A personal answer from Jarron.
Sometimes it can be helpful to answer a question with a question. In the case of the above question, we’re inclined to ask, “Don’t all Christians?” What we must do in this article is show not why members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that they can become gods, but why the doctrine is at or at least very close to the center of all Christian theology.
Let’s start at the beginning. What do Christians believe? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This scripture is rightly oft-quoted, and since it is so often quoted, we may say without hesitation that it is a basic doctrine of Christianity. Jesus saves. He is the Son of God. His name actually means Savior. It is the state of salvation—that glorious future state that will be inherited by the righteous after death, after the end of the world, and after the final judgment ─ that we need to describe. This is the state of salvation “which God hath prepared for them that love him,” even that state which “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Because of the incomprehensible greatness of this state of salvation, we cannot even begin to understand what it really means. So why should we be able to talk about it? Well, we don’t understand God, yet we talk about Him all the time. We read about Him, we learn about Him in Sunday school and from our scripture study, we even pray to Him. These things bring us closer to Him, yet we still don’t really comprehend Him. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (See Isaiah 55:9). It is, however, by talking and thinking about things that we do not understand that we eventually come to understand them.
One of the ways we can begin thinking about this state of salvation is to talk about how we get there. The very first step to receiving salvation is to believe in Jesus Christ. Jeffery R. Holland, a gospel scholar, has said, “Just believing, just having a molecule of faith . . . that simple step, when focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, has ever been and always will be the first principle of His eternal gospel, the first step out of despair” (Broken Things to Mend, 5). When we believe in Christ, something happens to us. John wrote, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1).
All men and women must be changed from a carnal state to a state of righteousness. All must be born again in order to receive salvation. But when a person is born again, he or she starts to become something a little bit different, and have the power to eventually become something very different, through Christ. John the Beloved described the future state of those that accept Jesus: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).
In other words, as C.S. Lewis, a Christian writer and scholar, said, “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become the sons of God” (Mere Christianity, 178). Paul wrote to the Romans, that if sons, or children, of God “then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17).
What does it mean to be an heir of God? A joint-heir with Christ? What did Jesus mean when He said that to know God is “life eternal” (John 17:3), and is it possible to know—really know—a being greater than yourself (and therefore receive eternal life) unless you are made like that being in at least some small way? If we are to inherit all that God has, what then are we to inherit? His lands and gold? His property and position? What has Jesus Christ inherited from God the Father? If we are to be co-heirs with Christ, then we stand to inherit whatever God the Father has given him: grace and truth, light and glory, understanding, immortality, compassion, perfect patience, knowledge…the list is long and wonderful.
C. S. Lewis also wrote,
“The command ‘Be ye perfect’ is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. [God] is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him–for we can prevent Him, if we choose–He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful, but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said” (Mere Christianity 205-206).
Please note the distinction C. S. Lewis makes between God (singular and with a capital G) and gods (plural, with a lower case g). Paul the Apostle makes the same distinction. He wrote that there are “gods many and lords many,” but “to us there is . . . one God, the Father” (1 Corinthians 8:5-6). This necessary distinction between God and gods resolves other doubts concerning polytheism and becoming equal to God (Cf. Isaiah 43:10; 44:6, 8). We can never be equal to God: He is “God of gods” (Joshua 22:22).
But doesn’t this diminish God? That’s a legitimate concern. In our genuine love for God, we want to make sure that He is not diminished in any way. To do so would be terribly sacrilegious. But is it diminishing to reverently acknowledge what God Himself has said through His servants? What could be nobler than saying that He, God, has power to make sinful creatures into sinless ones—perfect and without spot? What could be more reverential than asserting that God, the greatest of all, has such love and such power that He desires to make each of His children into something more like Himself? This does not diminish God, but only exalts Him. This is the ultimate manifestation of charity—the pure love of Christ. This is the ultimate manifestation of omnipotence.
On the contrary, to deny that men and women can become “gods” in at least some small way would be to diminish God’s power, His authority, and the love He has for the inhabitants of the earth. Indeed, any who attempt to fight against true doctrine—wherever it may be found—deny the Old and New Testaments. “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).
This is why Christ died for us: to make us clean and spotless, to make us perfect, and to make us like God, in at least some small way. The process certainly won’t be completed until a long time after we die, but this is what we’re in for. This is Christianity.
John the Beloved also wrote,
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
We testify of Jesus as the Savior of mankind. We know that He died for every person who has lived, does live, and will yet live on the earth. He can and will make much more out of us than we can make out of ourselves. We know that if we come unto Him, we can be cleansed from all our sins and receive the greatest of all the gifts of God, even that which “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, [those] things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). We pray that all might be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) through Jesus the Christ and His infinite, eternal, and atoning sacrifice. We testify that becoming “co-heirs with Christ” means inheriting His attributes, and sharing in His knowledge.
The fathers of the ancient church understood and taught the doctrine of “theosis.” To read more about theosis, the possibility of becoming God-like, click here.