In the 82nd Psalm, we read in verse 6, "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most high."
Beginning in the ninth chapter of the gospel of John we read of an incident where, journeying to Jerusalem, Jesus came upon a blind man. One of the disciples that was with Him asked why this man was born with such an affliction. After answering the question, Jesus healed the man who then went to his home, rejoicing, telling everyone what Jesus had done. Before long, however, his neighbors began arguing about this miracle. Some said it was from God while others said it was from the devil. The debate grew so heated that to resolve the dispute, they took him to the Pharisees and asked them to explain what had happened.
When the Pharisees questioned the man, he told them that Jesus had healed him. Of course, instantly they concluded that this healing could not have been of God, for they knew Jesus was not a godly man. So, to explain away the miracle, they first tried to find fault with the man's story, claiming he had not been blind since birth as he stated. They went so far as to contact his parents to prove he was lying, only to find that it was true. Then they tried to trick him into denying that he had been healed by the power of God. Instead, the man replied in such a manner that they couldn't dispute his words. Finally, they reviled him, accusing him of being a disciple of Jesus and making up the whole story.
At that point the man asked them a question, saying, "Why do you marvel so much that such a thing has happened? Since the world began, has it ever been heard of that a man has opened the eyes of the blind? And where has this miracle come from? We know that God doesn't listen to sinners, but he does listen to those who worship him. If this man is not of God, he could do nothing."
The Pharisees became furious at this answer, and angrily replied, "You were born in sin, and you dare to presume to teach us about the law?" and they cast him out. When Jesus heard of this, He went to the man, and during their conversation, Jesus explained how He was the door to eternal life, and that He was the shepherd who had been sent to gather the sheep. Some who heard Him said he was mad, that he had a devil inside of him, while others said he was of God. And again, an argument ensued.
Instead of getting into the debate, we're told that Jesus left and went to Solomon's Porch at the Temple in Jerusalem. There, some of the Jews came to him and said, "How long are you going to keep us wondering who you are? Tell us plainly, are you the Christ?" Jesus once more explained that He was the shepherd who was sent by God the Father. And then He remarked, "I and my Father are one." This statement infuriated the Jews. They were outraged that this mortal man, Jesus, dared to say that He was one with the Great God, Jehovah. So they picked up stones and started throwing them at him.
I find it amazing that at such a time, Jesus sought to reason with this angry mob, but He said to them, "I have done many good works among you. For which are you stoning me?" They bitterly replied, "We're not stoning you because of doing good. We're stoning you because you have blasphemed God. You are a only a man, and yet you try to claim that you are God."
Jesus calmly answered, "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 scriptures cannot be broken, then how can you say to him whom the Father has sanctified, that he blasphemes because I say I am the Son of God?" (John 10:34-36)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is unique among all Christian churches because we teach that a person can become a god, like our Father in heaven. Because we believe in such a concept, many of the other churches accuse us of blasphemy, because we dare to make ourselves equal with God. Yet, it was Jesus, Himself, who gave us the correct understanding of Psalms 82:6: We are all children of God and, therefore, we are gods ourselves.
Does that mean we are gods right now? Obviously not. But we are gods in training, or, put another way, our Father in heaven is preparing us for for Godhood.
How is He doing this? The same way you prepare anyone to assume a position of authority. He does it by giving us some of His power and allowing us to learn how to use it. When we develop the skill to use part of this power, then we will receive more, until we finally achieve all the power which God has at his disposal. At that point, we will then have become a god.
What are some of the powers of Godhood which He has given us the privilege to exercise? First is the knowledge of good and evil. When Adam and Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, it was God who said, "Behold, the man has become as one of us to know good and evil." (Genesis 3:22) This is a great blessing. We now have the opportunity to posses something that God has, that apparently, we didn't have before. Because Adam and Eve partook of that particular fruit, we have become a little bit more like God.
However, God has given us this knowledge (and knowledge is power) as part of our training for Godhood. Our responsibility now, is to learn to choose good over evil. The more we learn to exercise this power wisely, the further we progress in our quest to become like God.
Another power which God has given us is the power to procreate. The word "procreate" means that we create life, in cooperation with, or in conjunction with, or in partnership with, God. It's a dual effort. We don't create life all by ourselves, but God allows us to have some say in that creation process. God, of course, can create life entirely on His own. Therefore, by allowing us to have a small portion of this power, we are learning skills needed to properly handle this aspect of Godhood. In time, we hope to be given the full power to do what God can do - create life all by ourselves.
We refer to God as our father. As Psalms 82:6 tells us, we are children of God. That suggests a family relationship. That's another one of the attributes of Godhood, and He has allowed all of us the opportunity to play the role of god here on earth. Instead of having billions of children, we are encouraged to have four, five, six, eight, ten or more children. In the family setting, we get to practice being god to our children. The reason our Father has given us this opportunity is to teach and train us for the time when we will be called Father by the spirit children we will create in the eternities.
God spends all of His time guiding and helping His children to progress to become like Him. To become a god ourselves, we need to learn the skills of fatherhood, and motherhood. We need to spend our time guiding and helping our children to develop to their full potential. The better we become at this, the more like God we become.
In the 121st section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 36 we're told, "The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected to the powers of heaven and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness."
The priesthood is inseparably connected to the powers of heaven. God enjoys the full power of the heavens. These powers are eternal. God didn't create them; they always existed. So is the priesthood. The priesthood is the authority to exercise the powers of heaven, and it is because God holds the priesthood that He can thereby wield the powers of heaven as He desires.
As gods in training, our Father has allowed us the privilege to hold that same priesthood. It is the power of Godhood. However, we are not permitted, at this point, to have it's full power. That will come later when we have learned the skills to use it more effectively. If we were given it's full power now, it would prove to be disastrous. So our Father gives us part of it's power for training purposes. When we learn how to handle that part properly, then we will be given more.
The same section of the Doctrine and Covenants tells us that these powers can only be handled upon the principles of righteousness. Therefore, another aspect of Godhood that we are being trained in, is how to develop our righteousness.
Faith is another aspect of Godhood. Faith is believing in something we don't know for sure. We're told that through faith the worlds were framed, or, in other words, created. (Hebrews 11:3) God has faith - tremendous faith; faith enough to create worlds. While we lived in the spirit world in heaven with Him, it was impossible for us to have faith because everything was easily observable. Back then, the concept of "faith" was merely theoretical because we had no way to experience it. This earth life gives us the opportunity to develop faith and thereby increase our ability to become more like God.
We are children of God. We have Godhood in our makeup. We are gods in embryo. We are gods in training. That is our ultimate goal. That's what our Father wants for us. That's why we willingly came here to earth.
No other church has such a glorious concept of the meaning of life or the status of man. It is an inspiring doctrine. It's uplifting in it's precepts. It encourages a positive outlook on all that we do.
However, there is a down side. As wonderful as all this sounds, it is not an easy achievement. In the church, there is often the impression that attaining Godhood is something we get for just being members of the church and living a fairly decent life. However, being a god is a tremendous responsibility. The powers which such a being controls are staggering to comprehend. It is therefore unthinkable that such a position would be granted to someone who puts forth only a mediocre effort to acquire the skills needed to handle such a title.
Perhaps we might better understand what is necessary to become a god if we liken it to going to a prestigious college and graduating with honors with a Ph.D. Just because a person goes to school at, let's say, BYU, Yale, Princeton, or Harvard, that doesn't automatically make them an honor graduate. In fact, many people who get accepted at such schools don't make it through the four years needed to earn even a basic degree let alone eight to ten years to receive a Ph.D. Those who do complete four years can graduate with as little as a "C-", however, they could hardly be classified as being an honor student. At many schools, getting a "B" average doesn't qualify a person for inclusion on the honor role.
The same may be said for Godhood. It is the Ph.D. of righteousness; it's the highest honor that can be achieved and the greatest gift that our Father offers us. As such, it is reserved for those who are worthy of such a distinction.
How many people graduate from any college with honors? In comparison to the whole student body, very few. How many of those students go on to get a Ph.D. and still graduate with honors? Fewer still. When we compare those numbers to a school with very high standards, such as BYU, Yale, Princeton or Harvard, percentage wise, the numbers are even lower.
We are in training to become a god. Some don't want to attend the courses necessary to achieve that position - i.e. join the church. Some don't make it through the whole course (they become inactive or are excommunicated.) Some graduate from this life with a "C-" for their efforts in learning to choose good over evil, or properly using their procreative powers, or being an effective parent, or exercising their priesthood, or developing their faith. Then there are others who graduate this life with honors in all of these categories. We know of some of them, such as Adam, Enoch, Melchizedek, Abraham, Moses, Peter, Joseph Smith, and most of all Jesus, to name just a few.
What makes them different than the rest of us? The answer is, we all have the capability of becoming a god, but very few of us have the aptitude.
The word "capability" means having the ability or the skill or experience to do something. "Aptitude" means readiness, inclination, willingness, or preparedness to do something. In other words, we all have the ability to become a honor student in the college of life. Unfortunately, far too few of us don't have the inclination or the willingness to put forth the effort required to attain Godhood. We are not preparing ourselves to achieve our highest potential; we are not ready to succeed. We are content to put forth only a "C" or, at most, a middle of the road "B" average effort.
God has given us everything we need to succeed. He has given us some of His powers with which to practice being a god. He has provided a Savior to redeem us from the sins we make while practicing. He has sent prophets to instruct us on what to do and has commanded them to leave a written record of their words for the benefit of future generations. He daily guides us with the help of the Holy Ghost. He has done His part; now we have to do ours.
Although we all have the capability of attaining Godhood, that doesn't mean we are all equally suited to achieve it. For some, doing what is righteous seems to come easily and naturally. For others, it is a slow and difficult process, even when the desire to want to be godly is great. To illustrate what I mean, let me use this example: We all have the capability to become outstanding concert pianists, however, very few people reach that pinnacle of distinction. There are several reason why. First, many people don't want to be a concert pianist, great or otherwise. Secondly, there are those who dream of having such an honor, but don't want to put forth the effort needed to become great. Then thirdly, there are those who do make the effort to play classical piano extremely well, but they don't progress in their skills as quickly as others. Many people find that they must labor at practicing their lessons, while others seem to improve their skills rapidly with far less effort. We say that such people have an inclination towards music, that they are talented, or that they are gifted.
On the other hand, there are many people who are very talented but don't take advantage of their natural inclination to fully develop their potential. They may do nothing at all with their talent, or they may do only that which is easy for them instead of putting forth any effort to improve the ability which they already have. In such cases, those who are less gifted, but who struggle to improve, often exceed the abilities of those more talented than themselves.
The same is true of developing the skills necessary to reach Godhood. For some, it comes easily and they seem to advance quite rapidly. For most us, however, it seems to take considerable effort on our part to advance even a little towards becoming like the type of being God is. Thankfully, our life does not entirely consist of our time here on earth. This is not the only place where we can grow to become like our Father in heaven. If it were, hardly anyone would succeed. When our mortal life has ended, we still have the chance to continue our quest for Godhood. Although our progression may be slow, that doesn't mean we can't eventually achieve our goal; it just means that it may take longer for us to get there than someone else.
For those who have a greater aptitude, God gives greater challenges. In the book of Abraham we're told that before the world was created, "God saw these souls [those who are more inclined to righteousness than most of us] that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born." (Abraham 3:23)
Speaking about our modern day prophets, the Lord revealed, "I observed that they were also among the noble and great ones who were chosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God." (D&C 138:55)
However, whether being righteous comes easy or hard, to grow, each of us must learn to stretch our abilities; to put forth more effort than we have ability. That's the reason why "where much is given, much is required." (D&C 82:3)
The greatest danger we face, whether our aptitude is great or small, is giving in to the temptation to put forth too little effort. The Lord warned us "Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence. He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand. Amen." (D&C 107:99,100) The word "amen" means "So let it be."
The implication is clear. If we are slothful in learning our lessons, if we are not diligent in performing our godly duties, if we do not show ourselves approved, we will not be worthy to receive all that our Father has.
It is important that we not only recognize the true potential we have, but also realize the opportunities given to us and the challenge we face to achieve it. With that knowledge we can help improve our chances for success by magnifying the opportunities our Father has provided to help us become like Him.