Because we have our Latter-day scriptures as companions to the Bible, we understand the eternal nature of our existence. We understand that we began as spirit children of our Father in Heaven. We entered this mortal life to use our freedom of choice or agency in choosing between God and Satan. After death, we will wait in the spirit world for our resurrection, and many of us will help teach the Gospel to the spirits who are there. Finally, after the judgment, we will inherit one of the many mansions of the Father. Let us now look more deeply into the scriptures to understand the “why” of all this.
Becoming Like Christ
In his glorious Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us to improve ourselves and become more like him.
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (Matthew 5:43-44)
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you;
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)
Judge not, that ye be not judged. (Matthew 7:1)
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
The reason for the Savior’s emphasis on our becoming more like him was brought out when the Savior gave us our ultimate goal.
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
The Greek word for “perfect” is teleios, which means full or complete. Jesus said we should become full or complete, as our Father in Heaven is full or complete. In giving us this commandment, Jesus put into proper perspective the grand purpose of our whole existence. The Plan of Salvation can be summed up in those few words: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. We treat others as we would be treated, and in so doing we become more like God. We do not judge others and in so doing we become more like God. We forgive others and in so doing we become more like God. As we become like God, we become full or complete, we become perfect.
Let us examine the scriptures to see if they suggest we can become like God. Paul taught we can become joint heirs with Christ.
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; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Romans 8:16-17)
Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:7)
Notice the sequence given by Paul. We are the children of God and then we become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. One would expect that an heir of God would inherit the things of God. Further, Peter taught that we actually partake of the divine nature of God.
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:2-4, emphasis added).
Partaking of the divine nature of God means sharing his attributes and becoming like Him. The Apostle John taught that those who overcome sin through Christ will inherit all things from God.
And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. (Revelation 21:6-7)
From Psalms we learn God will withhold nothing from those who obey his commandments.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. (Psalms 84:11)
When the resurrected Christ visited the Nephites, he told them to become like him.
And know ye that ye shall be judges of this people, according to the judgment which I shall give unto you, which shall be just. Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am. (3 Nephi 27:27)
Jesus went on to tell the Nephites they would receive the same joy that he had and would be like him.
And for this cause ye shall have fulness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one; (3 Nephi 28:10)
Through revelation to Joseph Smith, the Lord revealed that when he (Jesus) finishes his work, those who have been faithful will be made equal with him.
And again, another angel shall sound his trump, which is the seventh angel, saying: It is finished; it is finished! The Lamb of God hath overcome and trodden the wine-press alone, even the wine-press of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.
And then shall the angels be crowned with the glory of his might, and the saints shall be filled with his glory, and receive their inheritance and be made equal with him. (D&C 88:106-107)
Truly, Jesus Christ is our role model!
We Become Gods
We have finally reached the point in our study where we are able to understand the glorious purpose of God’s plan. We are the literal children of God. Through obedience to his commandments and repentance, we remove sin from our lives. This, however, does not remove the effects of sin from our lives. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the effects of our sins are removed by his blood, and our sins are forgiven; we become clean and become like the Savior. We become heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. We receive all the Father has to give. In doing this, we fulfil the challenge from the Savior: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw the Celestial Kingdom in vision and learned that all things would be given to those who are celestialized, and those persons would become gods.
That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things–
They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;
Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God–
Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (D & C 76:52,55-56,58-59, emphasis added)
The Lord further elaborated on this beautiful principle when he gave the glorious revelation about the new and everlasting covenant.
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. (D&C 132:20, emphasis added)
We need to realize that our repentance and our obedience to God do not bring us to godhood. We can not work ourselves to perfection, no matter how hard we try. Some say that we reach perfection step by step, day by day, as we more closely live the gospel. That is not true. Through repentance and obedience, we reduce the degree of sin in our lives, although we will never completely remove sin from our lives, and we thus come unto Christ step by step, day by day. In return, he allows his atonement to enter our lives and cleanse us. Those who become perfect will become so because of the atonement, not because of their righteousness.
Plurality of Gods
We believe it is the Father’s plan that those to whom the word of God comes in the full sense become like him and are gods. This concept that we can become gods is known in the Church as the plurality of gods.
Some people say Jesus did not actually mean in Matthew 5:48 that we should become perfect; only God and Christ are perfect, they say. It is true that only God and Jesus are perfect, for all persons have sinned through use of their agency. However, Jesus was not teasing us or deceiving us; he actually said, Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. He actually meant that we should become perfect through obedience to him, through repentance of our sins, and through cleansing by his Atonement.
The Jews accused Jesus of blasphemy because he claimed to be the Son of God, and in a similar vein many Christians accuse us of blasphemy because we believe we can become gods. In accusing us, they show their narrow vision of the Father’s plan. We have seen that the scriptures teach that those who overcome sin will receive all things from the Father. Is it blasphemy to believe a child of God can become like his or her Father? Is it blasphemy to believe that those who will receive all things will in fact receive all things? Is it blasphemy to believe that if God withholds nothing, he does in fact withhold nothing? Is it blasphemy to believe that those who partake of the divine nature of God do in fact partake of that divine nature? Is it blasphemy to believe that those who become heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ do in fact become heirs? Is it blasphemy to believe that Jesus was serious when he told us to become perfect? Perhaps, the best answer we can give to those who accuse us of blasphemy is the answer Jesus gave to those who accused him of blasphemy. Jesus responded by referring to Psalms 82:6 in which persons who received the word of God were called gods.
The Jews answered him saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken;
Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? (John 10:33-36, emphasis added)
The persons who object to the doctrine of the plurality of gods, say, “What about Isaiah 43:10 where it says there were no Gods before Jehovah and will be none after him?” That scripture, along with Isaiah 44:8, was discussed in the chapter on The Nature of God. Jehovah was trying to persuade the Israelites from worshiping the many false gods of their neighbors, and he wanted them to focus on their God, Jehovah, who is Jesus Christ. Jesus is perfectly united with our Father in Heaven and the Holy Ghost, and it is appropriate to refer to them as “one God” even though there are three distinct personages in that Godhead. The passages from Isaiah discuss the relationship between God and Israel and do not address the question of our becoming gods.
The Glory of God
The Lord revealed to Moses that his purpose and glory in creating the world and all things was that we might receive eternal life.
For behold, this is my work and my glory–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39)
Eternal is a name for God (D&C 19:10-12). Thus, Eternal Life is God’s life, or life with God and life as he is. Our destiny, if we allow the full effect of the Atonement to come into our lives, is to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and to be like them. Truly, life is important and has great meaning! Let us strive each day to love God, to obey his commandments, and to serve his children. Let us be examples of Christ to the world, that through our lives people may see him and come to know him.