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The Nature and Character of God

Before you start yawning at this title and decide to click off due to low expectations, let me assure you that this is not your typical exposition of this topic.  My purpose in writing this is to illustrate just how the fundamental understanding of the true Nature and Character of God affects EVERY aspect of our life.

I will break down just how vital this doctrine is in ways that many of us have not even thought of before.  I wish to start with this startling premise that Joseph Smith Jr., the prophet of the restoration, gives us: 
“If men do not comprehend the Character of God, they cannot comprehend themselves.”

Sounds catchy eh?  But is it true?  Most of us might say, “I do comprehend myself though.  I know that I exist.  I believe in God.  So why do I have to comprehend God’s character?   I don’t see the correlation!”

It seems like an abstract topic to talk about.  When you understand just how fundamental this doctrine is you understand why it was the first doctrine that Satan attacked, thus resulting in sectarianism removing it.  This doctrine can set your scripture pages afire!

Let’s not be “willingly ignorant” (2 Peter 3:5) and “not willing to enjoy that which we might have received” (D&C 88:32).  A vista and an Everest of understanding are available to those who are willing to know these things.

Every doctrine of the restored gospel is rooted in this doctrine.  Let me give you some examples:
1.        The Atonement of Christ is referred to as the central doctrine and “all other doctrines are appendages to it”.  To what end is the Atonement of Christ?  What did the Atonement accomplish?  The Atonement provides us with the means of repentance and grace to put on the Character and Nature of God. 
2.       The Resurrection of Christ is an obvious one.  We shall put on a body of flesh of bone that is glorified and perfected as is the Father’s.  The end goal is to have our Nature align with his.
3.       Faith.  According to Lectures on Faith, by the Prophet Joseph, three things are necessary to develop faith unto life and salvation (unto exaltation):
a.       An Idea that God actually exists
b.      A correct understanding of his Nature, Character, and Attributes
c.       An actual knowledge that our life is in accordance with His will
4.       Consecration and Sacrifice. Only a correct understanding of God’s Omniscience and Honor will cause us to trust Him enough to sacrifice our time and means like the ancients.
5.       Stewardship or being a father is preparatory to the Patriarchal order and receiving all that He has.  These things prepare us to be even as He is.
6.       Obedience.  Elder Maxwell tells us that unless we are obedient we will not be able to become sufficiently like God, thus resulting in Him not trusting to give us “all that He hath”.  Only when are like Him will we be able to deal with all power, glory, and dominion.

If you are not convinced yet of the grand importance of this doctrine then let me drop this bombshell on you:
“If you wish to go where God is, you must be like God, or possess the principles which God possesses, for if we are not drawing towards God in principle, we are going from Him and drawing towards the devil. . . . Search your hearts, and see if you are like God. I have searched mine, and feel to repent of all my sins.” – Joseph Smith Jr.

It is only by putting off every carnal attribute and putting on every Godly attribute that will enable us to enter into his presence.  Even the doctrine of Repentance is for the purpose of progressing ourselves to be like God.

No wonder President Boyd K. Packer tells us that doctrine understood changes behavior quicker than anything else.  Once we understand this doctrine, the attributes of deity, and our relationship with God it will result in a more refined behavior.

We will also be able to deal with adversity better.  When we understand that God gives us the clinical experiences in order for us to exercise and develop His attributes we will cope better:
“Worshipful acknowledgment of an omniscient God will cause us to cooperate in the stretching of our souls.” –Elder Neal A. Maxwell

Some might wonder, “Don’t I have any individuality?  Why can’t I be myself?  Why do I have to put on the attributes of God?”  Elder Maxwell puts it so well:
“So many of us are kept from eventual consecration because we mistakenly think that, somehow, by letting our will be swallowed up in the will of God, we lose our individuality (see Mosiah 15:7). What we are really worried about, of course, is not giving up self, but selfish things—like our roles, our time, our preeminence, and our possessions. No wonder we are instructed by the Savior to lose ourselves (see Luke 9:24). He is only asking us to lose the old self in order to find the new self. It is not a question of one’s losing identity but of finding his true identity! Ironically, so many people already lose themselves anyway in their consuming hobbies and preoccupations but with far, far lesser things.”

Once we start to deny ourselves of all ungodliness (to put off all ungodliness is to put on godliness) we will find that our individuality is enhanced!  We gain more confidence.  We eventually are given an understanding that our life is accepted of the Father (calling & election or in small increments).  Our “confidence waxes strong in the presence of God” because we are like him!

Imagine having Faith in a God that is not Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent!  Why would we pray to God if he did not have those attributes?  Why would we trust a God that only told us the truth 95% of the time?  Only the perfected attributes of God allows us to have complete and life-giving faith in him.  Anytime we lack faith it can be directly traced to a lack of understanding or trust in his perfections.
The Prophet Joseph elaborates for us:
“The nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker and is caught up to dwell with Him. But we consider that this is a station to which no man ever arrived in a moment” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 51).

The more we perfect ourselves the greater our capacity for joy.  The more we unclutter our lives and put on the “divine nature” we will have greater enjoyment.  Let us all put off the natural man and understand that joy comes from becoming even as the Father is.  Any lacking on our part will result in a lack of happiness.  We become emancipated from the natural man once we understand this great doctrine (understand that it takes a life time).    Let us put our pride aside and not seek for the familiar but for the better.  God is inviting His children to become like him.  In the words of Elder McConkie let us put on the “gospel harness” and “chart a course leading to eternal life”.

Now back to the original premise by the Prophet Joseph:
“If men do not comprehend the Character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.”
If we do not understand this we fail at understanding our purpose, the purpose of life, who we are, what the expectations for us are, what the requirements for us are, our potential, and our relationship with God.  It is so beautiful!


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