Become Like God or Rely on Him

Over the last two years, my approach to the Plan of Salvation has evolved quite a bit– in large part due to the thoughts I’ve processed and discussed on LDS blogs. The summary version of my current philosophy goes like this:

Life is not a crucible– it’s a chrysalis. Rather than being simply a test or a proving ground, the purpose of life is to teach us to become Gods.

We are being trained in the high-level use of agency, righteousness, and spiritual power, all in an attempt to form us into a new kind of being. Adversity isn’t to give us ‘experience.’ It’s to turn us divine. All God’s messages, commandments, and challenges can be interpreted through this framework, as in: “How does my current experience or challenge or question operate to make me into a God-like being.”

While this is by no means a unique take on the Plan of Salvation, it makes a difference when used as the dominant lens through which thought and experience are filtered. There are certainly other ways to interpret the complex mesh of life experience and unbounded theology. I think this world view has great interpretive power for organizing the various events of our lives (It has been further developed here and here). Most of the gospel makes perfect sense when viewed in this way.

But a new thread is weaving into my life that I’m having trouble reconciling with my broader philosophy. This is the bedrock principle that Christ requires total dependence of his disciples, and that success for the righteous depends completely on how well we surrender our wills to his. Try as I might, I can’t fit this requirement into the programme. How does learning complete dependence on another being train me to be a God in my separate sphere?

I do not mean to say that I reject this doctrine. Indeed, I take it as more essential than everything else I believe. But against the backdrop of a world view that explains many things, I am not able to find a deeper purpose for this most crucial of commandments.

There are a few different ways to reduce the tension. The first is to say that total dependence on Jesus does train me for experience in the hereafter, because my nascent Godhood will require a similar dependence on Him then. This is quite possible. But does this mean that we will exist for eternities, with great kindgoms of our own, yet remain forever dependent beings, wholly reliant on the power of our Savior? Does the ‘nothingness’ by which we are to view ourselves here pertain eons from now, when we have putatively raised ourselves into ‘somethings?’ Again, I do not reject this, but it doesn’t seem to fit for me.

The second option is to say that the dependence requirement is set up separate to the broader architecture of the plan. For example, you could posit that God set up his grand design for cultivating new generations of Gods, but ran into the problem of sin, and so needed a Deus ex machina. He introduced Christ into the plan to fulfill the requirement, but that is an artificial option, inserted to overcome a discrete obstacle, and not a central pillar of the plan. This also seems very unlikely. Everything we know makes Jesus central to the plan, and it’s hard to think of the atonement as an afterthought.

Between these two options lies an interesting problem: How long will Jesus be our Savior? Is he here to get us past the necessary blight of mortality, after which he will release us into the wilds of the infinite universe? Or will our orbits perpetually encircle his, as his does that of the Father?

In short, am I to spend mortality becoming more and more like God, gaining new levels of independent power and knowledge, in preparation for an anointing as a King in my own right? Or am I to be patient, humble, submissive in all things, finding any level of growth or power only as a self-abnegating disciple to the Savior? These two options may not appear totally contradictory, but if you look hard, there’s a tension that’s difficult to escape.

31 thoughts on “Become Like God or Rely on Him

  1. interesting thoughts.

    While its nice to think about me overcoming all evils and becoming a King and Priest to the Most High, right now I will strive to be Jesus’ friend and brother.

    For me this mortal life is to become closer to Jesus, and learn to become one of his trusted servants. I will focus on that for now.

    The becoming a God part of it, for me I will at times fantsize about, but I will not see that as a mode of philosphy for me until after this second estate.

    For me, being humble, and submitting myself wholely to the Savior is the way I make it through the day. I dont think they are contridictory, but maybe that they are steps.

    Focus on using the atonement now and later when in the next world, we can focus on becoming Godds, AFTER we have been made perfect through Him.

    my thoughts.

  2. Thanks, Andres. I agree completely.

    By making the above statements of perspective, I don’t mean to say that becoming a God is guiding ambition, or something I am actively and consciously working toward. That destiny is only useful to me as a way of organizing events and forces in my life– helping me figure out what God intends me to learn and become through life.

    So maybe that’s the answer– use the divine destiny as an organizing tool, but in the here and now, make Christ and discipleship your focus. That’s actually about what I think the Gospel is saying, roughly.

  3. I can dig that.

    I have no idea how the next life will be, after we are made perfect, will we be still indebted or dependant to Jesus, it would all be spectulation, but if I were to guess heres my guess:

    After the final judgement, and all is said and done, those people whose are to enter the Celestial kingdom, and be exalted men and women, I guess would then be co-equal in power, majesty and glory to the Son. We then will be true brothers and sisters and all be perfected through the Savior, and then all be at the same “level” to move forward, creating Kingdoms and preparing for our spirit children and that next step of the Plan. We will always remember and love Christ for what he did, but in the eons from now, we will be completely independant from his power, becasue we will then have our own power.
    He will always be the first-born but no longer the Mediator, we will both be on the same sphere of perfection then and our rotations will be around our joint Heavenly Father and I suppose no one else.

  4. I think it is a mistake to say that we will ever get beyond having to submit to the will of Christ or not having to have Faith in him. Sadly, I can’t find it right now, but in one of the unpublished revelations to Joseph, He asked about whether Christ has faith in and of himself. The answer was yes. I don’t see how we could ever approach that.

  5. J., thanks for your thoughts. I find the idea of eternal dependence intriguing, and it’s a question I’m very open on.

    Could you explain what you mean by “faith in and of himself?” You mean he has faith in himself, or his faith grows out of himself? Not sure I understand.

  6. It is kind of hard to explain. I wish I could find the exact revelation to give you the appropriate words. It’s in Collier’s Unpublished Revelations. I understand it that Jesus has independent faith in himself. And contrary to what Andres states, that faith was required before the world was and will be required after. I am willing to admit that we are probably talking about diferent kinds of Faith. He seems to be talking about Alma 32 faith and I am talking about creating worlds/walking on water faith.

  7. I think this is sort of like a kid in elementary school asking “how is getting on a bus, going to a giant ugly brown building, and having strange grownups tell me what to do every minute of every day going to turn me into someone like my Dad?”* Or, a sixteen year old wanting to know how dating only in groups and having to report to her parents and not being able to do all kinds of things yet is going to make her ready for a temple marriage.

    Lots of stuff prepares you for somewhat (or totally) different things. My last employer had a lot of funny extra rules during initial training (like “you can’t surf the web or check email on your breaks or at lunch”) which were deliberately in place only for training. The idea was to make people recognize that some of the things that they could do once they were out of training were privileges, and that they were to be exercised responsibly and with care.

    I’m no endowed member, but it seems to me that it’d be not all that surprising to find that eternal progression worked in a similar, though profoundly more perfect, way.

    *since I don’t have any actual faith in the ability of a large public school to do that, it’s an imperfect analogy…

  8. You’ve given me an idea, Ryan B., but I’m going to steal it for a post.

    But I think you’re wrong about the ‘Christ is accidental’ thing anyway. We are fundamentally flawed and incomplete people, so much so that we cannot be remade wholly until we are willing to completely let go of our own judgment about what flaws and remaking we need, and trust the Remaker. That total submission may not be what we need as Gods, but we sure need it to get there.

    Anyway, I think I can make a half-baked argument that we do need it as Gods. No two beings can perfectly coexist, it seems to me, unless both are agreed on everything, one is subordinate to the other, or they have rules enforcing spheres of decisionmaking. The last doesn’t work because it just removes the problem one step. Both must perfectly agree what the rules are and how they should be understood, or else one must be subordinate. But subordination, or at least forced subordination, in incompatible with being raised to complete equality with God (Note: it is by no means clear the we believe that our Godhood means that we’ll be in a state of equal power, ability, and attributes with God. I believe it, but that’s me). If he can compel us do things then we aren’t on his level yet.

    Which means that subordination must be voluntary.

    I contend that voluntary subordination is still necessary, even among perfect beings, because certain attempts to coordinate have no obvious right answer, though some kind of answer is necessary (the classic example is the thing about which side of the road you drive on.) therefore perfect beings need to have the ability to put aside their own wishes perfectly.

  9. “I find the idea of eternal dependence intriguing, and it’s a question I’m very open on.”
    I think to some extent we will always be eternally dependent, whether that be upon God, our spouse, or the entire eternal family of God as it seems that our exaltation is tied up with their’s.

  10. Here’s my two cents:

    My belief is that as we become more like God that it only glorifies Him more. Therefore as we come closer individually to becoming as He now is, He only becomes greater (thus, eternal progression occurs for Him as well). I believe that He will always be our God. He will always be the person from whence our powers come. We will always be indebted to Him and to Christ for Their unconditional love, sacrifice, and all the blessings and powers which They bestow upon us. I’m sure that our Eternal Father (notice, I said eternal – indicating that He will always have all the blessings, privilages, rites, love, etc. of being our Father) must still be linked to His own Heavenly Parents and thus all the generations of gods are one great big family. ie. The song “If You Could Hie to Kolob” states, “If you could hie to Kolob in the twinking of an eye and then continue onward with that same speed to fly, do you think that you could ever through all eternity find out the generations where gods began to be?” It is all one eternal round. The eternities obviously stretch far beyond the comprehension of mortal man.

    On a separate but related note… There is a reason why Christ kept the tokens in his hands and feet after He was resurrected. He is the only child of our Father who will have a Celestialized immortal body – but with marks left from mortality. He chose to retain them first as a testament to us in this life and at the Second Coming, but also to keep us in remembrance of what He has done for us throughout the eternities. To think that He, the only Perfect child of our Heavenly Father, Himself being a God, chose to retain those marks, He being the only one to ever have such “blemishes”, per se, on a Celesialized and immortal body, just as a token of His Eternal and unconditional love for All of us….that is just beyond me. I am amazed at such love. And He will have those marks forever. The fact that He chose to do this leads me to believe that we will all need to continue to rely on Him and have continued Faith in Him (albeit a different type of faith, as we will also gain Pure Knowledge in the hereafter) beyond this Second Estate and throughout the eternities.

  11. Won’t we inherit “ALL that the Father hath”? ALL glory, ALL honor, ALL knowledge?

    It sounds to me like someday we will BECOME co-equals with God.

    I’ve been wrong before….

  12. True. So what does it mean to experience eternal progression? I’ve been pondering on that myself for a while. Maybe there is always more knowledge, etc. to be had, growing at an exponential rate in the eternities…?

  13. So what? Jesus Christ has inherited all that the Father has, but he would be the first to say that he is not co-equal, because he acknowledges the primacy of the Father.

  14. To add to my post above, Christ would say that he is not co-equal, even though the Father has raised him to a co-equal position.

  15. I agree and disagree with your post all at once and realize the problem is the language that we commonly use in the church. I blame Stephen Robinson and our protestant friends whose language has crept into our lexicon.

    I guess my biggest question is what you mean by “complete dependence”. The phrase “complete dependence” is not found in the standard works. It’s a protestant term that has mingled with LDS concepts so as to create a completely unintelligible concept.

    For the moment let me say that your post seems to be a reconceptualization of the old grace vs. works issue. How much do we need to rely on works and how much do we need to rely on grace? My thoughts are expressed by Geoff J. in his post on the issue.

    Having “dependence on the Savior” in the LDS sense means works. It means exactly what you state in the second paragraph. It means believing the Savior’s words enough to do his will. There is no contradiction.

    As to your final paragraph: again, I see no contradiction between these two things at all. Doing one is doing the other. Can you give me an example of where they might contradict? Do you mean practical things like time spent studying the gospel vs. out practicing the gospel via service? If that’s the case, then simple moderation is the answer although it’s always a good question. But you seem to be asking something deeper, I’m just not sure what exactly that is.

  16. Ryan,
    I believe that the total submission to Christ’s will is not the end, but is what’s needed to begin our journey to exaltation. It isn’t until we forfeit our own will and completely trust and follow him that we are ready to be grow into a perfect being that will have infinite power.
    Christ is the way, truth, and light. Maybe the submission we’re to give him personally is the first step toward giving our will to complete conformity to true principles. We know that “the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness,” so we must conform to those principals before having the powers of heaven. Can you imagine having God’s infinite power and selfish desires affecting its use? What would happen if God lost his temper and unleashed his frustration out of selfish emotion instead of necessary cleansing?
    I believe that after we conform perfectly to eternal principals, we will have the autonomy to work within them. Even God must conform to those principals: “What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit. If so, God would cease to be God.” (Alma 42:25.)
    Re: “How long will Jesus be our Savior?” I’ve been wondering recently whether Christ will continue to pay for sins that will be committed in the Terrestrial and Telestial kingdoms. Or, did Gethsemane and Golgotha cover them also. Do the residents of those glories continue to be saved from justice by continued payment by Christ or by the original atonement? As I read this, I suppose the original atonement covers it all.
    10 Adam, “Note: it is by no means clear the we believe that our Godhood means that we’ll be in a state of equal power, ability, and attributes with God. I believe it, but that’s me). If he can compel us do things then we aren’t on his level yet.”
    13 Dylan, “Won’t we inherit “ALL that the Father hath”? ALL glory, ALL honor, ALL knowledge? It sounds to me like someday we will BECOME co-equals with God.”
    I believe that we won’t become co-equals with Heavenly Father or his glory. My reading of
    92 And thus we saw the glory of the celestial, which excels in all things—where God, even the Father, reigns upon his throne forever and ever;
    93 Before whose throne all things bow in humble reverence, and give him glory forever and ever.
    94 They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace;
    95 And he makes them equal [to each other – manaen] in power, and in might, and in dominion.
    (D&C 76)
    is that those in the celestial kingdom, who will be who dwell in his presence, will bow in humble reverence and give him glory forever and ever.
    12 Melanie, “And He will have those marks forever”
    I appreciate the depth of your gratitude for the Christ’s suffering. My understanding is that he will show those marks for specific purposes to testify of his messiahship, then they will heal. Here are a couple of the GA comments that seem to point this way:
    “Even though the power of the Resurrection could have—and undoubtedly one day will have— completely restored and made new the wounds from the crucifixion, nevertheless Christ chose to retain those wounds for a purpose, including for his appearance in the last days when he will show those marks and reveal that he was wounded ‘in the house of [his] friends.’ “ (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant: The Messianic Message of the Book of Mormon, pp 258 – 259.)
    “It can hardly be accepted as a fact that these wounds have remained in his hands, side, and feet all through the centuries from the time of his crucifixion and will remain until his Second Coming, But they will appear to the Jews as a witness against their fathers and their stubbornness in following the teachings of their fathers. After their weeping and mourning they shall be cleansed.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, p. 292.)

  17. i agree with melanie on the eternal progression thing. joseph smith made reference to that idea in the king follet sermon. after reading that i came to believe that we had the potential to become like God, but that we would never be equal with Him. kind of like an eternal multilevel marketing–celestial amway or nuskin if you will. (i don’t mean to be blasphemous, thats just how i analogize it for myself).

    on the subject of Christs role in th plan to make us Gods as was brought up, i tend to think of Jeffrey R Holland’s talk The Grandeur of God. is it possible that one of the most important parts of the Atonement was to teach us how to be Heavenly Parents, to teach us of the need for sacrificing all for those you love, and that this is the meaning of deity?

  18. Manaen –

    Thank you for those quotes from Elder Holland and President Joseph Fielding Smith. – I hadn’t found specific quotes on that but had just stated my understanding on the topic. As my fiancee commented to me last night as I told him about this discussion, it’s always best to go directly to the sources we know to be true (ie. scriptures, modern prophets).

  19. D&C 84: 38

    And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.

    I guess I don’t understand eternal math. If we (eventually) obtain everything our Father has aren’t we (eventually) equals?

  20. A fascinating discussion. As a non-Mormon (Orthodox) who has always defended the LDS as Christians, it was fascinating for me to have an insight into the minds of individual, thinking LDS believers. I define “Christian” not in narrow doctrinal definitions of the Trinity, etc., but more in relation to Jesus Christ and how He is viewed. I was shocked to learn from the above that believing, educated LDS seem to view Christ as some sort of “bandage” on the path of eternal progression (maybe we’ll be subservient to Him in the eternities, maybe not … who knows…) I guess I now really understand how confused and corrupted the LDS view of Christ must be, despite all the outward appearances in the LDS church. The above discussions have shown me that LDS beliefs are not even remotely related to apostolic Christianity or anything remotely resembling historic Chriatianity, where the faithful gladly laid down their lives for HIM, not for their advancement, but in gratitude to Him and for the chance to spend endless eternities at His feet. You have helped me see that I was very wrong and that the critics of the church (whom I have truly despised) are largely right … LDS doctrine really is an endless series of births, gods and salvation/exaltation based on personal behavior. Jesus Christ appears from your discussions to be nothing more than a helper along the way, but certainly not a Savior (one who saves).

  21. Corey, I think you need to point out specifically what is contradictory to apostolic Christianity, because I don’t see anything in this post or its comments which has definitivly nailed down what LDS doctrine is. Moreover, I don’t think you assert anything that we would necessarily disagree with.

  22. “To add to my post above, Christ would say that he is not co-equal, even though the Father has raised him to a co-equal position. “

    This is wise. Much as a man might in time grow to be as good and great as his father, but still treat him like a father.


    Assuming you’re not a troll, I still don’t know what you are talking about. I don’t think anyone here thinks Christ is a ‘bandage.’ That’s a pretty disrespectful term of yours. We think he’s an adopted father, who’s raisign us to places we can’t go ourselves and paying for our waywardness with his blood. Eventually, we think, he’ll even raise us to be like himself. Being like him, we will not be ungrateful or feel that we no longer have a need for his company. Being like Christ is as much, if not more, about getting the character that he has than it is getting his power or authority.

  23. Eric and Adam – Thanks for your comments. (I’m not quite sure what a “troll” is, but I can assure you I’m not one. I just bumped into this site and started reading.) I guess what shocked me is that the ideas expressed in the thread are exactly what LDS always tell me they do not believe. This is the sort of stuff you hear from anti-LDS sources (who, I have discovered, often exaggerate and are less than truthful). I firmly believe that the true church would be very similar to the apostolic and 1st century church, as we know it from the many remaining documents it left behind (with which LDS are well familiar). I guess if Christ is truly incarnate God and the savior, why would anyone even think that He would someday no longer be our savior? Why would anyone even want to be equal with Him, let alone surpass Him (as I believe someone in the thread said)? That certainly isn’t the thoughts or spirit that one finds in the early Christian Church. In the whole thread it seemed to me as if Christ were almost ancillary to one’s “eternal progression”, that He was important only in that we need Him now to get on with building our own kingdoms. (Sorry if this sounds crass- no disrespect intended – but that is how it comes off to me.) I guess I’m left really wondering what the LDS actually believe about Christ, if the things said in public by the church really are santitized to avoid criticism and if they then hold a differing view within the “family”. I guess I even wonder if the LDS even know what they believe in this whole area of “God was a man” and deification, since the church itself appears to be relatively silent and there seem to be differing views among members. What I read here was just simply not what I have been told, or what I know I would find on many LDS sites where individuals try to explain their beliefs to outsiders. It sounded like the stuff the anti-LDS say about the LDS, and it troubled me.


  24. Corey,

    I hope you’re still around, because I’d love to respond to some of the issues you raise, which I read as very sincere.

    First of all, I’d like to tell you what I truly believ about Jesus, his influence and role in my life, and the relationship He and I have, or are meant to have. I promise not to sanitize anything or sugar-coat anything to make it look more palatable to a non-Mormon Christian– these are me true, deeply held beliefs.

    Jesus Christ is my Savior. By that I mean that there is nothing I can do to ever attain salvation, sanctification, justification, or any other state of Heavenliness except through him. What I believe he requires of me is total subjection to his will, and a complete willingness to be who He asks me to be. In mortality, I believe that if I will make him the guiding principle in my life, follow his commandments and keep my covenants with him, he will apply gracae to me, washing away my sins, and showing me how to become a righteous person, which knowledge I do not presently have access to.

    Assume I walk that path successfully. I believe I will then be judged on Jesus’ merits, rather than my own, and will be granted access to Jesus and the Father’s presence (yes, I believe they are two separate beings, which I’m sure does not surprise you). By living near these beings of infinite beauty, love, and wisdom, I expect to learn and grow continually for many eternities. I believe that at some point in time through this process, they will give me new gifts and powers under them, to reign in some way in my own right, under their authority.

    During that stage, as well as this one, I believe a total dependence on Jesus Christ is necessary. Not only to have success, but even to exist– in that his light is the organizing principle on which the universe currently rests. Thus, I will depend on him for growth and knowledge, but more fundamentally, i will depend on him for survival, health, strength, etc, as I do here.

    The final step is where I need to speculate independent of known Mormon doctrine. What I simply do not know, is whether that kind of metaphysical dependence will continue. There is no question in my mind (contra some of the comments) that I will never, ever feel that my dept to the Savio has been ‘paid.’ Further, I have absolutely no doubt that he will always remain my superior, as will his Father. There is some question about whether I may attain someday the glory that they hold now. I rather think I may. But by then, they will have had the same time to progress, and will be far beyond the levels I achieve. Thus, I can’t imagine there will ever be a time when I am equal in most senses to the Father or the Son. It’s not something I think is necessary to the plan, and I’ve never heard any official doctrine stating so.

    Still, one wonders if a new sort of metaphysical independence might be a necessary step to that kind advancement. While I’m sure Jesus will always be my Savior, the one who saved me and allowed me access to God’s exalting gifts, I’m not sure if dependence on Him will remain a requisite of advancement for every one of the infinite steps forward through eternity. It’s quite possible, and it would make sense it it were so, but it would also make sense if the plan is to let each being somehow gather sufficient means to support himself in eternity.

    Anyway, again, I do not think i will ever be 1)equal to the Savior, nor 2) out of his debt. Maybe that helps you a little.

  25. There are a lot of interesting thoughts herein and some great quotes, but perhaps we should do the following and please do not take this as a criticism of the approach here in this thread as a lot of it is true.

    What I have included below is not a criticism of this thread in anyway, but for those like Corey, perhaps someone should start a thread on this blog which outlines our beliefs about Jesus in a simple testimony based format without too much doctrinal discussion as we get into in these sorts of threads. Perhaps the thread should be entitled something like: “Please Testify!” I often think of testimony as the ‘end game’ to all disputes. Any thoughts about this idea?

  26. Anonymoose, I’d love to see that post– you should write it. See our guest post submissions link above on the sidebar.

  27. ” guess if Christ is truly incarnate God and the savior, why would anyone even think that He would someday no longer be our savior? Why would anyone even want to be equal with Him, let alone surpass Him (as I believe someone in the thread said)?”

    It would be impossible to pass Christ in my opinion. There’s nothing better than perfect. As to your other points, lots of LDS don’t think that we ever cease to be ‘metaphysically’ dependent ong Christ. I do. I’d say we want to be equal with Him because (1) that’s what he wants–it’s not disrespect to your father to want to grow up to be like him, quite the opposite and (2) because its impossible to fully desire the good and not want to be fully good yourself, which means wanting to be like Christ.

    So, yes, I do think that at some point, through grace, Christ will make us ‘metaphysically’ independent of him. But I don’t see that this implies any diminishment of Christ. Our continued devotion and obedience to him will be all the more valuable because, in some sense, we don’t have to do it (this is purely hypothetical, of course, because beings who have become like Christ are not in nature able to cease to love and obey the one to whom they owe it)

  28. How about this: dependence on Christ (or dependence on God) is necessary now because those that are one with God (that is to say, those that are gods) are interdependent on each other.

    Or maybe this: Dependence on God is the most effective way (or at least one of the more effective tools) to teach Godliness.

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