“Be Ye Holy”: The Lord’s Call for His Children to Follow Him

In Leviticus 11:45 (and several other passages), the Lord says, “ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” Peter reiterates this command in 1 Peter 1:

15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;

16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

This call to be like the Lord prepares us for Peter’s subsequent discussion of the divine potential of human beings in 2 Peter 1:

3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

The implications of such teachings are raised in several passages from C.S. Lewis, such as this one:

The command Be ye perfect [Matt. 5:48] is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and he is going to make good His words. If we let Him — for we can prevent Him, if we choose — He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what he said.”

— From Mere Christianity, New York: Collier Books, MacMillan Publ. Co., 1943; paperback edition, 1960; p. 160 (the last paragraph of Chapter 9, “Counting the Cost,” in Book IV).

In my view, it is our status as children of God that gives us the potential to become heirs and the potential to mature and become more like the Father. Paul expresses such a concept in Romans 8:14-18:

14 For as many as are lead by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God….
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God;
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together;
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

We can be joint-heirs with Christ. There is divine glory to be revealed within us, for we have a divine inheritance as children of God. Just as earthly parents want their children to grow and become more like the parents, so our Father in Heaven wants us to grow and partake of his glorious gift of eternal life. It is not an instant process, but one that requires that we follow Christ and rely on His Atonement and grace, allowing Him to truly save us.

The relationship between God and man is further affirmed in Hebrews 12:9,10:

9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live?

10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He [God] for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

God is the Father of our spirits. Indeed, Paul in Acts 17:28 says “we are also his offspring.” Our spirits existed before we were born into mortality. As sons and daughters of God, we witnessed the creation of the world and shouted for joy, according to Job 38:7. As spirit sons and daughters, we have inherited something divine within us. We have been placed on earth to grow, to learn, to understand good and evil, to learn to choose on our own, and to be tried, for now we have a veil of forgetfulness over our memories of the premortal existence with God. We are also sent here to obtain a physical body which can be resurrected and glorified like the glorious and powerful body of Christ (Phil. 3:21). There is glory waiting to be revealed in us, as Paul wrote in Romans 8:14-18 and as John wrote in 1 John 3: 2:

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him…

Growing to become more like Christ and more like our Father in Heaven should be our goal, as Christ has commanded us (Matt. 5:48). How do we grow in that way? By following Christ with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength. Our Father in Heaven wants us to accept Christ and to follow and obey Him, that we might return to His presence and become partakers of His holiness and fullness (Heb. 12:10; Eph. 3:19), or, as Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:3-10, “partakers of the divine nature.”

As impossible as it seems for us fallen mortals to become holy and become like Christ, through the magnificent grace of Jesus Christ and the power of His Atonement, sin can be rooted out and God can transform our lives, if we’ll let him, to ultimately reveal the glory that is in each one of us as a son or daughter of the Living God. We are not accidental creations of chance, but children carefully created by the Father of our spirits. It’s breathtaking – but also the only thing that makes sense of this mortal journey.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

23 thoughts on ““Be Ye Holy”: The Lord’s Call for His Children to Follow Him

  1. So what does it mean to partake of Heavenly Father’s holiness and fullness?

    Does this mean that we get to live in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom with our Father and Brother?

    Or, does it mean that we will eventually leave that kingdom and strike out on our own, creating our own Universe (and “earth”) where we send our Billions of spirit children to recieve a body, get baptised, and follow our only begotten or “Christ”?

    If it is the latter, how (and from what) are these spirit children created, and where is my wife in this grand scheme?

  2. Bishop Rick,

    This is debated all over the place, but Joseph Smith seemed to think that spirits didn’t “come from” anything at all, but are just as eternal and uncreated as God. Here are Joseph’s own words with page numbers from Ehat & Cook’s Words of Joseph Smith:

    God never had power to create the spirit of man (341)

    I am dwelling on the immutibility of the spirit of man, is it logic to say the spirit of man had a beginning & yet had no end, it does not have a begining & yet had no end, it does not have a begining or end, my ring is like the Exhistanc of man it has no begining or end, if cut into their would be a begining & end, so with man if it had a begining it will have an end, if I am right I might say God never had power to create the spirit of man (346)

    their Spirits coexisted with God (352)

    God never had power to create the Sp of Man at all (352)

    their spirits existed coequal with God (359)

    God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. (360)

    Inteligence exists upon a self existent principle no creation about it. (341)

    Intelligence is Eternal & it is self exhisting (346)

    Mind of man coequal with God himself. (341)

    the mind of man is as immortal as God himself (352)

    The mind of man—the intelligent part is coequal with God himself. (359)

    First Principles
    the first principles of man are self exist with God (352)

    Spirit = Mind
    all mind & spirit God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement. (341)

    man exhisted in spirit & mind coequal with God himself (346)

    I take ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man, the im[mor]t. Sp. Bec. It has no beging. Suppose you cut it into but as the D[evil] livees there wod. be an end all the fools & wise men from the beging. of creation who say that man had begin (352)

    Mind = Intelligence
    All mind that is susseptible of improvement, the relationship we have with God places us
    in a situation to advance in knowledge. God has power to institute laws to instruct the
    weaker intelligences that they may be exhalted with himself (346)

    Soul = Spirit
    the soul the in[ne]r Spirit—of God man says created in the beging. The very idea lessens man in my idea—I don’t bel. The doct (351)

    Intelligence = Spirit
    intelligence is self existent it is a sp. from age to end & there is no creatn abt. it (352)

    Intelligence exists upon a selfexistent principle–is a spirit from age to age & no creation
    about it (360)

    Soul = Mind
    the soul –the mind of man–they say God created it in the beginning. The idea lessens man in my estimation. Don’t believe the doctrine–know better–God told me so (359)

    It would seem, then, that JS doesn’t seem to think that we’re the children of God in a literal, “I gave birth to you” way, but probably in more of a metaphorical “I am your leader” way.

    Who knows.

  3. David J,

    I have to admit, I have never heard that before. (I obviously have not read Words of JS).

    So JS felt that God is not the father of our spirits, but rather the leader (or father figure) of or spirits?

    This actually makes more sense to me than creating spirit children, but then we have the whole Jesus, first born thing, and the following quote from JS:

    “It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that. . . he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the father of us all, dwelt on an earth.”

    Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp 345-46

  4. God’s call for his children to be holy as been long forsaken. Today people seem not to practice the words of our Lord. Most of us are too busy living our lives to the fullest that surely we have forgotten that the path to true happiness is to live by God’s words. That’s why we think that we have lived to the fullest but we haven’t. WE haven’t.

  5. tin329,

    Can you give examples? What are we doing that we should not, and what are we not doing that we should be doing?

  6. I would say not keeping the commandments is a pretty big one. Stealing, coveting, not loving one another…..the ten commandments would be a good place to start on the path.

  7. Sure, but I am talking about LDS. Is the implication that LDS are not living right? That no one is living right?

    If this is the case, then I want to know where the deficit is.

  8. I really liked this article, Jeff. It outlines beliefs using the Bible instead of only the BofM, and that speaks well for my understanding of the LDS teaching of what the faithful should strive for. Biblical scripture is much easier for me to grasp, I guess!

    I think the major difference between LDS and non-LDS Christians is that LDS seem to believe (based on what I have read) that humans are inhabited by spirits that have always been and always were and always will be, and that those who are faithful to the LDS church can become gods like God.

    Non-LDS Christians do not accept this belief. We believe that humans, including our spirits, were created by the one and only God, and He alone is eternal, the Alpha and Omega, beginning and the end, who was and is and is yet to come. We believe that no human can achieve that godly status, no matter what we do. Becoming joint heirs and being one with God does not translate to the same thing that LDS believe, but that is what makes us different and unique. We trust that Jesus and His sacrifice are sufficient to save us and bring us to His glory in heaven after death, but we do not believe we are gods.

    I do agree that both of our faiths share the thoughts about being on earth to learn more about how to be with God. That makes sense to me. Our lives are gifts from God, and what we do with our lives is our gift back to God.

    I think these differences are important to study if we are to understand one another, instead of judging and hating each other.
    Stacey Pokorney
    Dallas, TX
    staceypokorney at yahoo

  9. Great comments, Stacey. Appreciate it!

    There are many varied nuances between what LDS people say they believe in this area. Importantly, I don’t see any scriptural basis for the idea that becoming like Christ means that future generations will give glory to us instead of to the Father and the Son.

    Nothing can change the fact that we are and have been fallen mortals, while Christ was the one who was truly the One who could say “I AM that I AM”, the One who conquered sin and had power to conquer death as well. He was and always will be worthy of worship. Christ was not a fallen man begging for grace and forgiveness as we are, and I can’t imagine that the Father would be anything less – in fact, Christ said He is greater (John 14:28). As Doctrine & Covenants 76 clearly explains, even in the resurrection we and all things will give humble reverence to God.

  10. Jeff,

    What makes us fallen when Jesus is not? Didn’t we all (including Jesus) come into this world the same way, and aren’t we all sons and daughters of the same heavenly father?

  11. There is no great evidence in the scriptures for the proposition that spiritual child-hood is a matter of viviparous birth, and far greater evidence for the proposition that it is a matter of righteousness and adoption.

    Those that do believe in viviparous spirit birth (I am not one of them) can reasonably reconcile their position with Joseph Smith’s commentary by making a distinction between personal intelligences with and without tabernacles of spirit, the way B.H. Roberts did.

    As for myself, I call the transition from a spirit-intelligence to a spirit with a tabernacle (two eyes, ten fingers) the “surrection”. No matter what kind of tabernacle we have though, our status as children of God is conditioned upon righteousness.

    If we sin, we become children of the devil, by degrees. Only through repentance can we become spiritual sons and daughters unto Christ. If we are wicked, we shall be cut off, and no degree of viviparous descent shall avail us one whit.

  12. By the way, one can find nearly all those quotes in the King Follett Discourse as recorded in Teachings of The Prophet Joseph Smith.

  13. By the way, those quotes are generally all from the King Follett Discourse, and can be found quite explicitly in the version recorded in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

  14. I disagree with Jeff. Mormon scripture promises godhood.

    “The Father has promised us that through our faithfulness we shall be blessed with the fulness of his kingdom. In other words we will have the privilege of becoming like him. To become like him we must have all the powers of godhood; thus a man and his wife when glorified will have spirit children who eventually will go on an earth like this one we are on and pass through the same kind of experiences, being subject to mortal conditions, and if faithful, then they also will receive the fulness of exaltation and partake of the same blessings. There is no end to this development; it will go on forever. We will become gods and have jurisdiction over worlds, and these worlds will be peopled by our own offspring. We will have an endless eternity for this. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie, 2:, p.48)”

  15. Plus, LDS teachings include this:

    That exalted position was made manifest to me at a very early day. I had a direct revelation of this. It was most perfect and complete. If there ever was a thing revealed to man perfectly, clearly, so that there could be no doubt or dubiety, this was revealed to me, and it came in these words: “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be.” (Lorenzo Snow, The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, p.5)

  16. Jurisdiction, sure. I already have jurisdiction over my children, and my Bishop and Mayor and Governor and ACLU office have jurisdiction over me, and gods under the direction of the God of gods (Deut. 10:17) will have significant jurisdiction in the eternities. The Bible even indicates that the Saints will sit in the throne with Christ (Rev. 3:21). But the scriptures seem to indicate that all glory will flow to the Father forever. That’s how I read one of the most dazzling passages on theosis in Doctrine & Covenants 76:

    92 And thus we saw the glory of the celestial, which excels in all things–where God, even the Father, reigns upon his throne forever and ever;
    93 Before whose throne all things bow in humble reverence, and give him glory forever and ever.
    94 They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace;
    95 And he makes them equal in power, and in might, and in dominion.

    The amazing gift of being made “equal” through grace, akin to sitting in the throne with Christ and being joint-heirs with grace, does not imply equality in every aspect. We read expressly that all things still bow in humble reverence to the Father.

  17. Jeff,

    First, your Bishop doesn’t have jurisdiction over you.

    Second, Section 76 also states that those men who were honorable but did not recieve the fullness of the church of the firstborn, due to being decieved by the craftiness of men, are relegated to the Terrestial Kingdom with no hope of making it to the Celestial Kingdom to dwell in the presense of God.

    Gee, that seems fair.

  18. OK, so what alternative would you propose to the Lord in his judgment of decent people who sin in jrejecting the fullness of the Gospel and fall short of receiving all the blessings that He begs them to accept?

    The Telestial Kingdom is vastly better than any of us deserve. The Terrestial Kingdom is far above that. The Celestial Kingdom is beyond imagination. Do not accuse our incredibly merciful and generous Heanvely Father God of being stingy just because He is so very kind to some and very very kind to those who will accept it.

  19. Jeff,

    You missed my point. My point was that men who have been decieved by the craftiness of other men are not allowed to sit at the grownup table.

    So if they were brought up in the “wrong” family and were more influenced by their parents and extended family than by 2 strangers knocking at their door, they blew it. Dang, should have picked door number 2 instead of 3.

    I’m not saying that God is wrong or stingy, I’m saying the scripture is wrong.

  20. OK, I see your point. In the context of other scriptures, I think that verse has to be understood as an expression of a serious personal failing on the part of the deceived parties – perhaps a stubborn reluctance to fully follow Christ, taking comfort in the deception or suspecting that their traditions might be wrong but not wanting to find out. I have never considered this verse to apply to the good people of the world who never really had a chance to accept the Gospel because all they knew about it was that it was a crazy cult to be avoided.

    I cannot play judge here, but regarding this verse, I am tempted to think of some people I’ve known who were members of the Church or else investigators who had received powerful testimonies of the Gospel, but then chose to reject the Church or not live up to their covenants, sometimes due to anti-Mormon literature or other priorities in their lives, while still remaining as decent, God-fearing people.

    I think I have to assume that God is going to be as fair and as kind as possible in the day of judgement, and give each of us as much as we have been willing to accept.

  21. Let’s be brutally honest here. The Bible says that ALL have sinned and deserve death. Jeff says the Telestial kingdom is better than any of us deserve. When you boil it down, any fate in the afterlife that does not include roasting in hell is better than any of us deserve. Jesus died to pay the price of salvation for us. None of us deserved that, but there it is.

  22. The Bible states that humans cannot become gods, since there has never been or ever will be another God in existence:
    You are My witnesses, and My servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. -Isaiah 43:10

  23. Stacey-
    I believe Isaiah was quoting God here, too. I think God was making a statement about His Eternal Nature. No gods came before Him, because He has no Begining, and no Gods can come after Him because He will never cease to exist. I think that leaves plenty of room for His son Christ, and other righeous children who have accepted the gift of salvation through repentance to become His Heirs. Why can we not become as the Father, as Jesus commanded us?
    Matt. 5: 48
    “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (kjv)

    I just do not understand the stretch there. We will always worship The Father and The Son, but we are told in the New Testament that we can become Joint Heirs with Christ. That does not seem to me like some empty promise. Here, read the scripture:
    Romans 8
    “16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
    17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
    18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
    Okay, Im getting wordy. I guess your post just hit a nerve. My previously loving and accepting Mother-in-Law has decided to “save” us because she has decided that us Mormons are being “decivied” and we are probably going to hell. THis is the subject that we are currently talking about right now, and she will not accept that I will always read the Bible and come away with the perspective of us becoming Joint Heirs with Christ. THat is what I see as God’s will, even though I think it’s probably going to take longer than time can measure to make me into the perfect being that He wills me to be. I cannot say that it is beyond Him.

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