We talk all the time in our Church about returning to God some day. Everything we do in life is to gain experiences, and then to return. If we are pure and righteous, we can live with Him once more. What does this mean though? I think a lot of people picture us going from where we are to some distant place, like it is a separation by location, a journey from here to there. We go to the heaven. That is up in the sky somewhere right?
As I ponder this topic, a couple problems come to mind. We talk about seeing God again, that we will be able to visit him if we manage to get into the best kingdom. I can think of several instances in the scriptures where people have seen God from this natural, earthly state though. The story of Joseph Smith’s “First Vision” talks of being in physical location with God, yet we know Joseph was still alive and very human. So it doesn’t seem returning to God is merely seeing Him again and being able to interact.
The other issue that denies me satisfaction for my hunger to understand, is the “somewhere out in space” concept. I don’t think we will simply build a spaceship someday and travel to where God hangs out. I seem to recall some folks with a tower that tried that general idea, Babel was it? Yes. They thought they would just build a tower high enough and go see Him. It’s not an option.
What I find myself left with are simply Jesus Christ’s own words:
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”
-John 17:20-23, New King James Version
One option plainly before us is to take Jesus literally. It sounds to me like Jesus is saying we will merge with God through Him. He is the way, the truth and the life. We will become one, as they are one. That is indeed “returning” to God, when we merge back with Him/Her/They. It certainly creates a compelling reason for us to be pure from all sin. No unclean thing can dwell with God. How could it? We would introduce impurity through the incorporation of our essence into His.
My thoughts are far from a being new or original. It is woven into the religious traditions of all ages. Here’s just a sampling:
1. Theosis, a Christian concept developed extensively in the Eastern theologies.
2. Henosis, the Greek (and Egyptian) concept of attaining union with The Monad (The One, or Source).
3. Nonduality. This concept from ancient Hinduism explores the concept that all living things are pieces of God. You and I are God. I might be oversimplifying this idea, but that’s my basic understanding.
4. Bodhi, from Buddhist teachings, a state of enlightenment or awakening.
These are just a few quick references. The idea has been around a long time. I think we have this idea floating around in Mormonism too. The most disturbing notion is the thought of losing individual identity. Would we cease to exist if we merged with God? Do we share a common consciousness with Christ and God? It would seem so if we take Christ’s words at their face value.
What do you think?