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…man may become

by Mary Domb Mikkelson

Mary Domb MikkelsonLorenzo Snow, fifth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), is remembered for his declaration that “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become,” a teaching consistent with the Mormon beliefs that God was once a human who dwelt on earth (as Jesus later did) and that “…those who gain eternal life receive exaltation…They are gods.” (Mormon Doctrine, pg. 237).

An intriguing thought, though not part of my belief system, even in my LDS days.  The concept lingered somewhere in the recesses of my mind, however, to emerge at a recent Bible study.  We were speaking of authority, possibly the most consistent theme in scripture, working from Psalm 148, Matthew 23:11-12 and Luke 10:17-24.

My mind strayed.

“As man is, God once was…” No problem with that one – did not God, in Jesus, set aside his glory and take on human form?

“As God is, man may become.”  Isn’t the goal of Christianity to live as Jesus lived?

In John 17:18, Jesus, speaking to God, said, “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.”

Ties it together rather neatly – God showed us Godself in Jesus; Jesus showed us the way then sent us on our way to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

While I make no claim for the validity of this theology, it works for me.  As I write I am still reeling from a hellish week, seven short days encompassing the death of my brother, the Boston Marathon bombings, saber rattling from North Korea (among others), outbursts of hatred related to those latter two events and the horrific explosion in Texas.  I need more than ever to become as Jesus, to seek his way through the morass and to follow it, to love as he loved.

About those outbursts – a recent public forum discussion included among other suggestions for making punishments fit crimes:  murder (identical death).  Picturing “avenging angels” blowing up another marathon to execute the Boston bombers (“identical death,” remember), I felt like crying.  “Anger,” Wellins Calcott said in Thoughts Moral and Divine, “comes sometimes upon us, but we go oftener to it, and, instead of rejecting it, we invite it:  Yet it is a vice that carries with it neither pleasure nor profit, neither honour nor security.”

We are, it often seems, becoming an angry people, ever ready to wreak vengeance – whether it be bigger and “better” weapons, a willingness to waterboard or malicious gossip – on others.  That anger, instead of reminding us that we have a problem that needs attention,* too often furthers the cycle of suffering and retaliation, leading us further and further away from loving as God loves, unconditionally, walking as Christ walked among “the least of these” with arms and hearts outreached.

Sometimes the knowledge that nothing we can ever do or not do can lessen God’s love for us is pretty hard to take in.  Hitler?  Serial killers?  Child molesters?  Bombers?  Us, maybe, but THEM?

It’s not easy, Lord!  Loving you back, okay – that’s easy (most of the time).  Loving our neighbor?  Not so easy, if we’re stuck with your definition of neighbor.  I don’t understand this all-encompassing love of yours.  Sometimes I don’t want to believe it.  Sometimes I don’t believe it.  But would you be worth believing in if it weren’t true?  If we couldn’t count on your grace and love in our darkest moments?  When we’ve left our humanity behind?  Our fledgling Jesus side?

“Lord, I believe.  Help thou my unbelief.”
*Frederic Luskin, Forgive for Good

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