To describe the trajectory of human existence, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints uses the term “plan of salvation.” This “plan” refers to the design God has employed to help us grow, learn and experience joy. It addresses the fundamental questions “Where did we come from?” “Why are we here?” and “Where are we going?”
Latter-day Saint scripture teaches that all human beings are children of God and lived with Him before this earth life. Out of love for us, as well as a desire to help us become more like Him, God presented a plan by which we could obtain physical bodies and a period of earthly experience. Central to this “plan of salvation” was the role of Jesus Christ. As the Savior, He would help mankind overcome the costs of our mortal learning — namely, sin, or separation from God — through repentance, forgiveness, ordinances, keeping covenants and following His teachings and example. Through Christ, all God’s children have the opportunity to ultimately return to His presence.
This earth life grants us physical bodies and experiences that enable us to learn and grow. Through myriad challenges, gifts and unique circumstances, we exercise our God-given right to make choices and live in ways that draw us closer to God, or away from God. Because we inherit bodies and environments that are subject to weakness, we all sin, or fall short of our divine potential. All human beings, however, have the resources that enable them to progress by following Jesus Christ, no matter their circumstances or limitations. In addition to Christ’s grace and access to God’s help, all are endowed with a conscience that helps them discern right from wrong. God has also provided teachings and guidance throughout the course of history, through prophets and apostles and their writings (scriptures). These prophets and apostles, such as Moses, Isaiah, Peter and Paul, impart doctrines that teach us how to follow God and live like Him. Additionally, God’s chosen servants are given authority to perform ordinances (sacred rites such as baptism), which often involve making promises or covenants with God. Latter-day Saints believe God called Joseph Smith in 1830 as a latter-day prophet to restore God’s ordinances and teachings. They believe in Christ’s promise that by following the Savior’s teachings, all can have a more joyful and abundant life and will be prepared to return to God’s presence.
Postmortal Life (Afterlife)
At death, our spirit leaves our deceased body. While our bodies remain on the earth, our spirits will reside in a state of rest or in a state of learning until the day of resurrection and judgment. These states have been called respectively “spirit paradise” and “spirit prison”; in the latter, those who never learned about Christ’s teachings or received His ordinances will have the opportunity to do so. At the time of resurrection, all mankind will be restored to their physically perfected forms. All will be judged by a perfectly merciful and just God. Latter-day Saint scripture also teaches that in our resurrected state, we will have a perfect knowledge of our past actions and desires; based on these, we will inherit a place in a realm of glory corresponding to our faithfulness. Building upon the Apostle Paul’s teachings to the Corinthians, Latter-day Saint doctrine teaches that there are three degrees of glory: the celestial, terrestrial and telestial. While all human beings will receive the gift of eternal life, or an eternal union of the body and spirit, God desires for us to live in such a way that we also receive the gift of exaltation — eternal life with our families in God’s presence in the celestial kingdom.
See also Heaven