TO BECOME LIKE HIM

The apostle John was told, "He that overcometh shall inherit all thing; and I will be his God and he shall be my son" (Revelation 21"7).To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Revelation 3:21) "To him that overcometh will I grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7).

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that before the earth was created we lived with our Father in heaven and at one point in our growth and development, He proposed a plan whereby we could progress to become like Him in that we would gain the knowledge He has through our own personal experiences.

Since our Father knows the difference between good and evil that means we too needed to learn what evil was so we could better understand what is good and why we should choose good over evil. Our Father also knows what sorrow and heartache is and so it was necessary for us to learn about them as well.

But if our ultimate goal is to return back to heaven where we will live totally blissful, happy, and peaceful lives without pain or suffering forever, why is it so necessary to experience these things? To state this question differently, what purpose does it serve us to know the bad when the bad won't exist in heaven when we inherit the kingdom of God after the resurrection?

And there is yet another kind of experience that all of us often encounter which is disappointment, frustration, and discouragement when we attempt to accomplish something and fail at it. It has been said many times that success means getting up one more time than we fall down. It's also been said that nothing great is ever achieved without great effort. The reason for these sayings is that throughout the centuries they have been proven to be true and accurate statements of fact.

But why? Why must man struggle to get anything accomplished? It's been said that we grow stronger because of the things that we struggle against but what is the purpose of such growth if our ultimate goal is to live in a place with God where there are no more struggles?

It would seem logical that the closer a person gets to God the easier things should go for them because, as Paul said, "I can do all thing through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13). Yet righteous people struggle just as much to get things done as do the unrighteous. For example, Moses didn't have an easy time getting the Israelites to follow him, Jeremiah was a failure at convincing the Jews to repent of their sins in order to prevent their destruction, and even Jesus Himself struggled to get people to accept His message of salvation.

In 1827 an angel of God gave Joseph Smith an ancient record written on gold plates and commanded him to translate them into English. At the time he received them he was also given instructions to never allow those plates to leave his possession. Although he was told that "no man had power to take it away" yet Joseph struggled to keep them from falling into the hands of men who were desperately seeking them. The question is: why did he have to struggle so hard to protect these sacred plates? Why couldn't God have just made them invisible or placed a cherubim to guard the plates with a flaming sword (see Genesis 3:24) as Joseph translated them? Surely God could have used some supernatural power to make it easy for young Joseph to carry out his mission. Then why didn't He? Why was it left up to Joseph to devise ingenious strategies in order to keep the plates hidden from others?

The LDS Church makes the claim that Jesus Christ is not just the head of their church in the sense that they follow His teachings as recorded in the Bible but that He is personally involved in directing all that happens in His church. For example, when someone is called to a position of service in the Church, that call is made as a result of direct revelation from Jesus Himself.

Yet, it is also the doctrine of the LDS Church that all things are to be done in council. For example, all presiding authorities, such as bishops, stake presidents, Elder Quorum presidents, and even the President of the Church has two councilors whom they council with in making decisions. Furthermore, the Church preaches that all things should be done in council, even within the family unit. But why is it necessary for a presiding authority to council with anyone if they are worthy of receiving inspiration or revelation directly from God?

It seems that God deliberately wants man to work hard to accomplish even those things that God requires of him. There are times when God does intervene to make things happen without any effort on our part but it seems that the vast majority of time, God provides us with very little help as we struggle to do things. The question is, why does He do this?

When Joseph Smith was confined in liberty jail for nearly six months in horrible conditions, he complained to the Lord, wondering where He was hiding and why He didn't avenge him for the injustice that was being inflicted on him and others. In answer to his cry of anguish, God replied, "Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good" (D&C 122:7).

Joseph was certainly having a very unpleasant experience yet the Lord told him that it was for his own good! How could being chained in a damp, cramped, freezing cold dungeon be good for him? And in what way was such an experience benefiting him?

Part of the answer is found in a statement God made to Moses when He said, "For behold, this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). God's whole purpose in all that He does, is to help man achieve, not just immortality, or living forever with a physical body, but to obtain eternal life, which is defined as God's life. Eternal life means inheriting all that God possesses. It is to sit with Him in His throne and to rule and reign with Him (Revelation 5:10). To have eternal life means to be exalted to the same position of glory, power, and majesty that God has. This is what it means to receive exaltation.

But, the Lord has also revealed that in order to achieve exaltation we must "overcome" all things. Most people interpret this to mean that we must overcome the temptation to sin and can say as God does, "I cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance" (D&C 1:31; see also Alma 45:16).

But it seems there is more to the word "overcome" than just sinning. Since we know that everything God does is calculated to exalt man, then all the experiences we encounter in mortality - both the good and the bad - must have some relevance to becoming more like God otherwise they do us no good.

Usually, we think of heaven as being a place where everything is perfect, where there are no problems, and where nothing ever goes wrong. We usually envision God as a being so powerful that all He has to do is merely utter a command and instantly and effortlessly His words are transformed into action. At the sound of His voice, the heavens roll up like a scroll (Revelation 6:14), giant galaxies are formed (John 1:3), mountains are moved (Matthew 17:20), and the wind ceases to blow (Mark 4:39). God is so powerful that nothing is impossible for Him (Luke 1:37). But is this idea of what heaven and God are like totally accurate? What if being God is much more difficult than it looks?

For example, it's easy to look at the CEO or president of a large, multi-national corporation and think they have an easy job but that's because we don't realize all the problems they have to deal with. Instead, we just look at the outward signs of wealth and think it must be nice to make a large salary that allows them to have a luxurious lifestyle. What fools us even more is that when we see such people they appear happy, relaxed, and enjoying life, giving us the appearance that the work they do is easy and fun.

Yet, if we could follow them around for just one day, we would quickly learn that they have a very busy schedule that involves attending to many complex issues covering a wide range of subjects pertaining to the successful operation of their business. Throughout their career as a CEO they have had to grapple with many problems, failures, setbacks, and challenges that would overwhelm the average person and cause them to give up in despair. However, what makes a CEO capable of holding that title is their ability to handle the requirements of their job with confidence, wisdom, and persistence. And because of these qualities, they give the illusion that what they do is easy to accomplish.

God is the ultimate CEO and as we look at him through a narrow window, it seems that He is able to do all things effortlessly without encountering any problems, obstacles, or challenges. However, if we take a closer look at what the scriptures tell us, we come to see a slightly different picture.

From an administrative standpoint, God not only has to be concerned about what is happening here on earth and guiding the events of history so that it conforms to His plan, but He has the responsibility to manage the affairs of heaven, as well as billions of planets throughout the entire universe. Since the universe is infinite, just the administrative duties of God alone are mind boggling.

There are currently four billion people on the earth today and all of them are children of the same God. Yet, that is only a small fraction of the total number of children He has when we consider that everyone who has ever lived on earth , including babies who die shortly after birth, and all those who will yet live on earth, the number of God's children quickly rises into the tens of billions. How does God manage that many people?

Although God is all-powerful, one thing He cannot do is take away the agency of His children to freely make their own decisions. As any parent knows, each child has a different temperament, different talents, and different needs. Because of this, it is not easy managing them, even when implementing strict rules. With tens of billions of children, God faces the same challenges as all parents except on an unimaginably large scale.

The scriptures tell us that there was a war in heaven. That was not a peaceful event and it was a problem that God had to deal with. In the aftermath of that war, God lost one-third of His children. That could not have been a pleasant situation for Him to endure.

Before the earth was created, God drew up a plan of what He wanted to have happen and has communicated that plan to His children. People of God have known what will happen in the future because God has revealed that information to prophets who have written about it in their books. Isaiah wrote in exact detail of how the Messiah would be crucified and buried (Isaiah 53:2-9). He also wrote about the history of Israel, how they would be dispersed and how they would be gathered again in the last days. God revealed to Daniel all the events that will lead to the end of the world and He told the apostle John exactly what will happen in the last days. The plan of God is very precise, extremely detailed, and highly complex. That, in itself, was no easy, simple task to accomplish.

But if God wasn't able to carry out even one element of His plan that He has revealed, He would be a liar. Yet, with His self-imposed inability to force His children to do His bidding, He must make sure that every detail of His plan is executed precisely as He said it would happen at precisely the time He said it would occur. That is a challenge that none of us could even come close to succeeding at.

The plan also called for God to send His only begotten Son to earth to atone for the sins of all mankind. But for that atonement to happen, Jesus had to live a perfectly sinless life. No one in the history of the earth has ever been able to do that but that was what was required of God's Son. As Christians, we believe that n the garden of Gethsemane the task He had to perform was so difficult and the pain he suffered was so exquisite that it caused even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of it and to bleed at every pore. But the pain wasn't just physical, it was also spiritual so that He suffered both body and spirit, so much so that He wanted to shrink from the task (see D&C 19:15,18).

But that was only the beginning. Next Jesus was brutally scourged to the point that most men would have died from their wounds. Then, in that physically weakened condition, He was made to carry a very heavy beam of wood that He was later nailed to and from which He hung for hours. During that entire, horrific ordeal, had Jesus murmured or complained even once, He would have sinned, thereby invalidating His sacrifice for our sins. To say that such a requirement was no easy task would be an eternal understatement.

But such a sacrifice was not an easy task for the Father to endure either. Even though this was the Father's plan from the very beginning and the only way He could save His children from the effects of their sins, it must have been a heart-wrenching experience for Him to witness, knowing that He could not do anything to help His most beloved Son without ruining the effect of the atonement.

If those who receive eternal life will "inherit all things" then they must be able to handle similar problems, challenges, heartaches, disappointments, and sorrows as God faces because this is part of what it means to inherit all things. Since it is God's work to prepare man for eternal life so they can rule and reign with Him, it is necessary that we learn how to deal with and overcome all kinds of difficulties.

But the Lord has also said, "For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause and do many things of their own free will and bring to pass much righteousness; for power is in them wherein they are agents unto themselves" (D&C 58:26-28).

If we are to inherit all that God has then we must also learn how to make wise decisions as He does and that can't happen if God has to tell us everything to do in every situation. We have to learn for ourselves, through experience, what works, what doesn't work, and why, therefore, God expects us to be "anxiously engaged" in doing good. Although God is our teacher and is more than willing to give us all the instruction and direction we need, He nonetheless expects us to think for ourselves and has given us the freedom to decide what we want to do, discover, devise, invent, and create.

Those who must be commanded in all things are not capable of making the kind of wise decisions necessary for being the CEO of even a small earthly organization let alone handling the responsibility of an eternal heavenly kingdom. Therefore, it would be very unwise to allow such a person to inherit all that God has because they would not know how to properly manage it. Instead of it being a blessing, inheriting the kingdom of God would be a curse, not only for them but for all those dependent on their wise leadership. Therefore, if God can do many things on His own to bring about much righteousness then He must allow us the opportunity to think and learn for ourselves how to do the same if we are to rule and reign with Him,

Yet, what we experience in this life is mild and even childish compared to what awaits those who become exalted beings. It's like the difference between going to college and actually working in the real world. The main purpose of college is to prepares us to enter into our chosen career. In the same way, earth life is primarily designed to prepare us to become exalted beings. Therefore, of necessity, God must teach us here how to face and overcome every adversity if someday we are truly to become like Him.


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