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Callister tad 2012-08-14 (1)

  1. 1. Brigham Young University 2012–2013Speeches Our Identity and Our Destiny TAD R. CALLISTER 14 August 2012 • 801-422-2299
  2. 2. Our Identity and Our Destiny TAD R. CALLISTERI n keeping with the theme of this week, I would like to discuss with you a vision ofwho we are and what we may become. At a become an architect? A painting a painter? Or an invention an inventor? If not, then those who believe we are creations of God, ratherrecent training session for General Authorities, than His spirit offspring, reach the inevitablethe question was asked: “How can we help conclusion that we do not have the capacity tothose struggling with pornography?” become like our creator, God. In essence, their Elder Russell M. Nelson stood and replied, doctrine of identity has defined and dictated a“Teach them their identity and their purpose.” diminished destiny. That answer resonated with me, not only as On the other hand, as members of Thea response to that specific question but as an Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,appropriate response to most of the challenges we believe that we are the spirit offspring ofwe face in life. And so today I speak of the true God with inherited spiritual traits that give usnature of our identity and a correct vision of the divine potential to become like our parent,our divine destiny. God the Father. As to this identity, President First, our identity. There is a sentiment Packer has written:among many in the world that we are the spiritcreations of God, just as a building is the cre- You are a child of God. He is the father of youration of its architect or a painting the creation spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the off-of its painter or an invention the creation of spring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in yourits inventor. The scriptures teach, however, a mind and hold to it. However many generations inmuch different doctrine. They teach that we your mortal ancestry, no matter what race or peopleare more than creations of God; they teach that you represent, the pedigree of your spirit can bewe are the literal spirit offspring or children written on a single line. You are a child of God!2of God our Father.1 What difference does thisdoctrinal distinction make? The difference Tad R. Callister was a member of the Presidency ofis monumental in its consequence because the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-our identity determines in large measure our day Saints when this devotional address was deliv-destiny. For example, can a mere creation ever ered on 14 August 2012 during Campus Educationbecome like its creator? Can a building ever Week. 1© INTELLECTUAL RESERVE, INC.
  3. 3. 2   Brigham Young University 2012–2013 SpeechesIt is this doctrine of identity that defines our emphasis added). How could that be? God thenpotential destiny of godhood. If one does not tells us why this new destiny was possible—correctly understand his divine identity, then because men now “know good and evil.” Beinghe will never correctly understand his divine immersed in a world of good and evil, havingdestiny. They are, in truth, inseparable partners. the capacity to choose, and being able to draw What, then, has God revealed to us about upon the powers of the Atonement resulted inour destiny? He has spoken clearly and fre- man having unlimited opportunities to pro­quently and forthrightly on this subject from gress toward his destiny of godhood.the very beginning. When Adam and Eve were We learn a great doctrinal truth in thesein the Garden of Eden, they lived in a state of series of events surrounding the Garden ofinnocence—meaning they only had a limited Eden: unfallen man would have remained inknowledge of good and evil. Lehi described a state of innocence—safe, but restricted intheir condition as follows: “Wherefore they his progress. On the other hand, fallen manwould have remained in a state of innocence, ventured into a heightened arena of risk, but,having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing blessed with the Atonement of Jesus Christ, heno good, for they knew no sin” (2 Nephi 2:23). gained access to unlimited possibilities and Suppose for a moment my wife and I invited powers and potential. Speaking of the effectone of you good Saints from California to drive of the Atonement on fallen man, C. S. Lewisto our home in Utah. Further suppose I asked remarked:you to drive in neutral. You might smile and respond, “That’s not For God is not merely mending, not simply restor-possible.” ing a status quo. Redeemed humanity is to What if I further replied, “Just push the be something more glorious than unfallenaccelerator all the way to the floor—you know, humanity would have been, more glorious thanas they say, ‘Push the pedal to the metal.’” any unfallen race now is. . . . And this super- You might respond, “That would make no added glory will, with true vicariousness, exalt alldifference. I cannot reach your destination creatures.3until I put my car in gear.” So it was with Adam and Eve. They were Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, Godin a state of spiritual neutral and could not can exalt all His children—meaning empowerprogress toward their divine destiny until they them to become like Him.were cast out of the garden and thus put in But one might ask, “Why does God want usspiritual gear. to become like Him?” In order to answer that When Adam and Eve were cast out of the question, one must first understand why manGarden of Eden, they traded their innocence, exists. Lehi gave the short and simple answer:meaning a lack of knowledge of good and “Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephievil, for the prospect of perfection—that was 2:25). President David O. McKay confirmedthe deal. Innocence and perfection are not that fundamental doctrinal truth: “Happinessthe same. An infant may be innocent but is the purpose and design of existence.”4 If Icertainly not perfect in the sense that he or were to ask you who is the happiest being in allshe has acquired all the attributes of godli- the universe—the one with the most joy—youness. Once Adam and Eve were cast from the would no doubt respond, “God.” Accordingly,garden, we read in the book of Genesis that God wants us to become perfect like Him so weGod Himself said, “Behold, the man is become as can experience His quality of joy and thus bestone of us [meaning like the gods]” (Genesis 3:22; fulfill the measure of our existence. That is why
  4. 4. Tad R. Callister   3His plan for us is sometimes called “the plan of It was in the Sermon on the Mount whenhappiness” (see Alma 42:8, 16). the Savior declared, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”Our Quest for Godhood (Matthew 5:48; emphasis added).6 Was the In spite of God’s altruistic aims on our Savior inviting men to be perfect as comparedbehalf, perhaps no doctrine, no teaching, no to other men—other mortals—or as comparedphilosophy has stirred such controversy as to God Himself? This command was consis-has this: that man may become a god. It is tent with the Savior’s high priestly prayer.espoused by some as blasphemous, by others Speaking of the believers, He petitioned theas absurd. Such a concept, they challenge, low- Father:ers God to the status of man and thus deprivesGod of both His dignity and divinity. Others That they may be one, even as we are one:claim this teaching to be devoid of scriptural I in them, and thou in me, that they may be madesupport. It is but a fantasy, they say, of a young, perfect in one. [John 17:22–23]uneducated schoolboy, Joseph Smith. Certainlyno God-fearing, right-thinking, Bible-oriented In accord with that request for perfection, Paulperson would subscribe to such a philosophy taught that a critical purpose of the Churchas this.5 While some of these advocates are was “for the perfecting of the saints . . . tillhardened critics, others are honest and bright we all come . . . unto a perfect man, unto themen who simply disagree with us on this doc- measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”trine. So wherein lies the truth? Hopefully the (Ephesians 4:12–13; emphasis added). Notefollowing will invite the Holy Ghost to whis- the measuring rod: not man, not some formper the quiet but certain truth to all those who of mini-Christ or quasi-God, but rather thathonestly seek it. we should become “a perfect man, [and then For our search of truth, we will turn to five he gives us the standard we should strive for]witnesses—first and foremost to the testimony unto the measure of the stature of the fulnessof the scriptures; second, to the witness of the of Christ.” Does that sound relative to you?early Christian writers; third, to the wisdom The critic is momentarily quiet. Sheepishlyof those poets and authors who drink from the he responds, “Certainly those scriptures mustdivine well; fourth, to the power of logic; and mean something else.”fifth, to the voice of history. The scriptures supporting this doctrine, however, continue to roll forth with repeatedScriptures and powerful testimony. At one point the First, the scriptures. Did not an angel appear Savior was about to be stoned by the Jews forunto Abraham and extend to him this heav- blasphemy. He reminded them of His goodenly mandate: “Walk before me, and be thou works and then asked, “For which of thoseperfect” (Genesis 17:1)? works do ye stone me?” “That is true,” interjects the critic. “Perfect They replied that they were not stoningas compared to other men, other mortals— him for good works “but for blasphemy; andcertainly not perfect as compared to God. The because that thou, being a man, makest thyselfword was used in its relative, not absolute God.”sense.” To this He readily acknowledged that He “Is that so?” comes the reply. “Let us then was and declared that they should be likewise:pursue the use of the word perfect as used by “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye arethe Savior Himself.” gods?” (John 10:32–34; emphasis added). In
  5. 5. 4   Brigham Young University 2012–2013 Speechesother words, He said not only am I a god, but to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am”all of you are potential gods. He was referring (3 Nephi 27:27; see also 1 John 3:2). And itto His own Old Testament declaration, with is exactly what the Savior promised in thiswhich the Jews should have been familiar: dispensation for all faithful Saints: “Then shall“Ye are gods; and all of you are children of they be gods, because they have all power, andthe most High” (Psalm 82:6). The Savior was the angels are subject unto them” (DC 132:20;merely reaffirming a basic gospel teaching that see also verse 19; see also DC 76:58–60).all men are children of God, and thus all might The critic, still shaking his head, responds,become like Him. “But such a concept lowers God to the status of Paul understood this principle, for, when man and thus robs Him of His divinity.”speaking to the men of Athens, he said: “Or, to the contrary,” comes the reply, “does“Certain also of your own poets have said, For it elevate man in his divine-like potential?”we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28). Paul Paul well knew this argument of the criticknew the consequences of being the offspring and silenced it once and for all ages ago.of God, for, while speaking to the Romans, he Speaking to the Saints of Philippi, he said:declared: Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, Jesus:that we are the children of God: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and robbery to be equal with God. [Philippiansjoint-heirs with Christ. [Romans 8:16–17; 2:5–6; emphasis added]emphasis added; see also 1 Corinthians 3:21–23and Revelation 21:7] The Savior knew that for Him to be a god and for us to be thus minded would not robNot subordinate heirs, not junior, not contin- God of His divinity. That makes good, but joint, equal heirs with Christ Himself, After all, who is greater: that being who limitsto share in all that He shall share. After all, is or that being who enhances man’s eternalnot that the same promise made by the Lord progress?to the Apostle John? “To him that overcometh One might ask, Who can give greater honorwill I grant to sit with me in my throne, even and glory to God—a creature of lower or moreas I also overcame, and am set down with my exalted status? Can an animal offer the sameFather in his throne” (Revelation 3:21). honor or worship with the same passion and Is it any wonder that Paul should write intensity as a human? Can a mere mortalto the Saints of Philippi, “I press toward the express the empyreal feelings or exercise themark for the prize of the high calling of God spiritual fervency of a potential god? One’sin Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Paul, who capacity to honor and worship is magnifiedunderstood so very well our destiny, was striv- with one’s intellectual, emotional, cultural, anding for the reward of godhood. Peter, who also spiritual enlightenment. Accordingly, the moreunderstood this doctrine, pled with the Saints we become like God, the greater our ability tothat they might become “partakers of the pay Him homage. In that process of lifting mendivine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), meaning recipients heavenward, God simultaneously multipliesof godhood. That is exactly what Jesus ordered His own honor and glory and thus is glorifiedwhen speaking to the Book of Mormon Saints: more, not less.“Therefore, what manner of men ought ye Brigham Young addressed this issue:
  6. 6. Tad R. Callister   5 [Man’s godhood] will not detract anything Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 160–200), afrom the glory and might of our heavenly Father, contemporary of Irenaeus, spoke of the rewardfor he will still remain our Father, and we shall still of godhood that followed long preparation:be subject to him, and as we progress, in glory and “Being destined to sit on thrones with thepower it the more enhances the glory and power of other gods that have been first put in theirour heavenly Father.7 places by the Saviour.”12 This same Clement of Alexandria then added this unequivocal state-That is the irony of the critic’s argument—­ ment about the man who lives a righteous life:godhood for man does not diminish God’s “Knowing God, he will be made like God. . . .status; to the contrary, it elevates it by produc- And that man becomes God, since God so wills.”13ing more intelligent, more passionate, more Hippolytus (A.D. 170–236), bridging thespiritual Saints who have enlarged capacities second and third centuries, spoke of theto understand, honor, and worship Him. unlimited potential of faithful Saints in this The Savior’s soul-stirring and thought- life: “And thou shalt be a companion of theprovoking injunction to “be ye therefore Deity, and a co-heir with Christ. . . . For thouperfect” was more than the sounding of brass hast become God: . . . thou hast been deified, andor tinkling of cymbals (see 1 Corinthians 13:1). begotten unto immortality.”14It was a divine-like invitation to rise up to our Cyprian (A.D. 200–258), a well-knownfull potential and become like God our Father. Christian leader of the third century, reaf-C. S. Lewis, as a rampant advocate of this firmed that men can become like Christ: “Whatsimple but glorious truth, wrote: Christ is, we Christians shall be, if we imitate Christ.”15 The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic Origen (A.D. 185–255), also of the thirdgas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He century, wrote: “The true God [referring to theis going to make us into creatures that can obey Father], then, is ‘The God,’ and those who arethat command. He said (in the Bible) that we were formed after Him are gods, images, as it were,“gods” and He is going to make good His words. . . . of Him the prototype.”16The process will be long and in parts very ­ ainful; p And in the fourth century St. Athanasiusbut that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He of Alexandria (A.D. 295–373) explained thatmeant what He said.8 “[God] was made flesh in order that we might be enabled to be made gods.”17Could it be any clearer? For several centuries this doctrinal truth survived, but eventually the Apostasy tookEarly Christian Writers its toll, and this doctrine in its purity and Second, early Christian writers likewise expansiveness was lost. The doctrine of man’swrote of our divine destiny.9 As early as the potential for godhood as taught by the Prophetsecond century, Irenaeus (A.D. 115–202) noted: Joseph Smith was not his invention—not“We have not been made gods from the begin- his creation, not conjured up by some fertilening, but at first merely men, then at length mind. It was simply and solely a restorationgods.”10 On another occasion Irenaeus clari- of a ­ lorious truth that had been taught in the gfied that exalted man would not be relegated scriptures and by many early Christian writersto some type of glorified angel but literally of the primitive Church.become a god: “Passing beyond the angels,and be made after the image and likeness ofGod.”11
  7. 7. 6   Brigham Young University 2012–2013 SpeechesPoets and Authors This insightful poet saw the seeds and germ of The third witness—inspired poets and godhood in every man.authors. We may look to the wisdom ofselected poets and authors who are men of Logicintegrity and spiritual insight. It was C. S. The fourth witness is the power of logic. DoLewis who again and again reaffirmed this not the laws of science teach us that like begetsdivine proposition: like, each after its kind? Science has taught us that a complex genetic code transferred from It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible parent to child is responsible for the childgods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest attaining the physical attributes of his parents.and most uninteresting person you talk to may one If this be so, is it illogical to assume that spiritday be a creature which . . . you would be strongly offspring receive a spiritual code giving totempted to worship. . . . There are no ordinary them the divine characteristics and potentialpeople.18 of their parent—God—thus making them gods in embryo? No, it is but a fulfillment of theHow right he was. There are no ordinary law that like begets like. This is the same truthpeople, only potential gods and goddesses in taught by the prophet Lorenzo Snow:our midst. It was Victor Hugo, that masterful author, We were born in the image of God our Father; Hewho said, “The thirst for the infinite proves begat us like unto Himself. There is the nature ofinfinity.”19 What a powerful and sublime Deity in the composition of our spiritual orga-thought. Perhaps the thirst for godhood like- nization. In our spiritual birth, our Father trans-wise proves godhood. Would the God you and mitted to us the capabilities, powers and facultiesI know plant the vision and desire for godhood which He possessed, as much so as the child on itswithin a man’s soul and then frustrate him in mother’s bosom possesses, although in an undevel-his ability to attain it? Shakespeare had a flash oped state, the faculties, powers and susceptibilitiesof this insight, for, when speaking through the of its parent.22lips of Hamlet, he said: President Boyd K. Packer told of comingWhat a piece of work is a man! How noble in home one day and helping his children gatherreason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, new chicks in the barn. As his little four-year-how express and admirable! in action how like an old daughter held a baby chick in her hands, heangel! in apprehension how like a god!20 said something like, “Won’t that be a beautiful dog when it grows up?” Robert Browning’s vision that so often His daughter looked at him in surprise.pierced the mortal veil did so once again in And then he said something like, “Orthese lines from his poem Rabbi Ben Ezra: p ­ erhaps it will be a cat or even a cow.” His little daughter wrinkled her nose, as ifLife’s struggle having so far reached its term. to say, “Daddy, don’t you know anything? ItThence shall I pass, approved will grow up exactly like its parents.”A man, for aye removed Then he observed how this little four-year-From the developed brute—a god, though in the old girl knew, almost instinctively, that the germ.21 chick would grow up to follow the pattern of its parentage.23
  8. 8. Tad R. Callister   7 The Gospel of Philip, an apocryphal book, If within the short space of mortal life there are menmakes this simple statement of logic: “A horse who rise up out of infancy and become masters ofsires a horse, a man begets man, a god brings the elements of fire and water and earth and air, soforth a god.”24 The difference between man that they well-nigh rule them as Gods, what may itand God is significant—but it is one of degree, not be possible for them to do in a few hundreds ornot kind. It is the difference between an acorn thousands of millions of years?26and an oak tree, a rosebud and a rose, a sonand a father. In truth, every man is a potential A glimpse beyond the veil tells us that thegod in embryo, in fulfillment of that eternal records of history do not end at death but con-law that like begets like. tinue to mark man’s unlimited achievements. Victor Hugo, with an almost spiritual X-ray,Voice of History saw the possibilities after death: Fifth, and finally, the voice of history willlikewise verify this truth. I recall the story of The nearer I approach the end, the plainer I hearthe large milk truck that drove past the pas- around me the immortal symphonies of the worldsture of cows. Written on the side of the vehicle which invite me. . . . For half a century I have beenin large letters were the words “Homogenized, writing my thoughts in prose and verse; history.Pasteurized, Vitamins A and D Added.” . . . I have tried all. But I feel I have not said a One cow looked at the sign, turned to the thousandth part of what is in me. When I go downother, and said, “Makes you feel kind of inad- to the grave, I can say, like so many others, “I haveequate, doesn’t it?” finished my day’s work,” but I can not say, “I have I admit that is how I feel when I look at the finished my life.” My day’s work will begin againdistance between God and me, but I take com- the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it isfort when I contemplate what is accomplished a thoroughfare. . . . My work is only beginning.27in the short space of a mortal life. I paraphrasethese thoughts of B. H. Roberts: From the Perfection is a quest on both sides of the veil.cradle have risen orators, generals, artists, and The scriptures remind us, “Wherefore, con-workers to perform the wonders of our age. tinue in patience until ye are perfected” (DCFrom a helpless babe may arise a Demosthenes 67:13).or Lincoln to direct the destinies of nations.From such a babe may come a Michelangelo to The Divine Possibility Becomes a Divinefill the world with beauty. From such a begin- Realityning may come a Mozart, a Beethoven to call The scriptures, early Christian writers,from silence the powers and serenity of music. poetry, logic, and history testify not only of theFrom such a helpless babe may arise a Joseph divine possibility but of the divine reality thatSmith to give light in a world of darkness.25 man may become as God. The Doctrine and Contemplate for a moment what can be Covenants refers to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,accomplished in the short space of a mortal declaring, “And because they did none otherlife. Suppose now that you were to remove things than that which they were commanded,from man the barriers of death and grant him they have entered into their exaltation, . . . andimmortality and God for his guide. What sit upon thrones, and are not angels but arel­ imits would you then want to ascribe to his gods” (DC 132:37). For these men the divinemental, moral, or spiritual achievements? possibility became the divine reality. This doesPerhaps B. H. Roberts expressed it best when not mean they became gods who replaced ourhe said: Father in Heaven but rather exalted men who
  9. 9. 8   Brigham Young University 2012–2013 Speecheshave enlarged capabilities to honor and glorify Third, the priesthood. This ordinance transfersHim. Our Father in Heaven will forever stand to a mere mortal the power to act for God onsupreme as our God, whom we will love and earth as though He Himself were present. Inrevere and worship, worlds without end. essence, it is a spiritual power of attorney to But how is it possible that you and I, with all be God’s agent and to invoke His power, thusour faults and weaknesses and shortcomings, helping us learn how to exercise divine powerscould ever become a god? Fortunately, a lov- in Heavenly Father has given us resources to Fourth, the endowment. This ordinance islift us above our mortal restraints and propel a gift of knowledge from God as to how weus to divine heights. I mention but two such might become more like Him, accompaniedresources, both made possible because of the by covenants to inspire us in that endeavor.Atonement of Jesus Christ, whose crowning There is an old saying, “Knowledge is power.”aim is to assist us in our pursuit of godhood— Accordingly, the righteous use of this knowl-so that we might be “at one”—not only with edge received in the endowment ordinanceHim but also “at one” like Him. First, I men- results in more godly power in our own lives.tion the saving ordinances of the kingdom. That is why the Doctrine and Covenants says, Joseph Smith received a revelation that “I design to endow those whom I have chosenexplained the relationship between ordinances with power from on high” (DC 95:8).and godhood: Fifth, the sealing ordinances. Death, with all its mighty power, cannot destroy those relation- Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of ships sealed in a temple—which relationshipsgodliness is manifest. can now continue beyond the grave and allow And without the ordinances thereof, and the us, like God, to have eternal increase.authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness isnot manifest unto men in the flesh. [DC 84:20–21] The saving ordinances are much more than a checklist of actions we must satisfy to gainIn other words, participation in the saving entrance to the celestial kingdom—they are theordinances unlocks and unleashes certain keys that open the doors to heavenly powerspowers of godliness in our lives that are not that can lift us above our mortal limitations.available in any other way. These powers The second resource to assist us in ourhelp refine us and perfect us. The five saving pursuit of godhood is the gifts of the Spirit.ordinances and the corresponding powers of What are the gifts of the Spirit? We know themgodliness are as follows: as love, patience, knowledge, testimony, and so on.28 In essence, each gift of the Spirit repre- First, baptism by immersion (and the corol- sents an attribute of godliness. Accordingly,lary ordinance of the sacrament). Because of the each time we acquire a gift of the Spirit, weAtonement of Jesus Christ, this ordinance acquire a potential attribute of godliness. Incleanses us from our sins and helps make us this regard Orson Pratt taught:holy, thus aligning our life more closely withthe Savior’s. One object [of the Church] is declared to be “For Second, the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift the perfecting of the Saints.” . . . The . . . planhelps us know “the will of the Lord [and] the . . . for the accomplishment of this great object,mind of the Lord” (DC 68:4) and thus makes is through the medium of the spiritual gifts.possible our acquisition of a more godlike When the supernatural gifts of the Spiritmind. cease, the Saints cease to be perfected, ­therefore
  10. 10. Tad R. Callister   9they can have no hopes of obtaining a perfect invited and promised, “Ask, and it shall bes­ alvation. . . . given you” (Matthew 7:7). . . . In every nation and age, where believers Why is it so critical to have a correct visionexist, there the gifts must exist to perfect them.29 of this divine destiny of godliness of which the scriptures and other witnesses so clearlyNo wonder the Lord commands us to “covet testify? Because with increased vision comesearnestly the best gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:31); increased motivation. Elder Bruce R. McConkie“seek ye earnestly the best gifts” (DC 46:8); wrote, “No doctrine is more basic, no doctrineand to “lay hold upon every good gift” embraces a greater incentive to personal righ-(Moroni 10:30). teousness . . . as does the wondrous concept President George Q. Cannon spoke of that man can be as his Maker.”31 And why notman’s shortcomings and the divine solution. possible? Do not all Christian churches advo-Recognizing the link between spiritual gifts cate Christlike behavior? Is that not what theand godhood, he fervently pleaded with the Sermon on the Mount is all about? If it is blas-Saints to overcome each manifested weakness phemous to think we can become as God, thenthrough the acquisition of a countermanding at what point is it not blasphemous to becomegift of strength known as the gift of the Spirit. like God—90 percent, 50 percent, 1 percent? IsHe spoke as follows: it more Christian to seek partial godhood than total godhood? Are we invited to walk the If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to path of godhood—to “be ye therefore perfect,pray for the gift that will make us perfect. . . . even as your Father which is in heaven is per-No man ought to say, “Oh, I cannot help this; it is fect”—with no possibility of ever reaching themy nature.” He is not justified in it, for the reason destination?that God has promised to give strength to correct As we better understand our potentialthese things, and to give gifts that will eradicate destiny, our level of self-worth and confidencethem. . . . He wants His Saints to be perfected in and motivation is greatly heightened. Youththe truth. For this purpose He gives these gifts, and will understand that it is shortsighted at best tobestows them upon those who seek after them, in take easy classes and easy teachers rather thanorder that they may be a perfect people upon the face ones that will stretch them toward godhood.of the earth, notwithstanding their many weak- They will catch the vision that it is godhood,nesses, because God has promised to give the gifts not grades, for which they are striving.that are necessary for their perfection.30 And what of our more elderly members? They will understand there is no such thing What was the Lord’s response to Solomon’s as a retirement farm, no day when the workprayerful request for the gift of an understand- is done. Like Victor Hugo, they know theiring heart? The scriptures record, “The speech work has only begun. There are yet thou-pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this sands of books to read and write, paintingsthing,” and then the Lord noted, “Behold, I to enjoy, music to score, and service to render.have done according to thy words: lo, I have They understand the Lord’s revelation to thegiven thee a wise and an understanding heart” Prophet Joseph: “Whatever principle of intel-(1 Kings 3:10, 12). ligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise When was the last time we prayed for a with us in the resurrection” (DC 130:18).gift of the Spirit that would lift us above our What about those of us who feel weak-mortal weakness and further our pursuit of nesses in our life? We can take renewed hopegodhood? Again and again the Lord has both in the words of the Lord to Moroni: “For if they
  11. 11. 10   Brigham Young University 2012–2013 Speecheshumble themselves before me, and have faith And so it is with God, our me, then will I make weak things become I testify there are no ordinary people, nostrong unto them” (Ether 12:27). ciphers, no zeros—only potential gods and And what about those who believe they goddesses in our midst. While many witnesseshave sinned beyond Christ’s redeeming testify of this truth, the most powerful of allgrace? They can take comfort in His promise: are the quiet whisperings of the Spirit that“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be confirm both to my mind and to my heart theas white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). Or perhaps grandeur and truth of this glorious doctrine.there are some who believe their lives are As Jacob so taught, “The Spirit speaketh theshattered beyond repair. Can they not have truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh ofrenewed hope in these words of the Savior: things as they really are, and of things as they“[I will] give unto them beauty for ashes” really will be” (Jacob 4:13).(Isaiah 61:3)? There is no problem, no obstacle I pray we will recognize our true identityto our divine destiny, for which the Savior’s as literal sons and daughters of God and graspAtonement does not have a remedy of supe- a vision of our divine destiny as it really mayrior healing and lifting power. That is why be. I pray we will be grateful to a loving FatherMormon said, “Ye shall have hope through the and Son who made it so. In the name of Jesusatonement of Christ” (Moroni 7:41). Christ, amen. How could we not have increased faithin God and in ourselves if we knew He had Notesplanted within our souls the seeds of godhood 1. See Acts 17:28–29; Romans 8:16–17; andand endowed us with access to the powers of Hebrews 12:9.the Atonement? “Godhood?” If not, the critic 2. Boyd K. Packer, “To Young Women andmust answer, “Why not?” Men,” Ensign, May 1989, 54. Perhaps we could suggest three answers for 3. C. S. Lewis, “The Grand Miracle,”the critic’s consideration: Maybe man cannot Miracles: A Preliminary Study (New York:become like God because God does not have Macmillan, 1978), 122–23; emphasis added.the power to create a divine-like offspring. It is 4. David O. McKay, Pathways to Happinessbeyond his present level of comprehension and (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1957), xi.intelligence. 5. While I was serving as a mission presi- “Blasphemous,” responds the critic. “He has dent, we discussed at a zone conference man’sall knowledge and all power.” potential for godhood. In so doing we referred Perhaps then He has created a lesser off- to an oft-cited scripture of the critics, Isaiahspring because He does not love us. 43:10, which states, “Before me there was no “Ridiculous, absurd,” is his reply. “For God God formed, neither shall there be after me.”so loved the world, that he gave his only begot- Therefore the critics conclude that if there isten Son” (John 3:16). no God before or after the Father, then man Well, perhaps God has not planted within certainly could not become a the divine spark because He wants to retain As fate would have it, several days there-godhood for Himself; He is threatened by our after one of our younger missionaries wasprogress. He can only retain His superiority by knocking on a door. A distinguished manasserting man’s inferiority. invited him in. The missionaries soon learned “No, no,” laments the critic. “Have you ever he was a theological professor at a local univer-known a loving, kindly father who didn’t want sity. The man was polite but stated adamantlyhis children to become all that he is and more?” that Mormon doctrine was incorrect because
  12. 12. 11   Brigham Young University 2012–2013 Speechesit taught that a man might become a god, Version and the New International Version ofand, after all, the Bible teaches there is no god the Bible translate the word telios as “perfect.”before or after the Father. 7. JD 10:5. This fine young missionary was not taken 8. C. S. Lewis, “Counting the Cost,” Mereback one bit. He simply replied, “Sir, do you Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1960),know where that scripture is found?” 174–75. The man hesitated, “I can’t recall exactly, but 9. Some might contend that some referencesit is in the Bible.” by early Christian writers to man’s potential The young missionary replied, “It is in for godhood were simply alternative phrasesIsaiah 43:10, but it is also found in Isaiah 44, 45, for man’s immortality, and in some casesand 46.” He further asked, “Do you recall the this interpretation may be correct, but therecontext in which it was given?” are certainly multiple references by the early The professor could not remember. Christian writers to also evidence that these “Then,” said the young missionary, “let me references to godhood were qualitative, nothelp you. God was reprimanding the Israelites just quantitative, statements.because they were worshipping graven images 10. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses (Irenaeusand statues made with man’s hands. On Against Heresies), book 4, chapter 38, in Therepeated occasions the Lord declared in these Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, vol. 1 ofchapters that none of these images or statues, Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fatherswhether formed in the past or in the future, Down to A.D. 325, ed. Alexander Roberts andwould ever be a god.” In essence this young James Donaldson (Peabody, Massachusetts:missionary explained that these verses had Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 522.everything to do with the incapacity of graven 11. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses (Irenaeusimages to become gods and absolutely noth- Against Heresies), book 5, chapter 36, in vol. 1,ing to do with man’s capacity to become a god. The Apostolic Fathers, 567.He invited the professor to learn more about 12. Clement of Alexandria, Stromatathe truth concerning man’s potential, but the (Miscellanies), book 7, chapter 10, in Fathers ofinvitation was declined. the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, 6. The word perfect as used in this scripture Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria (Entire),comes from the Greek word telios. Some have vol. 2 of Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexandersuggested this might be translated as “fin- Roberts and James Donaldson (Peabody,ished” or “completed,” resulting in a connota- Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994),tion other than moral perfection—perhaps 539.meaning a complete or mature Saint. While 13. Clement of Alexandria, Paedagogus (Thethis might be one interpretation, the scrip- Instructor), book 3, chapter 1, in vol. 2, Fathersture does not preclude a reference to moral of the Second Century, 271; emphasis added.perfection. In fact, when read in context, this 14. Hippolytus, Philosophumena (Thepassage seems to require moral perfection. It Refutation of All Heresies), book 10, chapterspecifically delineates the type of complete- 30, in Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus,ness or perfection to which it is referring Cyprian, Caius, Novatian, Appendix, vol. 5 ofwhen it makes the comparison “even as your Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts andFather which is in heaven is perfect” (emphasis James Donaldson (Peabody, Massachusetts:added). God is not perfect like a mature Saint Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 153; emphasisor in a relative sense. He is absolutely perfect. added.It is of interest to note that both the King James
  13. 13. 12   Brigham Young University 2012–2013 Speeches 15. Cyprian, “On the Vanity of Idols,” The you are children of the Most High’” (MartinTreatises of Cyprian, 6:15, in vol. 5, Fathers of the Luther, as quoted in Linman, “Martin Luther,”Third Century, 469. 198). 16. Origen, Commentary on John, 2:2, in The 18. C. S. Lewis, “Love Thy Neighbor,” TheGospel of Peter, the Diatessaron of Tatian, vol. 9 of Joyful Christian (New York: Touchstone, 1996),Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and 197.James Donaldson (Peabody, Massachusetts: 19. As related by Arsène Houssaye, “VictorHendrickson Publishers, 1994), 323. Hugo on Immortality,” in Samuel Gordon 17. See Athanasius, Orationes Contra Arianus Lathrop, ed., Fifty Years and Beyond; or, Gathered(Four Discourses Against the Arians), 1.39, Gems for the Aged (Chicago; New York: Fleming3.34, in St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters, H. Revell, 1881), 325; quoted by Hugh B. Brownvol. 4 of A Select Library of Nicene and Post- in CR, April 1967, 50.Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: Second 20. Shakespeare, Hamlet, act 2, scene 2, linesSeries, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace 323–27.(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1978–79), 21. Robert Browning, Rabbi Ben Ezra (1864),329, 413; see also Athanasius, De Incarnatione stanza 13; in The Individual and Human Values,Verbi Dei (On the Incarnation), 54.3, in St. vol. 1 of Out of the Best Books: An Anthology ofAthanasius, 65. No doubt Athanasius gained Literature, ed. Bruce B. Clark and Robert K.this insight from Irenaeus, who earlier had Thomas (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1964),said: “If the Word has been made man, it is so 463.that men may be made gods” (The Westminster 22. Lorenzo Snow, in Eliza R. Snow,Dictionary of Christian Theology, ed. Alan Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow:Richardson and John S. Bowden [Philadelphia: One of the Twelve Apostles of The Church ofWestminster Press, 1983], s.v. “deification,” Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City:147; see Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses [Irenaeus Deseret News, 1884), 335; emphasis added.Against Heresies], book 5, preface, in vol. 1, 23. See Boyd K. Packer, Let Not Your Heart BeThe Apostolic Fathers, 526). Troubled (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991), 289. Martin Luther taught this same truth in his 24. “The Gospel of Philip (II, 3),” in The NagChristmas sermon of 1514: “Just as the word Hammadi Library: In English, trans. membersof God became flesh, so it is certainly also of the Coptic Gnostic Library Project of thenecessary that the flesh may become word. Institute for Antiquity and Christianity (NewIn other words: God becomes man so that York: Harper and Row, 1977), may become God. . . . He takes what is 25. See B. H. Roberts, The Mormon Doctrineours to himself in order to impart what is his of Deity (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1903),to us” (quoted in Jonathan Linman, “Martin 33–34.Luther: ‘Little Christs for the World’; Faith and 26. Roberts, The Mormon Doctrine of Deity, 35.Sacraments as Means to Theosis,” in Partakers of 27. Houssaye, “Victor Hugo on Immortality,”the Divine Nature: The History and Development Fifty Years, 324–25; quoted in Sterling W. Sill,of Deification in the Christian Traditions, ed. Thy Kingdom Come (Salt Lake City: DeseretMichael J. Christensen and Jeffery A. Wittung Book, 1975), 222–23.[Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 28. See 1 Corinthians 12 and 13; Galatians2007], 191). Luther further taught: “Aye, 5:22–23; DC 46; Moroni 10.through faith we become gods and partak- 29. Orson Pratt, chapter 4 of “Kingdomers of the divine nature and name, as Psalm of God,” Orson Pratt’s Works (Salt Lake City:82:6 says: ‘I have said, Ye are gods; and all of Deseret News Press, 1945), 97; emphasis added.
  14. 14. 13   Brigham Young University 2012–2013 Speeches 30. George Q. Cannon, “Discourse by 31. Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah:President George Q. Cannon,” Millennial Star The First Coming of Christ (Salt Lake City:56, no. 17 (23 April 1894): 260–61; empha- Deseret Book, 1978), 133.sis added; quoted in Marvin J. Ashton, TheMeasure of Our Hearts (Salt Lake City: DeseretBook, 1991), 24–25.