Chapter 13: Preparing for Eternal Progression

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 85–91


President Brigham Young was a learner. He began as a furniture maker and later developed the skills necessary to become a missionary, colonizer, governor, and prophet. He saw this life as a time to live fully, grow, and prepare for eternity, not as a time to prepare to die. He encouraged the Saints to be engaged in worthwhile activities, to broaden and deepen their understanding, and to treasure up truth as they reached toward perfection. By so doing, they would eventually go forward to enter the spirit world and continue on the glorious path of eternal progression.

Teachings of Brigham Young

We prepare for eternal life by daily learning, improving, and building the kingdom of God.

What are we here for? To learn to enjoy more, and to increase in knowledge and in experience (DBY, 87).

The object of this existence is to learn, which we can only do a little at a time (DBY, 87). The whole mortal existence of man is neither more nor less than a preparatory state given to finite beings, a space wherein they may improve themselves for a higher state of being (DBY, 87).

The first great principle that ought to occupy the attention of mankind, that should be understood by the child and the adult, and which is the main spring of all action, whether people understand it or not, is the principle of improvement. The principle of increase, of exaltation, of adding to that we already possess, is the grand moving principle and cause of the actions of the children of men. No matter what their pursuits are, in what nation they were born, with what people they have been associated, what religion they profess, or what politics they hold, this is the main spring of the actions of the people, embracing all the powers necessary in performing the duties of life (DBY, 87).

We are placed on this earth to prove whether we are worthy to go into the celestial world, the terrestrial, or the telestial or to hell, or to any other kingdom, or place, and we have enough of life given to us to do this (DBY, 87).

This is a world in which we are to prove ourselves. The lifetime of man is a day of trial, wherein we may prove to God, in our darkness, in our weakness, and where the enemy reigns, that we are our Father’s friends, and that we receive light from him and are worthy to be leaders of our children—to become lords of lords, and kings of kings—to have perfect dominion over that portion of our families that will be crowned in the celestial kingdom with glory, immortality, and eternal lives (DBY, 87).

Hear it, all ye Latter-day Saints! Will you spend the time of your probation for naught, and fool away your existence and being? You were organized, and brought into being, for the purpose of enduring forever, if you fulfil the measure of your creation, pursue the right path, observe the requirements of the celestial law, and obey the commandments of our God (DBY, 87).

Human beings are expected by their Creator to be actively employed in doing good every day of their lives, either in improving their own mental and physical condition or that of their neighbors (DBY, 88).

We are here to live, to spread intelligence and knowledge among the people. I am here to school my brethren, to teach my family the way of life, to propagate my species, and to live, if in my power, until sin, iniquity, corruption, hell, and the Devil, and all classes and grades of abominations are driven from the earth. That is my religion and the object of my existence. We are not here merely to prepare to die, and then die; but we are here to live and build up the Kingdom of God on the earth—to promote the Priesthood, overcome the powers of Satan, and teach the children of man what they are created for—that in them is concealed the germ of all intelligence. Here is the starting-point—the foundation that is laid in the organization of man for receiving a fulness of eternal knowledge and glory. Are we to go yonder to obtain it? No; we are to promote it on this earth (DBY, 88).

The Latter-day Saints throughout the valleys in these mountains and throughout the world ought to be learning what they are on this earth for. They are here to increase and multiply, to enlarge, to gather the House of Israel, redeem Zion, build up the Zion of our God, and to promote that eternal intelligence that dwells with the Gods, and begin to plant it in this earth, and make it take root downward and bring forth fruit upward to the glory of God, until every obnoxious principle in the hearts of men is destroyed, and the earth returns to its paradisiacal state, and the Lord comes and dwells with this people, and walks and talks with them as he did with Father Adam. That is our business, and not to suffer all our energies to be expended in merely preparing to die (DBY, 89).

The purpose of our life should be to build up the Zion of our God, to gather the House of Israel, bring in the fulness of the Gentiles, restore and bless the earth with our ability and make it as the Garden of Eden, store up treasures of knowledge and wisdom in our own understandings, purify our own hearts and prepare a people to meet the Lord when he comes (DBY, 88).

Logan Temple

Photograph of the Logan Temple. President Young taught that the ordinances of salvation and personal faithfulness prepare us for “eternal progression” to a “more glorious and exalted sphere” (DBY, 16).

We are able to progress as we increase in knowledge and experience.

This work is a progressive work, this doctrine that is taught the Latter-day Saints in its nature is exalting, increasing, expanding and extending broader and broader until we can know as we are known, see as we are seen (DBY, 90).

We are in the school and keep learning, and we do not expect to cease learning while we live on earth; and when we pass through the veil, we expect still to continue to learn and increase our fund of information. That may appear a strange idea to some; but it is for the plain and simple reason that we are not capacitated to receive all knowledge at once. We must therefore receive a little here and a little there (DBY, 91).

He gives a little to his humble followers today, and if they improve upon it, tomorrow he will give them a little more, and the next day a little more. He does not add to that which they do not improve upon, but they are required to continually improve upon the knowledge they already possess, and thus obtain a store of wisdom (DBY, 90).

Simply to take the path pointed out in the Gospel by those who have given us the plan of salvation, is to take the path that leads to life, to eternal increase; it is to pursue that course wherein we shall never, never lose what we obtain, but continue to collect, to gather together, to increase, to spread abroad, and extend to an endless duration. Those persons who strive to gain eternal life, gain that which will produce the increase their hearts will be satisfied with. Nothing less than the privilege of increasing eternally, in every sense of the word, can satisfy the immortal spirit (DBY, 93).

We can still improve, we are made for that purpose, our capacities are organized to expand until we can receive into our comprehension celestial knowledge and wisdom, and to continue, worlds without end (DBY, 90).

Shall we ever be learning and never be able to come to a knowledge of the truth? [See 2 Timothy 3:7.] No, I say we shall not; but we shall come to the knowledge of the truth. This is my hope and anticipation, and this is my joy (DBY, 90–91). We have the principle within us, and so has every being on this earth, to increase and to continue to increase, to enlarge and receive and treasure up truth, until we become perfect (DBY, 91).

We are prepared for some things, and we receive just as fast as we prepare ourselves (DBY, 95).

Instead of pleading with the Lord to bestow more upon you, plead with yourselves to have confidence in yourselves, to have integrity in yourselves, and know when to speak and what to speak, what to reveal, and how to carry yourselves and walk before the Lord. And just as fast as you prove to him that you will preserve everything secret that ought to be—that you will deal out to your neighbors all which you ought, and no more, and learn how to dispense your knowledge to your families, friends, neighbors, and brethren, the Lord will bestow upon you, and give to you, and bestow upon you, until finally he will say to you, “You shall never fall; your salvation is sealed unto you; you are sealed up unto eternal life and salvation, through your integrity” (DBY, 93).

Eternal life is the ability to progress and increase forever.

This is the greatest gift that can be conferred on intelligent beings, to live forever and never be destroyed (DBY, 96).

It is written that the greatest gift God can bestow upon man is the gift of eternal life. The greatest attainment that we can reach is to preserve our identity to an eternal duration in the midst of the heavenly hosts. We have the words of eternal life given to us through the Gospel, which, if we obey, will secure unto us that precious gift (DBY, 96).

The intelligence that is in me to cease to exist is a horrid thought; it is past enduring. This intelligence must exist; it must dwell somewhere. If I take the right course and preserve it in its organization, I will preserve to myself eternal life (DBY, 96).

We are going to have the Kingdom of God in the fulness thereof, and all the heights and depths of glory, power, and knowledge; and we shall have fathers and mothers, and wives and children (DBY, 97).

Suppose it possible that you have the privilege of securing to yourselves eternal life—to live and enjoy these blessings forever; you will say this is the greatest blessing that can be bestowed upon you. … What blessing is equal to this? What blessing is equal to the continuation of life—to the continuation of our organization? (DBY, 96).

The Lord has blessed us with the ability to enjoy an eternal life with the Gods, and this is pronounced the greatest gift of God. The gift of eternal life, without a posterity, to become an angel, is one of the greatest gifts that can be bestowed; yet the Lord has bestowed on us the privilege of becoming fathers of lives. What is a father of lives as mentioned in the Scriptures? A man who has a posterity to an eternal continuance. That is the blessing Abraham received, and it perfectly satisfied his soul. He obtained the promise that he should be the father of lives (DBY, 97).

If men are faithful, … they and their Creator will always be one, they will always be of one heart and of one mind, working and operating together; for whatsoever the Father doeth so doeth the Son, and so they continue throughout all their operations to all eternity (DBY, 97).

The Lord would like to see us take the course that leads unto the strait gate, that we might be crowned sons and daughters of God, for such are the only ones in the heavens who multiply and increase. … The rest take an inferior kingdom, where this privilege is denied them. … It is for us to choose whether we will be sons and daughters, joint heirs with Jesus Christ, or whether we accept an inferior glory (DNSW, 8 Aug. 1876, 1).

Suggestions for Study

We prepare for eternal life by daily learning, improving, and building the kingdom of God.

  • What truths do we learn from our trials in this life that will help us progress eternally? (See also D&C 122:7–8.) What does President Young say about the principle of “enduring forever”? (See also D&C 121:7–8; 3 Nephi 15:9.)

  • How does being “actively employed in doing good every day” build a foundation “for receiving a fulness of eternal knowledge and glory”? (See also Alma 5:41; 26:22; D&C 58:26–29.)

  • According to President Young, one of our major purposes in life is to learn. What can keep us from learning? How can we learn more from our gospel study? How can we learn from our experiences? What specific truth have you learned through experience and the influence of the Spirit?

  • President Young mentions several purposes for being on the earth. How can we better accomplish these purposes? (See also D&C 81:5.)

  • What are several ways to help “prepare a people to meet the Lord”? How can you specifically help do this?

We are able to progress as we increase in knowledge and experience.

  • President Young said that we receive knowledge “a little here and a little there.” How does this process apply to our gospel understanding, our parenting, and our service in the Church? (See also 2 Nephi 28:30; D&C 130:18–19.)

  • What does President Young teach about eternal increase? (See also D&C 93:12–14.)

  • President Young stated that “we have the principle within us … to increase and to continue to increase, to enlarge and receive and treasure up truth, until we become perfect.” How do our efforts to gain knowledge help prepare us for exaltation? (See also D&C 50:40; 93:24, 26–30; 130:18–19.)

Eternal life is the ability to progress and increase forever.

  • President Young stated that “the greatest gift that can be conferred upon intelligent beings [is] to live forever and never be destroyed.” What does he say is the “greatest attainment,” and how do we preserve it? (See also D&C 14:7; 130:20–21.)

  • What does it mean to be “joint heirs with Jesus Christ”? (See also Romans 8:17.) What blessings belong only to those “crowned sons and daughters of God”?