Monday, August 3, 2009

The Phenomenon of Projection and the Nature of God

I have had reason to think about how we, as people, tend to define our world as how we see it. I don't mean simply perceiving the world through our own eyes, but stubbornly and consistently recreating the world in our own image.

For example, if a person is a habitual liar, they will see those around them as liars and distrust everything, finding it difficult to recognize truth even when presented with it. If a person is generous, examples of selfishness are easily explained away or enter that person's sphere only with a strong shock.

I believe this is why many people find things in the Church, and with God in a more general sense, so difficult to comprehend. They find themselves leaving the Church, or abandoning God because neither fit their own world view.

If a person is convinced that killing is wrong under any circumstance, for example, they will have a hard time with the passage in the Book of Mormon where Nephi kills Laban. If a person believes strongly in tolerance at all costs, they will find it difficult to reconcile the guideline of tolerating a person without tolerating their behavior.

This realization has led me to a great deal of self-reflection as I ponder over the question of how I perceive the nature of God. How much of my perception of Him is colored by my perception of myself? How much am I creating God (or His church) in my own image?

The first step to unraveling this is to do one of the most difficult tasks imaginable: to honestly categorize how I see myself. So, stream of consciousness came up with this:
I see myself as a relatively patient person with a very impatient streak against which I must guard myself at all times, particularly when I'm tired. I am a perfectionist in myself, and see myself as an ever-failing being. I don't believe that my best efforts will ever amount to much. I am painfully self-obsessed, always criticizing my own actions. I struggle against awkwardness, and long for a place to feel at home. I love living things, animals and plants, and am renewed when I can take care of people and living things. I am woefully inadequate at showing love and affection, and at doing what I need to to care for people. I am very sensitive and emotionally tender, but with a hard outer shell of protection and rigid spine which I must consciously soften at times. I will obey the law to the best of my abilities, even when it means personal discomfort, but I have to always keep an eye open against being judgmental. I like order and cleanliness, but have resigned myself to a certain level of chaos to preserve peace of mind. I feel ignorant, but feel that the blessings of God have begun to lead me down a path of wisdom at times.
I think that is more than enough to start with.

So, how do I see God as a result of my self-perception?
  1. God is loving and caring.
    I believe that God derives his power from caring for His children. When He tells us that it is His "work" and "glory" to bring about our eternal life and immortality, I think He means it quite literally. That is why, of all the titles He can claim, His favorite is "Father".

  2. God is a God of order.
    I believe that God is powerful because He knows the laws of existence. He is omnipotent because He works with the nature of things as they really are. It seems ironic that power is gained through compliance and submission, but I feel this is consistent with the Gospel as demonstrated by our Savior, and is consistent with what I have observed in my own life.

  3. God is tender and compassionate.
    I believe that somehow, God mourns for us—with us. Although, with Enoch, I do not understand how an infinite God could have the personality necessary to weep, I feel that He does. He is capable of mourning with us without saving us from the lessons we must learn.

  4. I feel that God is omniscient, omnipotent, all-wise.
    Despite much popular philosophy to the contrary, I believe in the seeming dichotomy of a all-powerful, all-knowing God. I believe this is possible because he is also all-wise. He has recognized that sorrow and pain are necessary to achieve true joy. Therefore, He will suffer us to endure pain despite being able to stop it, so that we might achieve as much intelligence as we are willing to accept. I believe that the process of our choices here creates the future He understands and knows. I believe that it is possible for us to be what He is in every meaningful sense of the word. I believe it because He has promised it. I think that interpreting John 5:19 to say that the Father must have been a Savior as Christ is takes the Lord's words completely out of context and misses the greater point. I know that God has promised that we will be heirs as Christ is an heir, and what that exactly means does not matter to me right now. I suspect I understand far more of it than I remember while on this earth, and am willing to leave that for later without speculating on it, or wresting scripture to match my logic. I have more than enough to manage as is without borrowing trouble from the other side of the veil. I believe that God will always be my Father, however, just as my father on earth will always be my father, no matter that I become a self-sufficient adult, just as he is, with children of my own.
Of course, God has long conquered any failures and sense of weakness that He may have had. He does not possess the weakness I have now as a condition of my mortality. And, when I really think about my life and the changes I have been through, I suspect that my understanding of the nature of God is not so much based on how I see myself, but that as I have come to know Him better, and allowed Him to guide me in my life, His nature has begun to shine through mine.

I hope that is the case, for my greatest desire is to be like Him and with Him.


  1. Well put, I do enjoy your thoughtful, reflection and expressions of faith. Thanks for doing it.
    I also believe that he is our literal Father and as such we have the potential to become like Him and be one with Him. I believe that not only is he the law giver but also obeys perfectly every law. That his whole focus i.e.: everything he thinks and does is solely for our welfare and our eternal salvation. Simply stated I believe that he is God because he is always thinking what he should be thinking, always doing what he should be doing and never varies from that, this is why we can have faith in him and why the elements are willing to obey him.
    Bruce R. McConkie wrote the following concerning unity,
    This unity among all the saints and between them and the Father and the Son, is reserved for those who gain exaltation and inherit the fullness of the Father's kingdom. Those who attain it will all know the same things; think the same thoughts; exercise the same powers; do the same acts; respond in the same way to the same circumstances; beget the same kind of offspring; rejoice in the same continuation of the seeds forever; create the same type of worlds; enjoy the same eternal fullness; and glory in the same exaltation.
    Mormon Doctrine page 814.

    Thanks so much, I hope all is well with you.

  2. Allan—that is one point of Elder McConkie's which I am not sure I agree with. I do not think that unity means sameness any more than equality means sameness. But, again, I'm willing to leave that up to the (to me) unknowable future.

  3. Actually your response was similar to mine when I first read that statement, but after pondering it for a time, I think I understand what he was saying. My interpretation of what B.R.M. wrote is that exalted beings will at some point be one with the Father in a similar way that Christ and the Father are one, and that as exalted beings, being one with the Father they will be doing the same or similar works as the Father.
    When Christ was on the earth he said that “if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also” Christ repeatedly said that he was doing his Fathers work, And gave all glory for the work to the Father. To me this indicates Christ was representing the Father with such exactness that there would be no difference if the Father were here doing the works Himself. I also believe that everything they do is motivated by the same immense love they have for us.

    Since exalted beings will be joint heirs with Christ, IF I (through Christ’s merciful atonement) someday have the privilege of doing the same work s my Father does, I want to represent Him as if He were there doing the work himself, Exactly the same, the glory for the work will be his because it is his and not mine.

    My desire is to do this now with the small responsibilities I have, but alas I do seem to stumble at every turn because of my many weaknesses.

    So from this stand point I find that I can wrap my head around it and embrace what I believe Elder McConkie is saying, (but if I were to write it I think I would have used the word similar instead of same for some of it. )

    But here is my disclaimer: I am a man and I have been wrong before … (imagine that)and it was really just a thought worth pondering and nothing more… FWIW
    I’m really hoping that at some point in our progression we will be able to transmit thoughts and full emotions and motivations so that we all understand and are understood perfectly, sometimes words are cumbersome for me.

    By the way great post and I especially enjoyed your self assessment part of your post, it was honest and insightful , I had to stop and say WOW! that is pretty much how I would asses myself. Probably others felt the same as they were reading it, but you do have great articulation.
    Life is good !!!


Unfortunately, I've found it necessary to screen comments. Unless your comment violates the commenting policy, it will show up as soon as I can approve it.

Popular Posts