March 6, 2013 by FHElessons
Let me just tell you up front that this is a controversial post. I never expected it to be controversial, but I am finding that it is. Let me tell you how the subject came up.
A few weeks ago, I was substituting in my daughter’s Sunday School class. The lesson was on how we come to Earth to learn. (You can find the lesson I gave BY CLICKING HERE.) I expected the lesson to conclude with the point that after we have learned what we come to Earth to learn, we will eventually become gods and goddesses and do the things that our Father in Heaven does. This was not a new concept to me. This is something that I have understood ever since I was very young, and I thought that everyone else in the LDS church understood it as well. But my class was filled with 13 & 14 year olds who are all children of the strong, active families in our ward, and apparently this was a totally new concept to them.
In fact, not only was it new, but some of them didn’t even believe me. They argued with me, saying that our ultimate goal is only to become angels to our God. They looked at me in confusion and found it mind-warpingly difficult to understand the idea that God could once have been a man, at the same state in His progress as we are now. They also had never heard the idea that now that God has progressed to Godhood, He has created innumerable worlds inhabited by innumerable people. I was very surprised that these teens from stalwart families had never heard of the concepts that I was teaching! So surprised that I even started to doubt myself.
I began to do some research. And by research, I mean Google (heehee). I found a whole bunch of articles online where people said something like, “The Church is steering away from the concept that man can eventually become a god and is aligning its views more closely with mainstream Christianity.” What?!!!! Apparently many other churches believe the idea that man can be as God is to be a blasphemous concept. This doctrine – that our ultimate goal is to become gods and goddesses ourselves – appears to be a doctrine unique to the LDS faith.
Anyway, when discovering what doctrines are actually taught and believed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the best source of information may not be internet articles, right? Instead we should look to printed statements by prophets and apostles published by the Church. Yes, I was surprised that this doctrine that I had always firmly believed and understood was turning out to be something controversial, but what I needed to do to confirm what we, the LDS people, actually believe and know to be true, is to search the words of the prophets. Now, sometimes there is some random statement by some apostle that never really gets confirmed by repetition. But if a doctrine is taught over and over again by many different prophets and apostles, then we can know that doctrine to be true and to be a part of the teachings of the Church.
So, because of the apparently controversial nature of this subject and because the teenagers in my own ward who ought to have understood this concept had never heard of it before, I thought it was important to prepare a Family Home Evening lesson about it. I hope that all of you will make it a point to teach this concept in your own Family Home Evenings. I hope that your own children will not be sitting in a Sunday School class one day, hear about being gods in embryo, and be totally flabbergasted.
I feel like this is an important concept to understand because without the goal of one day becoming as God is, what is the point of learning and growing in this life? Do we really want to live for eternity just so we can be angels? If we truly understand our own eternal nature and our own potential to be gods and goddesses, we will have the motivation necessary to work hard, to strive for perfection, to avoid the snares of the devil, and to refuse to let him drag us away from our eternal goal of becoming what God is and doing what He does.
With all that said, here is the lesson:
- I Am a Child of God – #301 (Highly Recommended!)
- Now Let Us Rejoice – #3
- God of Power God of Right – #20
Show a picture of you or your spouse when you were the age that your kids are now (or several pictures).
Ask: Did you know Daddy (or Mommy) used to be the same age as you? In fact, Daddy was once a tiny, little baby. (Note: You can use either Dad or Mom for all of the following discussion or you can use both).
It’s been a lot of years between the time Daddy was a baby and how he is now. What kinds of things do you think Daddy had to learn in order to grow from being a baby to being an adult?
Can you do all the things now that your Dad can do? Do you think you will ever be able to do all the things he can do?
Right now it seems almost impossible that you will be able to do everything your dad does and know everything that he knows. But, if you think about it logically, you will see that, yes, by the time you get to be as old as he is, you will most likely have progressed to the point that he is at now. You will want to try to do everything right and learn as much as you can learn so that you can get to be as great as him someday!
Now, let’s talk about your Heavenly Father. Do you think He was ever at the point of development that you are currently at? Let’s look at some of the teachings from our prophets for the answer to that question:
Here is what Joseph Smith said in an LDS Church Conference in 1844:
God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! . . . I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all Eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see. . . . and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, . . .” (Teachings, pp. 345-346)
Brigham Young confirms it:
The great architect, manager and superintendent, controller and dictator
[absolute ruler] who guides this work is out of sight to our natural
eyes. He lives on another world; he is in another state of existence; he has
passed the ordeals we are now passing through; he has received an experience,has suffered and enjoyed, and knows all that we know regarding the toils, sufferings, life and death of this mortality, for he has passed through
the whole of it, and has received his crown and exaltation and holds the
keys and the power of this Kingdom. (Young, Brigham. Discourses of Brigham Young. 1941, p.22)
The Manual published by the LDS Church entitled Gospel Fundamentals, also teaches this doctrine:
It will help us to remember that our Father in Heaven was once a man who lived on an earth, the same as we do. He became our Father in Heaven by overcoming problems, just as we have to do on this earth. (Gospel Fundamentals, 2002, p.204)
Lorenzo Snow, who became the fifth president of the Church, coined this couplet which succinctly sums up the doctrine (See Lorenzo Snow, “The Grand Destiny of Man,” Deseret Evening News, July 20, 1901, 22.):
As man is God once was.
As God is, Man may become.
From these prophets, we learn that our God has progressed to the perfect state in which He now exists, and we learn that it is possible for us to do so as well.
Our earthly parents want us to progress until we achieve our full potential. They want us to become the best we can be! And our Heavenly Father wants that for us as well. When we are little children, we look to our earthly parents and strive to emulate them. We model their behavior, learn from them, and, eventually, we grow into adults and become very much like them. So, too, it is with our Heavenly Father. If we wish to become like Him, we must strive to emulate Him. We must model His behavior, and we must learn the lessons He teaches us.
Because we are His children, eventually we can become like Him!
Possible object lesson to use here: Show pictures of baby animals.
For each picture, ask, “What will this baby grow up to be?”
When the correct answers are given, show a human baby:
Ask, “What will this baby grow up to be? Will he grow up to be an elephant? A gorilla? A cat?” “Of course not! He will grow up to be a man!”
Remind your family of the opening song: “I Am a Child of God”. Knowing that, what can we eventually grow up to be? (Gods and Goddesses)
Because we are children of God, we can grow up to be like Him. We can become what our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother are now.
For a lesson for young children, you can support this statement with any of the statements by prophets below and then conclude this lesson now by bearing your testimony of the divinity of man and of his potential to become like God, made possible by Christ’s atonement.
For teenagers or adults, you may want to explore this subject more deeply.
Let’s turn to the scriptures to read about this doctrine. You can present the following scriptures as a scripture chain that your family/group can mark in their scriptures. (A scripture chain is where you highlight one scripture and write in a link to the second scripture. The second scripture has a link to the third one and so on, until the last one links back to the first. Thus, all the scriptures on one topic are linked together to allow for study on that subject in the future. My 13-year-old daughter LOVES marking scripture chains in her scriptures.)
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.
Ye are Gods; and all of you are children of the most High.
John 10:34 – 35:
Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?… he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken.
And again, verily I say unto you, 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, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he shall commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, 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.
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
What do we learn from this scripture chain?
- We are created in the image of God.
- We are His begotten spirit children.
- If we are His children, then we are His heirs. Heirs to all He has. Joint heirs with Christ.
- This means that we also are Gods.
- Jesus Christ himself confirmed that this is true and that the scripture cannot be broken.
- The D&C teaches this doctrine in detail: We must be married in order to become gods and goddesses and once we become such, we will have all power and be everlasting.
- Jesus exhorts us to strive for this perfection that our Heavenly Father possesses – to be like Him.
- Because this doctrine seems to have become controversial, and because there are some in the Church today who do not even believe it, I would also like to give you a long list of quotes from prophets to support this idea. You certainly don’t need to use them all in your lesson, but I think it is good to see that this doctrine, which some try to refute today, has actually been taught to us by many of our prophets. God establishes His word in the mouth of 2-3 witnesses, so when a certain doctrine has been taught by many of our leaders, we can be assured that it is a true doctrine. Here are some quotes for you to peruse and share:
Statements from Presidents of the LDS Church:
President John Taylor:
What is [man]? He had his being in the eternal worlds; he existed before he came here. He is not only the son of man, but he is the son of God also. He is a God in embryo, and possesses within him a spark of that eternal flame which was struck from the blaze of God’s eternal fire in the eternal world, and is placed here upon the earth that he may possess true intelligence, true light, true knowledge,—that he may know himself—that he may know God—that he may know something about what he was before he came here—that he may know something about what he is destined to enjoy in the eternal worlds.
If we take man, he is said to have been made in the image of God, for the simple reason that he is a son of God, and being his son, he is, of course, his offspring, an emanation from God, in whose likeness, we are told, he is made. He did not originate from a chaotic mass of matter, moving or inert, but came forth possessing, in an embryonic state, all the faculties and powers of a God. And when he shall be perfected, and have progressed to maturity, he will be like his Father—a God, being indeed His offspring. As the horse, the ox, the sheep, and every living creature, including man, propagates its own species and perpetuates its own kind, so does God perpetuate his. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church:John Taylor, p.2-3)
President Lorenzo Snow:
We were born in the image of God our Father; he begat us like unto himself. There is the nature of deity in the composition of our spiritual organization; in our spiritual birth our Father transmitted to us the capabilities, powers and faculties which he himself possessed, as much so as the child on its mother’s bosom possesses, although in an undeveloped state, the faculties, powers and susceptibilities of its parent.
I believe that we are the sons and daughters of God, and that He has bestowed upon us the capacity for infinite wisdom and knowledge, because He has given us a portion of Himself. We are told that we were made in His own image, and we find that there is a character of immortality in the soul of man. There is a spiritual organism within this tabernacle [the physical body], and that spiritual organism has a divinity in itself, though perhaps in an infantile state; but it has within itself the capability of improving and advancing, as the infant that receives sustenance from its mother. Though the infant may be very ignorant, yet there are possibilities in it that by passing through the various ordeals of childhood to maturity enable it to rise to a superiority that is perfectly marvellous, compared with its infantile ignorance.
Through a continual course of progression our Heavenly Father has received exaltation and glory and he points us out the same path and, inasmuch as he is clothed with power, authority and glory, he says, “walk ye up and come in possession of the same glory and happiness that I possess.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, 2012, p.84-85).
President Joseph F. Smith:
Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God. [Messages of the First Presidency, 4:206]
President Heber J. Grant:
If we examine the plan of life and salvation, if we examine the commandments that are given to us as members of the Church of God, we will find that each and every one of those commandments has been given for the express purpose that we may be benefitted, that we may be educated, that we may be qualified and prepared to go back and dwell in the presence of our Heavenly Father. These duties and obligations are calculated to make us godlike in our dispositions. They are calculated to make Gods of us, and to fit and qualify us that we may become, as it is promised that we can become, joint heirs with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and dwell with Him in the presence of God the Eternal Father throughout all the countless ages of eternity. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, p.30)
President George Albert Smith:
Being created in the image of God, we believe that it is not improper, that it is not unrighteous, for us to hope that we may be permitted to partake of the attributes of deity and, if we are faithful, to become like unto God; for as we receive of and obey the natural laws of our Father that govern this life, we become more like Him; and as we take advantage of the opportunities placed within our reach, we prepare to receive greater opportunities in this life and in the life that is to come. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, p. 71)
President Spencer W. Kimball:
Through him God has abundantly confirmed that man is the supreme creation, made in the image and similitude of God and his Son, Jesus Christ; that man is the offspring of God; that for man, and man alone, was the earth created, organized, planted and made ready for human habitation; and that, having within him the seeds of godhood and thus being a god in embryo, man has unlimited potential for progress and attainment. (Miracle of Forgiveness, p.3)
President Ezra Taft Benson:
As God’s offspring, we have His attributes in us. We are gods in embryo, and thus have an unlimited potential for progress and attainment. The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 21.
President Gordon B. Hinckley:
On the other hand, the whole design of the gospel is to lead us onward and upward to greater achievement, even, eventually, to godhood. This great possibility was enunciated by the ProphetJoseph Smith in the King Follet sermon (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 342–62; and emphasized by President Lorenzo Snow. It is this grand and incomparable concept: As God now is, man may become! (See The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, comp. Clyde J. Williams, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984, p. 1.)
Our enemies have criticized us for believing in this. Our reply is that this lofty concept in no way diminishes God the Eternal Father. He is the Almighty. He is the Creator and Governor of the universe. He is the greatest of all and will always be so. But just as any earthly father wishes for his sons and daughters every success in life, so I believe our Father in Heaven wishes for his children that they might approach him in stature and stand beside him resplendent in godly strength and wisdom. (General Conference, October 1994, “Don’t Drop the Ball”)
Statements from other Apostles and Seventies:
Bruce R. McConkie:
Thus those who gain eternal life receive exaltation. . . They are gods. (Mormon Doctrine, pg. 237).
George Q. Cannon:
We are the children of God, and as His children there is no attribute we ascribe to Him that we do not possess, though they may be dormant or in embryo. The mission of the Gospel is to develop these powers and make us like our Heavenly Parent. ( Gospel Truth, compiled by Jerreld L. Newquist (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1974))
Milton R. Hunter:
Men and women in general are the greatest of God’s creative work, being made in his own image, and endowed through inheritance from our heavenly parents with godly characteristics just as mortal children are endowed with the characteristics of their earthly parents. In other words, we are gods in embryo…(General Conference Reports, October 1945)
George F. Richards:
We are placed here upon the earth for the purpose, in part, of improving, magnifying and perfecting those qualities and attributes; so that, while we are now but gods in embryo, having been born of God, in His likeness, in His image, and having received from Him the attributes of Deity, through perfecting those attributes in time and in eternity we will be like Him in very deed, and be glorified with him in His kingdom. (General Conference Reports, October 1914, 16)
Tad R. Callister:
But how is it possible that you and I, with all our faults and weaknesses and shortcomings, could ever become a god? Fortunately, a loving Heavenly Father has given us resources, … made possible because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ….It is critical to have a correct vision of this divine destiny of godliness because with increased vision comes increased motivation…As we better understand our potential destiny, our level of self-worth and confidence and motivation is greatly heightened. Youth will understand that it is shortsighted at best to take easy classes and easy teachers rather than ones that will stretch them toward godhood….There are no ordinary people, no ciphers, no zeros – only potential gods and goddesses in our midst. While many witnesses testify of this truth, the most powerful of all are the quiet whisperings of the Spirit that confirm both to my mind and to my heart the grandeur and truth of this glorious doctrine.
Not an apostle, but still a great theologian:
The command Be Ye Perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and He is going to make good on His words… The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said. (Mere Christianity, New York: Macmillan, 1960, pp.174-75).
I would like to leave you my testimony that I believe this to be a true doctrine. Logically, it just makes sense.
Where did God come from? He has progressed to the state at which He is today.
Why has He created us? So that we too can progress to become like Him.
From my personal experience so far, I know that life is only enjoyable if I can continue to learn and progress. There is not much purpose to life unless we can continue to improve ourselves, to learn more and to become better at using that knowledge. This, in addition to serving others, is what brings joy in life. Why would we ever want to stop learning and progressing? If we will continue to exist for eternity, wouldn’t we want to use that time to get smarter, stronger, wiser, more understanding, more compassionate, more patient, and better able to help our fellow man? If at some point we can progress to the perfect state in which our Heavenly Father exists, then we will use our knowledge and power to help others to get there as well. We know that God’s purpose is to do just that. He tells us, “This is my work and my glory: to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
I love this quote from Brigham Young:
[Man’s Godhood] will not detract anything from the glory and might of our Heavenly Father, for he will still remain our Father, and we shall still be subject to Him, and as we progress, in glory and power it the more enhances the glory and power of the our Heavenly Father. (Journal of Discourses 10:5)
So, logically, it seems perfectly reasonable to me that there exists some other God, of whom our Heavenly Father is the spiritual offspring, who raised Him and helped Him to become God as He is today. In turn, He created us and works to effect our salvation. Someday we will do the same for our eternal offspring.
The doctrine makes sense logically. It is supported by the scriptures and the teachings of our prophets and apostles. And it gives us something to look forward to, something to work toward, motivation to be the best that we can be.
If we wish to help our children combat the terrible evils that they face everyday in our world today, if we wish to motivate ourselves to continue to strive even when the outlook seems discouraging, let us bring to the front of our minds and hearts this doctrine, let us know the truth of our own identity and our own potential. Let us remember that we are children of God and that we may someday become like Him, gods and goddesses with all the power and majesty that He possesses.
I hope to be able to fulfill my own divine potential, and I am eternally grateful to my Elder Brother, Jesus Christ, for making this possible for me. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
It just so happened that right as I was contemplating this subject, the BYU magazine showed up, and there was a fantastic article in it by Elder Tad R Callister. You can read his full article BY CLICKING HERE.