Summary: Jesus taught that we are to become perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, but nearly all Christian churches don’t take that verse literally. However, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that we came to earth to learn how to become exactly like our Father in heaven. Since he is God and we’re trying to be just like him then it can accurately be said that we were sent to earth to learn how to become a god ourselves. But is that really possible, and if so, how do we do that? This article answers that question.
One day as Jesus was teaching in the temple, “then came the Jews round about him and said unto him… If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.” In his lengthy answer he said, “I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones to stone him,” and Jesus asked Why do you stone me? They answered, Because for blasphemy: and because that thou being a man makest thouself God. And Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” (John 10:23-34).
Among all the churches that profess a belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that we can become a god in the same sense that our Father in heaven and Jesus Christ are God. Jesus told his followers “be ye therefore perfect, even as you Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) but nearly all Christian churches don’t take that verse literally, because they say we are incapable of being as perfect as God, therefore they look for a different way to interpret Christ’s words
However, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe we came to earth to learn how to become exactly like our Father in heaven. Since he is God and we’re trying to be just like him then it can accurately be said that we were sent to earth to learn how to become gods ourselves. But how do we do that?
If God is our eternal Father who lives in heaven, and we are his children, then clearly one of the things we need to do to become like him is learn how to become an eternal father ourselves. What that means is that we cannot become like God without becoming an eternal father. Therefore, being a god and being an eternal father who lives in heaven are inseparable from one another. In other words, to be like God we must become an eternal parent, and a person cannot become a parent without having children.
But to be a father, a man must have a wife and it’s for this reason that in the temples of the Lord, men and women are sealed to each other as husbands and wives for all eternity. As such, a man cannot become an eternal god without having a wife who is worthy of becoming an eternal goddess.
If we came to earth to learn how to become more like our Father in heaven, then learning how to become the same kind of father God is to his children is one of the important things we also need to learn. Therefore, when we become an earthly parent, we are practicing to do what God does.
However, there is more to being a god than just having children. The most important role of any parent is to teach their children, which is exactly what God does with us, and the first thing he teaches us is the principle of obedience. The reason why this is so important is because there are laws- eternal laws – that God must obey if he wishes to retain his power and authority. Therefore, in order for us to become like our Father in heaven then we must not only be taught what those laws are, but we must also learn to always obey them. It’s only in this way that we can truly become like God.
All eternal laws are based on the principles of righteousness, and those principles are contained in the commandments God gives us. This is why the Lord has instructed parents, “thou shalt teach them (the law/commandments of God) diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 6:7).
In addition to this, Christians acknowledge that God is omniscient, meaning that he knows all things, and God uses that knowledge for the benefit of his children. Therefore, to become like God, we not only need to gain knowledge but develop the skills necessary to properly apply that knowledge. For this reason, our Father in heaven provides us with opportunities to gain knowledge about a wide variety of subjects.
For example, when Adam and Eve first partook of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God said, “Now man has become one of us, knowing good from evil” (Genesis 3”22). But we have also been given the opportunity to learn about pain and sorrow, temptation, responsibility, the consequences of making poor decisions, as well as compassion, mercy, patience, and other godly traits. It’s in these, and in many other ways that God is teaching us what he already knows.
In this life, very few parents know everything, therefore they send their children to school where they’re taught various subjects by people who are experts in a particular field. For example, in a higher learning environment a child will study mathematics from one teacher, science from another teacher, language from a different teacher, and music from yet another teacher.
However, God, our Father is our only teacher therefore he needs to know everything. If we hope to someday become like him, then we too must learn everything there is to know. However, learning takes time and, just like in school, our heavenly Father teaches us what he knows, a little at a time, step by step rather than expecting us to know everything all at once.
What we need to remember is that our education process didn’t begin when we were born here on earth Our Father in heaven began teaching us the moment we were born as one of his spirit children, just as human fathers teach their children. For example, when a child is born, their parents help them understand the world around them through the sensory experiences of touching, seeing, and hearing.
Then, as their children grow a little older, they teach them how to eat, and understand words. They encourage their child’s efforts to walk and as they get even older, they continue teaching them more and more complex tasks, such as how to get dress, tie shoes, take a bath by themselves, and other similar chores. As they grow still older, they are given household assignments to accomplish, and then, at some point in their intellectual development, they are sent to school where they receive formal education, but even then, they continue to be taught at home things that they don’t learn at school.
Our Father in heaven did the same thing with us when we were born to him as one of his spirit children. He has been teaching us many things long before the earth was ever created, but then we reached a point in our progression where we had to leave “home” for a short season in order to learn things that we couldn’t learn in heaven.
For example, in heaven there was no evil, so we were sent here to earth to learn the difference between good and evil and learn from our own experience to choose good over evil. In heaven there was no temptation to do wrong, and so we were sent here to live in an environment where we could experience temptations of all sorts.
Our Father in heaven has a physical body but before coming here to earth we only had a spirit body. What that means is that we were only aware of the laws that govern the spirit world, which are vastly different from the laws that govern physical matter. However, since our Father in heaven has a physical body, he knows and is skillful with the laws of both spirit matter and physical matter. If we want to become like him, then we too have to learn about both sets of laws. Therefore, in order to become like God, we need to learn as much as we can about everything there is to know, and so the gaining of knowledge of every kind is an important element in becoming like our Father in heaven.
Since this earth life is so short, we need to take advantage of the time we have here to learn as much as we can. However, the gaining of knowledge won’t end when we lay our mortal bodies in the grave. Instead, it will continue when we pass from this life to the next. As the Lord has explained, “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain to in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much more the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:18-19).
Another thing that a father does is help his children grow to become physically, emotionally, and spiritually strong, but that can only happen as we are stretched and pushed beyond what we think we can endure. For this reason, life in mortality was never intended to be easy, because it’s in the struggle that we grow stronger. However, our heavenly Father doesn’t leave us to endure these hardships alone.
Although he won’t take away our struggles, because to do so would take away our opportunity to learn and grow, yet he nonetheless stands ready to strengthen and assist us through our arduous journey. Even Jesus received an angel sent from God to help strengthen him through his darkest struggle in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43).
And this is another thing we learn. God not only helps us to grow, but he provides for our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs as well. He provides us with everything we need to sustain life, along with providing us with comfort, peace, guidance, and help when we need it. As we do the same for others, we’re learning to do the work of a god.
One of the things that most people think of when contemplating the things of God is his great and mighty power, but that power comes from the righteous use of his priesthood. When God delegates some of his tremendous priesthood power to mortals, they are learning to use the very power that God himself possesses.
God is also a king, who sits on a throne, wears a crown, and rules over a kingdom, and a kingdom, by definition is a form of government. Therefore, for us to become like God, we too must learn how to properly govern a kingdom that we someday hope to rule over ourselves. To do that, God gives us responsibilities to govern within his own kingdom through the callings we receive in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Most people think of the kingdom of God as existing only in heaven, but it is found wherever there are people who accept God as their king. We can think of the earthly church as being one division or one part of an expansive kingdom that has palaces located in many different places throughout the universe, much like a multinational company has many different branches all over the world.
For example, although the headquarters of the Pepsi Cola company is located in New York city, it has bottling companies all over the world. Therefore, anyone who works at one of those bottling plants, whether it’s in America, Germany, India, Australia, or South Africa, they’re an employee of the Pepsi company.
In the same way, although the capital of the Kingdom of God is located in heaven, those who accept Christ and become members of his true church, are citizens of God’s kingdom, no matter where in the universe they live. When we work in our Father’s kingdom, he’s training us in all the things we need to know to someday become capable of ruling over our very own kingdom.
However, not every church who claims to believe in Jesus as the Christ, is part of God’s kingdom. To understand why, we can compare it to going to college.
When someone goes to college, there is a contract or an agreement that the prospective student signs indicating that they will abide by the rules of that particular institution and participate honestly in the educational process. If a student attends their classes, studies hard, and passes their courses, in return the college promises to award them a diploma of graduation in their chosen field of study.
Of course, if they don’t attend their classroom instruction, fail to get a passing grade in any of their classes, or who violate the college’s code of conduct, then they become ineligible to receive a diploma. Furthermore, a particular college awards a diploma only to those who attend their classes. For example, Harvard University doesn’t award a diploma to a student who attended classes at Penn State University.
In the same way, those who want to become like our Father in heaven, must attend his training program. There are many different religious denominations in the world, with many of them saying they believe in Jesus Christ, but since they all teach something different from one another, they can’t all be part of God’s approved courses of instruction.
The apostle Paul taught that there is only one faith (Ephesians 4:5), therefore if the kingdom of God is on the earth, it can only be found in the one church that teaches the correct doctrines of salvation. No matter what the other churches may teach, if they don’t teach the approved courses necessary to become like God, then their celestial education is incomplete
When someone is baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they enter into an agreement with God that they will do all that he asks of them, and what he asks of them is designed to teach them everything they need to know to become like him. But if a person doesn’t attend their classes, or do their assigned tasks, or who quit the program, then they’re not entitled to the same reward as those who have successfully completed all their courses of instruction.
Of course, those who belong to other churches don’t receive the same training as those who attended and passed the course that Christ’s church offers, therefore, no matter how sincere their belief is in Christ may be, they are not eligible or prepared to become like God.
What we then see is that in almost every way imaginable, we are already doing the work that gods do. We are being a father, just like God is a Father. We are teaching our children the same principles of righteousness that God, our Father, is teaching us. We are learning the laws of eternity and learning how to be obedient to them, just as God knows and obeys them. We may not know as much as God does, but we’re in the process of learning what he knows. We’re participating in governing God’s kingdom, we’re using the same priesthood power he has, and we’re caring for others just like God cares for us. We are not only being taught what we need to know about becoming like God, but under the watchful eye of our instructor, teacher, tutor, and exemplar who is our Father in heaven. we’re actually being allowed to do the work that God does. Therefore, what we’re going through could rightly be called on-the-job training in pursuit of becoming like God.
See related articles at The Nature of God