Divine Identity, God’s Love, and Spiritual Growth

Photo by Flora Westbrook from Pexels

I don’t usually talk much about myself, but today I want to start by telling you just a bit about myself.

I’m from Utah. I served as a missionary in the Philippines Iloilo Mission, and I graduated from BYU-Idaho with a Bachelors in English. Now, I’m working on a Masters degree through SNHU, also in English and Creative Writing.

A couple other things: I like to travel. I once wrote a short story in which the afterlife was basically McDonald’s (not based on any sort of doctrine, obviously). And I like to collect weird-patterned socks. My favorites are probably the ones with Van Gogh paintings on them.

Now, that was probably a longer introduction than necessary, but there’s a point I’d like to make here.

There are plenty of things I can say about who I am, what I like, and what I want to do. And I’m sure each of you can say things like this too. Maybe you’re a runner, a sculptor, or a volunteer. Maybe you dream of becoming a nurse, of fighting against injustice, or of traveling to Antarctica.

But as important, desirable, and exciting as these identities and pursuits are, we need to remember one thing – all of it is secondary to our divine identity as children of God.

In October’s General Conference, Sister Cordon shared an experience when President Nelson asked her:

“Bonnie, what’s the most important thing the [youth] need to know?”

I pondered for a moment and said, “They need to know who they are.”

“YES!” he exclaimed, “and they need to know their purpose.”

Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, “Come Unto Christ and Don’t Come Alone,” October 2021

Sister Cordon continues:

You are a cherished, beloved child of Heavenly Father. He loves you so perfectly that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for you and for me. The Savior’s love for us is unfailing—even when we fail! Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Remembering this love can help you push back the confusion of the world that tries to weaken your confidence in your divine identity and blind you of your potential.

Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, “Come Unto Christ and Don’t Come Alone,” October 2021

In today’s world, I think it’s easy to experience a “parable of the sower situation” with our identities. In that parable, a sower is planting seeds, and the seeds land in various types of soil that affect their growth.

To me, the most interesting group of seeds in this parable are the ones growing among weeds. The soil was good, they had everything they needed to grow. But so many other, less valuable things grew around them that they were lost.

I’ve found this to be true today in a lot of ways, but particularly with identity. We’ve been taught that we’re children of God, but with so many outside voices beating on us every day, it’s easy to let other identities overpower our divine identity in our hearts and minds.

So how do we put our identity as children of God first in our lives?

Elder Holland, after sharing some verses from the beginning of 4 Nephi, suggested this:

It is embedded there in the text in one sentence: “The love of God … did dwell in the hearts of the people.” …That is precisely what happened in our Book of Mormon example… The people had taken on just one transcendent identity. They were all, it says, to be known as “the children of Christ.”

Of course, we are speaking here of the first great commandment given to the human family—to love God wholeheartedly, without reservation or compromise, that is, with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. This love of God is the first great commandment in the universe. But the first great truth in the universe is that God loves us exactly that way—wholeheartedly, without reservation or compromise, with all of His heart, might, mind, and strength. And when those majestic forces from His heart and ours meet without restraint, there is a veritable explosion of spiritual, moral power.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Greatest Posession,” October 2021

When the greatest love we have in our lives is for God, then our identity as children of God will be at the forefront of our minds. Everything else will fall into more correct perspectives, and the Holy Spirit will be able to guide us in discerning the things of God from the things of the world.

Now, there’s one more thing I’d like to address, so let’s talk about Lehi and his sons for a minute.

Lehi was a righteous man. I mean, he was a prophet, so he clearly knew and loved God. And he taught his family to do so too.

Laman and Lemuel, however, are infamous for their refusal to learn from Lehi’s teachings and chose instead to pursue worldly things. They did not understand their Father in Heaven or their Savior Jesus Christ. Laman and Lemuel didn’t love Them and couldn’t recognize the love of God for them.

That does not mean God didn’t love them. It means they let other things around them overpower His love and their identities as children of God. They could have chosen to turn to God and put Him first. But they didn’t, and Nephi’s account shows the dramatic consequences of this in their lives.

But there’s one thing I want to point out – never, at any time, did Lehi or Nephi try to justify the actions of Laman and Lemuel. Never do they say, “Oh, God loves you, so it’s fine to keep doing what you’re doing.”

Did Nephi and Lehi still love Laman and Lemuel? Yes. Did God still love Laman and Lemuel? Yes. But that love doesn’t change the fact that they were rebelling against God and their family.

Speaking of our Father in Heaven and Savior Jesus Christ, Elder Christofferson told us:

Because They love you, They do not want to leave you “just as you are.” Because They love you, They want you to have joy and success. Because They love you, They want you to repent because that is the path to happiness. But it is your choice—They honor your agency. You must choose to love Them, to serve Them, to keep Their commandments.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “The Love of God,” October 2021

It’s essential for us to love God and understand His love for us. We need that anchor in our lives as the world becomes more chaotic, aggressive, and confusing.

But we also have to understand that God’s love for us does not blind Him to our choices. He still sees sin as sin, rebellion as rebellion. He does not expect us to be perfect in this life, but He knows the difference between mortal weakness and the outright intent to disobey.

When we make Christ the first focus of our lives, we can’t expect that He will let us continue on as we have in the past. He wants us to use His Atonement to progress. He wants us to understand our potential. And we can’t do that without accepting that there are things we need to change.

It can be challenging to accept that truth and make those changes. But when we love God and truly understand His love for us, we can also understand the purpose of these growing pains and trust in Him to see us through. He will not leave us alone.

Want to Read More Like This On Seeking Christ?

Themes from the October 2021 General Conference

Giving Gratitude to God Generously

Giving Service to God Generously

Giving Time to God Generously

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