Jesus is our Great Exemplar, the one who invites us, “Follow thou me.” We are counseled to consider how Jesus would act if he were in our shoes, and to model our lives after his. Some inspiring scriptural passages describe the potential we have to become like him.
The Lectures on Faith emphasize that we must become like Jesus:
Let us ask—Where shall we find a prototype into whose likeness we may be assimilated, in order that we may be made partakers of life and salvation? or, in other words, where shall we find a saved being? for if we can find a saved being, we may ascertain without much difficulty what all others must be in order to be saved. We think that it will not be a matter of dispute, that two beings who are unlike each other cannot both be saved; for whatever constitutes the salvation of one will constitute the salvation of every creature which will be saved; and if we find one saved being in all existence, we may see what all others must be, or else not be saved. We ask, then, where is the prototype? or where is the saved being? We conclude, as to the answer of this question, there will be no dispute among those who believe the bible, that it is Christ: all will agree in this, that he is the prototype or standard of salvation; or, in other words, that he is a saved being. And if we should continue our interrogation, and ask how it is that he is saved? the answer would be—because he is a just and holy being; and if he were anything different from what he is he would not be saved; for his salvation depends on his being precisely what he is and nothing else; for if it were possible for him to change, in the least degree, so sure he would fail of salvation and lose all his dominion, power, authority and glory, which constitute salvation; for salvation consists in the glory, authority, majesty, power and dominion which Jehovah possesses and in nothing else; and no being can possess it but himself or one like him. (Lectures on Faith 7:9)
However, because of his unique parentage and role, we often perceive a distinction, for better and worse, between “mere mortals” and Jesus. This can make it difficult for us to understand how we can become precisely like Jesus Christ (in fact, in some of my discussions with Church members, some have denied that we can become precisely like him because of his role as unique Savior).
However, in revelation received after the Lectures on Faith, we are told: “Abraham … hath entered into his exaltation and sitteth upon his throne… Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham … and ye shall be saved.” (Doctrine & Covenants 132:29,32)
Here we have another prototype, and this time one without the “barriers” of a unique role as Redeemer or a virgin birth. This is a prototype that we may not have quite as hard a time relating to, and may not be as uncomfortable comparing ourselves to, as to the sinless Christ.
Yet for me, the example of Abraham is more challenging than the example of Christ. Clearly, my life cannot compare to the sinless life of Christ, but I can envision myself progressing in his footsteps, developing compassion, power in faith to heal, the gift of teaching by the Spirit, and so forth, even to the sacrificing of my own life for others. I have a much harder time imagining myself in the shoes of Abraham: asked by my God to kill my own child.
I don’t know whether this is merely a deficiency of faith on my part. Could I develop the faith to accept such a command? If Alma is correct that the beginning of faith is the desire to believe, I doubt I could. I’m not sure I desire to worship a being who would command me to kill my innocent child. Is this something that we should desire? If I am not able to develop this desire and faith, it seems that it is impossible for me to receive the blessings of Abraham.
Neal A. Maxwell has often taught that the only thing we can give to God is our will. Does this require that we give up our own notions of right and wrong in order to conform to the instructions of our God? Are we required literally to lose ourselves in order to gain eternal life? If so, this is not only a step beyond the edge of the light into the dark, but into an abyss that terrifies me.