Lesson 3: Our Divine Potential

The Eternal Family Teacher Manual, 2015


Introduction

Heavenly Father has provided a plan that enables us to return to His presence and become like Him. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught: “We were His children before we came to this world, and we will be His children forevermore. This basic truth should change the way we look at ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and life itself” (“Four Titles,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 58). As students come to better understand their divine potential, they are more likely to appropriately deal with challenges they face in mortality.

Background Reading

  • Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Four Titles,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 58–61.

  • Gospel Topics, “Becoming Like God,” lds.org/topics.

Suggestions for Teaching

Genesis 1:27; Isaiah 55:8–9; Acts 17:29; Hebrews 12:9; 1 John 3:1; 4:8–9; 1 Nephi 9:6; 2 Nephi 9:20; Moroni 8:18; Doctrine and Covenants 76:4; 88:41; 130:22

We are children of God

Invite students to imagine that a nonmember friend has asked them what our Church believes Heavenly Father is like. Ask students to briefly share how they might respond.

Write the following sets of scriptures on the board, or distribute them on a handout:

Assign students to study several of these scripture sets and identify what they teach about our Father in Heaven. Ensure that each scripture set is assigned. After sufficient time, invite students to share how they might use one or more of these scriptures to explain what they know or believe about Heavenly Father.

  • How can knowing these attributes of Heavenly Father help you to worship Him?

  • How does knowing that Heavenly Father is a real being who has a glorified, resurrected body of flesh and bones and is the Father of your spirit affect your relationship with Him?

  • Why is it helpful when worshipping God to remember that He is the Father of our spirits? (As part of the discussion, emphasize that because God is the Father of our spirits, our divine potential is to become like Him. It may also be helpful to share the following statement issued by the First Presidency in 1909, under the direction of President Joseph F. Smith [1838–1918]: “All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity” [“Gospel Classics: The Origin of Man,” Ensign, Feb. 2002, 29].)

Distribute copies of the following statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Ask students to read it silently and note phrases that show the importance of understanding who God is.

Prophet Joseph Smith

“If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves. …

“God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! … If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make Himself visible,—I say, if you were to see Him today, you would see Him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 40).

  • How does comprehending who Heavenly Father is help us to comprehend ourselves? (As students respond, write the following on the board: As we come to understand our Heavenly Father, we can better understand our potential to become like our Heavenly Parents.)

Display the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and ask a student to read it aloud.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks

“Consider the power of the idea taught in our beloved song ‘I Am a Child of God’ [Hymns, no. 301]. … Here is the answer to one of life’s great questions, ‘Who am I?’ I am a child of God with a spirit lineage to heavenly parents. That parentage defines our eternal potential. That powerful idea is a potent antidepressant. It can strengthen each of us to make righteous choices and to seek the best that is within us” (“Powerful Ideas,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 25).

Write the following on the board:

My knowledge that I am a child of God can help me when ____________________________________________________________________________________________________.

My knowledge that I am a child of God has helped me when ____________________________________________________________________________________________________.

Invite several students to share how they would complete one of these sentences.

Romans 8:16–17; 1 John 3:2; 3 Nephi 12:48

Our divine potential

Tell your class that sometimes we hear that someone has “great potential.”

  • What do you think this phrase means?

Write the following scripture references on the board, and ask students to study them to learn about our divine potential: Romans 8:16–17; 1 John 3:2; 3 Nephi 12:48. You might suggest that students cross-reference these scriptures by writing the other two references in the margin next to each scripture.

  • In light of the scriptures we studied about God’s character, what does the phrase “we shall be like Him” mean to you?

  • What do you think it means to be a “joint-heir” with Jesus Christ? (As the Only Begotten Son of the Father in the flesh, it is the right of Jesus Christ to inherit all that the Father has. Those who are obedient and receive the full blessings of the Savior’s Atonement will also inherit all that the Father has [see Romans 8:14–18; Galatians 3:26–29; D&C 84:38]. Emphasize the following principle: Heavenly Father’s plan provides a way for us to become like our Heavenly Parents. Point out that although some people may criticize our belief that we can become like God, this belief is founded in the teachings of the Bible.)

Write the following question on the board:

What did Elder Dallin H. Oaks teach about the purpose of our mortal life?

Read the following statement by Elder Dallin H. Oaks and ask students to look for answers to the question on the board:

Elder Dallin H. Oaks

“In the theology of the restored church of Jesus Christ, the purpose of mortal life is to prepare us to realize our destiny as sons and daughters of God—to become like Him. … The Bible describes mortals as ‘the children of God’ and as ‘heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ’ (Rom. 8:16–17). It also declares that ‘we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together’ (Rom. 8:17) and that ‘when he shall appear, we shall be like him’ (1 Jn. 3:2). We take these Bible teachings literally. We believe that the purpose of mortal life is to acquire a physical body and, through the atonement of Jesus Christ and by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, to qualify for the glorified, resurrected celestial state that is called exaltation or eternal life. … (This destiny of eternal life or God’s life should be familiar to all who have studied the ancient Christian doctrine of and belief in deification or apotheosis.) …

“… Our theology begins with heavenly parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them. Under the merciful plan of the Father, all of this is possible through the atonement of the Only Begotten of the Father, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (“Apostasy and Restoration,” Ensign, May 1995, 86–87).

(Note: You may need to explain that deification and apotheosis refer to the idea that a person can become a god or be elevated to divine status.)

Discuss students’ answers to the question on the board. Then ask:

  • What thoughts do you have as you consider that Heavenly Father’s plan gives you the opportunity to become like Him?

  • Why is the Atonement of Christ necessary for us to become like God?

To further this discussion, review the following statement with your students:

“Latter-day Saints understand the magnitude of the Atonement of Christ in terms of the vast human potential it makes possible. Christ’s Atonement not only provides forgiveness from sin and victory over death, it also redeems imperfect relationships, heals the spiritual wounds that stifle growth, and strengthens and enables individuals to develop the attributes of Christ [see Alma 7:11–12]. Latter-day Saints believe that it is only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that we can have a sure hope of eternal glory and that the power of His Atonement is fully accessed only by faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end in following the instruction and example of Christ [see 2 Nephi 31:20; Articles of Faith 1:4]. Thus, those who become like God and enter into a fulness of His glory are described as people who have been ‘made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood’ [D&C 76:69]” [Gospel Topics, “Becoming Like God,” lds.org/topics).

Distribute copies of the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency. Invite students to read the statement and mark ideas that give them hope that they can reach their divine potential. Point out that President Uchtdorf gave this address at a priesthood session of general conference, but the ideas apply to everyone:

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“One title that defines all of us in the most fundamental way is son [or daughter] of Heavenly Father. No matter what else we are or do in life, we must never forget that we are God’s literal spirit children. We were His children before we came to this world, and we will be His children forevermore. This basic truth should change the way we look at ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and life itself. …

“It can be discouraging at times to know what it means to be a [child] of God and yet come up short. The adversary likes to take advantage of these feelings. Satan would rather that you define yourself by your sins instead of your divine potential. Brethren, don’t listen to him.

“We have all seen a toddler learn to walk. He takes a small step and totters. He falls. Do we scold such an attempt? Of course not. What father would punish a toddler for stumbling? We encourage, we applaud, and we praise because with every small step, the child is becoming more like his parents.

“Now, brethren, compared to the perfection of God, we mortals are scarcely more than awkward, faltering toddlers. But our loving Heavenly Father wants us to become more like Him, and, dear brethren, that should be our eternal goal too. God understands that we get there not in an instant but by taking one step at a time” (“Four Titles,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 58).

  • How can remembering these eternal truths help you to reach your divine potential?

  • How might remembering these truths affect the way you treat members of your family?

  • How might your knowledge of these truths affect your desire to research information about your deceased family members and perform temple ordinances for them?

Encourage students to share what they have learned and felt during this lesson with a family member or friend during the coming week. They might also consider what they could do each day to consciously remember that they are children of Heavenly Father and to plan to record in a journal how remembering this sacred truth affects their actions.