Eternal Life

by Catherine Corman Parry

The scriptures clearly state that eternal life comes from God through his son Jesus Christ (John 3:16; 14:6; Heb. 5:9; 2 Ne. 31:20-21; Alma 11:40; Ether 3:14; D&C 45:8), and is the "greatest of all the gifts of God" (D&C 14:7; see also Exaltation; Godhood). To Latter-day Saints the phrase "eternal life" refers not only to everlasting life but also and more particularly to the quality of life God lives. Eternal life is available to all people who have lived on earth who accept this gift by their obedience to God's laws and ordinances.

God's work, and the source of his glory, is bringing to pass "the immortality and eternal life" of his children (Moses 1:39). In other words, God works to enable his children's return to his presence so that they may both live with him and live as he lives.

So allied is Christ with the Father that the scriptures sometimes define eternal life as "knowing" them: "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3; D&C 132:24).

Knowing Christ in this world comes by receiving him and his law (D&C 132:23-24). Jeremiah spoke for the Lord: "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts…. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour…saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me" (Jer. 31:33-34). As stated in the Gospel of John, one begins to know Christ and his will by searching the scriptures, for, as Jesus affirmed, "they are they which testify of me" (John 5:39).

Having the law written in one's heart implies an acceptance that prompts action; indeed, the scriptures mention many actions that one must take in order to receive the gift of eternal life. To enter the path leading toward eternal life, one must exercise faith in Christ (John 3:36; 6:47; Moro. 7:41), repent, be baptized for the remission of one's sins (2 Ne. 31:17-18), and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. The scriptures state that once on the path, the believer must strive to keep the commandments (2 Ne. 31:19-20; Alma 7:15-16)—that is, to do the works of righteousness (D&C 59:23), primary among which is charity (1 Cor. 13; Matt. 25:34-36). The believer must also endure to the end (2 Ne. 31:20-21; D&C 50:5; cf. Paul's phrase "patient continuance in well doing," Rom. 2:7), and make covenants in connection with temple ordinances (D&C 124:55; 128:12).

While in mortality, individuals may come to a stage of knowing the Father and the Son that allows the Lord to promise them eternal life. This occurrence is described in scripture as receiving the Holy Spirit of promise (D&C 88:3-4) and the Second Comforter (John 14:16; D&C 88:2-4; see also Jesus Christ, Second Comforter); having the more sure word of prophecy (D&C 131:5); and having one's calling and election made sure (2 Pet. 1:10; D&C 131:5).

God invites all people to seek and ask earnestly for eternal life, and reassures all who do so that they will not be given a stone (cf. Matt. 7:7-11). They are promised "revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge," which brings an understanding of "peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal" (D&C 42:61). Those who will receive eternal life in its fullest come forth in the first resurrection (Mosiah 15:21-25) and inherit the highest degree of glory in the Celestial Kingdom (D&C 76:50-59; 88:4; 101:65).

The Prophet Joseph Smith was at a loss for words to capture the eternal splendor of God the Father and of his son Jesus Christ, "whose brightness and glory defy all description" (JS—H 1:17). Language can describe the glories of eternal life only inadequately through metaphors of overwhelmingly bright light or fire (Ex. 24:17; Acts 26:13-15; Rev. 21:23; 1 Ne. 1:8-10; D&C 110:1-4; cf. "shine as the brightness of the firmament," Dan. 12:3); pure truth (John 14:6; Ether 4:12; D&C 84:45-48; 93:36; Moses 7:29-40); glass or crystal (Rev. 4:6; D&C 130:9); and timelessness (Ps. 90:4; 2 Pet. 3:8; Rev. 10:6; Alma 40:8; D&C 88:110). Paul points out how far eternal life exceeds the descriptive ability of language when he says, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Cor. 2:9).

[See also Immortality and Eternal Life; Basic Beliefs home page; Teachings About the Afterlife home page.]

Bibliography

Monson, Thomas S. Pathways to Perfection. Salt Lake City, 1976.