For Mormons, death is merely another step in the eternal progression planned for us by God, our Heavenly Father. Mormons don’t fear their own deaths, and when a loved one dies, they grieve only as they would if someone moved away.
For Mormons, life begins not on earth, but in a pre-mortal existence, where we lived with God as spirits. God created our spirits and is, therefore, our literal Father. At this time we didn’t have bodies and we lived in God’s presence. This was a time of learning and growth. We developed our personalities, our character, and even some talents as we learned God’s teachings and prepared for the next step.
There comes a time in every child’s life when he has to leave home. Only when he’s on his own will he really be able to test his commitment to the beliefs his parents have taught him. This was also true of us in this premortal life. With this in mind, God prepared the next stage of the Great Plan of Happiness, or Plan of Salvation. He had an earth made for us to come to, without Him. We’d receive a body and families, but we would have to live by faith. During our time on earth, we’d gain a body and have a variety of experiences that would help us to grow and progress. We’d have to try to find God’s church and live by it, when He wasn’t right there with us. If we were successful in our test, we could return to live with Him forever. You can read more about this in the Pre-Mortal Life.
God knew, of course, there would be complications that would affect what happened when we died. He planned for each of those.
One complication was that none of us were capable of living a sinless life. An atonement had to be made for our sins, but it had to be made by one who lived a sinless life and voluntarily made the sacrifice to save others. Satan wanted to be the savior of the world, but he disliked God’s plan for us. His own plan would remove our right to make choices on earth. Instead, we’d live as robots, doing exactly as he ordered. There would be no need for someone to sacrifice his life for us, and yet he also wanted all the glory and honor for controlling our time on earth. Naturally, this would render our earth-life meaningless.
Jesus Christ offered Himself as our Savior, following God’s plan. He was willing to give up his own sinless life and die for his brothers and sisters so they could be saved. He wanted none of the glory, preferring it all go to God. His offering was accepted and we were then permitted to choose whether or not to accept it. One third of the spirits chose Satan, wanting the “security” of his plan. Those people, along with Satan, were expelled from Heaven and denied a chance to live on earth. The remaining spirits were granted the right to live on earth. Agency, the right to choose, has been ours from the very moment of our spiritual creation.
The atonement of Jesus Christ made it possible for us to repent of our sins and to return to God even if we live imperfectly, which we all will. It also resolved another complication that could affect our life after death. Some children would die young, before they could fairly be held accountable for their own choices. The atonement allows them to be saved without any of the usual requirements of salvation. Children under the age of eight are not accountable for their own sins, and if they die before then, they return directly to their Heavenly Father.
A third complication is that some people would die without ever learning about God, Jesus, or the true church. God’s plan is fair, and he isn’t a respecter of persons. He loves each of His children equally and would never punish them for circumstances beyond their control, just as He wouldn’t punish an infant for dying without baptism. He planned that those who died without a fair opportunity to learn and live the gospel would be allowed to learn about it after their deaths. Since they couldn’t be baptized in the Spirit World, devoted Christians would volunteer to be baptized by proxy in their names. If they accepted what they were taught, the baptism would be recorded in Heaven as if they themselves had been baptized. If they rejected the truth, which some will do even knowing it’s true, it would be as if it never happened and they would spend eternity without God’s presence. As always, they have their agency to accept or reject God’s word.
With these loving plans in place, death becomes a place where each person is fairly judged by the Savior, who, having lived on the earth, understands what life here is like for us and the challenges we face. Mormons see death the way they see birth–as a transition from one stage of life into another. What we do in each stage affects the next. But death holds no fears for those who have prepared well and who trust God to be fair and loving. To learn more about what happens after death, visit Resurrection and Judgment.
As you can see, this truly is a plan of happiness. God planned for our deaths from the start, and did everything in His power to help us be able to return home to Him.