Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Vision of the First Vision

I just read Mormon Heretic's Wheat and Tares post about Joseph Smith's First Vision accounts.

I think it's important to examine a couple of points in the 1838 vision:
Joseph Smith History 15  ...immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
When I was on my mission, we napped often in the middle of the day (It was the mission policy in Chile Santiago mission under Elder Bradford). After a while, i kept having lucid dreams -- dreams where my conscious mind was aware of dreaming, and still within the dream state. I experienced in this state a type of sleep paralysis, which often was quite uncomfortable, and if the dream was very nightmarish, I was unable to speak or move and it was terrifying.

Note in Joseph's case, that he went into a state where his tongue was bound, he felt doomed, oppressive darkness fell about him, and he was unable to respond. This is extremely similar to the feelings I had in lucid dreams.

This is not to take away from the reality of the first vision. I believe, and Section 88 of the doctrine and covenants gives me support in this, that natural processes are always involved in all things in this world: even and especially visions and miracles. A recent prophet said that visions often happen in the boundary between sleeping and awaking: viz., "Lucid Dreams".

Then next step, Joseph sees a pillar of light. Very very important language: this is extremely common in mystical literature. Mystics have often talked about being enveloped with light; near death experiences talk of the 'tunnel of light', and eastern mysticism speaks of the 'third eye' -- a vision of light centered between the eyes.

My interpretation: Joseph had a mystical experience within a lucid dream.

Now let's look at the end of this experience: 
Joseph Smith History 20   When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home.
"When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back". Uhhh.... is there any doubt in reading this that "he was not himself" when this all was occurring? It was a "vision" -- he was NOT AWAKE, in the sense of normal consciousness; but he was AWARE during the dream: a perfect description of "Lucid Dream".

Speaking from my own experience, as I was experimenting with living spiritually about 15 years ago, I had a powerful lucid dream, including the pillar of light, completely being enveloped in light, and having a complete release of all worldly guilt, thought, and frustration. It was beyond my imagination, and to this day I cannot think of it but be swept up in the feeling I had at that moment. I cannot say I saw a person, two people, or anything at all -- it would be impossible to explain what I felt and saw, but it was as real to me then, and my memory of it as vivid as I'm typing. But I couldn't possible explain to anyone, and if I did, it might sound like one person, two people, all sorts of variation of my account from time to time -- because it's just the nature of a spiritual/mystical experience -- it defies explanation.

This was 15 years ago (actually, I'm not sure of the date), and while I can say my memory of it is vivid, it's not like even immediately after the fact I could recall all the details -- dreams fade in conscious memory quite quickly. Joseph's first vision was in his 15th year -- 1820, roughly. Or, according to the 1832 statement, it might have been in his 'sixteenth' year -- 1821 -- he doesn't know for sure (same as me). His first account of the vision was twelve years later when he is nearly double in age: while a lucid dream of such intensity would definitely remain in memory, it would be 'memory', which has an interesting property to it: memory needs to be refreshed if it is to stay current, so what happens, neurologically, is that the memory synapses fire, we remember, and then the memories are re-implanted in the neural network. When the memory gets re-implanted, often other aspects of the memory become implanted with it, perhaps interpretation and additional 'details' that weren't part of the original memory. The memory strengthens, and potentially morphs, each time it is told.

A mystical experience, as I noted, does not lend itself to words. So, in 1832, when Joseph is writing down the story, he puts down his verbal interpretation of a non-verbal event. His initial statements included the pillar of light and he 'saw the lord', who told him his sins were forgiven. This corresponds to a mystical vision perfectly. Let's look, as well, at another thing Joseph Smith wrote in December 1832:
(D&C 88:47-50) ...any man who hath seen any or the least of these [referring to the movements of the heavens] hath seen God moving in his majesty and power.
I say unto you, he hath seen him; nevertheless, he who came unto his own was not comprehended.
The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not; nevertheless, the day shall come when you shall comprehend even God, being quickened in him and by him.
Then shall ye know that ye have seen me, that I am, and that I am the true light that is in you, and that you are in me; otherwise ye could not abound.
Joseph is describing the effect of observing the power of god as reflected in nature, then speaks of a very interesting concept: that to see this power, being aware of the "Light" within them, and when you are 'filled with light", then you have seen god: there is NOTHING here about seeing bodies. Then shall ye know that ye have seen me -- past tense -- once you come to realization of being 'quickened'. Joseph would have used the term 'quickened' to refer what happened to him in the first vision, because he said later about moses' vision:
Moses 1:11 - But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.
The use of the past perfect tense "have seen" once we become quickened in D&C 88 indicates that event of seeing god was already completed before we have the point in time experience of being 'quickened'. sum up, I believe the events show the first vision to be characterized by the following:
  1. It was a lucid dream, not a physical event.
  2. In memory of the lucid dream, Joseph was trying to put into words that which defies language, hence verbal descriptions (a) do not accurately portray a lucid dream, and (b) morph over time.
  3. As time goes on, the added details of the dream progressively serve the agenda of establishing the validity of the 'one true church'. This does not have to be a conscious, deceptive process, but rather, a natural cognitive feature of the neurology of memory.
  4. Given the nature of memories of remote, past emotional events, relying upon the first vision account to create a doctrinal pronouncement of the nature of godhead is imprudent at best.
In short, it's a vision, a lucid dream, and should not be a source of doctrine, either of the "one true church" polemic, nor of the nature of Godhead. I would add that there is no intential deception in this.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Be kind, and be grateful that God is kind

This was a talk I gave on 12-August-2012 on the subject above in the LDS/Mormon ward where I attend.

By way of background, the talk was intended to be derived from Elder Jeffrey Holland’s April 2012 Conference Address, Laborers in the Vineyard. The theme of the meeting was from the address: "Be Kind, and be grateful that God is kind". My daughter spoke immediately prior to me.

You've just listened to our youngest of five daughters, each of which is absolutely unique and wonderful. Because each of our children is different, it's a wonder that we don't have favorites. We really don't -- we love each one of our children equally and hopefully unconditionally. Or at least we try. And it occurs to me that this idea of our Heavenly Father treating us kindly and lovingly, and in fact equally according to our individual needs, is exactly what Elder Holland is trying to say with the parable of the laborers of the field.

To summarize the parable, I will quote from Elder Holland's talk:
I wish to speak of the Savior’s parable in which a householder "went out early in the morning to hire labourers." After employing the first group at 6:00 in the morning, he returned at 9:00 a.m., at 12:00 noon, and at 3:00 in the afternoon, hiring more workers as the urgency of the harvest increased. The scripture says he came back a final time, "about the eleventh hour" (approximately 5:00 p.m.), and hired a concluding number. Then just an hour later, all the workers gathered to receive their day’s wage. Surprisingly, all received the same wage in spite of the different hours of labor. Immediately, those hired first were angry, saying, "These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day."1 When reading this parable, perhaps you, as well as those workers, have felt there was an injustice being done here.
Then Elder Holland speaks to this concern, dividing his talk into three sections:
  1. God's love and mercy is given to all. Some people complained, and others benefitted, but all received "One measure" of pay. They were all 'one'.
  2. He then relates the parable from the point of view of the first laborers: that we shouldn't be embittered or angry over past things where things didn't seem fair, then
  3. He relates the parable to all of us, regardless of the hour of day, that it's never too late to come and receive the blessings of the Lord.
So, coming back to the first part of the parable: It's really about not second guessing. I would like you put yourselves into the place of these workers. Here we are -- working the program, but it's just not going according to plan. We can see, clearly, that there isn't enough help to get the job done. We have a choice, to work harder, to complain, or to recognize that we need help.

How does this relate to our lives? When we're working and doing what needs to be done, and it isn't according to plan, do we (a) just work harder, (b) complain, or (c) ask for help? we don't know exactly what happened here, but what ended up happening is that the workers got more help -- all the way through the day until the end.

How merciful was the owner of the vinyard -- instead of forcing us to work harder, he provided help for us. How much smarter that is than either shutting up and working harder, and burning ourselves out, or complaining and getting negative.

Then at the end, everyone got paid the same. Elder Holland points out that this was according to contract, and thank heaven's it was for all those who worked so hard, regardless of the hour they got engaged.

The reality was that the Householder was merciful and kind, but it's easy to see that the Householder may not have been the best planner. Should he have had all the laborers and sufficient help at the beginning? wouldn't that have been more fair? I mean, after all, the Lord (the Householder) is perfect, right? And his plans therefore should be perfect, and that means everything should have worked smoothely, or maybe this isn't the right plan?

How many of us expect, in the service of the Lord, that the program of the church is perfect? How many of us, in finding out that someone made a mistake, are quick to judge and second guess the program?

Which program are we following? What's the plan?

We have the answer to that in the restored gospel. Before we were born, two plans were presented. One was the plan of perfection and flawlessness, the other was a messy plan: we would make mistakes, learn from experience, and have a savior to bail us out of the mistakes we make. Hmm. How does this put into perspective what the meaning of life is?

Let me give you a concrete example from the story of Adam and Eve. As they left the garden, God gave them commandments, that they
  1. should worship (which means "Love") the Lord their God, and
  2. should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord.
Now here's what the scripture says, without elaboration:
And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord.
Moses 5:5
He had no idea why he should give the first and best his flocks to the Lord. He just did it.
After many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.
Moses 5:6-8
Notice that at the beginning Adam had no idea why he was sacrificing. Not only that, he didn't try to make up a reason. He obeyed because the Lord told him so. But importantly, there was a reason, and that reason was very much a part of the plan of salvation.

Adam's attitude is very instructive. He obeys, he doesn't make stuff up. He doesn't judge the Lord and wonder why it doesn't seem fair. Later in moses, Adam does ask questions, and wonders why, but he doesn't doubt. He has faith, without knowledge. And that power of faith without knowledge allows him to act in the name of the Lord and be sanctified.

So how does this relate to the parable? Instead of thinking that everything must be perfect when the Lord is involved, we need to be thinking about how we are hear to learn from our own experience... and THAT will involve something other than flawless execution most of the time.

The lord's standard of perfection is different than ours. We read in Matthew 5:48, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect", and sometimes we think, we need to do that of ourselves. But I would ask you "What is the 'therefore' there, for"? If we look back just a couple of verses, we read the following
I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Matthew 5:44-45
In other words, be grateful that god is kind TO ALL of his children, notice here that Jesus is comparing how the sun and the rain provide equal sustenance to all. God is complete in his grace, to give us all sunshine and rain -- god, and he uses the term 'Father' here -- loves us equally and unconditionally -- as any father would his child.

So now let's return to verse 48 where Jesus says, "Be ye THEREFORE perfect (or complete, impartial), even as (Notice this is a simile, a comparison to...) YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN is perfect (in other words, complete, impartial, and not worried about who gets paid what).

Let me apply this to our daily walk in the church.

Because we have, perhaps, a distorted view of perfection, we think that the church of god must be without any flaws, that our leaders must be flawless, that the lord will never allow the prophet to lead us astray. We even get to the point that we think it's all or nothing. I've heard myself say that god has had his hand in every aspect of the church and kingdom from the beginning.

But having a perfectly flawless world or church organization is not God's plan of salvation for us. We learn line upon line and precept upon precept. Yes, there was a plan proposed in the premortal existence that provided for perfection -- as in flawlessness -- in everything. That wasn't the lord's plan. The Lord's plan was that we would come here to this life, make free choices, and learn from our own experience to distinguish good from evil. Such a plan of learning is messy -- people are going to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes.

We honor Joseph Smith, Brigham Young as prophets of god, and I testify that they absolutely were, and that we have a prophet today in Thomas S. Monson. Yet they were and are human. Does the fact that they are prophet exempt them from the plan of Salvation? Did they make mistakes? YES, YES they did. But in the main, this is the work and glory of god, and the restored gospel is true.

We honor the Martin and Willey handcart companies. The sacrifice of the pioneers was beyond measure, and each one of the survivors lived lives thanking god for the miracles that occurred along the way.

The reality was that the challenges they had were completely avoidable. Somebody made a lot of mistakes along the way, leaving too late from england, leaving too late from winter quarters -- huge mistakes. Levi Savage, one of the members of the company was extremely experienced in the trek westward, and he voiced his concerns, publicly, that they were going to have serious problems - even death and getting caught in weather.

But Levi was faithful in supporting his leaders even in their mistakes. He was even condemned for nay-saying, but to the end of his life, he remained faithful, never bitter, on supporting and defending the kingdom of god.

I could look at the situation of the Martin and Willey companies one of two ways: either it was god's plan to have them go late, or it was a mess-up and proves that our leaders are wrong.

The reality is that it's both and neither. Out of 800 people in the two handcart companies, over 200 died along the way and many were maimed with frostbite and the like. Yes, this was avoidable. Yes the leaders made a mistake. But as well, we honor these pioneers and each and every one of them honored the trek and their experience in seeing the loving hand of the lord guiding them along the way. Miracles happened each and every day.

Isn't there a huge paradox in this thing? It was not God's will to lose over 200 people, and had the leaders listened to Levi Savage, such loss would have been avoided. But they didn't. And on the other hand, the faith of the members in supporting their leaders and moving forward even in the adverse circumstances sanctified the mistakes, overcame huge difficulties. And in the end, the church and city of Zion is stronger because of the sacrifice of the pioneers.

Blessed, honored Pioneer.

We are on a trek today. We are pioneers at a unique point in our history. Until today, the Church has been that fringe that the gentile world readily dismissed. And, as a result, we've had a sort of siege mentality of the outside world versus our own, and we've more or less kept to ourselves.

No longer. We are in the world, visible, public, and under the greatest degree of scrutiny ever. Our foibles and history as members of the church are becoming readily available for everyone to see, and in so doing, people have uncovered some of the more "human" aspects of our church history and culture.

And I can guarantee you, that if you go out on the internet, if you even read official church history, you will find that our leaders have made mistakes large and small from the very beginning. And why should this be a surprise? Why should we allow the humanity of the lord's church and kingdom to shake our faith, faithfulness, and loyalty?

Recently, there was a prominent director in the Church Educational System who discovered some aspect of church history that he thought wasn't the way it should be. He and his wife allowed that to question the 'it's all true or it's all false' premise that sometimes we get. within months, he and his wife left the church, his job, everything, to pursue what he considered was 'intellectual integrity', and to be united as a family in this 'cause'. Now, a few months later, they are getting a divorce, and nothing in their life is going well.

In this case, they allowed the increased scrutiny of the world to affect their faith and faithfulness in the gospel and church. And instead of putting things into perspective, they jumped to the conclusion that it was 'all wrong'. In my impression, that is the great lie we hear today. we even say it to ourselves: expecting flawlessness to be the Way the lord works, and in fact that is the 'other guys' plan. And when we buy into 'false perfection' instead of 'perfect unity', we are on the wrong track.

To me, this isn't about that they made a wrong choice. It's about making a choice without proper regard to the whole truth and an enlightened understanding of the Lord's plan, the plan that involved messy humanity in all we deal with. Those who are stuck on the concept of perfect flawlessness will have problems in an imperfect world and church. "All true or all false" is not the Lord's plan. We must be able to deal with the necessary human failings in every institution with love, kindness, and an understanding that Heavenly Father forgives us our shortcomings.

This last thursday night, Jon Stewart invited Joanna Brooks, an LDS scholar who recently published a memoir called "Book of Mormon Girl" to his show. Joanna came of age during the 80s and 90s at a time when some of our more liberal scholars and members were pushing the envelope of feminism. She was 21 in September 1993, when some of her professors were excommunicated at BYU due to pushing that envelope too far. She became inactive and disaffected with the church.

Yet she returned and found a place and a way to be faithful in the community of saints. She is faithful, and loyal, even if some of her opinions are unorthodox. And as Jon Stewart, a comedian who loves to poke fun of religious people, he was completely impressed by her, and positively compared today's plight of mormonism with his own Jewish ancestry.

What a difference it makes to be authentic! What a difference it makes to be kind, and faithful! We don't belong to the church because it is perfectly flawless. We belong because to us, it is the Lord's church. We don't follow the plan of salvation because it will prevent us from making mistakes. We follow the plan of salvation, including making mistakes, because it is the Lord's plan.

Joanna Brooks makes a difference because she's authentic, positive, and real. She has learned from her own experience that it's not fruitful to let some problem in the past get in the way of enjoying the blessings of the gospel today.

That's why, in sense, Elder Holland is saying "beware of the dark side".

You know, Yoda's explaining of the force to Luke..... But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will..."

There is much wisdom in Yoda's statement. Whenever you feel that some aspect in the church or your family, or anywhere you are is getting you to that dark place of anger, resentment, criticism, and dark emotions. It's time to stop. to realize that we are all different, that the Lord's plan is the one where we would learn together, and no matter what happens, if we've learned from an experience, we've executed god's plan.

Paul addressed this challenge in the church, where people would be fighting and frustrated with the differences between people and their roles. He called this "diversities of gifts", and encouraged us to recognize that as we exercise our gifts, testifying of jesus christ, none of us are accursed. He said,
"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ."
1 Corinthians 12:12
How important it is to realize that as we approach Zion, we are to be of one heart and one mind. Jesus said to Joseph Smith, "I say unto you 'be one', and if you are not one, ye are not mine. (D&C 38:27) Being one, is not being the same, but rather of gifts differing, but of the same spirit.

And in teaching this, Paul went one step further, saying that above all this, there is a more excellent way. And that way is love.

I testify to you that god loves you. It is never too late to come to him. He says to us, as he did to the nephites in the darkness, "O Ye that are spared, will ye not now come unto me, repent of your sins, and be converted, THAT...I....MAY....HEAL....YOU!" (3 Nephi 9:13)

He stands at the door and waits, he is just and kind, and I am deeply grateful that he is kind, because without Him, I am nothing.

God lives, Jesus is the Christ, the Gospel is all truth necessary for us to be happy today, and supremely happy in that world to come.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Perhaps one of the most critically different things about Mormonism is the definition of God.  The problem is that the current understanding in the Church, that God is an immortal man who is unchangeable, all powerful, all knowing, all good, and able to be everywhere at once while having a corporeal, inseparably-connected immortal celestial body and can, as the father of my spirit, answer my prayers personally and directly. 

What if this definition, which seems to try to align the omni-god of the creeds with Mormon belief is just not real?  What if we really haven't come to understand god fully?

I believe that in some ways, Joseph Smith actually got the definition of god right in a moment when he wrote section 88 of the doctrine and covenants, that god is that which infuses the entire universe:
...he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.
As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;
As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;
And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.
And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.
D&C 88:7-13
He also noted that when we observe the workings of nature, we see god moving in power and glory: 
The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God.  Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power.
D&C 88:45,47
What if we realize that 'a god' is a being, any being, that is one with that power of the universe?
the Psalmist in Psalms 82:6 wrote:I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.
Jesus, in John 17:21-23 wrote:That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:  I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; 
Psalm 46:10 wrote:Be still and know that I am god.
3 Ne 27:27 wrote:What manner of men ought ye to be? Even as I AM
Consider the following from John Spong's talk "Beyond Theism":
“Suppose we change our God definition. Suppose we take God out of the sky and strip God of the supernatural power which we have created and placed on this divine being. And suppose we begin to think of God as a presence at the very heart of life. We have to use words, so I use these words without any sense of investing them with more than their meaning will bear.

“If God is the source of life, as I believe that God is, then God is present in all living things. God is present in you, in me, and in the whole created order. And if God is the source of life then the only way you worship God is by living – living fully, sharing life, giving life away, not being afraid, wandering out of the certain into the uncertain, out of the known into the unknown.

“If God is the source of love, as I believe God is, then the only way you can worship God is by loving, not being right, but by loving – by loving wastefully. The image in my mind is an old sink in the basement that you plug up the drains and you turn on all the faucets and the water overflows the boundaries and goes all over the floor and fills up every crack and cranny, every dirty little space and never stops to ask whether that crack deserves this living water, whether that crack deserves this love. You love because love is what you have to do, not because somebody deserves the love – you love wastefully.

“If God is the ground of being, as I believe God is, then the only way you and I can worship God is by having the courage to be all that we can be in the infinite variety of our humanity. Whether we are male or female, gay or straight, transgender or bisexual, white or black or yellow or brown, left handed or right handed, brilliant or not quite so brilliant no matter what the human difference is, you have something to offer in your own being. Nobody else can offer what you have to offer. And the only way you can worship God is by daring to be all that you can be, and not be bound by the fears of yesterday.”
None of the real questions of life can be answered with the standard definition of god, an omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, omniscient being who orchestrates and controls all in the universe through his conscious will. It doesn't make sense. It's a logical impossibility. The truth of god is that there is a power of god, that preceeds all that is, including the 'being' of god. When we flip the concept of god from the being of god precedes his power, and realize that the only real universal omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient thing is the 'power of god', which by very definition is not 'conscious' or 'willful', then we begin to realize that god is not so distant, but rather, within.

So, sure, if we accept the idea of a premortal existence and an afterlife, then Elohim as a 'being' would be god, in that he is one with the already-existent power of god. But to think of the being of Elohim as being the source of that power actually doesn't work if we believe that Elohim was once a man like us. By thinking of god as a 'being' who is one with the eternal power of the universe, we can attribute constancy and universality to Him by virtue of his power, but not by virtue of his being. But this and all other talk about pre-existence, afterlife, Elohim and the cosmology of gods is pure speculation, whether joseph smith said it or not. In fact, there are many definitions and conflicting speculations in JS and BY's thinking of god, so what is the truth?

In my impression, he got it right in Section 88: that the power of God is the universal, and the being of god is subject to the laws of the kingdoms. This effectively flips the definition of god around, but I would say that most people aren't prepared for the implication that a single, personal, conscious god over the universe isn't real and doesn't exist. And because, at some level, Joseph Smith taught this concept, Christians tend to reject mormonism as "Christianity" -- there is merit in that accusation, but we have lost the reason why in our correlated doctrine of today.

Once we set aside our naive, correlated, pseudo-Christian definition of god, we can come to embrace that god is not the distinct, remote big guy in the sky, but rather, "one of us", and as well, an inherent part of our being through the Holy Ghost and our divine nature. When we follow Jesus and choose his Way of Life, then we choose to be one with power of God and thus 'a god'. Then we are of one heart and one mind. Zion.

And rather than thinking of this as a remote, far-off thing in the future, when we come to embrace Dieter Uchtdorf's message that we are, here and now, in the great Middle of our Eternal Lives, then we come to realize that "I AM" is present tense. We are gods, to the extent that we are one with the power of god, and are serving one another in love. When we serve, when we love, we answer the prayers of those who need God's help, and thus we are gods here and now.