“How Divine Identity Affects Belonging and Becoming,” Liahona, March 2023.
How Divine Identity Affects Belonging and Becoming
As we prioritize our relationship with God and our discipleship to Jesus Christ, we will find joy in our divine identity, gain an enduring sense of belonging, and ultimately reach our divine potential.
The American Psychological Association defines belonging as “the feeling of being accepted and approved by a group.”1
Unfortunately, not all of us feel a sense of belonging and at times attempt to adjust who we are to be accepted. “We all want to fit in,” explains Joanna Cannon, a British psychiatrist. “In order to achieve that, we often present slightly different versions of who we are, depending on the environment and whose company we are in. We might have numerous ‘editions’ of ourselves—for work, or at home, or even online.”2
It is important to note that there is a difference between fitting in and belonging. Brené Brown, an American researcher and author, observed: “Fitting in and belonging are not the same thing. In fact, fitting in is one of the greatest barriers to belonging. Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”3
Knowing our divine identity is essential to meaningful belonging; otherwise, we will spend our time and efforts adjusting ourselves to find acceptance in places that do not honor or align with our eternal nature. Moreover, where we choose to belong can lead to changes in our values and behaviors as we conform to group norms and standards. Over time, where we choose to belong affects who we become.
In short, embracing our divine identity influences where we desire to belong, and our chosen place of belonging leads to who we eventually become.
We all lived with God in the premortal life (see Doctrine and Covenants 93:29; 138:55–56). We were created in His image—male and female (see Genesis 1:27). He prepared a plan for us to become like Him (see Doctrine and Covenants 132:19–20, 23–24). His plan of happiness involved us coming to earth to obtain a physical body, gain knowledge, and ultimately return to our heavenly home to live with Him in eternal joy (see 2 Nephi 2; 9; Abraham 3:26). God revealed, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Incredibly, we are His work and glory! This says something about our immense value and worth to Him.
Given the billions of people on the earth, some may find it difficult to accept that God is mindful of us individually. I witness that He knows each of us and is also aware of what we are doing, where we are, and even “the thoughts and intents of [our] heart[s]” (Alma 18:32). We are not only “numbered unto” God (Moses 1:35) but also loved perfectly by Him (see 1 Nephi 11:17).
Because of His perfect love for us, Heavenly Father desires to share all that He has with us (see Doctrine and Covenants 84:38). After all, we are His daughters and sons. He wants us to become like Him, to do the things He does, and to experience the joy He has. When we open our hearts and minds to this truth, “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God” (Romans 8:16–17).
In the premortal life, we walked with God, heard His voice, and felt His love. We have since passed through a veil of forgetfulness into mortality. We no longer have a perfect recollection of our life before. The conditions of this mortal environment make it harder to sense our divine nature and the belonging we enjoyed in our heavenly home.
For example, too much focus on our genetic and environmental differences can be an obstacle to our connection with God. The adversary attempts to exploit these differences to divert us from our common divine parentage. We receive labels from others and sometimes even assume them ourselves. There is nothing inherently wrong in identifying with others based on earthly characteristics; in fact, many of us find joy and support from those with similar traits and experiences. However, when we forget our core identity as God’s children, we can begin to fear, distrust, or feel superior to those different from us. These attitudes often lead to division, discrimination, and even destruction (see Moses 7:32–33, 36).
When we remember our divine heritage, our diversity provides beauty and richness to life. We see ourselves as brothers and sisters, despite our differences. We come to respect and learn from one another. We strive to provide supportive places for others to belong, especially when their characteristics and experiences differ from ours. We feel gratitude to God for the variety of His creations.4
While our genetics and environment influence our experience in mortality, they do not define us. We are children of God with the potential to become like Him.
Belonging through Jesus Christ
Knowing that we would face significant challenges in mortality, God prepared and sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to help us overcome these obstacles. Christ offers to help us reestablish the intimate relationship we had with God in the premortal life. As Christ explained, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6; see also John 3:16–17).
Christ is always willing to help us. We belong to Him (see 1 Corinthians 6:20), and He yearns for us to come unto Him. In His own words, the Savior promises, “Come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you” (3 Nephi 12:24).
So, how do we come unto Christ with full purpose of heart?
First, we accept Him as our Savior and Redeemer. We recognize God’s greatness, our lost and fallen state, and our absolute dependence on Jesus Christ to be saved. We desire to be known by His name (see Mosiah 5:7–8) and want to be His disciples “all the remainder of our days” (Mosiah 5:5).
Second, we come unto Christ with full purpose of heart by making and keeping sacred covenants with God (see Isaiah 55:3). Covenants are made through the saving and exalting ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ performed by priesthood authority.
Making and keeping covenants not only binds us to God and His Son but also connects us with one another. Some years ago, I was visiting Costa Rica with family and attended sacrament meeting at a local Church unit. When we entered, we were welcomed warmly by several of the members. During the meeting, we sang the sacrament hymn with the small congregation. We watched the priests prepare the sacrament and then listened as they recited the sacramental prayers. As the bread and water were passed to us, I was overwhelmed with God’s love for each one of these fellow covenant-keepers. I had not met any of them before that meeting but felt unity and kinship with them because we had all made and were striving to keep the same promises to God.
When we make and strive to keep sacred covenants with God, we begin to experience a sense of belonging greater than can be achieved through affiliation with any earthly or temporal group.5 We “are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
I recognize that some of us, due to mortal circumstances, will not have the opportunity to receive every ordinance and make every covenant in this mortal life.6 In such cases, God asks that we do “all we can” (2 Nephi 25:23) to make and keep the covenants available to us. He then promises to give us the opportunity to receive any remaining ordinances and covenants in the next life (see Doctrine and Covenants 138:54, 58). He will make it possible for us to receive every blessing He has for His children (see Mosiah 2:41).
Becoming like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ
God rejoices when we feel the love, unity, and strength that come from a deep sense of belonging with Him, His Son, and those who follow Them. However, He has much bigger plans for us! While He invites us to come as we are, His real desire is for us to become as He is.
Making and keeping covenants not only helps us to belong to God and Christ but also enables us with the power to become like Them (see Doctrine and Covenants 84:19–22). As we keep the covenants associated with the saving and exalting ordinances of the gospel, God’s power can flow into our lives. We can view the covenant path as a divine apprenticeship program of sorts. As we make and keep covenants with God, we practice thinking, behaving, and loving as He does. Little by little, with His help and power, we are enabled to become like Him.
God yearns for us to join Him and His Son in bringing “to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). He has given each of us time on this earth, spiritual gifts, and the agency to use them in the service of others. We are His sons and daughters, and He has an important work for us to do (see Moses 1:4, 6).
To be effective in His work, we need to turn outward and learn to put God first and often place the needs of others ahead of our own. Focusing outward requires personal sacrifice (see Doctrine and Covenants 138:12–13) but also infuses more meaning into our lives and provides great joy (see Alma 36:24–26).
As we engage in God’s work, we do not just belong as members of a group; rather, we become real partners with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. There is no greater feeling than knowing that God trusts us sufficiently to work through us to bring eternal life to others.
In conclusion, I extend three invitations that can help us gain a joyful and enduring sense of identity and belonging and enable us to reach our divine potential.
1. I invite us to prioritize our divine identity as daughters and sons of God. This means we base our self-worth on our divine parentage. We seek to build our relationship with God through prayer and scripture study, Sabbath day observance and temple worship, and any other activity that brings the Holy Spirit into our lives and strengthens our connection to Him. We let God prevail in our lives.7
2. I invite us to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and to place our discipleship to Him above other considerations. This means that we take His name upon us and that we desire to be known as His followers. We seek to access His forgiveness and His strength daily. We make covenants and keep them. We strive to become like Him.
3. I invite us to engage in God’s work by helping others come unto Christ and gain eternal life. This means we help others see their divine identity and feel a sense of belonging. We openly share the joy we find in Jesus Christ and His gospel (see Alma 36:23–25). We strive to help others make and keep sacred covenants with God. We seek God’s guidance to know whom we can bless and how to do so.
I promise that as we prioritize our relationship with God and our discipleship to Jesus Christ, we will find joy in our divine identity, gain an enduring sense of belonging, and ultimately reach our divine potential.
From a devotional address, “Divine Identity, Becoming, and Belonging,” given at Brigham Young University–Hawaii on May 25, 2022.