And we see that death comes upon mankind, yea, the death which has been spoken of by Amulek, which is the temporal death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead. -- Alma 12:24
Well, this last month or two has been rather interesting. I'm a graduate student, and as part of the program I'm in I need to pass a major test known as the qualifying exam. Part of what makes this exam so stressful is that you only get at most three chances to pass it. Now, most people do end up passing, but, honestly, it's hard to really feel accepted in the program, like I'm really a degree candidate, until I get this out of the way. Another part of being in graduate school is, of course, finding an adviser to work with. I've been looking around for about a year now, and I think I've finally found someone that I really think would be a good match. He doesn't have money to hire me right now, but he basically said that we can try it out and see if it works. If I can do good work during this semester, hopefully I'll be able to get funding in the group later.
About now, you might be wondering what all this has to do with "The Purpose of Life" or with the scripture that I posted above. This morning I was reading the scriptures, and I ran across Alma 12:24. One of my first thoughts was "That is just about exactly how I feel." I felt like I had been given a finite (and often seemingly all too short) space of time in which to prove myself, a space of time to prepare, a space of time on which a lot of stuff depended. Just like with my qualifying exam, and just like my search for an adviser, this life is a time to prepare.
In this life, we're not really in any way trying to "convince" God that he wants to "hire" us to return to live with Him, nor is it true that He only has enough "funding" for so many of us. What we're really trying to do here is to become the type of person that we need to be to be able to enjoy living with Him again. I would really not enjoy working with my adviser or my research group if I couldn't contribute. I would always be struggling to understand what was going on, feeling guilty about not contributing, etc. Similarly, we wouldn't really enjoy living with Heavenly Father and Jesus if we couldn't present ourselves before Them with a clean conscience. It's not like They wouldn't love to have us there, just like I'm sure my adviser would love to have as many people participating in his group as possible. But we wouldn't enjoy it. We wouldn't be happy. God's plan is all about trying to make His children happy forever. He wants us to be happy. That is why we need to prepare for happiness. That is why we need to prepare to meet God.
The next question is "So, how do we prepare to meet God." This has been the theme of many of the prophets throughout history. John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way before the Savior. "As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." (Luke 3:4) John taught the people how to prepare for the ministry of the Savior by "preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" and telling them to "Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance." (Luke 3:3,8) About a century earlier, another prophet named Alma taught his people how to prepare for the coming of the Savior.
For behold, I say unto you there be many things to come; and behold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all—for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people.
Behold, I do not say that he will come among us at the time of his dwelling in his mortal tabernacle; for behold, the Spirit hath not said unto me that this should be the case. Now as to this thing I do not know; but this much I do know, that the Lord God hath power to do all things which are according to his word.
But behold, the Spirit hath said this much unto me, saying: Cry unto this people, saying—Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths, which are straight; for behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth.
-- Alma 7:7-9
In the end, what Heavenly Father wants for us is what any father wants for his children: to grow up, do what's right, and be happy. The Gospel, the Atonement, the commandments, repentance, the scriptures, prophets, and everything else is really to help us grow to overcome all the weaknesses and problems that we need to get rid of anyway. It's not in any way God trying to impose His will on us or trying to go on some sort of power trip. Quite the opposite. It is about helping us be better people and helping us be happy. It is about teaching us to love and be happy like He does.
God lives! He loves us! His love is so incredible and incomprehensible that it really should help us focus our every day to be a little better. God loves us so much that He sent His Son so that we can overcome our weaknesses and prepare to meet Him. His plan is the Plan of Happiness. Happiness will follow us if we follow the plan.
Related Talks: here, here, here, and here.