Cover image by Scot Facer Proctor
Editor’s Note: This is the seventh article in Richard Eyre’s 12-part series on The Parental God. Access the first six articles HERE.
Christ as the Son and the Elder Brother
You may recall back in article 4 that I shared some feedback from a friend who was reviewing and editing this series and who was concerned about whether this discussion of a Parental God would include prominent mention of what may be the greatest manifestation of our Heavenly Parents—namely Their Son and the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ. Here is how this friend voiced his concern:
“It seems that in a discussion of Heavenly Parents, Christ, the ultimate product and symbol of that divine Oneness, should be an integral part of this picture. In Christ we see the culmination of the perfect They. We also discover some of the most profound divine emotion in scripture with the Son pleading to Eloi followed by the rending of the veil and then the earth itself at a Heavenly parent’s anguish (here Mother Nature becomes much more than mere personification—and how much more relatable. She feels). In Christ we also find the true power of healing and reconciliation, of bringing together both Father and Mother and Priesthood and turning every gnawing slight, hurt or question into something that can be made right. I think Christ is essential to this discussion and to finding our way to a deeper and more unified understanding of The Parental God.”
I assured this reviewer that I couldn’t wait for article 7 where we get to what is, for Linda and me, the most important part of the Parental God paradigm—Their Son, our Savior, and the one Mediator with God—the key to both understanding and worshiping God.
The Oneness and perfection of the Parental God, of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, is literally embodied in their Son and our Eldest Brother Jesus Christ. He is Their manifestation and the essential and incomparable implementer of the Plan of Happiness. He perfectly exemplifies both of their characters and qualities and stands as the model of all of what They are. He is the epitome and the Exemplar of both the masculine and feminine—of all of the divine qualities of the Masculine and Feminine.
Lao Tzu, who lived 600 years before Christ, is credited with saying “If there ever appears on this earth one who is both yin and yang, that being will be God.”
In God’s eternal family, it is the perfect Elder Brother who created this world, who implemented the Plan and who has the power to heal, to save, and to bring us home.
In Christ’s clear statement of life’s purpose, which can almost be read as a mission statement for eternity, He includes Himself with our Heavenly Parents. “This is life eternal that they might know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” We know that Christ is like His Father to the degree that to know One is to know the Other. In our pursuit of this knowing, we might ask two questions: “What key roles does Christ play in Mortality and in Eternity?” And an even more basic question that should perhaps come first: Within God’s Plan, is Christ the ‘Means’ or the ‘End?’”
Defining Means and Ends
The dictionary defines “means” as an action or system or power by which a result or desired “end” is achieved. In more scriptural language the means is the cause or the force by which an end is “brought to pass.”
It is not always easy to distinguish the cause from the effect, or the goal from the plan, or the destination from the journey, or the symptoms from the illness, or the means from the end.
And failure to make this distinction can affect our ability to make good choices and to orchestrate and implement our best lives.
A piano student who is asked what her goal is might say “To practice for an hour every day.” But in fact, that is a plan and not a goal, and if she does not have a clear goal, she has less chance of being motivated to implement her plan. A goal is a destination, and a plan is a path. If the student decides that her goal is to be able to play every piece in Piano Book 2 without a pause or mistake, then her plan to practice for an hour each day will have incentive and meaning.
The distinction between ends and means is important because when they are confused we may misunderstand or make wrong decisions. For example, if we mistake symptoms for disease, we might treat ourselves with pain killers and not seek or discover what sickness was causing our pain—we might not look for or discover the illness which was the means to the end of pain.
Confusion between cause and effect can cause us to get things backwards at every level. Government policy makers, for example, thinking that poverty was to blame for broken families might make different decisions than they would make if they understood that broken families are in fact the key cause of poverty.
Which is most important?
What matters most—The cause or the effect? The Goal or the Plan? The Means or the End? And if they are both essential, how do we tell one from the other? Usually, whether in material or spiritual things, just asking the question leads us to the right answer.
Making the question spiritual, we can ask ourselves the biggest question of all, Is Christ the End or the Means?
The instinctive answer, for most of us is “both.” Christ is everything. He is the End that we want to strive to be and He is the Means by which we can move toward getting there.
But jumping to that conclusion might cause us not to look as hard as we might for a more specific answer, or not to search the word of God as we always should to find the answer.
The destination of our journey, the End, according to God’s word both anciently and through His prophets today, is Exaltation. Exaltation is the destination of the covenant path and incorporates both eternal life and eternal lives. Exaltation is the destination–returning to and living with our Heavenly Parents in the highest part of the Celestial Kingdom.
This is the End.
And the indispensable Means, and the only path to that End is Christ.
Does it diminish or demean the Savior to think of Him as the Means rather than the End?
Or, is the ultimate worship of Christ an understanding that He—His life and His death and His Atonement and His implementation of the Father’s plan—is the only path, and a path that we cannot trod without being saved by Him.
Of course, it is both possible and correct to think of Him as both the End and the Means, because he is the perfect model of the Exaltation we seek as well as the means by which we can achieve it—He is the Model and the Means. But the most active and worshipful way to think about our Eldest Brother is as the enabler of glory, as the mediator with the Father, as the perfect implementor of the Plan, as the ransom for our sins, as the healer and Savior of us all, as the incomparable MEANS to all that is good and all the joy that we desire and all that our Heavenly Parents want to bring to pass.
All of the Leading Roles in the Play of Morality and Immortality
If the Plan of Salvation were a play, it is Christ who plays all of the lead roles—Creator, Jehovah, Intercessor, Savior, Teacher, Mediator, Ultimate Example, and Judge. Christ is the Means whereby the seemingly impossible is brought to pass.
Christ has always been the Means. Perhaps the moment in the Pre-existence when we “shouted for joy” was when we realized that we would not only be able to experience mortality and all of the learning and mistakes that it would entail but also, through the Means of His Atonement be able to return to our Heavenly Family. Perhaps we suddenly understood the joy of knowing there was a Means whereby an End that seemed impossible could be obtained.
The best one-word statement of the End is “Return” and it is our Heavenly Parents we are returning to—a goal or an effect or a destination or an End that was and is completely unreachable, even incomprehensible, without the Means of the plan and the implementation and the sacrifice of our incomparable Elder Brother Jesus Christ.
This belief paradigm—Christ as the Indispensable Means— increases our awe of and dependence on Him. It increases our personal gratitude and debt to Him. It magnifies our motivation to follow Him. It deepens our love and personal adoration of Him. It burns within us a desire to, bit by bit and piece by piece, become more like Him.
The Roles within the Means
Let’s revisit all of the aspects or components of the Means that Christ is: We must try to see Him as the God who played and plays all of the major roles in the three-act play of our premortal life, earth life, and afterlife. Consider the sheer number and variety of the roles He plays to perfection:
- A great intelligence prior to the creation of this world.
- The firstborn spirit son of our Heavenly Father.
- A great and loyal leader in the spirit world.
- The leading advocate of the plan of agency and redemption for this mortal existence, and the one who insisted that all credit and glory be given to the Father.
- The accepted volunteer for the supremely difficult and self-sacrificing implementation of that plan of agency and redemption.
- The creator of this world.
- The light of this world.
- Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament.
- The Only Begotten Son of the Father in the flesh.
- The only perfect being ever to live.
- The head of the original Church of Jesus Christ.
- The teacher of the full gospel (“good news”).
- The Savior and Redeemer of the world who willingly gave his life for us all.
- The first fruits of a glorious resurrection, which, because of him, will apply to us all
- The direct, resurrected teacher of the gospel to his “other sheep”—in other parts of this world, in the spirit world, to the lost ten tribes
- The Mediator with the Father.
- The revealer and restorer of the fullness of his gospel.
- The Lord who will come again and reign during the Millennium.
- Our judge.
- Our father, if we accept him and live his commandments.
The Wisdom of a Child
Sometimes little children (whom Christ told us to be like) can say so simply what we try to say so complexly, as illustrated by this dialogue that occurred many years ago with my five-year-old daughter. It all sprang from the initial question “Who is Jesus.”
She said, “Our big brother.”
I asked, “Why did he come to earth?”
She answered, “To teach us how to love each other and to show us how it works when we die.”
I asked, “What is he doing now?”
She responded, with a knowing little shrug, “Taking care of us from way up there.”
Jehovah, the Hardest Role or Means to Understand
But what of role # 8 above? As Jehovah, was He really the vindictive, jealous God that the Old Testament seems to describe? Certainly, this is not a role that fits the play.
Of course, we know that He was not different then, for He is unchanging and constant in every way and most certainly in his love for all of His children.
We must remember that all writing is done through the eye of the beholder, through the lens of the times and the culture, and through the intentions of the writer and his knowledge of the understanding, the perspective, and the language of the people he is trying to influence.
For these and other related reasons, The Prophets and other writers of the Old Testament interpreted, described, portrayed, and wrote of God’s (Jehovah’s) unchanging and unconditional love for all mankind in very different ways than we would today. It is hard for us to imagine the culture and feelings and norms even of Joseph Smith’s time 200 years ago, so trying to empathize and grasp the society and the paradigms of Israel 4,000 years ago may be impossible. We know that people thought differently about right and wrong, about reward and punishment, and even about what made a person, or a culture, or even an idea either good or bad. So, we have to go by what we now know about God and conclude that his boundless love, forgiveness, and light touched everything and everyone then as it does now, but was interpreted, metaphor-ed, and presented in a very different way, through a lens or a filter that highlighted justice and punishment more than mercy and salvation.
As theologian Richard Rohr says, we, today, must try to read all scriptures “in the light of Jesus… where mercy trumps justice, love prevails over enmity, and the real nature of God is revealed. Once the knowledge or anticipation of, or the faith in Christ is perceived, either in prophecy of His coming or in His embodied presence, the entire narrative changes.”
Thus, we should read the Old Testament for the morals of its stories, for its commandments and principles and for its prophecies of Christ; and we should never read it in a way that doubts the complete and everlasting love of the Lord which is manifest in the New Testament and in the Restoration.
Viewing our Lord Jesus Christ as the Firstborn Spirit Son of our Heavenly Parents, as our perfect Elder Brother, and as the Indispensable Means to all good Ends and to all that our Heavenly Parents want to give us can open us to the Joy that is Their goal for us.
Let me conclude with some of the verses from my favorite titled Hymn:
Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.
O Hope of every contrite heart,
O Joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!
O Jesus! light of all below!
Thou fount of life and fire!
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire.
Jesus, our only Joy be Thou,
As Thou our Prize wilt be;
Jesus, be Thou our Glory now,
And through eternity.
And from the wonderful Spiritual “Give Me Jesus”
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus
Thank you for reading this seventh article, and please feel free to share your inputs and thoughts and questions directly with me by going to https://valuesparenting.com/contact-eyres/. You can also hear further discussion of this article on our Podcast “Eyres on the Road” which is available on your favorite podcast app or at https://byuradio.org/eyresontheroad.
For those who may be interested, I write a brief meditation on Christ each Sunday on Instagram—the idea is to think about a different aspect or quality of the Savior each week as we partake of the Sacrament—thus, each week, coming to know Him in a small new way. I would love to have you join me in this each Sunday @RichardLindaEyre on Instagram.
And please come back next week for article 8 when we will explore how God can be both parental and sovereign.
Richard Eyre is the New York #1 Bestselling Author of more than 50 books, a dozen of which are on parenting and marriage. He believes that the ultimate parenting and marriage example is God