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Aren't we already sons and daughters of God?

As a younger whippersnapper, I treasured truths such as knowing that I am a child of God. I still treasure that truth today because of its beauty and its constant reminder of my divine heritage. Just recently, I came across a podcast where a professor of comparative religion recounted how one of his students, who was not a member of our faith, wrote a paper on how the primary hymn "I am a Child of God" made him weep every time he listened to it (I am currently unable to find the podcast at this time, but will update the article once I find it).

From the outset, and given what I have written above, I don't want to downplay this important truth that, still, many of our faith take for granted. With that said, the purpose of this article is to shed some light on some confusing phrases in scripture that, once properly understood, will further unlock the light intensity of the scriptures.

In my readings of Come Follow Me the past few weeks, and especially during my reading of Moses chapter 6, we get many instances of a peculiar phrase. Here is a non-exhaustive list of where you will find it in the scriptures:

"Adam, who was the son of God" (Moses 6:22)

"I am a Son of God" (Moses 1:13)

"to them gave he power to become the sons of God" (John 1:12)

"Behold, thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons." (Moses 6:68)

"... becoming his sons and daughters" (Mosiah 27:25)

"... becoming his sons and daughters" (D&C 34:3)

You will find this sort of reference in dozens of more places in scripture. If you are honestly reading the scriptures to understand their intended meaning, you must have asked the question at some point (or some form of it), "I thought we were already sons or daughters of God? How do we become something we already are?"

For me personally, it was years ago when I started to get intimations that something much more light intensive was being referred to in the scriptures in these instances. It was this simple, but fascinating insight from Elder McConkie that really started to get the gears in my head moving:

"We are well aware that all men are the children of God, the offspring of the Father, his sons and his daughters. We know that we were all born in his courts as spirit beings, long before the foundations of this earth were laid, and that the Lord Jehovah was in fact the Firstborn Son. What is not so well known is that nearly all the passages of scripture, both ancient and modern, which speak of God as our Father and of men on earth being the sons of God, have no reference to our birth in preexistence as the children of Elohim, but teach rather that Jehovah is our Father and we are his children." - Bruce R. McConkie ("The Promised Messiah", pgs. 351-352)

 How are we children of Jesus Christ? Or how do we become such?

Mosiah 27:25-26, at least for me, gives a quick and succinct explanation about what this means:

"And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God."

In these verses, we learn that being born again or being changed/converted to a state of righteousness is what is meant by becoming the sons and daughters of Jesus Christ. We also see certain words or phrases that appear to be synonymous with this idea; namely, "born again" or "born of God", "changed from their fallen state", "being redeemed of God", and "become new creatures". I would add a few other phrases that you see often see in scripture, like "taking upon us the name of Christ" (or some variation),  "born of the spirit", or "the Holy Order".

With all this taken together, we can move past the theological platitudes a bit and get at the heart of what is being discussed. In our Come Follow Me reading this past week we would have ended with what happened to Adam in Moses 6:64-68. What happened to Adam here? Harold B. Lee at one point gave some commentary on these verses while also giving us another synonymous phrase that can be found in the scriptures:

"After Adam and Eve and their posterity had been baptized that they might be made partakers thereby of the benefits of the Atonement, they received the gift of the Holy Ghost. Adam also held the holy priesthood (see Moses 6:67 D&C 107:40- 41). And thus, by baptism, being justified by the Holy Ghost, and having the priesthood, Adam was blessed to become, as stated in the closing words of Moses 6, “a son of God” (v. 68), or a member of the Church of the Firstborn." - Harold B. Lee (The Fall of Man, June 1954 address to Seminary and Institute Teachers)

We get a succinct definition of what being a member of the Church of Firstborn is from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

"The Church of the Firstborn is Christ's heavenly church, and its members are exalted beings who gain an inheritance in the highest heaven of the celestial world and for whom the family continues in eternity." (1)

In other words, to become a son and daughter of God as the scriptures speak of it means one has received all the ordinances of the Lord's House and has received a fullness of Priesthood, the Holy Spirit of Promise, the baptism of Fire, or the record of Heaven. For most, these promises and blessings might very well be reserved until after death, but the scriptures always use these terms in a sense of receiving them before death descends upon us.

For example, when is death ever implied as happening to us in the Holy Temple Endowment? Jeffrey Bradshaw makes this point:

"... the actual endowment is not a mere representation but is the reality of coming into a heavenly presence and of being instructed in the things of eternity. In temples, we have a staged representation of the step-by-step ascent into the presence of the Eternal while we are yet alive. It is never suggested that we have died when we participate in these blessings. Rather, when we enter the celestial room, we pause to await the promptings and premonitions of the Comforter. And after a period of time, mostly of our own accord, we descend the stairs, and resume the clothing and walk of our earthly existence. But there should have been a change in us as there certainly was with Moses when he was caught up to celestial realms and saw and heard things unlawful to utter." - Jeffrey M. Bradshaw (“How Thankful We Should Be to Know the Truth”: Zebedee Coltrin’s Witness of the Heavenly Origins of Temple Ordinances, note 9)

Also, I think this is what Elder Bruce R. McConkie meant when he wrote:

"The redeemed of the Lord are those such as Abraham who now have eternal life in his kingdom. But it is also the design and intent and purpose of the Lord to redeem men spiritually while they yet remain in the flesh." (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 120)

In essence, the invitation to become a Son or Daughter of God has so many threads we can pull on but it more fully is an invitation to us to become divine beings in the here and now. I have written often about the Lord's invitation that we often miss about creating heaven on earth. This idea of becoming the sons and daughters of God goes hand in hand with that. We learn in Moses chapter 6 that it is the design, intent, and purpose of the plan of salvation for us to be temples of the Holy Ghost here and now so that this heavenly vision can be accomplished.

This is a drop-by-drop process that comes incrementally, but it is the endgame of many things we do in the Church and Kingdom. In closing, I refer to the last 3 verses of Hymn 180 in our current Hymnbook, the last two verses we rarely sing, if ever, in our sacrament meetings:

Humbly we take the sacrament
In Jesus’ blessed name,
Let us receive thru covenant
The Spirit’s heav’nly flame.

We will be buried in the stream
In Jesus’ blessed name,
And rise, while light shall on us beam
The Spirit’s heav’nly flame.

Baptize us with the Holy Ghost
And seal us as thine own,
That we may join the ransomed host
And with the Saints be one.
(Father in Heaven, We Do Believe)


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