Thursday, July 3, 2008

Across the Threshold of Deity

Some context for this post: Since Jess works for the Corporation of the Presiding Bishopic (read: the Church), her department has devotionals once a week. It's her turn to direct next Monday's so she asked me (for some reason) to put one together for her. This is what I came up with:

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Across the Threshold of Deity

[A]s there be gods many and Lords many[...]
-
1 Corinthians 8:5

On June 16, 1844 at a meeting assembled in the grove just east of the Nauvoo Temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith stood to deliver one of his final sermons. Wet with rain, surrounded by apostates, many of whom wanted him dead, and sustained by the saints, he spoke plainly and courageously of the Christian Godhead and “the plurality of Gods,” truths that would in part lead to his martyrdom almost two weeks later.

Yet, his message was no different than anything he’d previously taught: “I wish to declare,” he said, that “in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods.”[1] Using ancient and modern scripture to support his reasoning, he took the assembly back to the beginning, showing them the unbroken chain of exalted Beings that extends, Parent to child, across the thresholds of eternity. Pointing to the relationship between Christ and Elohim as his example, he asked, “Where was there ever a son without a father? and where was there ever a father without first being a son? […] [I]f Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also?”[2]

Just over two months before preaching this sermon in the temple grove, the Prophet had stood before a vast congregation of similar make-up at a Church conference combined with the funeral service for Elder King Follett. During this climactic moment of his career, he taught, “If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.”[3] In one sense, then, only as we come to understand God and His eternal pedigree can we really understand our place, as His offspring and heirs, in the universe and beyond. In this knowledge, the Prophet said, we find eternal life, a dynamic condition we “have got to learn […] the same as all Gods have done before [us] […], namely by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation.”[4]

Through these revelations the Prophet not only outlines the eternal nature and development of God’s race and the breadth and depth of God’s experience and understanding; he also unveils the depth and breadth of God’s love. By “lift[ing] a corner of the veil and giv[ing] [us] […] a […] glance into eternity,”[5] he reveals the eternal bonds of kinship that unite God’s children to Him and to one another through Christ, showing us, as Parley P. Pratt commented after a temple ceremony, “how to prize the endearing relationships of father and mother, husband and wife; of brother and sister, son and daughter.” From the Prophet, said Parley, we learn “that the refined sympathies and affections which endear[…] us to each other emanate[…] from the foundation of divine eternal love” and “that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity.”[6]

Firm in this knowledge of who God is—and by extension who we are—and that His defining characteristic is love, we must move to become like Him. We must “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] […] may be filled with this love”[7] because, of all things, it will never fail. In a world of constantly shifting morals and circumstances, charity, the pure love Christ and the Father have for us and that we can have for Them, can be our constant. It can steady our relationships; it can heal our deepest wounds and help us to heal others’ wounds; and it can tie us to our potential as children of an Infinite Being whose touch extends into the most intimate depths of every human soul.



[1]“Gods Many and Lords Many.” God the Father. Ed. by Gordon Allred. Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 1979. 245.

[2] “Gods Many.” 248-9.

[3] “The King Follett Discourse.” God the Father. 224.

[4][4] “King Follett.” 228.

[5] Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt.3rd ed. Ed. by Parley P. Pratt, Jr. Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 1970. 298

[6] Autobiography. 297.

[7] Moroni 7:48.