Created For More
As a convert and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for just under 5 years, memories of my 12-year investigation remain relatively fresh in my mind. There are moments and events that are touch-points in my decision to be baptized. Many of these touch-points are the basic tenets of the church, they are truths I had learned in other religions and spiritual experiences that I had, some long before my first meeting the missionaries. One of these primary doctrinal truths is that of progression.
The truth of progression was one that came as no surprise to me, but rather it was a confirming relief and a validation of heavenly logic that was quickly and quite easily verified by the Spirit.
Through scripture and experience, I have learned that progression is not just about becoming like God, it is about a Heavenly Father that wants us to have a fullness of joy, and that fullness of joy is only found in our receiving all that he has, in becoming what He is. Yes, our progression is about godhood, but it is ultimately more about the love of a Divine Father for his children. It is about His desire for us to have His joy. Afterall, we are that we might have joy.
When describing the principals of the Gospel, Joseph Smith said:
“When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation.”
What he is saying and what this means, is that the whole design of the gospel is a path that has been created to lead us onward and upward to greater achievement, even, eventually, to godhood.
Brigham Young stated that:
“The whole mortal existence of man is neither more nor less than a state given to finite beings, a space wherein they may improve themselves for a higher state of being”
Beginning with our organization as Spirit Children of Heavenly Parents, it is God’s sole desire for us to progress and become something greater. As we learn in the book of Moses, God has said, “….this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” All of God’s work and magnificence is about our progression.
Progress is about positive change and it is only through positive change that we will reach our potential and become what we are intended to be. And most of us do not like change as change can be difficult.
C. S. Lewis describes the change Heavenly Father works within us along with one of the greatest obstacles to that change, quite well.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace”
The perfection of our souls is built through the many hard things we are asked to do daily. We progress as we make the efforts in the small choices that are necessary to help in our progression.
To build our eternal lives, we must first build and then continually maintain a solid foundation of prayer, scripture reading, and as President Nelson has recently encouraged, daily repentance. It is only by having and maintaining this solid foundation, built on these small and simple things, that we can have a firm place to progress from.
Having this foundation in place, what more must we do to progress? The answer to this question is where life gets most interesting and challenging.
We are individuals with an individual relationship with Heavenly Father. We each come to earth with our own talents, strengths, weaknesses and circumstance. The Lord works within us individually and is continuously challenging us to grow in the areas He knows we are in need of growth often the areas where we want to stay the same. In the Book of Matthew, we read about a rich man:
“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, all these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”
In this story the man said that he had done all that Jesus mentioned must be done to ‘enter into life’. That’s when Jesus challenged him go further, to do more, to take a leap of faith and progress - to do what HE must do to be ‘perfect’. His personal message, his individual challenge, the change he needed, required that he sell all that he had and follow Jesus, or in other words, give up what he valued most and step into the unknown. Unwilling to do what he must do to be perfected; the man went away sorrowful.
We do not know what happened to this man, but we do know that he was given a choice to receive more, to be perfected, and he walked away from that choice sorrowful for having made the decision he made. I wonder if his sorrow lasted his lifetime or if it stretches into eternity.
We are all called to ask ourselves daily; ‘What are the possessions I refuse to sell, what do I hold on to that can prevent me from being perfected in Jesus?”
Progression is not an event, it is us, making good choices that lead to more choices. It is us facing challenges, doing hard things, being disciplined in our moment by moment choices.
We are not alone on our personalized path to progression. We have each other, our families, the scriptures, the words of prophets, apostles, and the church. We also have the spirit to guide us.
Be it a difficult relative, a challenging neighbor, a calling that we feel is far beyond our capacity, some humbling event, financial challenges that require more work, more faith, we are all given many opportunities and circumstances that can assist us in our progression if we allow them to. Circumstance can be our greatest teacher.
The path for progression is different for each of us, we each need something different as we are all in our own place on the path. But what we have in common is the need to seek and do the next right thing, the best thing we could do in each moment. It is by small and simple things that great things are brought to pass.
Since our formation as spirit children of loving heavenly parents we have been on the path to progression. All of our lives are leading us somewhere as a direct result of our choices.
The question we must learn to ask ourselves, and the spirit, in each choice we are faced with is: ‘where will this choice lead’.
2 Nephi 28:30 states: For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.”
We have a Father in Heaven that loves us and has given us a way that we may become like Him and I know that it is through the small daily choices we make that we are given the opportunity to progress into the fullness of joy He offers.