Life's purpose is to increase in spiritual power by the cultivation of faith in God.
I make sense of the purpose of life through the framework of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One of its tenets includes the pre-mortal existence of mankind in the presence of God, "For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth...for in heaven created I them". In this state, we had a consciousness of the goodness of God and accepted the transition to a mortal existence. Since early Sunday School, children learn that the purpose of life is to come to earth to get a natural body and gain experience by
learning and growth. I have heard this narrative so many times it is now trite and serves me little in trying to make sense of life's purpose. Therefore, I emphasize different aspects of revealed teachings to create my own guide. I center it in the development of faith in Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith, who I accept as a prophet equivalent to Abraham, Noah, Moses or Peter, taught that faith is a principle of power, "But faith is not only the principle of action, but of power also, in all intelligent beings, whether in heaven or on earth". I believe for those God first created spiritually to increase in power, He designed an environment for them to exercise faith.
My own efforts to develop faith independent of my parents began as a teenager. After months and months of spiritual searching in prayer and scripture study, I received a powerful spiritual experience through the Holy Ghost that confirmed to me the existence of God and His awareness and concern for me. It increased my confidence to continue to outreach to Him and I not infrequently received further assurances. As a full time missionary for almost two years, my faith expanded as I received immediate answers to my prayers. As my faith in Jesus Christ swelled, I felt the spiritual power of which Joseph Smith spoke and had a strong sense of the purpose of life. Then, at some undetected point, I entered a new phase of a development of faith.
God turned Deist on me, or at least He seemed to deal with me more like a clockmaker who set His world in motion and declines to intervene in its happenings. Without deviating from my usual efforts of prayer, scripture study and meaningful worship, I sometimes feel like God leaves me alone. I am sure of His existence and do not believe His concern for me has changed, but He has provided fewer and less immediate assurances to me of His involvement. At this same time, I have become more mindful of life's inequalities and tragedies. Often the self absorbed enjoy the comforts of marriage and family when the best swallow the pains of loneliness and neglect. Sometimes the promiscuous produce unwanted children when committed married couples taste the emptiness of infertility. Some inattentive parents overlook their children when involved parents bury theirs. The Mississippi overcomes homes, tornados demolish an Alabama town when tsunamis engulf and kill thousands in Japan. And some of the most admirable people in my life suffer with cancer when others live superficially, seeking to be incessantly entertained. Where is God? Is He still far removed?
This is the wrestling phase of my faith's development and I see it as key in the purpose of my life; the cultivation of faith and the increase of spiritual power. This is where I have come to better know God. My faith is not irrational. Every day it is a decision. I analyze the evidence available to me and form a conclusion. Though I may feel little or no reciprocation from Him, I choose to piece together many past assurances from Him and choose to continue in trust. Life's purpose is to increase in spiritual power by the cultivation of faith in God. This comes not in the instant gratification to prayer requests or in knowing that every life question has a direct answer. It is also not in the perfectly equivalent servings of blessings based on faithfulness. Faith and therefore spiritual power comes by wrestling before God. It is in having just as many reasons to withdraw my reach to Him and walk away, but in choosing to increase confidence in Him, even when I feel He leaves me alone. The purpose of life is to have the opportunity and the right to walk away and the deliberate choice to stay. In that, there is spiritual power.
Life's purpose is to change from selfishness to godliness.
By faith, I participate in the process of exterminating the rats within me. C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, "If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding." In the times of my life when God has been very quick to answer me, I was less aware of the existence of any rats. They were easily hid when I decided to open the cellar. When I have felt God leave me alone is when the cellar door has been thrown open. It has been then I can see my impatience, sense of entitlement or my self-pity. The purpose of life is to access the power of God by faith to change these rats to their inverse form, patience, gratitude and humility. The purpose of life is to provide me with the opportunity to use the power of God to diminish my ego and to have repeated opportunity to avoid re-inflating it. The purpose of life is to draw on God's power by faith to have the secret imaginations of my heart be infused with virtue and integrity, rather than self-aggrandizement or pride. As I increase in faith in God, I feel empowered to be open, authentic, discerning and giving and I welcome God's all-searching eye to pierce my heart.
This process is both deeply inward looking and interdependent on the people around me. If I were to withdraw from the world into a lonely cave, I may be able to dig out the rats of the dark secrets of my own heart, but how will I have opportunity to develop compassion, patience and kindness? How will I share in the grief of a close friend who lost their brother or help relieve the burden of someone devastated by a natural disaster? The purpose of life is to draw on the power of God by faith to turn from selfishness to godliness. I cannot accomplish such a tremendous change. It only comes as I consistently outreach to God to endow me with such power. The power to change comes by faith.
Life's purpose is to build eternal relationships.
I was beginning to ponder the meaning of life when I was assigned "sealings" on my bimonthly shift at the Washington, D.C. Temple. Because of the belief that each person on the earth must receive gospel ordinances administered by God's priesthood authority, Latter-day Saints perform proxy ordinances in the Temple for the deceased, which will take effect only if accepted on the other side by the person passed away. Unique to Latter-day Saint belief is that God intended marriage to endure beyond the grave and this authority to "bind on earth and binds in heaven" has been restored in our time. I was not paying close attention to those in the sealing room as we administered the sealing ordinance for deceased people, but one fellow Temple worker joked about the meaning of life. My attention turned quickly to him, thinking it was curious this topic would come up when I was deeply considering it. He had asked the question in jest and another Temple worker responded with a playful point. Then the responder became serious saying, "I think the meaning of life is embedded in this ordinance." It took me back because it opened my mind to a thought I had yet to consider. The best way to increase in the power of faith is to live in a covenant relationship with God, which happens when two people agree to live in marriage. In marriage, there could be many reasons to withdraw and walk away, but when they choose to increase in confidence and trust in each other and in God, even when they feel left alone, they deepen in their commitment and are positioned to see an increase in faith and power. In building a marriage that will last beyond the grave, each person has to draw on the power of God by faith to change selfishness to godliness because their weaknesses are heightened as they deeply affect another person. Sacrifice in marriage inherently invites the increase of power by faith to become more like God. In this way, we can better know Him. We are brought closer to Him as we become more like Him in the sharing of His power by faith. The purpose of life is to build eternal relationships.
The purpose of life is to wrestle with God, become more like Him and create and nourish relationships that extend through the plains of eternity. I want to live my life aligned with these purposes so that I can live with peace. It first starts with my mind and my heart.
What do you think? Does life have a purpose? If so, how do you view and explain it?
 Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith (American Fork: Covenant Communications, 2000), 2.
 "It may seem to some to be a very bold doctrine that we talk of--a power which records or binds on earth and binds in heaven. Nevertheless, in all ages of the world, whenever the Lord has given a dispensation of the priesthood to any man by actual revelation, or any set of men, this power has always been given. Hence, whatsoever those men did in authority, in the name of the Lord, and did it truly and faithfully, and kept a proper and faithful record of the same, it became a law on earth and in heaven, and could not be annulled, according to the decrees of the great Jehovah. This is a faithful saying. Who can hear it?" (Doctrine & Covenants 128:9)
Tags: "Mormon Church", building eternal relationships, faith in Jesus Christ, mind and heart, mormon beliefs, Mormon Temple, putting off the natural man through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, romantic love, Temple marriage, truth seekers