Many years ago, the Osmonds, a Mormon family who captured the hearts of millions with their music and their close-knit family, created an album that explained Mormon beliefs in musical terms. One song concerned the questions so many people ask today—why should we love life if there is no plan? The man featured in the song said he had trouble believing God would put us here with no understanding of why we are here. Life makes no sense unless we understand the plan—and there is a plan.
Mormon is a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jesus Christ, at the center of the church’s name, is also at the center of the Church’s teachings on the Plan of Salvation, or, as many call it today, the Great Plan of Happiness.
To understand the plan God has for us, we have to turn to what happened before we were born, before the world was even created. The Bible tells us we lived before we came to Earth.
“The spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7).
In this verse we might be surprised to see the word “return.” We can’t return to a place we’ve never been, so we now understand our spirits lived with God before we were born. Mormons believe God created our spirits and then we lived with Him for a time before the Earth was formed. This makes Him our literal Father in Heaven and also helps to explain why He knows us so well. Jeremiah learned that God indeed knew each of us very well before we were born:
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations (Jeremiah 1:5).
We learn here that during Jeremiah’s time in a premortal existence, he was so righteous and so dependable God was able to foreordain him to be a prophet on Earth. God knew that even the challenges of mortality would not make Jeremiah unrighteous.
During our time with God, we learned about the plan He had for us. We knew we’d have to leave home eventually—children always do if they want to grow as much as possible and find out who they are when their parents aren’t right there with them. We built our relationship with God and our personalities and decided how much obeying God really meant to us. When it was time for the next stage, God called us altogether to a great council meeting to remind us of the plan we had always known about. In this meeting, we were told it was time and we reviewed the purpose of the next stage of life.
On Earth, we would receive our bodies and a family. We would forfeit our memory of our premortality because one of the things we had to do was to learn faith—and we wouldn’t need faith if we knew for certain God lived and we had once lived with Him. We would have trials that would help us to grow and to become everything we needed to be, everything God knew we could be. However, it would be our reaction to the trials that would decide how effective they were. If we chose to let God help us handle our trials well and to teach us, we would progress. If we chose to let them beat us down…that was our choice, but we would lose the blessings that came from letting them help us.
We would not come here alone. God would send with us the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Ghost to help us make wise choices if we chose to consult them. These gifts would also help us recognize truth when we heard it if we chose to ask whether or not something was true.
God also promised us a Savior to balance justice and mercy. Justice would require we live a perfect, sinless life in order to return home to God. This would not actually be possible for mortals. For this reason, He offered us a Savior who would come to Earth half mortal and half divine, and therefore able to live a sinless life. This Savior, with no sins of His own, would choose to atone for ours, making it possible for us to return to God. He would also willingly die, despite not needing to, and then to be resurrected, breaking the bonds of death. The Lord Jesus Christ volunteered for this service.
There was opposition to this plan because it involved risk, and many people, even then, hated risk. Some wanted a plan that guaranteed them a return home. For this to happen, of course, we would not be able to have agency, something we had enjoyed from the first day. Someone would have to control our every action so we couldn’t sin. This would render life on Earth pointless, since we would not need faith and would not face trials and choices designed to help us grow. However, Lucifer led the campaign for this method and for him to be chosen as the leader or savior. However, he was unwilling to suffer for anyone, which explains why he preferred to control our actions. He also insisted we would have to thank him by worshiping only him, in essence taking over God’s role in our lives. Happily, two-thirds of us were too wise to accept such a meaningless method of life and chose to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. The remainder chose Lucifer and, with him, were cast out of Heaven, destined to follow him forever. They would not be allowed to come to earth or to benefit from the atonement.
God discussed this with Job and it is recorded in the Bible.
4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38)
Where was Job when the world was created? He was with the rest of us, shouting for joy. God would not have asked the question if Job had not existed at that time.
When we understand the plan God has for us, life on earth makes sense. While life is not always easy, and is sometimes even extraordinarily difficult, there is a purpose to it. The blessings for getting through life, for choosing to have faith, for choosing to have joy in the face of adversity, are great. The reward is to return home to God, this time to stay forever. Mormons believe all but a very few will be admitted to some portion of Heaven and enjoy the rewards of their willingness to come to Earth and to trust God and His plan.