God-like Nature: Discovered or Recovered

As Mormons we believe that all human beings have the capability to become like God. Part of this is based in the notion that we are the spirituatl offspring of God (in other words we were “born” and “begotten” in a pre-existence and “reared” accordingly). In this life we are gods in embryo learning what it means to become like him (and her). Indeed this is part (if not all) of our human nature.

One of the questions I’ve been thinking about lately is whether this God-like nature is something “discovered” or “recovered”. From the discovery perspective this nature is something given to us by God; and we “discover” it as it is revealed to us by the Holy Ghost. It is made available to us because we are actively seeking to know God and cultivate a relationship with him. From the recovery perspective, this God-like nature is already within us and what we must do is to “look within” and live our lives in such a way that it shines forth.

Not that these two models are mutually exclusive, but I think which one we gravitate toward will shape our world-view. For instance, with the discovery model the things I do such as reading the scriptures, participating in the ordinances, etc. are about gaining knowledge that is not necessarily inherent in me, and they are done so that God will reveal to me, my role in his plan. Texts (such as the BoM or Bible) play a vital role because they serve as the “keys” for unlocking the mysteries of God which they hold.

In the recovery model, the same actions (ordinances, etc.) are done, but not for the sake of receiving some external knowledge about what one should do. Instead these actions serve to align the self in such a way that one’s god-like nature can shine through. Texts play a rather different role in this theory because the mysteries they unlock are actually mysteries that are already contained within the self.

  • Matt W.

    I don’t know that recover is the right word. Perhaps “uncover” would be better. Recover seems to imply we were using it before but lost the ability to use it, and that only works if you are Geoff J…

  • Broz

    http://ldsdoctrine.blogspot.com/2006/12/early-christian-fathers-on-theosis.html
    The following link has some great quotes by Early Christian Fathers on theosis or progressive deification.

    Col. 1: 17, 2 Cor. 4: 18- together make it clear that the opposite of created is not eternal and visa versa. Man is both created and can become eternal (eternal life).

  • lxxluthor

    Interesting dilemma. I’m lukewarm on the issue: I think that it is both but I’m not sure which elements constitute discovery and which recovery. I think much of it is discovery simply because those moments (for me) in which I feel like I’ve recovered something of what I used to know and/or be are rare. Everything else seems learned.

  • smallaxe

    Thanks all.

    As far as “uncovery” vs. “recovery”, is concerned, I think I like “uncovery” better for the reasons that you list. I can’t help but wonder though, if it can’t be argued that we are actually “recovering” preciously what was there in the pre-existence. In a sense this life is not about a cognitive learning as much as it is about an embodied learning. In other words, that which we are learning anew is how to learn with a body.

    I think that it is both but I’m not sure which elements constitute discovery and which recovery. I think much of it is discovery simply because those moments (for me) in which I feel like I’ve recovered something of what I used to know and/or be are rare. Everything else seems learned.

    It sure isn’t clear cut, but I think we could say for sure that certain things like bodily learning are most definately a means of “discovery”.

    I would like however, to tackle some of the implications of each position, to demonstrate what’s at stake. This could be directly related to our discussion on the role of historical contextualization in the understanding of a text. From the discovery perspective, the sacred texts provide an essential link between us and our God-like nature. We “discover” in these texts (or perhaps in other things external to our self) how those in the past performed this endeavor, and a correct understanding (even a historical understanding) is key because the individuals in the text are our exemplars. There is “work” that needs to be done in order to gain this realization.

    With a recovery/uncovery model, the engaging of the text is both a sign that one has/is recovering one’s God-like nature and is beneficial as a form of “striving” to align those parts of the self that are not in tune with one’s God-like nature. Since there is nothing in the text that is not contained in the self, the text does not serve the same role as it does with a discovery model. In a sense one could say that I read the text not to discover what I should be, but because there is an embodied benefit that the practice of textual engagment allows me to participate in. There is nothing in the text that is not already in me, and while the text may serve to unlock it, it is not necessarily predicated on a proper historical understanding in order to achieve it.

    My appologies if this is not very clear, but I have to run.


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