Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life’s star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar.
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory, do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (known to some by the nickname, the Mormon Church) has always taught that we each lived in heaven with God before we were born. Our life on earth is a short, but very important, step along the road of our eternal lives. So why are we here? Where did the universe we see around us come from?
Long before the earth was created, our Heavenly Father created our spiritual beings from eternal intelligences that had always existed. He gave us spiritual form, and we became His spirit children. In our pre-earth life we lived with Him, and we learned from Him all that we could. We desired to be as much like Him as possible.
But there were some things He had that He knew we could not obtain unless something changed. One important thing we were missing was a physical body, like the one our Heavenly Father possesses. Without a physical body, we could not manipulate physical matter like He could, and we could not experience physical emotions, including a fulness of joy. Another barrier to our becoming like our Father was that we could not really understand the difference between good and evil while we remained constantly in His presence. He is the ultimate Good, but we could not become good ourselves unless we had the chance to understand and choose between good and evil.
So our Heavenly Father presented to us a plan by which we could leave His presence, obtain physical bodies, learn to choose good over evil, and then return to live with Him again. Then we would be able to continue to grow to be more and more like Him, and experience a fulness of joy. In Heavenly Father’s plan, we would leave His presence and be born upon the earth. There we would gain the physical body and experiences we needed.
Heavenly Father knew that while we were on earth, we would become subject to sin and death, thus barring us from returning from Him. Satan, who originally was another one of our Father’s spirit children, rebelled against God and wanted to take away our ability to choose. He continues to fight against God and against us, hoping to lure us away from choosing good over evil. Rather than the joy our Heavenly Father wants us to experience, Satan wants us to be miserable like he is.
Because He knew we would all sin while we were away from Him, Heavenly Father sent Jesus Christ to atone for our sins. Through Jesus Christ’s atonement, we can be forgiven for our sins and made clean, allowing us to once again live in God’s presence. Through Christ’s resurrection, the bands of death have been broken, and we will eventually be resurrected ourselves, to spend eternity in immortal physical bodies. When we fully understand and choose good over evil, and possess physical bodies like God’s, we can experience the fulness of joy that He experiences.
Jesus Christ, the eldest of our Heavenly Father’s spirit children, was therefore essential to His plan. Jesus, under the direction of God the Father, created the earth and the heavens. Then He created the first man, Adam, and placed his spirit within his mortal body. The entire universe is God’s creation; He says he has created “worlds without number.” Mankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation. In The Pearl of Great Price, a book of scripture translated by Joseph Smith through revelation during the 19th century, there is an account written by Moses about his first experience with God. In Moses 1:39, God reveals why He created the earth, men’s spirits, and their physical bodies:
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
We are God’s greatest work. We are His glory. We are His children. Jesus Christ sacrificed His life, and suffered beyond anything we could imagine, to make it possible for us to return to live with God. God wants us to experience a fulness of joy. Every day of our lives, we should remember who we are, and what God has done for us.