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The Rod and the Veil, by Franz Johansen (1975, cast bronze and resin, 87" x 99"). "The figure reaching through the veil suggests those in the spirit world concerned about our progress in mortality; the iron rod itself, reaching into both spheres, is the sure guide through mortality upon which all of us, like the slipping boy, must struggle to retain a firm grip (artist's description). Church Museum of History and Art.

by James P. Bell

Mortality is not viewed as a curse by Latter-day Saints, but as an opportunity and an essential stage in progress toward obtaining exaltation. The ultimate purpose of the period of mortality from birth to death is to prepare to meet God with a resurrected body of glory (John 5:25-29; Alma 12:24). Death is a temporary separation of the body and the spirit, and, for those who have striven to live in accordance with God's commandments, is not something to be feared: "Fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full" (D&C 101:36; cf. Mosiah 16:7; D&C 42:46).

Although mortality is a temporary stage of life, it is essential for an individual's eternal progression for two reasons. First, it is necessary to receive a physical body. God the Father, in his perfected state, has a body of flesh and bone, as does the Son (Luke 24:36-39; D&C 130:22). Mortal men and women, as the spirit offspring of God, also gain physical bodies in mortality that are indispensable to their progress, and will rise in the resurrection and be perfected (Job 19:25-26; Luke 24:39). Without a physical body one cannot have a fulness of joy.

Second, this life is a period of development and probation, a time to overcome temptation or inclinations toward sin and corruption (Mosiah 3:19; see Natural Man). Such inclinations can be given up through repentance, the Atonement, and agency (Mosiah 5:2). Mortals experience opposites—good and evil, happiness and bitterness, joy and misery—and have the opportunity to live true to the commandments and teachings of God. Opposition is a fundamental feature of mortality, where human actions and choices are made within the possibility of doing wrong, where acceptance of the commandments and teachings of God is done in the face of opposition and temptation. While Latter-day Saints do not believe that perfection is possible in this life, they believe in working toward it in response to the injunction of Jesus Christ to "Be ye therefore perfect" (Matt. 5:48; cf. 3 Ne. 12:48). Through repentance and obedience they try to resist the temptations that beset them.

Inasmuch as mortal existence is a time of learning in order to make the greatest progress, each individual first must accept by faith the validity of God's commandments and teachings, and then through experience gain a knowledge of their truth. People exercise agency in how they live their lives, even as they respond to the Spirit of Christ, which is given to all born into mortality. Thus all have the ability, when given proper instruction, including associations with those who are examples of the light and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to recognize and understand the laws of God (D&C 84:45-46; Moro. 7:16).

To all who are willing and who make the effort, mortality provides a vast opportunity for learning, for overcoming weaknesses, for repenting of wrongdoing, for correcting mistakes, for increasing in wisdom, and for progressing toward God. Eve recognized this when she declared that were it not for her and Adam's transgression, the human race "never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient" (Moses 5:11).

[See also Birth; Death and Dying; Evil; Joy; Life and Death, Spiritual; Man; Premortal Life; Purpose of Earth Life; Basic Beliefs home page; Doctrines of the Gospel home page; The Fall of Adam home page)


Smith, Joseph Fielding. DS 1:56-71.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 3, Mortality

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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