This is another religious post, so if this sort of thing bothers you, try back tomorrow.
As I’ve mentioned before, if God were interested in settling the matter of His existence beyond debate He would have long ago. The lack of conclusive, irrefutable proof (as if there was such a thing–never underestimate the capacity of humanity to disbelieve) is deliberate and essential to God’s achieving the desired end. The time will come when that undeniable proof will be presented, but not yet. In the mean time it is up to us to choose what we will believe.
I believe in God.
Not just any god, mind you. I believe in God as described by the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe God is our father, and has been for time immeasurable. His work and passion is to help us progress. We have always existed as “intelligences”, but with the help of God, or Father in Heaven as we refer to Him most in our religion, we became defined and unique spiritual beings. But as spiritual beings in a physical universe, we had progressed as far as we could. To further our development God implemented a plan.
That plan called for the creations of a physical realm in which we could be given a physical body. An earth would be created or organized on which we could live. We all had some role in the creation of that world, under the guidance and power of God. But then, when all was ready, God called a vast meeting of all the spirits under his guardianship and explained His plan: Our coming to Earth would be a test. We would be subjected to all the temptations and weaknesses that accompany a physical body, and we would be expected to live according to the rules God gave us. To make it a fair test we would all have our memories of our previous existence blocked so that faith would be required. Those who passed the test and were obedient would be given the chance to continue learning and developing, and eventually (quite likely a very long eventually) become gods ourselves.
I know that part bothers a lot of people, but it’s never bothered me. I’m a father. My goal for my children is for them to equal or even exceed my own capabilities. It only makes sense to me that our Heavenly Father would want us to progress as far as we can, even if it’s not all the way to His level. And why would children of God not be able to become gods themselves? Don’t we inherit something of our parents’ potential?
But this plan has its down-side. Not everyone will pass the test. Some simply lack the capacity or the desire to become like God. To quote Stan Lee, with great power comes great responsibility. God, in His wisdom, recognizes that God-like power, coupled with God-like responsibility, is not for everyone, and He would not be a loving parent if he forced any of his children into a position they don’t want or can’t handle. Giving each of us the ability to choose for ourselves is all-important to God. He must love us all a great deal to be willing to go forward with such a plan, knowing what it would mean for many of his children–the end point of their progress.
But not all of us saw it this way. Lucifer, or Satan, didn’t like that particular plan and thought it unfair. He proposed his own plan–let us all come to Earth and gain mortal bodies, but he would force everyone to do what they were supposed to. He would make us all become gods, ready or not. And because it was his idea, and because he felt it was the better plan, he wanted to assume God’s place. He wanted God’s power and glory, but without having to work for it and prove himself worthy of it. He wasn’t alone. A third of God’s children agreed and followed Satan.
But Christ, so great and wise he had attained more knowledge and wisdom than any of the rest of us, stood up in favor of God’s plan and offered himself as leader and servant to the remaining two-thirds who wanted to follow God’s plan, even though it would mean being sacrificed for all of us. He would see the plan was put into place exactly as God wanted it, no matter what it would cost him personally.
We are told a war then took place in heaven, though we don’t know the exact nature of the conflict. Since we were not yet physical beings, it was probably not the stuff of Hollywood action movies, but we just don’t know. We do know, however, that Satan and those who followed him were cast out. They came to Earth, where they resolved to oppose Father in Heaven, and His son, Jesus Christ. If they couldn’t overthrow God they would do their best to drag as many of his other children down with them. Perhaps they hope that if they can get enough on their side they can still overthrow God.
But the plan went forward. God organized his remaining children, appointing each their turn to come to Earth. The work of accomplishing the plan was overseen by a council known as The Godhead, comprised of God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost. In my religion we believe them to be three distinct beings, each with their own role in the plan.
The plan began with Adam and Eve. They were placed in something of a “holding pattern”, allowing for them to make the choice to begin the test. They were given conflicting directives. One on side they were to obey God, be fruitful and multiply, while lacking the knowledge to do so effectively. On the other side they were commanded not to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, even though it would provide the knowledge they needed to accomplish the charge given them.
They might have remained stuck in this position indefinitely were it not for Satan’s influence. He explained things, using truth to mask the lies, to Eve, who made a very difficult choice, but one that allowed the Plan to go forward. She chose to eat the fruit and gain knowledge. Adam, seeing that through her choice it was no longer possible to be completely obedient, chose to stay with Eve and face the consequences together. Their choices marked the true beginning of the test. Man had proven the ability to choose for themselves–the greatest gift of God–and that they could be influenced by both God and Satan. Most importantly, they could now start providing bodies for the rest of us to begin coming down for our own turn.
Many religions look down on Eve for her decision, but our religion does not. Without her choice God’s plan would have been frustrated. God’s test could not go forward and be a fair test without that first step of choosing, even if it was contrary to God’s command. She, and ultimately Adam, chose to choose, if that makes any sense, rather than to continue avoiding making a choice. Yes, the world we all inherit is full of sorrow, pain, and heartache, but there is also great goodness, love, and happiness–neither can exist without the other. Opposition is key to the entire test. Eve made the right choice.
The complexity of just what occurred in the Garden of Eden is evidence that God must walk a very fine line. We often think of God as restrictive, but in truth no one is under more restriction than God. He must be completely just, completely obedient to the laws he places on himself. As the scriptures tell us, God must keep his word, must obey they laws He is bound by, or he ceases to be God. When there is absolutely nothing you can’t do, not doing certain things becomes very difficult. I’m not certain I understand it all myself, but it’s clear to me that it was very important that mankind’s choosing to distance ourselves from God and embrace the test was important–and that it had to be our choice, not His. Praise and adoration are due to Eve for making a very difficult choice, and also to Adam for recognizing his best path foward.
But now we are here, in a world where Satan holds great sway while God maintains a respectful distance. Ever the anxious parent, he stands ready to help us, but it must be our choice. We have to reach out to Him, and even when we do He doesn’t simply swoop in and do it all for us. No, the intent of this plan is to help us learn what we are capable of, help us learn to make the right choices, and allow us to suffer consequences when we don’t. Not that God has left us helpless. He sent Christ to be our savior, to provide himself as a sacrifice for our sins. We sin in our current mortal state, and that sin creates a debt to God that we cannot repay. But Christ paid that debt for us, and so in essence has bought us. He sets the new terms, and they are more merciful.
God, being God, must follow the demands of justice. If we sin we can’t return to him and cannot continue our progression. But Christ provides the means of obtaining mercy. When he marked paid to our accounts God and justice had no more claim. When judgment day comes we will be judged by how well we keep the terms that Christ has set for our contract with him. Those terms will be more generous, but still quite demanding. Christ is of the same mind as God, and their ultimate goal is to make sure each of us gains the opportunity for further progression that we are best suited for.
So that is the God I believe in. For many it is a source of great frustration in that He is not interested in settling the matter of His existence once and for all. For me, he is a kind, wise, and loving father who is bound by eternal truths beyond our knowledge and comprehension. His plan is much more comprehensive than simply what we do during this infinitismally small piece of eternity. He’s engaged in an effort of a scope beyond our ability to understand. He is a being of pure justice and pure mercy, perfectly walking the fine line between them. I believe many of the aspects that so many find annoying are essential components in achieving that balance.
This is, of course, just the beginning of what I could say about my beliefs. I believe in God, and I’ve begun to describe the God I believe in. At a later date I will explain why I believe in God.