I covered an institute class last week and taught a lesson based on our divine potential. I don’t attend institute regularly myself. Aside from “graduating” the program about three times already, being a RSP is time-consuming and takes most of my nights anyway- and given the chance to visit an inactive or needy sister or go to a class- perhaps naughtily, I always choose the former. Having said that, it was interesting to be in an institute setting and plan a lesson that caters to an even more diverse group than my Relief Society. It reminded me of teaching seminary, and I missed that (well, mostly I missed those kids!).
Here’s the lesson- it’s less rounded-out that others, but the material is pretty great.
The Story of our Divine potential
Why is it important that we study our divine potential throughout our spiritual journey in mortality?
Essay: “(1) The desire to nurture the divinity in His children is one of God’s attributes that most inspires, motivates, and humbles members of the Church. (2) God’s loving parentage and guidance can help each willing, obedient child of God receive of His fullness and of His glory. (3) This knowledge transforms the way latter-day Saints see their fellow human beings.”
Uchtdorf: … Our loving Heavenly Father wants us to become more like him, [and…] that should be our eternal goal too. God understands that we get there not in an instant but by taking one step at a time. (I believe in a Heavenly Father who is loving and caring and who rejoices in our every effort to stand tall and walk toward Him)
Let’s study this principle line upon line, precept upon precept- let’s follow Joseph Smith’s advice to see all gospel principles within the context of God’s great plan for us- and let’s follow the pattern of your reading assignment, which looked at the principle of our divine nature, taught through all time.
Before we were created and organised as god’s children, there was God himself.
Q: What is God like?
2 Nephi 9: 20 … he knoweth all things and there is not anything save he knows it.
1 Nephi 9:6 …knoweth all things from the beginning… prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men… hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words
Genesis 1: 27 man created in the image of God
D&C 88: 41 …comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him: and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things and round about all things: and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever.
Isaiah 55: 8-9 … for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher that your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Moroni 8:18 …God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity
Lorenzo Snow: As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.
Joseph Smith: If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves. … God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthrones in yonder heavens! … If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make Himself visible, – I say if you were to see Him today, you would see Him like a man in form- like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man: for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of Go, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another.
Q: How does knowing that Heavenly Father is a real being who has a glorified, resurrected body of flesh and bones and is the Father of your spirit affect your relationship with Him?
As we better understand our Heavenly Father, we can better understand our potential to become like our Heavenly Parents.
We are spirit children of God
Because God is the Father of our spirits, our divine potential is to become like Him. The First Presidency, 1909: “All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.”
Dallin H Oaks Our theology begins with heavenly parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them. … Here is the answer to one of life’s great questions, ‘Who am I?’ I am a child of God with a spirit lineage to heavenly parents. That parentage defines our eternal potential. That powerful idea is a potent antidepressant. It can strengthen each of us to make righteous choices and to seek the best that is within us.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf: No matter what else we are or do in life, we must never forget that we are God’s literal spirit children. We were His children before we came to this world, and we will be His children forevermore. This basic truth should change the way we look at ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and life itself.
Unfortunately, none of us quite lives up to everything that this title implies, “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
It can be discouraging at times to know what it means to be a son of God and yet come up short. The adversary likes to take advantage of these feelings. Satan would rather that you define yourself by your sins instead of your divine potential. Brethren, don’t listen to him.
We have all seen a toddler learn to walk. He takes a small step and totters. He falls. Do we scold such an attempt? Of course not. What father would punish a toddler for stumbling? We encourage, we applaud, and we praise because with every small step, the child is becoming more like his parents.
Q: How does your knowledge that you are a child of God help you in your life?
Romans 8: 16-17 The spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and join-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him that we may be glorified together. * we’ll discuss this more when we see the saviour’s life in our timeline…
As taught in the bible
Genesis1: 26-27: “God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
Gen 2:17; 3:22 After Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” God said they had “become as one of us,” suggesting that a process of approaching godliness was already underway.
Later in the Old Testament, Psalm 82:6 “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.”
Matthew 5:48. Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commands His disciples to become “perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” The word perfect can also be translated whole or complete, implying a distant objective and ongoing, concerted effort (Russell M. Nelson).
2 Peter 1:4 Peter refers to the Saviour’s “exceeding great and precious promises” that we might become “partakers of the divine nature.”
Acts 17:29; Romans 8:16–17 Paul taught that we are “the offspring of God” and emphasised that as such “we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.”
Revelation 3:21 “to him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”
Q: Why is the atonement of Christ necessary for us to become like God?
Christ came to earth to descend below all things- to become like us, so that He could overcome sin and death that thereby we might become like God.
Essay: “Latter-day Saints understand the magnitude of the Atonement of Christ in terms of the vast human potential it makes possible. Christ’s Atonement not only provides forgiveness from sin and victory over death, it also redeems imperfect relationships, heals the spiritual wounds that stifle growth, and strengthens and enables individuals to develop the attributes of Christ [see Alma 7:11–12]. Latter-day Saints believe that it is only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that we can have a sure hope of eternal glory and that the power of His Atonement is fully accessed only by faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end in following the instruction and example of Christ [see 2 Nephi 31:20; Articles of Faith 1:4]. Thus, those who become like God and enter into a fulness of His glory are described as people who have been ‘made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood’ [D&C 76:69]”.
Early church to the great apostasy
Many church fathers (influential theologians and teachers in early Christianity) spoke approvingly of the idea that humans can become divine.
Three church fathers:
Irenaeus, who died about A.D. 202, asserted that Jesus Christ “did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be what He is Himself.”
Clement of Alexandria (ca. A.D. 150–215) “the Word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become God.”
Basil the Great (A.D. 330–379)—not just “being made like to God,” but “highest of all, the being made God.”
References to deification became more contested in the late Roman period and were infrequent by the medieval era… Gradually, as the depravity of humankind and the immense distance between Creator and creature were increasingly emphasized, the concept of deification faded from Western Christianity.
Joseph Smith: You have got to learn how to be a god yourself. In order to do that, [you] needed to learn godliness, or to be more like God. The process [will] be ongoing and [will] require patience, faith, continuing repentance, obedience to the commandments of the gospel, and reliance on Christ. Like ascending a ladder, [you need] to learn the first [principles] of the Gospel and continue beyond the limits of mortal knowledge until [you can] “learn the last [principles] of the Gospel when the time [comes]. It is not all to be comprehended in this world… It will take a long time after the grave to understand the whole.
The Sealing Ordinance
ELOHIM (Hebrew name for “God”; another name we often use in the church for “God”) The word is actually the plural form of the Hebrew words El and Eloah (male and female conjugations). Quite literally, the definition of “God” is Man plus Woman.
The most important thing we will do in mortality that will bring us closer to our eternal goal to be like God, is be sealed to a spouse.
D&C 132: 19-20 … if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed… Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection… and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths… it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.
Enduring to the end is hard- getting closer to that highest ordinance of eternal life, accessible to us in mortality (the sealing ordinance) is hard! I read a talk by Uchtdorf, highly recommend, 4 titles, from it, he and I came up with 4 commitments you can make today that may help. It’s still kind of the beginning of the year- so let’s call them the Britannian NY Resolutions…
- We will not live beneath our priveleges! What are your priveleges and advantages in mortality as a literal spirit son or daughter of God (HF and HM)?
- We will vacate the sidelines! Too many of us fall into apathy and regret and slow down spiritually. Get involved!
- We will live what we learn!
- We will treat others like the sons and daughters of deity that they are. Even Donald Trump.
A handout for this lesson can be downloaded here: divine-potential-h-o.