Before birth, every human being lived with God. God was the father of our spirits, and we therefore call him Our Heavenly Father.
The plan of salvation would allow each of God’s children to come to earth and receive a physical body. During our time on earth, be it short or long, we would be tried and tested. We would have the opportunity to learn to distinguish between good and evil, and to choose the good.
Receiving a body and learning to choose good without being forced to do so would make us more like our Heavenly Father.
However, God knew that we would not always choose the right. We would make mistakes and we would sin–sometimes inadvertently, and sometimes intentionally. These sins would keep us from returning to God, because we could not bear to be in his presence if we were tainted by sin. As the Book of Mormon explains,
I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell. For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you. (Mormon 9:4-5)
To help us overcome physical death (the loss of our bodies) and spiritual death (suffering and separation from God because of sin), God sent his son Jesus Christ to earth to be our Savior. Jesus was the only one of God’s children to live a perfect, sinless life. He showed us by example how to return to God. He also willingly suffered pain and death for all humanity in the garden of Gethsemane and upon the cross. After three days, his spirit and body were reunited–he was resurrected. We call the victory of Jesus over death and sin the atonement.
Jesus has completed the atonement. We must now follow the plan of happiness to make it effective in our lives. We must follow the example of Jesus Christ. One thing which Christ taught us to do is to receive ordinances.
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