Doctrine: God’s equality is true equality–everything else is childishness. God creates us different on purpose. Because of our inherent differences we are affected differently and we will respond differently to life. God treats us the same inasmuch as He treats us all as individuals. Equality in power and characteristics does not translate to sameness in stewardships, roles, and responsibilities. Equality is established by sameness in godly characteristics and attributes. Equality is established by a focus on similarities not differences. Equality is the result of being unified in goals and purposes, not in roles and responsibilities. God acknowledges all of our individual differences and yet offers us all the same commandments and ultimate blessings for our obedience.
The Merriam-Webster Law Dictionary states that the definition of EQUALITY is as follows:
The quality or state of being equal: as A) sameness in equivalence or number, quantity, or measure; and B) likeness or sameness in quality, power, status, or degree
It seems that now, more than ever in our society there is a drive for EQUALITY. Everyone wants the same rights, roles, privileges, and opportunities. And yet, at the very same time there is an EQUAL drive for unique identities and the establishment of differences. Everyone wants to define who they are, in relation or comparison to everyone else, to show how they are different. In other words, they want to tout their unique differences.
I find this to be a societal conundrum. In the midst of fighting for unique identities, these very fighters also want to be treated “just like everyone else.” It’s like a bunch of young children fighting over how much milk is in their glass or who got more M&Ms where all of the sudden exactness and equality is paramount; and then ten minutes later not wanting to share their toy because it’s theirs establishing individual identity only when it suits their perspective and feelings.
Childishness is immaturity because it is selfish and situational. Childishness is egocentric and incapable of seeing the bigger picture. So, to the world today (in general), it would seem EQUALITY is far more about acting like a child, being childish and immature, than it is about TRUE EQUALITY.
So, I have been pondering what it means to be EQUAL ON GOD’S TERMS. I’ve been hashing around in my brain what TRUE EQUALITY is to GOD. Because, it stands to reason that God’s equality is the correct equality, and anything else is simply a bunch of childishness.
My pondering began at the beginning of religious world history: Adam and Eve. No matter what our feelings are about the creation, we know that God began with one man and one woman to establish His plan.
How were Adam and Eve THE SAME?
They were both created by God. They were both children of God. There was only one of each of them on the earth: one man, one woman (1:1 ratio). They both had human appearances that were nearly identical (with regard to basic anatomy and structure). They were both loved by God. They were both given the same instructions and commandments. They were both given the same warnings and were both promised the same blessings. They were both needed to fulfill God’s plan of salvation. Satan tried to tempt both Adam and Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit.
Adam and Eve were both changed from immortality to mortality after taking of the fruit. They both had to work by the sweat of their brow to live, day-by-day. They were both cast out of God’s presence for their transgression. They both taught God’s plan to their children (Moses 5:12).
How were Adam and Eve DIFFERENT?
Adam was a male. Eve was a female. As such, they had some basic anatomical differences and the accompanying results of that in their physical development. Adam was created first. Eve was created second. Satan tempted Adam and Eve differently based on the differences in their personalities and genders. Adam withstood the temptation of Satan. Eve succumbed to the temptation of Satan. Adam then later chose to partake of the fruit because of Eve’s pleas so that the two of them would not be separated and could still keep God’s other commandments together.
God’s response to Adam and Eve’s transgression was nearly identical, except in their stated roles. Because of their biological differences, being changed into mortal beings meant that mortality would affect them a bit differently. As well, Adam was given the responsibility/stewardship/role to preside, provide, and protect; while Eve was given the responsibility/stewardship/role to help Adam fulfill his responsibilities as well as to bear and nurture children. Yet, unlike Adam, Eve understood immediately that the opposition that would come because of their transgression was necessary and important. Adam was taught this truth by Eve (Moses 5:11).
So, if we look at EQUALITY on God’s terms based Adam and Eve we can see a few principles take place.
First, God didn’t create Adam and Eve as both male or both female. He specifically instituted a biological difference (and therefore a stewardship/responsibility/role difference) to enable them to “multiply and replenish the earth.” He didn’t make them exactly the same, on purpose.
Second, because of their biological natures as male and female, Adam and Eve were not affected identically by the consequences of their transgressions (though it was nearly so).
Third, because of the differences in their personalities (which God obviously allowed/intended) they made different decisions when tempted by transgression and had somewhat different responses to its consequences. By this, we can postulate that two people will naturally act and feel differently based on their differences, no matter how small.
Fourth, it is clear that God treats people the same inasmuch as He treats them as individuals. Everyone doesn’t get the same amount of milk in their glass or the same amount of M&Ms. God gives them what they need individually not in comparison to others. The equality is in the unique and individual treatment He offers.
The next thing I pondered was the Godhead. Why? Because here are three powerful, glorified beings with nearly identical goals and attributes. How do they coexist since with equal powers they have equal capabilities?
The Godhead consists of God-the-Father, God-the-Son, and God-the-Holy-Spirit. Each of these Gods is EQUAL IN THEIR POWERS, CHARACTERISTICS, and KNOWLEDGE. However, despite the fact that they are identical in these ways, their physical attributes are a bit different, and thereby their roles are different. Thus, their actions and places in God-the-Father’s plan are different—on purpose.
The Holy Ghost has no physical body of flesh and bones so that He can communicate directly with our spirits and leave eternal impressions that mortal communications and impressions cannot successfully imitate nor erase.
Jesus Christ took upon himself mortal flesh and blood, condescending to be born of a mortal mother, that He might have the unique personal attributes necessary to suffer, bleed, and die and as well as raise Himself from the dead. Such suffering was certainly the “raw end of the deal” when it came to Godhead roles, don’t you think?
God-the-Father (who already had a glorified, resurrected body of flesh and bones when the plan was instituted) is the author of the plan. Though it is His plan, He is bound by eternal law and covenant to let it take its course. He may have provided for all injustice, inequality, misery, mistreatment, and suffering through the Atonement of Christ, but it does not remove the fact that He must watch us struggle, that He must suffer with us, that He must refrain from stretching forth His hand to correct every ill—those He knows are already taken care of—because He does not take joy in our suffering. It takes greater love than any of us can know or comprehend to do what God-the-Father does. He refrains from stretching forth His hand (with few exceptions) so that we can come to know ourselves, so that we can exercise our agency in learning to become like Him, and so that we can be truly accountable for who and what we become (meaning that His final judgments will be just). Talk about TRUE LOVE.
So, if we look at EQUALITY as it relates to the Godhead, there are a few more principles to glean.
First, EQUALITY IN POWER AND CHARACTERISTICS DOES NOT TRANSLATE TO SAMENESS IN STEWARDSHIPS, ROLES, AND RESPONSIBILITIES. Each member of the Godhead meekly and willingly carries out their individual roles despite the fact that they can do most of what the others can do. Christ didn’t complain that He had to do the Atonement. He didn’t try to usurp power from God while He was on earth. He directed all praise and glory to God-the-Father, “for there is none good but God” (Matthew 19:17). God doesn’t complain or get jealous that we approach Him through Christ, His son—who is the Mediator—because He knows that is 1) the only way we can approach Him since we are imperfect, and 2) It was His plan that we do so to begin with.
Second, it would appear that all stewardships, roles, and responsibilities gain EQUALITY WHEN THEY ARE FOCUSED ON AN EQUAL GOAL WITH THE SAME PURPOSE. All three members of the Godhead have one purpose: “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Thus they are EQUAL IN PURPOSE and EQUAL IN THE GLORY that will come from their different responsibilities and work.
Third, EQUALITY IS ESTABLISHED BY SAMENESS IN GODLY CHARACTERISTICS AND ATTRIBUTES. Equality is about unity of mind, characteristics, desire, and focus. It is not about sameness of daily actions and responsibilities.
Fourth, the Godhead spends all of its time talking about how THEY ARE ONE and then encourage us to become like Them. They rarely talk about their differences in scripture except when supporting each other’s roles (or getting out of the way so the others can fulfill their roles). God withdrew so that Christ could perform the atonement. Christ withdrew so that the Holy Ghost could come. The Holy Ghost spends all His time testifying of God and Christ and leading us to Them and teaching us how to become like Them. The Godhead is UNITED, THE SAME, UNIFIED, ONE IN PURPOSE, all the while giving glory to each other and not interfering with each other’s roles.
The Body of Christ–US
The next thing I pondered was references in the New Testament to the body of Christ—referring to God’s church. Let’s look at one scripture in particular: 1 Corinthians 12:12-27:
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.
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
For the body is not one member, but many.
If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
And if they were all one member, where were the body?
But now are they many members, yet but one body.
And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the ahead to the feet, I have no need of you.
Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
It seems to me that this scripture says it all. We are all unique. We have all been given different gifts, roles, responsibilities, and assignments. We have all been given (or not given) what we have by God. We are not all the same (even though biologically we have nearly all of the same possible capabilities). Thus, we are treated individually by God. While, at the same time being granted EQUAL BLESSINGS if we will keep His commandments and strive to be LIKE GOD.
Now, I’m not ignorant of the fact that throughout world history women, minorities, and even whole races have been treated as unequal (if we refer to the Merriam-Webster definition of equality). Meaning, that these categories of people have been treated as though they were not of the same worth or value as others. They have been treated as though they were lesser beings, of lesser intelligence, of lesser capability/power, of lesser status, and were not given the same options for degrees of happiness.
And yet, I might point out that how the world treats us has little to do with GOD’S EQUALITY. How God’s church is set up, how God has ordained the family to be set up, how God offers individual revelation, blessings, and salvation—these have to do with GOD’S EQUALITY which is TRUE EQUALITY.
- God is far more concerned with our godly development than He is with giving us equal circumstances.
- God is far more concerned with enticing and inviting us to repent of sin and become like Him than He is with giving us everything we think we want and need (because someone else has it).
- God is far more concerned with us learning to have compassion on others, to attain charity, and to understand things from an eternal (long-suffering) perspective than fixing everything the moment us or others struggle.
- God is more interested in us receiving all He has in eternity, including His powers and perfection, than giving us lesser blessings and glories temporally.
In God’s plan, ARE ALL FREE TO PURSUE GODLINESS including God’s glory, power, and attributes. And, all who keep God’s commandments by faith and covenant—despite their roles, stewardships, responsibilities, trials, problems, and natural circumstances—will receive an EQUAL endowment of what God has (which, I might point out is everything).
In God’s plan, ALL ARE FREE TO BECOME ONE WITH HIM OR REMAIN AS THEY ARE and focus on their differences to the exclusion of receiving His glory and ultimate blessings.
All are Alike unto God
Does not God say, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). And did He not say, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And did He not say, “…all flesh is mine, and I am no respecter of persons” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:16) despite the fact that I created you with different circumstances. Did he not say, “…and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33).
In the very same verse where God acknowledges the differences in wealth, societal standing, religious beliefs, and gender, He also says, “all are alike.” How can that be so? Because what He means is that He knows that mortality is messed up. Agency (free will) reigns, nature is allowed to be indiscriminate, and justice, healing, and peace are not always contemporary blessings. But, despite the conditions of mortality, He offers us the SAME BLESSINGS AND GLORY, His glory, IF WE WILL BUT SERVE HIM DESPITE THOSE CONDITIONS AND DIFFERENCES.
Remember, Christ was a slave, a minority, a half-sibling, a step-son; he was abused, persecuted, hated, despised, treated as less than a common thief, and the fact that He suffered for OUR TRANSGRESSIONS AND SINS (and their consequences) was 100% unfair because He was perfect. Yet, He didn’t cry over spilled milk (forgive the use of cliché here). He embraced His life and His role. He lived God’s law and entered into His GLORY despite the real differences and injustices in His part of God’s plan. And, for so doing He entered into His glory on God’s right hand.
Same Testimony | Different Missions
The final scripture that came to mind as I was pondering God’s equality was St. John 20:21-23. In this scripture Peter is talking with Christ about what will happen to him and the other disciples when Christ leaves them. He directly asks Christ what John, the beloved, will do/get.
Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper…
Peter seeing him [John] saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?
Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple [John] should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?
John, for his testimony of Christ, went on to live for a very specific and special role (and lives still; 3 Nephi 28:6, Doctrine and Covenants 7) and Peter went on to be crucified for his testimony of Christ.
The main principle that I get from this passage is that our roles, stewardships, blessings, individual treatment, and all other stuff are decided by God. HIS LOVE FOR US IS THE SAME, but how He disperses His own stuff (which is all of creation) is up to Him. We can either accept this, or complain about it, but sadly complaining doesn’t change it.
Both John and Peter had the same testimony of Christ. They walked with Him, talked with Him, served by Him, and testified of Him. Yet, God gave them different missions to perform. He did the same with the Nephite apostles. In that case each was given exactly what they individually desired and asked for (3 Nephi 28).
It is because we will get exactly what we want (Alma 29:4), whether unto salvation or destruction, that we should be all the more careful about deciding exactly what it is that we want. So, do we really all want the same amount of milk and M&Ms even if it’s not in our best interests? Or, do we really want to focus on what’s ours so that we don’t have to share? Do we want to steal the other kids toys because we think we deserve it and it looks cool? Because that is FALSE EQUALITY.
Or, do we want to find out from God what we need and pursue it? Do we want to focus on our eternal identity and potential and become like God? Do we want to spend our time appreciating other’s roles and missions and getting out of the way so they can fulfill them? Do we want to help others recognize our role and mission so that they can get out of our way so we can fulfill them? Do we want to live like God, and in His presence? Then we must embrace TRUE EQUALITY.