What Is the Difference between Immortality and Eternal Life?


Joseph B. Wirthlin

What is the work and glory of God? “To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39; emphasis added). I will explain the difference between these two ends: immortality and eternal life.

Bringing to pass immortality is essentially a work of creation. God speaks, and worlds are formed. At the culmination of this work, man is placed upon the earth to learn, be tested, and gain experience.

Because of the sacrifice of the Son of God, the hour will come when “all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28–29).

The just as well as the unjust are given a priceless and incomprehensible gift: immortality. Because of Jesus the Christ, we will live forever. We are immortal.

Eternal life, however, is something altogether different. Immortality is about quantity. Eternal life is about quality.

To use a metaphor, immortality is how long the dinner lasts. Eternal life is what is on the menu and who is with us at the table.

Eternal life is “the greatest of all the gifts of God” (D&C 14:7).

“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 Corinthians 2:9).

Eternal life is the culmination of existence. As spiritual children of God, you and I are heirs to this priceless fortune, benefactors to a glorious future, recipients of grace.

If immortality is God’s work, then eternal life is God’s glory. However, eternal life does not come automatically. We must purge our hearts of evil and fill them with the desire to do good continually. Our Heavenly Father, with love that is scarcely within our power to comprehend, desires more than just our immortality. He desires each of us to partake of this greatest of all gifts: eternal life.

[illustration] Jesus Said to Her, Mary, by William Whitaker