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by Elder Bruce R. McConkie

The life of the body is in the soul; that is, the conscious, sentient, knowing intelligent part of the human personality is resident in the spirit, in the eternal part of man, in the part which is the literal offspring of an Omnipotent Father. And as it is with man, so it is with animals, fowls, fishes, and every living creature, an even with the earth itself -- all have life; and in each instance the life is resident in the spirit part of the created thing, for "all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made." (Moses 3:7.) Life is manifest in four distinct states of existence.

1. PRE-EXISTENT LIFE. -- Life began with the birth of the spirit in pre-existence; it began when the spirit element (or intelligence) was so arranged as to become one of "the intelligences that were organized before the world was." (Abra. 3:22.) My notion or theory that life, or ego, or agency, existed for each individual prior to the time of the spirit birth is pure speculation, wholly unsupported by any correctly understood and properly interpreted scripture. Life began for man and for all created things at the time of their respective spirit creations. Before that there were only the spirit elements from which the Almighty would in due course create life. In the sense that spirits never die or go out of existence, life is unending or eternal. (Improvement Era, vol. 13, pp. 75-81.)

2. MORTAL LIFE. -- It is this state of existence to which reference is usually made when the term life is used. Mortal life consists in the temporary union of body and spirit. The natural or temporal death is brought to pass by the separation of body and spirit. In this sense life ceases when death comes. Thus the revelations speak of the end of life (D. & C. 19:25, 32), of preserving the life of some (D. & C. 25:2; 63:3), and of laying down one's life in the gospel cause. (D. & C. 98:13-14.) Life and death are set forth as two opposite things (D. & C. 50:5, 8), and men are expected while in this life to gain knowledge and intelligence so that their acquirements can be restored to them in the life to come. (D. & C. 130:18-19.)

In the sense that mortality is the great probationary period of eternal existence, in the sense that "this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God" (Alma 34:32), this life becomes the most important part of all eternity. In it we take the final examination for all the life we lived in pre-existence, and in it we take the entrance examination which will determine the kingdom of glory we shall inherit in the life hereafter.

But in the sense that spiritual realities and qualifications far excel temporal things in importance, this life is not of great worth as compared with the gospel and salvation. "All they who suffer persecution for my name, and endure in faith," the Lord says, "though they are called to lay down their lives for my sake yet shall they partake of all this glory [that of the millennial era]. Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full. Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul." (D. & C. 101:35-37; 103:27-28.) Our Lord, of course, "gave his own life" as part of the great plan of redemption. (D. & C. 34:3.) "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13.)

It was also in accordance with this principle, which compares the relative worth of temporal and spiritual things, that our Lord said to the Nephite Twelve: "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" (3 Ne. 13:25; Matt. 6:25.)

"The life of the flesh is in the blood" (Lev. 17:11), meaning that according to the laws which are ordained, mortal life ceases when the blood is shed. But in the full and eternal sense, life exists in the world in and through and because of Christ. He is the life of the world. (D. & C. 10:70; 12:9; 34:2; 39:2; 45:7; 3 Ne. 9:18; 11:11; Ether 4:12; John 1:4; 14:6.) "In him was the life of men and the light of men." (D. & C. 93:9.) Except for the light of Christ, the life-giving power which proceeds from his presence to fill the immensity of space (D. & C. 88:12), life and being would cease. He is literally the light of the world and the life of the world in that life and light come because of him and without him they would not exist.

3. LIFE IN THE SPIRIT WORLD. -- At death the eternal spirit merely steps out of the mortal tabernacle and enters a world of waiting spirits to await the day of the resurrection. The spirit, which lived before in pre-existence lives on after death. In this sense, there is no death and there are no dead. Our departed fellow mortals only seem dead unto us because they have gone into another realm of existence where we can no longer see and associate with them.

4. IMMORTAL LIFE. -- By definition, as we most generally use the term, immortality is to live forever in a resurrected state, body and spirit being inseparably connected. There is no end to life. Christ, for instance, is "without beginning of days or end of life." (D. & C. 78:16.) Resurrected beings "shall not any more see death." (D. & C. 88:116.)

(See Basic Beliefs home page; Doctrines of the Gospel home page)

Mormon Doctrine, p. 444
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