monarch butterfly on flowers

‘God’s in the Chrysalis’

Last night I perused the pages of one of the greatest books ever written: How to Win Friends and Influence People. It’s probably been over 30 years since I first read it. Right before listing wonderful reasons for “the value of a smile at Christmas,” Dale Carnegie quotes American writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915). Hubbard was best known for his military essay titled A Message to Garcia. That, too, is a great read. It reminds me of my long past military days. Do not give excuses, soldier, simply get the mission done. Regardless, Carnegie quoted Hubbard who said this: 

“Picture in your mind the able, earnest, useful person you desire to be, and the thought you hold is hourly transforming you into that particular individual.” Hubbard then mentioned how powerful the right thought and mental attitude can be and added, “We become like that on which our hearts are fixed. Carry your chin in and the crown of your head high. We are gods in the chrysalis.”

Gods in the chrysalis. Gods in the chrysalis? 

A chrysalis, as you may know, is the protective shell of a caterpillar that is in the transformation of becoming a butterfly. 

As a child I remember catching a colorful caterpillar and placing it in a mason jar along with a stick and some milkweed leaves. Watching the caterpillar spin a cocoon around the stick and then hibernate into its protective shell before arising a beautiful monarch butterfly was awe-inspiring, to say the least. 

One of the definitions of chrysalis from the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “a sheltered state or stage of being or growth.” One definition from the American Heritage Dictionary is “a protected stage of development,” and the Collins English Dictionary defines a chrysalis, in part, as “anything in the process of developing.” 

If we are children of loving heavenly parents, and I testify we are, then is not this life that protective state of development where we can develop ourselves as sons and daughters of infinite and eternal Beings?

My great-great-great grandpa, Parley P. Pratt, observed, “An intelligent being, in the image of God, possesses every organ, attribute, sense, sympathy, affection that is possessed by God himself. But these are possessed by man, in his rudimental state, in a subordinate sense of the word. Or, in other words, these attributes are in embryo and are to be gradually developed.”

In my book Our True Identity: Discovering our Divine DNA, I wrote: 

“As sons and daughters of God, we have the capacity to become as He is. Some believe this teaching is nonsensical or heretical, but natural laws permit all infants to grow and become like their parents. Doesn’t a gosling become a goose? Don’t kittens become cats, puppies become dogs, and lambs become a sheep? We are all created in the image of God, both male and female (Genesis 1:27). We each have divine heritage and noble parenthood. Therefore, we are gods in embryo.” 

It was Spencer W. Kimball, the twelfth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who first observed that we are gods in embryo. Whether in a chrysalis or an embryotic form, I believe the origins of this thinking is divine. 

One of the greatest researchers along this line of thinking is Tad R. Callister. In his BYU devotional titled “Our Identity and Our Destiny,” he quoted multiple early Christian writers who espoused this idea of becoming glorious. As just one example, he quoted Irenaeus (A.D. 115–202) who noted, “We have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods.”

Borrowing from the Apostle Paul’s words in the New Testament, we can develop “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness” (Ephesians 4:13). And yet, is there any doubt why this doctrine is so attacked? 

Become and becoming are powerful words. They are powerful thoughts. Why wouldn’t the adversary try to dissuade us from realizing or seeking our own divine potential and birthright? Although Lucifer, “whom the Father loved” and “who was in the bosom of the Father, [but] was thrust down” (D&C 76:25), despises us and wants us to be as miserable as he is (2 Nephi 2:18), he knows with perfect knowledge what we are capable of becoming. He doesn’t want us to succeed. We mustn’t fall victim to his perpetual attacks and negative messages—messages that say we’re not good enough, there’s no hope for us, or we’ve gone too far to be forgiven.

I’m reminded of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s inspiring and hopeful words for those who might feel this way. Said he,

“However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.”

When we feel down and discouraged, I invite us each to remember that there are heavenly hosts, angelic family members of ours in heaven, rooting for our success. 

I love the words of the prophet Elisha when he calmed his servant who felt outnumbered by an opposing force—a giant army of foes. Elisha simply answered, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kings 6:16). Then the eyes of the servant were open, and he saw angelic hosts in golden-fire chariots. 

It is the gold I want to speak about next.

In act two and scene two, Shakespeare’s character Hamlet spoke of the golden fire of the firmament while considering the ways of man. He says, “What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form like an angel! in apprehension how like a god!”

The etymology of the word chrysalis is quite interesting to me. In Greek, the word chrȳsós, meaning gold, stands out. 

Some chrysalids have a golden appearance of the protective pupa or material of the chrysalis. Some pupae are fully metallic and are reflective in nature. This is especially true of the solid gold chrysalid of the Tithoria butterfly.

In order to have a golden ring around the top part of the chrysalis, the diadem, the caterpillar of the monarch butterfly needs to eat carotenoids. They get that specifically from the milkweed plant. Without carotenoids, the diadem will be a brownish hue. Interestingly, the crown or the diadem doesn’t begin to sparkle until 24 hours after the formation of the chrysalis. Likewise, because we are imperfect, it takes time for us to develop our talents, our abilities, and our god-like forms in this life.

As we develop in this chrysalis of life, so to speak, we need to seek out the carotenoids just like the caterpillar of the monarch butterfly does. Carotenoids allow the beauty of the red, yellow and orange tree leaves to shine during the fall. As we receive those carotenoids, we can reflect beauty, just like the chrysalid of the Tithoria butterfly. 

I’m not talking about literally getting carotenoids; I’m talking about seeking for the good. Find the best in others. Look for the good in yourself. Take in everything that is wholesome and good and uplifting. I’m not speaking just about ingesting good and healthy foods, although that is important; I’m talking about all the good, beautiful, and wonderful things in life. 

Remember, gold the most precious of all the precious metals. It has always been favored. And in our quest to be what God expects His children to be, we ought to seek out those things that are “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” (Article of Faith no. 13).  

Back in 1990, I was thoroughly entertained by Dr. C. Daniel Litchford, a tenured marketing and business professor, with a guitar and a catchy jingle. He wrote these words and sang a song that has left a lasting impression upon me. 

Go for the gold.

That’s what we’ve been told.

Never settle for second best. 

Always go for the gold.

Finally, I’ll again quote Elbert Hubbard’s inspiring words along with the hope that you can see yourself as you truly are, a son or a daughter of God with infinite potential and ability. 

“Picture in your mind the able, earnest, useful person you desire to be … We become like that on which our hearts are fixed. Carry your chin in and the crown of your head high. We are gods in the chrysalis.”

One day we can get our figurative wings. We can rise and soar. We are gods in the chrysalis. 

The opinions expressed herein are solely that of the author, Jeffrey Denning, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jeffrey Denning

Jeffrey has written award-winning articles for the Washington Times,, and other publications. He is the author of seven books, including Warrior SOS: Military Veterans’ Stories of Faith, Emotional Survival and Living with PTSD. He teaches courses on peer support, suicide prevention, and other mental wellness and resilience to public safety professionals. If you would like Jeff to speak at your event or training please contact him HERE.

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