The gospel is all about orphanages. In what way? We were the children of sin, but along comes a nice Couple who tells the polite nuns They want to adopt.
"Not him, surely?" the nun says. "He's a trouble maker and a leper."
God sent forth his Son. . . that we might receive the adoption of sons.
Gazing up from our coloring book, we smooth our hair and sit up straight. They approach and the Man kneels down, eye-level, and speaks. His voice is gentle but strong. "Hello young man. We'd like to take you home with us. Would you like to be our son?"
Confused, but flattered, hope begins to swell within our heart. However, part of us remains wary. "Umm," we say, "why would a nice Couple like you want to adopt a runt like me? I mean, you don't even know me! You don't even know my name."
"We've come to share Ours' with you; we'll give you a new name. As for not knowing you, dear boy, We desire to know you completely, inside and out, warts and all. What better way to get to know you than by becoming your Parents?"
The children of God. . . waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
(Romans 8:21, 23)
"Well," we say, looking a gift horse in the mouth, "what if I'm a bad apple? What if you take me home and discover I am an awful person? Then you'll just cast me out and I'll be Parent-less again, alone. How can I trust that you'll like me once you get to know me ― the real me?"
We look down and are ashamed to see our shoes are unpolished and caked with mud. So much for making a good first impression. The Woman takes our hand, and we want to pull away; after all, our fingernails are unseemly, over-long with dirt in them. She smiles and doesn't let go. "My sweet angel, is that what you think of Us? Will you trust Us; will you trust We love you and won't ever abandon you?"
Ever? Worlds without end? Sounds too good to be true. We frown, "But how can You love me, when you don't even know me! And worse, why would you love me once You do know me? Do you know why I'm an orphan in the first place? Because I am unloveable. My birth parents did not want me, why should you?"
He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself.
(Ephesians 1:4-5) "Why do we want you?" They say. "Because . . . . "
Here we must fill in the blank. Why does God love us? Why does He want to make us part of His family?
"I'm Too Sexy for Your Love"
What did we ever do to deserve all this divine love? I mean, isn't it a bit far-fetched for God to love us bunch of idiots so much? Is He crazy?
This is why, I think, we want to earn our reward. We want the Couple in the orphanage to pick us because we're better than the others; They see our handsomeness, or how witty and clever we are.
Why? Because our thick skulls cannot seem to accept the eternal reality of God’s love! Here on earth, it just doesn't work like that. In this Telestial Kingdom His love doesn't make any sense. Wouldn't it be better if God's love was given in response to our own efforts, or attributes? "God thinks I am swell because I can solve a Rubik's Cube in 30 seconds!" Quid pro quo.
But how gauche would it be if a person, when they passed though the pearly gates, took a bow? Isn't that what we're all hoping for? "I made it! I did it! Hello Seraphim, did ya miss me?" The spotlight, you see, will be on us (as if we had purchased our robes off-the-rack from Nordstrom with our own righteousness, instead of wearing the hand-me-down robes offered by Christ).
Are we really that egotistical? As C.S. Lewis pointed out, "No sooner do we believe that God loves us than there is an impulse to believe that he does so, not because he is Love, but because we are intrinsically lovable. Deep beneath remains some lingering idea of our own, our very own, attractiveness." (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (London: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1960), 130-131.)
How bizarre, that even when it comes to God’s love, we want somehow to take credit for it.
What Are the Articles of Adoption?
Joseph Smith taught, "We must have a change of heart to see the kingdom of God, and subscribe to the articles of adoption to enter therein." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, vol. 6, page 58.)
So what are these "articles of adoption" Joseph is talking about?
An adopted child takes the surname of their new parents. So what is our new name?
Is this a literal adoption? "There shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ" (Mosiah 3:17).
When Saint Peter reads the names off of the rolls of heaven at the pearly gates in alphabetical order, they will all be found under the letter "C" ― for Christ (or whatever passes for that in the Adamic tongue).
But what is remarkable, and unlike a normal adoption, is that when we join Christ’s family, we not only gain a new name, we receive also a new nature.
Loving like Christ shows we are indeed His children (Matt. 5:44-45); it is the sign of our adoption and heavenly parentage.
For without Jesus's love, we would remain orphans forever.
"But I Thought We Were God's Children Already"
Someone might be thinking, "Wait! Why do we need to be adopted by Christ when we are already children of God? Isn't God the Father of our spirits? So why do we need to become Christ's sons and daughters to be heirs of eternal life?"
Ye are sons of the living God.
See? It says so right there in the Bible. We're children of God! So why do I need to be adopted?
Let's take, for example, a non-Christian. Pick a random person who lives in Timbuktu who is an awful sinner. Is he a child of God?
But as many as received [Christ], to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
If we were already the children of God, then why do we need to be reborn? Why become part of Christ's family if we are already members of it? Forget baptism.
You see, I am starting to wonder if there's something amiss with the Family Proclamation. Because it sounds lovely, it has withstood scrutiny. But no longer:
"All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents."
Is this what Joseph Smith taught? Where in the world did the idea of "spirit birth" come from?
No More Birds and the Bees in Kolob?
Let's forget everything we've been taught for a minute. Pretend Christ already had a family before the foundation of this earth. Let's call these family members "noble and great ones."
Also, let's pretend that Christ calls his family "my people."
Well, guess who the Lord's people are? "My people, which are the house of Israel" (2 Nephi 29:1). In case we missed it, He repeats it again, "My words shall hiss forth [what hisses? Remember the serpent is a type of Christ] unto the ends of the earth, for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel" (2 Nephi 29:2).
Well, it seems pretty clear that the Lord has a people (family) who are called Israel.
The Lord's work is to fulfill His promises which He has made, from before the foundation of the world, with this (His) people. "I the Lord have not forgotten my people" (2 Nephi 29:5).
I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever.
(2 Nephi 29:14)
Ummm. Wait, are we Christ's children, or Abraham's? (D&C 84:34).
Would it surprise you that Joseph Smith did not teach, or believe, in spirit birth the way we do today?
What are the implications of our spirits being co-eternal with God's? Take your time, this is important.
Spirits . . . have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.
"The Spirit of Man is not a created being; it existed from Eternity & will exist to eternity. Anything created cannot be Eternal."
(August 8, 1839)
"Spirits are eternal. At the first organization in heaven we were all present and saw the Savior chosen and appointed."
(Jan. 5, 1841)
"The spirit or the intelligence of men are self Existent principles before the foundation this Earth."
(Mar. 28, 1841)
"The immortal spirit, all men say God created it in the beginning. The very idea lessens man in my estimation; I do not believe the doctrine … The mind of man is as immortal as God himself. I know that my testimony is true."
(Apr. 7, 1844)
Is it possible the Father did not "organize" us into spirit bodies, after all? But that He organized us into a family structure?
Sure, Brigham Young taught "spirit birth." But I am persuaded by Joseph Smith that our spirits (intelligences) are uncreated; and that to have "eternal increase" does not mean we're going to be giving birth to spirit babies for eons; it means we will gather other spirits (uncreated intelligences) into our families. At the moment, Christ's work is to gather us into the family, or Tree of Life, which is Israel's.
"But Tim! What does any of this have to do with the priesthood?"
Ah, I am glad you asked. This has everything to do with the priesthood of God, with Him expanding His family by making us sons and daughers in the Household; in the New and Everlasting Covenant, or in other words, in the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God (D&C 107:3).
So who will we choose? Do we want Christ to be our Heavenly Father?
Isn't that the reason we came to earth, to choose whose family we want to be part of going forward?