It is my understanding that everyone is a child of God. I also hear about becoming a child of God. I don’t quite understand. I thought that we were already children of God.
Thank you for taking the opportunity to ask this question and for your patience in waiting for a response. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ, as it stands now upon the earth, provides us with the opportunity to learn and grow through additional questions as we listen to different thoughts, truths, presented in our local wards, our local stakes, and from the pulpit in Salt Lake City. Let us look at the instruction we have been given, for our profit and learning, in order to answer question.
The Literal Offspring/Children of God
The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we are all the children of God. We are literally his sons and daughters. The next few quotes from our Church leaders solidify our understanding that we are literally children of God:
“When one speaks of God, it is generally the Father who is referred to; that is, Elohim. All mankind are His children.” (Source)
“Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so that undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God” (in Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 5:244).
“Scriptures embodying the ordinary signification—literally that of Parent—are too numerous and specific to require citation. The purport of these scriptures is to the effect that God the Eternal Father, whom we designate by the exalted name-title “Elohim,” is the literal Parent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and of the spirits of the human race.”
The doctrine that we are literally the children of God is confirmed via scripture and our prophetic leaders. These prophetic leaders have also confirmed the need to “become a child of God”…but what does becoming a child of God actually mean and why is it important to understand and know? On my mission, I received one of my most important revelations as I often contemplated who I was. As I pondered this question, “Whom am I,” pure intelligence flowed through my mind and heart specifying to me that I am literally a child of God. Yes…yes…I know this doesn’t seem very profound and a person might say, “Well…thanks Gramps for pointing out the obvious,” but this was not the end of my revelation. Once this was confirmed, pure intelligence again flowed through my mind and heart, and I was instructed to learn what it meant to be a child of God, and to ponder if I was acting how a child of God should act. In other words, “was I becoming a child of God”?
What it means to become the Children of God
The Book of Mormon provides us with further wisdom, a key insight, pertaining to the concept of becoming a child of God. King Benjamin teaches us this doctrine, “And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5:7)
In light of the words of King Benjamin, Mormon’s son, Moroni, provides us with further light and knowledge regarding “becoming a child of God” when he declared, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”
As we further look into this subject, it is important to remember our dual nature as declared by our prophets, “Man is a dual being, and his life a plan of God….Man’s body, therefore, is but the tabernacle in which his spirit dwells. Too many, far too many, are prone to regard the body as the man, and consequently to direct their efforts to the gratifying of the body’s pleasures, its appetites, its desires, its passions. Too few recognize that the real man is an immortal spirit, which [is] “intelligence or the light of truth,” [see D&C 93:29] animated as an individual entity before the body was begotten, and that this spiritual entity with all its distinguishing traits will continue after the body ceases to respond to its earthly environment. Said the Savior.” (Source)
As we recognize our dual nature, our individual agency to choose freedom or captivity we ultimately come to the understanding that ”Salvation is attainable only through compliance with the laws and ordinances of the gospel; and all who are thus saved become sons and daughters unto God in a distinctive sense. In a revelation given through Joseph the Prophet to Emma Smith, the Lord Jesus addressed the woman as “my daughter” and said, “For verily I say unto you, all those who receive my gospel are sons and daughters in my kingdom” (D&C 25:1). In many instances the Lord had addressed men as His sons (e.g., D&C 9:1; D&C 34:3; D&C 121:7).”
The concept, teaching of becoming a child of God, is helping us to remember that we are of a dual nature here upon earth. We have our agency either to accept our spiritual heritage (a child of God), or we also have our agency to reject our spiritual heritage (disobedience); thus, by disobedience, we are literally denying who we are as children of our Heavenly Father. We are failing to reach the full measure of our creation to become one with God, and to receive all that he hath. When teaching children, youth, and adults to become a child of God we are teaching them to remember to make wise decisions which will allow them to receive exaltation and ultimately become one with God through the bounteous mercy and love of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who hath spiritual begotten us.