Yea, for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness….
It swelleth and sprouteth and beginneth to grow.
(Alma 32:31, 33)
Speaking the truth in love,
we are to grow up in all aspects into Him
who is the head, even Christ.
(Ephesians 4:15, NASB_)
What was the design of the Almighty
in making man?
It was to exalt him to be as God.
For whom he did foreknow,
he also did [foreordain]
to be conformed to the image of his Son.
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.
And every man that hath this hope in him
purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
(1 John 3:2–3)
At the core, the Savior says, we are the very substance of “the Spirit of truth” and “intelligence,” and made of “the light of truth” (D&C 93:23, 29). Here are His exact words:
Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth;
Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. (D&C 93:23, 29)
In other words, there lies in the matrix of our being a potent seed, sown into the elements of our soul. And just as the inner intelligence of the tree grows it from seedling to fulness, so this sublime material of our being is capacitated to grow through a series of stages into the order and the image of the Son of God; we are designed, in fact, to “grow up in all things into…Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
Or, we might say, the state of Godhood is simply the end-product of a series of developments.
But as the apostle John confesses, we don’t really know what that end-product will look like or what we will be like when that seed comes to full flower. As a result, we project the reality of our own divinity far into an uncertain, even improbable, future. We can’t realize it, in the sense that we don’t know how to make it our reality. Divine attributes and powers, the divine profile, not only seem hidden from our understanding but especially from accessibility.
At the same time, even though we do not grasp the full nature of divinity, our spirit may yearn for higher development and deeper oneness with the Lord; and we may feel a summons: “The good shepherd doth call after you” (Alma 5:60).
Many new insights present themselves as we look into the issues of human spiritual development. Here indeed we penetrate more deeply the mysteries of godliness, since our divine self turns out to be the greatest mystery of all.
The Mortal Overlay
Dr. Allen Bergin, a Latter-day Saint clinical psychologist, had a vision. Afterwards he wrote his insights about the unique, complex set of characteristics that covers or “overlays” our spiritual selves during earthly life. He says,
It is the combined physical body and mortal mind with all their positive and negative features acquired through biology, genetics, and life experience. It is not fixed but varies over the course of a lifetime according to biological changes, personal choices, environmental events, and spiritual influences…. Separated from our heavenly parents, we develop a new earthly identity—a new name and a persona_ that overlays the preexistent self._
He observes that, although this mortal overlay has obvious deficits, it also contains powerful assets that can help us control, reverse, and ultimately overcome all the internal and external negative influences in our mortal lives.
I’ll include here the vision he relates that led him to the realization of a mortal overlay. He was attending a family picnic when he saw a friend, Laura (not her real name), standing near the food tables, holding in her arms Dr. Bergin’s infant son, who was snuggling up to her. As he was thinking what a sweet scene that was—
Suddenly it seemed as though the trees and fields behind them opened up and I could see into the far distance…I saw a different Laura in a celestial setting. She was standing in a somewhat elevated position, and below her were numberless people almost as far as the eye could see. I perceived through the Spirit that they were her children—her eternal offspring…and they reverenced her.
Though I recognized Laura, she did not look the same as the friend I see here on earth. She looked regal, but not regal in an earthly sense. Her appearance, her stature, her poise, and the look on her face had a refinement, dignity, and power I had never before experienced. Her body and countenance appeared to be perfect. There was something compelling about her but at the same time totally non-coercive—unlike any earthly attraction that I am familiar with. But the most indelible impression was the look on her face. She was perfectly serene. She was utterly radiant. There was infinite peace in her countenance and manner. Her deep joy in the situation was total. There was a sense of absolute security and complete fulfillment.
Since Laura had previously confided to me many strong feelings of inadequacy and anxiety, I found the contrast striking. It was as though I was seeing her eternal identity, unfettered by her mortal deficiencies. Somehow, I had directly perceived qualities…that were not perceivable by ordinary senses. I saw her essence, both what she could become and what she already was…I became convinced that this essence was present in the here and now, as well as representing a future reality…I was especially affected by the incredible inconsistency between the brilliant eternal personality I had perceived and the conflicted, distressed mortal person I had known and counseled with._
He says, “Thus the mortal overlay can disguise a person’s true character.” The disguise can be gradually removed, suggesting that our sense of identity is always in process; “we are always further creating ourselves.”_ We are self-creating beings, capable of continual, conscious self-correction and re-creation as we grow and learn, as we allow the divine to emerge more fully. The core self can emerge, no longer hidden by the mortal overlay.
The Restless Seed
The eternal self under the mortal overlay might be likened to a germinating seed, deep down in the fertile soil of our being, swelling and stretching, beckoning us into the mysterious unknown of spiritual development. When we allow it to expand, it produces feelings of freedom; if we ignore or repress it, our emotional troubles and confusions seem to multiply.
We may not even know what it is we are feeling as it stirs—perhaps a hunger, perhaps a restlessness over worn-out behaviors, or over a world-view that no longer satisfies. We may try all sorts of non-productive things to satisfy this disquiet. But if we realize that the hunger is at its deepest origin spiritual and if we allow the intelligence of the seed to take us on a journey, we’ll find ourselves traveling across shifting borders, between old terrain and new vistas. Yes, the journey itself can be unsettling, even fearsome, but also thrilling in its prospect._
We have potential for remarkable change. This change can come “in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces [of our lives may be] suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begins to dominate [us].”_ These changes can happen quite unexpectedly and often occur as we choose a spiritual path.
For example, the king asks Aaron: “What shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy?” (Alma 22:15–17). Aaron instructs him, and the result is rapid and dramatic.
Alma, himself a witness for quantum change, speaks of a seed that wants to flower in the soul. And what is this seed? Taking various references in Alma 32–34 together, the seed seems to be specifically related to the presence of Christ Himself within one’s being. Amulek connects the seed with Christ:
And we have beheld that the great question which is in your minds is whether the word [the seed] be in the Son of God. (Alma 34:5)
Alma explains how to begin to nourish the seed of the Lord:
If ye do not cast [the seed] out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts…. Ye will begin to say within yourselves…it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me. (Alma 32:28)
In other passages in this chapter Alma uses words like “plant,” “nourish,” “swell,” “sprout,” and “grow,” describing a germinating of divinity. The prophet helps us to see that spiritual awareness and growth go forward in stages. He describes the maturing of our own divinity within the growing presence of the Lord. Perhaps the presence of Christ and our own divinity are in a way not separable.
Let us consider Alma’s instructions for cultivating this internal experience:
If ye will nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof…behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience…behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet…white…pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst….
And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. (Alma 32:41–42, 33:23)
“By and by,” the fruit-bearing, the Christ-bearing, tree will grow, and the fruits will inevitably come, “if [we] will.” But in what way can we “will” this blessing? And how are we to employ “great diligence?” And are there some extraordinary doings that we must perform? Some great sacrifices? Can these fruits bloom in an ordinary life?
Though we will revisit these questions, in short, real spiritual growth begins with coming directly to Christ and learning to abide there, we in Him and He in us: “Come with full purpose of heart,” the prophet says, “and cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you” (Jacob 6:5). Since we were actually created to be at one with Christ and seeing that we already are enmeshed with Him, we need a spiritual practice in order to cultivate that awareness in ourself. With a persisting spiritual practice, all folded into everyday living, one’s life takes on a new quality. Many of the fallen world’s sorrows diminish. Burdens lighten and peace deepens.
Whereas we were once dedicated to our own self-protection and self-comfort, with the fears and anxieties that accompany that perspective, a new dimension can open within, and we can resonate with the apostle Paul’s experience of the indwelling Christ:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
As sure as sunrise in the morning this change comes to those who cultivate the goodness of the God Seed.
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