The Nature of God and Man Utah Valley University Abstract The nature and relationship of God to man has always been human natures more important question. “As man is, god once was; as god is, man may become. ” Lorenzo Snow. I have asked myself this statement many times. What is Gods nature? What is mans nature? And human nature is God's nature; therefore, a study of God’s nature is simultaneously a study of human nature. I will explain this statement and my beliefs about human nature and how it operates. The Nature of God and Man I wasn’t nice to other people.
I was always fighting, arguing, name calling with the neighbors, as well as my teachers. I stole from department stores, I lied to my parents and coaches and teachers. I cheated on my homework and tests and my relationships. I hurt others in physical altercations. I would bully my peers verbally. I manipulated people into to doing what I wanted. I used drugs and alcohol illegally, I would drive drunk, and I disrespected my elders. I have brought embarrassment and shame to my family. I haven’t always understood mans existence and purpose here in this life.
I have come to understand that my purpose, which is part of my God-given human nature, is to become like God. I have realized that very slowly as the result of many mistakes and challenges. Some, maybe most, of the experiences from my which I have learned about my nature—which is also human nature--have been negative, but, a few have been positive. A negative experience from which I learned a great deal was taking my first drink of beer at a party at my brother's apartment when I was sixteen. That drink soon led to my becoming an alcoholic.
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One of the good choices I made, and there have only been a few, was to leave college--including my athletic dreams. I returned home after my sophomore year at college and spoke with my mother about some of my bad choices. I now go to court appointed counseling for the bad choices I’ve made. It feels like the last 6 years of my life have been spent cleaning up the wreckage of my past. I have learned that making decisions that violate eternal principles and laws that are irrevocably decreed in heaven bring about personal pain, anguish, and sorrow.
That was true for me, and I’m sure it’s true for everyone. I have learned from the bad experiences reported above that they lead to failure and misery. People told me that, but I had to learn it myself. I have since begun to take the necessary steps to make amends and repent of these behaviors. I have entered rehabilitation centers and have met with professionals to clean up my past and to avoid those same behaviors. In other words, I have begun to listen to the God given voice inside of me that has always called me to become like God.
I now have a better knowledge of my divine purpose and a greater sense of myself through understanding the nature of God and the nature of man. And what is this new understanding? God’s nature is human nature. And human nature is God's nature; therefore, a study of God’s nature is simultaneously a study of human nature. Much of my new understanding is based on two of Christian doctrines more popular statements which I have pondered at great length. The first is from the writings of President Lorenzo Snow, “As man is, god once was; as god is, man may become. The second is that man is created in the image of god (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:18). So, I am going to spend some time discussing God's nature because (as I will show later) it is man's nature too. God was once as I am today, with both good and bad qualities and characteristics. He had flaws and character defects, but God was a man who desired good works and self improvement. I do not profess to know all about God; in fact I know very little. I don’t know what God was like before He became God. God was somewhat like me and He figured out over time what mattered most to his progression and happiness.
God was intelligent, patient, and meek. Although at times, he also may have been frightened, angry, and alone. God has experienced some of the same, if not all of the same emotions and feeling’s human’s experience. God sinned--possibly even as humans have sinned. God became God by overcoming all his imperfections and discovering true happiness, and God desires to keep us from making some of the same mistakes. And he can do that because our nature and his nature are the same. God gave us commandments to help us to become like him. One of the most important things God learned was the existence of eternal principles.
I guess that means that those eternal principles existed before God did. It was through discovering and conforming to those eternal principles that God became who God is now. He learned that these principles have consequences, and when you abide by them you receive joy, happiness, and progress. When you violate them your reward is shame, guilt, and sorrow, and you quit making progress--or become worse. One of the traits of God's nature is the ability to change. Having learned about eternal principles, God continually strove to upgrade himself by conforming to them and increasingly realizing his potential.
He continually progressed toward eventual perfection. That is called eternal progression. The need to move toward perfection is an important part of God's nature and of human nature. God wanted to progress and was willing to pay the price for progress, God never gave up. He never quit growing, progressing, challenging himself, stretching his limitations, accepting help from others, receiving input and advice. God was willing to do whatever it took to overcome whatever stood in his way. God understood that it isn’t where he was, but where He wanted to be that counted.
God's ability to change and His desire to progress are what eventually made him into God. God also had a body, and that body was both a blessing and the source of many problems for him. It was a blessing because it seems that a spirit can only experience a limited amount, not enough to become perfect. Apparently spirits went as far as they could go as spirits, and without a body, spirits could make no more progress. That happened to God, and so somehow he was given a body. I said above that God kept learning, and one of the things he learned was that he had to control his body.
His body was designed with a very basic nature: to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. God learned that his body could not always pursue pleasure. God learned through his own experience that many physical experiences, including sexual gratification must be controlled. He learned that sex is for a man and woman. It brings pleasure into the relationship, brings the couple closer together, and allows room for intimacy and growth and procreation. When this eternal principle is violated, the spirit and the body go out of harmony. Any gratification which harms or interferes with others must be deferred.
Any pleasure of the body which compromises eternal principals of ethics and morality must be deferred. These are examples of eternal principles which God learned about his body. God also learned that he could not always avoid pain. How did he learn that? He learned it from the temptations, struggles, disappointments, and failures discussed earlier. God surely felt pain; he probably still feels it. We know that he weeps over lost souls. But even so he doesn't just save them anyway in their lost state. God has learned that he can't, so He has also learned to bear the pain.
God learned that the pain of labor and hard work is a tool to strengthen us and teach us valuable lessons. God learned about the pain of loss that comes from a broken heart or the death of a loved one, the pain of separation from the Holy Spirit, the pain of disappointment that may stem from family life and close relationships, the pain of failure from school or from a goal not accomplished. God learned that while some pain can be avoided, very often pain must be endured. God learned that it is the price he must pay for progress. Another thing which God learned or discovered was the love of others.
He discovered that joy comes from thinking about and serving others. At first selfishness probably seemed best to meet his needs, but God eventually discovered that self seeking didn’t really meet his needs. What he discovered was that when a person cares for another person, they care for the person in return, and even if they don’t care for the person in return, there’s a feeling of joy that comes from helping them, and that seems to be another one of those eternal principles. When God discovered how to achieve joy, he immediately experienced love. He wanted to share his knowledge with others.
This is like Lehi who upon tasting the fruit of the tree of life (joy), immediately thought to share it with others. God's love for others became his work and his glory which is to bring to pass the eternal life of mankind. (see Moses 1:39). If, as President Snow observed, “As man is, god once was; as god is, man may become,” the description of God’s nature is a description of human nature. The same eternal principles that God discovered apply as well to me and you. The principles exist and if we conform to them we get happiness, and if we don’t, we get misery.
At first, it didn’t feel natural, not part of human nature, to conform to eternal principles. God calls our desire to resist change the “natural man” and the natural man has to learn to conform to those principles. Humans can either learn eternal principles from God by following his commandments, or they will learn those principles the way God did, which was the hard way. I had to learn a great many of them the hard way. I was told on many occasions that the direction my life was headed would lead me to heartache. I have since discovered, the hard way, that those people were right.
God shows us those eternal principles in the form of commandments. What God discovered about life he reduced to rules called commandments so simple people can live them. If we live the commandments, we learn and live eternal principles, if we ignore the commandments we are on our own. When Abraham Maslow developed his concept of self-actualization, he chanced upon one of those eternal principles mentioned above. A result of the years which God spent struggling, learning, failing, repenting, etc, was that he learned that he could only be happy when he was realizing his potential to be perfect.
It is not an accident that when Maslow set out to study human nature by studying how healthy humans act, he discovered self-actualization. Every human desires to fulfill his potential, to become all he can be. Concluding that the nature of every human being, is to strive and progress to become like God. Everything Maslow said about self actualization is true. Maslow called it self-actualization; I call it eternal progression. God purposefully placed each human being here on this earth to receive a body. God discovered that a physical body is necessary in order to have joy. But humans also need to learn to control their physical bodies.
God learned that the body cannot always have pleasure and that it must endure some pain. Healthy people learn the same thing. Bodies are a great blessing if they are controlled. Humans can’t have pleasures all the time; they must be controlled. Controlling pleasures is not the same as denying pleasures; we have to learn from God what an appropriate expression of physical pleasure is and what it isn’t. God learned that you can’t avoid all pain. We feel growing pains through emotions that are not always understood by us. There are the pains of labor from working on projects and tasks that might not be very successful.
We must endure the pain of sickness and death that may arrive without notice. These are all the types of discomforts which God understands from his own personal experience. Humans are social beings who instinctively, which means by their nature as humans, need to be with other people and to feel love in order to feel fulfilled and complete. The importance of social needs and friendship are greatly misunderstood. Human’s needs for friendship creates humans own self image; how a human is accepted by peers determines to a large degree their own view of their personal worth.
I recall a good example of friendship and how it can influence others for good. I was struggling with some directional decisions. A friend of my brother befriended me at the local gym and after many conversations, he convinced me to play football with him and others. Through his friendship and mentoring I grew to better understand the need for good positive friends. Humans' needs are such that social interaction and love drive us to each other. Humans need love and interaction to give them a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging, and a sense of homeostasis.
Just like God, most humans learn that loving others works better than selfishness. Humans are created in such a way that human beings need nourishment, constant stimulation through verbal and non verbal communication from other people. During infants’ beginning growth they need constant contact with their parents and others, giving them the opportunity to grow and begin learning. Throughout childhood and into adolescences and on to adulthood, humans need and want other humans in their life to give them a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.
Physical embraces are common in all of life’s relationships: for example, in athletics' high-fives and pats on the backside to congratulate one another for a job well done. Sporting teams huddle up before and during, as well as after games, in order to come together and experiences their physical and emotional state of being. It is customary in many cultures to embrace one another with hugs and kisses upon greeting one another. Man is as God once was, and God is as man may become. In addition, man was and is created in the image and likeness of God.
I’ve used these two well known Christian doctrines to argue that investigating God’s nature is the best way to understand human nature. I don’t pretend to say that my ideas are Christian doctrine, but they are what I have come to believe as a result of my own personal struggles and their relationship to those two doctrines. When the day comes that I will be seated across from others, counseling them, I hope to treat them as people who are struggling, just as god may have once struggled. And it will be my job as a counselor to help them see their potential to become gods or goddesses. ? ? ?
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