Summary: There are two parts to our life on earth. There is the temporal side that involves doing the everyday tasks of living, and then there is the spiritual side that involves progressing to become more like God. As Christians, we try to blend our temporal life with our spiritual life, but in our mind we tend to look at these as being different from one another. However, we’ve been taught that the reason we came to earth was to learn how to become more like our Father in heaven. Then what does our temporal life have to do with helping us do that? This article seeks to answer that question.
Each Sunday Christians go to church to worship God, sing praises to him, and hear sermons on how to live a Christ-centered life, and when the services are over, they go home to live their regular life.
Whether it’s going to work, doing grocery shopping, paying bills, doing yard work, repairing the car, doing maintenance on our homes, or just watching television, being involved with our particular hobbies, or engaging in other relaxing activities, all of these and more is what makes up our regular, temporal life in mortality.
If we have children, then there are the responsibilities of caring for their needs, such as helping them with their schoolwork, buying their clothing, school supplies, taking care of them when they’re sick, and supporting them in their recreational activities such as sports, music, dance, or other things they’re involved with.
In addition to this there are the everyday, mundane tasks that have to be done such as cooking food, cleaning dishes, washing clothes, straightening up the house, taking out the trash, and other similar chores. All of these things and much more are part of everyday life, which takes up the great majority of our time and occupies much of our thinking.
Then there is the spiritual side of our life, which includes going to church, reading the scriptures, praying and remembering to do such things as being honest in our dealings with people, showing kindness to those we come in contact with, and looking for opportunities to share the gospel message with people we meet.
As Christians we try to blend our regular pursuits of life with our spiritual beliefs, but in our mind, we imagine that we’re actually doing two different things at the same time. On the one hand there is our spiritual life, and on the other hand there is our everyday, mundane, activities of living with all of its attendant responsibilities and worries.
We can think of this like eating a meal. On our plate we have a slice of meat, some mashed potatoes, and a helping of our favorite vegetables. Although each of these are all together on one plate yet they are each separate and distinct from one another, each with their own separate and distinct tastes and texture.
And that’s the way we eat them. We have a bite of meat, and after we’ve savored its taste and swallowed that, then we have a spoonful of mashed potatoes, and when that has been swallowed, we next eat some vegetables. In this way we get to savor each individual food separately, one at a time.
However, we’ve been taught that the reason we came to earth was to learn how to become more like our Father in heaven. But how does buying groceries, maintaining a home, fixing a car, or cleaning a house help us to do that? In the minds of the great majority of people, it doesn’t.
Even though our spiritual and temporal lives exist together, the great majority of people see very little connection between these two very different kinds of activities. As a result, Christians enjoy each one separate and distinct from each other. In fact, many Christians view Sundays as a day to rest from our temporal labors so we can spend more time being more fully engaged in spiritual activities.
Then there are those who view the drudgery of mortality as being something we have to endure while looking forward to resting from our earthly cares as our reward in heaven for keeping the commandments. To these people, life on earth is a test to see if we will not be distracted or tempted by all the worldly things we have to contend with.
We can liken this attitude to riding a coal-fired train in the old west, where the ride was long and boring, with black coal-ash spewing forth from the engine’s smokestack, covering everything in soot behind it. From this point of view, our life on earth has little meaning except as an obstacle to overcome as we journey on our way to our heavenly destination.
However, the Lord has explained, “Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created. Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual” (D&C 29:34,35).
President Joseph Fielding Smith has explained, “The temporal salvation of the children of men is a most important thing, but sadly neglected by many religious teachers. The truth is that the spiritual salvation is dependent upon the temporal far more than most men realize…. The Lord has said that he has not given a temporal commandment at any time. To men some of these commandments may be temporal, but they are spiritual to the Lord because they all have a bearing on the spiritual or eternal welfare of mankind.” (2002 Doctrine and Covenants student Institute manual, section 89, pages 206-11)
After Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit, God said unto Eve, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children” And unto Adam he said, “cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee… in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” (Genesis 3:16-19)
Notice that God said he was cursing the ground “for [Adam’s] sake,” and the command for Adam to work by “the sweat of thy face” was also for Adam’s sake. We’re all familiar with the commandment that “Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work” (Exodus 20:9,10). We tend to focus on the part about resting on the seventh day, but notice the commandment also says we are to labor for six days. The commandment to work hard, by the sweat of our face, is not a temporal commandment. Rather it is a spiritual one, but why?
We know that one of the reasons we came to earth was to learn good from evil, and we can understand how that has a spiritual application to it. We also know that another part of mortality is for the purpose of learning about pain and suffering, even though we may not fully understand how that applies to our spiritual growth, yet we know that for some reason it’s an important part of becoming like God.
When Joseph Smith was imprisoned in Liberty jail, suffering both physically, mentally, and emotionally, the Lord told him that “if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after the know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7).
It doesn’t matter what kind of things we experience in life – be it good, bad, or otherwise – because, as the Lord told Joseph, all of them are for our good. The Lord cursed the ground with thorns and thistles for Adam’s good, and Eve was told she would conceive and bring forth children in great sorrow, but this too was for her good.
The reason why is because our temporal life here on earth was never meant to be separate and distinct from our spiritual life. The two are interconnected and go together as one. We can think of our spiritual and temporal life as a casserole, where various foods are all combined together. When eating it, we might be able to taste the flavor of the different ingredients, yet each bite contains all the flavors blended together.
In the same way, everything we do in mortality is for the purpose of advancing us spiritually. That means the ordinary, mundane things we do each and every day are all necessary in order to help us progress spiritually. For example, washing the dishes has a spiritual significance to it. Fixing a leaky faucet has a spiritual purpose to it. Mowing the lawn helps us to grow spiritually. Paying bills is necessary for our spiritual progression. Even changing messy diapers is a spiritual activity.
All of these things are an important part of our spiritual development, but why? Surely, we won’t be washing dishes, fixing leaky faucets, moving grass or changing diapers in heaven. (at least we hope not).
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are very familiar with the scripture where God tells Moses, “This is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39), but what we often overlook in this verse is the word “work.”
What brings God glory is helping his children obtain eternal life but that doesn’t happen easily. In fact, it takes a lot of hard work on his part. For example, one small aspect of providing us life in mortality involves creating an earth, which is no small feat in itself. In Genesis we read how the Lord took one full day (whichever period of time that might have been) just to divide the waters and cause the dry land to appear. That didn’t happen with the snap of a finger or simply uttering the words, “Let the dry land come forth from the sea.” It took a full day to move the earth into position with the sun and moon so there was light on the earth. It took a full day of work to plant all the trees and vegetation that covers the earth, and it took a full day to stock the earth with a wide variety of animals.
What modern science has learned is that the earth is a delicate biosphere where everything on it works together in perfect harmony to maintain the proper balance. For example, no one likes mosquitoes, but they serve an important role in maintaining life on earth. Their larva provides food for fish, frogs, and birds, while the larva itself feeds off of waste in the water and then recycles it into usable nutrients. Because they can also carry deadly diseases, such as malaria, they play a part in preventing animal overpopulation.
And the same is true of cockroaches. They are a food source for a number of different animals, but they also eat filth in the soil that breaks it down into nitrogen, which plants need to survive. They are also effective in reducing harmful bacteria that can cause illness. It not only takes a lot of work to stock the earth with the right kind of animals that depend on one another for survival, but it takes a lot of meticulous planning.
Then there are other resources such as coal, natural gas, iron, copper, gold, and hundreds of other items that needed to be put on the earth for man’s use long before he was ever created. In our day, the Lord has told us that “the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things” (D&C 104:17).
Even if we say that the earth was created just six thousand years ago, God had to make sure there were enough resources placed in the earth during its creation that would be able to sustain billions of people who will live on it for as long as the earth lasts. Imagine what our world would be like if God put a half-hearted effort in creating this earth, or took shortcuts, or did just enough to get the job done?
But that was just the beginning of one small phase of our spiritual progression. After the earth was ready for man, then came the work of teaching, guiding, and overseeing man’s spiritual progress. And from what we see all throughout the scriptures, that is not an easy task as man has continually rebelled against God and so willingly allowed Satan to lead them down to hell. As any student of the scriptures knows, they’re replete with examples of God working hard to keep his covenant people from straying into forbidden paths.
But our education didn’t begin with our birth into mortality. It started long before then, when we lived in heaven as spirit children of God. The scriptures tell us there was a war in heaven, and when the dust settled, God, our Father, had eternally lost one-third of his children. That had to be extremely hard on him. In fact, even those who remained loyal to him and earned the right to continue their spiritual education by coming to earth, two-thirds of them will not qualify to return to the celestial kingdom, and of those who do, many won’t qualify to obtain its highest reward of eternal life.
It’s the work that God does in bringing to pass the eternal life of man that brings him glory, but there is no glory in doing something that’s easy. Therefore, such a task must be much more difficult to do and requires a much greater effort than we currently realize or can imagine.
Since our time on earth is meant to teach us how to become like God, and he has a tremendous amount of very difficult work to do, then it’s reasonable to conclude that all the work we do in our temporal life has to be an essential part of what is needed to help prepare us to handle the responsibilities of the greatest gift God has to offer us.
From our pre-mortal life, through our mortal existence, to our post mortal life in the spirit world, and even after the resurrection, God is not only doing a lot of hard work, but he is no doubt engaged in doing a lot of every day, mundane, repetitive tasks that are essential for the spiritual advancement of his children. These tasks may not include washing dishes, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or putting children to bed, but it’s certain there are other simple but extremely important tasks God has to do on a very frequent basis that are critically important for our salvation.
What our experiences in mortality are meant to do is teach and prepare us to accomplish all the things that God must do to help us achieve eternal life, which involves such things as developing the habit of working hard, learning patience, managing resources, taking care of doing little but necessary things, doing our work with excellence, and persevering especially when it isn’t easy.
Related articles can be found at The Nature of God