Spiritual death occurs when we are separated from our Father in Heaven. This occurs at birth, and the separation is furthered by our mortal tendency to sin. On a scale of perfection, God is at the top; He is unchanging and immovable. We, however, are variable, malleable, and constantly changing. During life, we either move up the scale toward Him and perfection, or we move down the scale and away from Him. The direction we travel is directly affected by our everyday choices. 

In the Book of Mormon, speaking of His Father, Jesus Christ taught that “no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom” (3 Nephi 27:19). If we want to close the gap between our Heavenly Father and ourselves, we have to work diligently to change, improve, and climb in His direction by doing good and following the commandments He has given. 

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

After we’re born, each of us spends a great deal of time either consciously or subconsciously searching for love, acceptance, and happiness—the kind we once knew before we were born. Knowing that our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, love us perfectly and are the only true source of the love and happiness we are searching for can save us from experiencing a lot of emptiness and disappointment in life. They are always only a prayer away, and Christ promised that if we seek Him, we shall find Him (see D&C 88:63). 

Experiencing an eternal separation from God is definitely the worst that could happen. The real purpose and challenge of life is forsaking the natural tendency to sin so we can be perfectly clean and re-enter His presence. We can’t do this on our own. That’s where the Savior comes in.

A Spiritual Shower

Repentance is the spiritual equivalent of taking a shower. It’s refreshing for the soul and helps us feel better. Just like our bodies benefit from regular cleansing, so do our spirits; and just like muddy feet are out of place on pristine carpet, unrepentant souls would feel out of place in God’s presence. 

Jesus Christ explained what is required of us. He said, “Therefore nothing entereth into [God’s] rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end” (3 Nephi 27:19). By humbling ourselves before the Savior and following the steps of repentance He has outlined, we can overcome spiritual death and eventually be reunited with God. 

Physical Death

We will all experience physical death, but crossing over to the other side will likely be much less traumatic than the separation from God we experienced at birth. The Book of Mormon teaches that “the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow” (Alma 40:12). This is where we will await final judgment and resurrection as taught by the Savior. There are a lot of challenges in life; it can be comforting to know there’s happiness, peace, and rest around the corner for our loved ones and ourselves.

Physical death is the end of something temporary. Spiritual death has the potential to be eternal. This is why using this life to learn of God and Christ and obey Their commandments is so important.  In the Book of Mormon, Amulek taught that “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). Through hard work, repentance, and the grace of God, we can triumph over death—both spiritual and physical.