A Theology of Sameness

Instead of theological sameness, I like to imagine that heaven is a place where we become even more different than we are now, just as I have found that I have become more myself the older I've gotten and I think I would say the same thing about my husband, my children, and my dearest friends.
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In many Mormon depictions of God the Father and Jesus Christ, you see two white men dressed identically, in robes of white, with white beards, white hair, and of similar height. Though Mormons believe that Christ is a separate being than God the Father, we also believe that Christ is the Jehovah of the Old Testament, that it was under His direction that the Earth was created and that the entire universe was made according to a pattern set by God the Father. It is this idea of Christ and God being so much the same that leads many Mormons to conclude that in order for us to become like God, we have to lose our individuality and become divinely identical. I reject this theology of sameness.

As Mormons, we ascribe the nearly infinite variety of the plant and animal kingdom to God and we imagine there are worlds without number where we will find more variety. So why would we as humans strive to be so much the same as each other? Why would we ascribe to a theology in which we would all agree on everything? Do we really want to live in a heaven in which there is no lively discussion, there is no art that is unique, and we all follow the same exact steps to progress to our better selves?

As a parent myself, I find it difficult to imagine wanting sameness for my children. I rejoice in their differences from me and from each other. I don't know how it happens that I have a daughter who is musical since neither I nor my husband am, but it is a pleasure to see her do her own thing. Our house would simply not be the same if we didn't have her music filling it. The same is true of each of my children, from my crafter to my baker, my gamer, and my runner. I have one son with black, curly hair, brown eyes, and olive skin and another son who has blonde hair, blue eyes, and very fair, sensitive skin. People used to stop me on the street and ask if both of them were mine. Yes, they are both genetically mine. My two oldest daughters were so different in personality and interests than even though they share the same last name, most people in high school didn't guess that they were related.

God's children are surely even more varied in the way they look, their capacities here on earth, and their interests, skills, and passions. I don't need my children to be like me for me to understand or appreciate their contribution to the world. I cherish their points of view even when they differ from mine. Why would I imagine that God would be any different? I suppose it's possible that this is an imperfect comparison and that God's relationship to His children is vastly different, that in my mortal state, I am unable to understand what it is like to be perfect, omniscient, omnipotent.

If God and Christ are the same in nearly every way, then wouldn't we become like them the more we approached perfection ourselves? Wouldn't truth and righteousness demand that we follow the same path and come to all the same conclusions? Isn't sameness what we have learned from the disciplines of math and science? The same conclusions are reached by multiple people to show us the truth, right? Or is that really true? Do we not understand light by seeing it in the different ways it manifests? Is there one unifying theory of the universe that we are reaching toward?

Well, I'm not a scientist, but I am not sure that this is necessarily what the end of science should be. It certainly is not the end of art to wish for all writers to write the same "perfect" stories or painters to paint hyper-realistically so that they come closer to some one "truth." Every age of history has created different kinds of art, different musical instruments, different scientific methods. Do we reject all that we have learned from the old ways just because we have new ones? Maybe not.

If there is a place in heaven for differences, does that mean that we never let go of flaws and weaknesses and find the truth? Are some flaws really just mistakes and other "flaws" not? And what are the consequences if heaven is a place of diversity and multiplicity, where some flaws are embraced as a way to see the world differently and beautifully? Will we look the same, sound the same, act the same, believe the same, and BE the same in heaven, just clones of the God we submit to more and more as we become perfected? I don't know about you, but if I have to give up who I am to be in heaven, maybe I wouldn't choose to be there.

On the one hand, it is easy to point out weaknesses in myself that I would be happy to get rid of, from my social anxieties to my need to control the world by counting every step I take while running, every pedal stroke I make while cycling, and every stroke my arms do while swimming. I used to think that my infinite capacity to make lists and check off things on them, to add to my list of accomplishments on a resume was proof of my own superiority. Now I've come to see it as a tick. It gets things done, but at the cost sometimes of seeing the larger picture.

On the other hand, to give up these facets of my own personality would seem to me to give up my very self. Is that what I'm supposed to do when I get to heaven? Am I supposed ot rejoice in the idea of joining a heavenly choir of identical angels? Maybe if I were a better person I would. But I am who I am and I've come to see my weaknesses as inextricably linked to my strengths. They are simply two sides of the same coin. To get rid of one is also to get rid of the other. Would heaven want me to be a bland, personless soul? I can't believe that, but there is always the possibility that I am incapable of understanding the true nature of heaven or of perfection as a mortal person.

We are promised as Christians that heaven will be a place without tears, without pain, and without sorrow. This can be a wonderful thing, but if heaven is a place where this is achieved at the cost of our individuality, I am not sure that I want to end up there, and sometimes I hear echoes of this from other Mormons, who say that maybe that they would rather end up in one of the other kingdoms (telestial or terrestial instead of celestial) and maintain their selfish uniqueness. Some Mormons say they'd rather not give up some of their vices: caffeine or watching the Super Bowl on Sunday or eating excessively. That is what makes this life pleasurable. Do we have to give all of that up to be perfect? Do we give up happiness if we also give up pain?

Instead of theological sameness, I like to imagine that heaven is a place where we become even more different than we are now, just as I have found that I have become more myself the older I've gotten and I think I would say the same thing about my husband, my children, and my dearest friends. They lose the parts of themselves that are just about fitting in. They stop caring as much about being like other people and they sit more easily with who they are, with all the scars and wrinkles that are part of life.

Is it possible that we can become divine in a different way than Christ Himself? That we would do different things than Christ Himself would, and that He would understand our impulses and give us permission to create a new kind of perfect? I hope so, but I admit that I may be deluded about what perfection is or what it would be like to become closer and closer to infinite knowledge, strength, and understanding. Maybe being the same isn't as terrible as it appears to me. Or maybe it's not the same at all, but just looks the same as compared to the mortal shape I'm in.

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