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Adam-who as we have seen was the archangel Michael in preexistence-plays a major role in Mormon salvation, a theological position that is totally foreign to Christianity. In fact, the LDS Church teaches that Adam and Eve's fall was a positive event-a fortunate fall-and a significant salvation strategy of God. Dr. Robert Millet summarizes the Mormon position:
Mormons believe that Adam and Eve went into the Garden to fall, that their partaking of the forbidden fruit was a necessary step in God's plan for the redemption and happiness of humankind. Though our first parents transgressed the law of God, their partaking opened the way to mortality, to trial and testing to be sure, but to happiness that comes from overcoming.
This is how Dr. Millet defines the fall of Adam in the garden of Eden:
For Latter-day Saints, the Fall of Adam and Eve was a "fortunate fall," one that introduced mortality and helped to put the Father's plan for the salvation of his children into operation. It was a fall downward but forward.
Although the Latter-day Saints continue to recognize Adam as a redemptive hero for his apparent heroic act of transgression- not sin-in the garden of Eden, this idea is quite different from Brigham Young's apparent Adam-God theory, that is, that Latter-day Saints worship Adam as their Father in heaven. Most Mormons deny this claim as a non-Mormon falsehood. But make no mistake, Mormonism elevates Adam to the highest possible position under the Godhead, as this statement in Bruce McConkie's Mormon Doctrine reveals:
. . . Adam in his proper high place as the pre-existent Michael, the first man and presiding high priest (under Christ) over all the earth for all time, and as the one who will again lead the armies of heaven in the final great war with Lucifer. There is a sense, of course, in which Adam is a god.
Mortal Existence and Attaining Godhood
Now that we understand the Mormon doctrine of human preexistence, what is the purpose of human mortal existence? According to the LDS plan of salvation, when spirit-children are united in bodies through human birth, they begin a lifelong journey of probation, testing, and trials, during which time they learn obedience that they hope will lead them back to Father God in a glorified state of divine exaltation. According to Mormonism, the purpose of earthly mortal existence is to prove obedience to the heavenly Father and to become worthy of eternal exaltation in the highest level of the Celestial kingdom:
By following our Heavenly Father's plan, you-like all of His children-can someday return to live with Him and with your loved ones. You can have greater peace in this life and eternal joy in the life to come.
Mortal living for Mormons is seen as a school in which they are gods-in-process. Human mortality is a testing and proving ground, a time when a person can prove that he or she is faithful to the heavenly Father's salvation plan. In this light, large Mormon families are not simply an accident. Many Mormons have large families as an act of obedience in order to provide bodies-earthly tabernacles-for the millions of spirit-children waiting to start their mortal journey of progression toward godhood.