Perfection is Obtainable, Brother Tim Dunlap, February 19, 2023
Perfection: The obtainable or unattainable goal? That is the question. When I think of perfection, my mind goes to nature; how there is perfection in natural beauty, snowcapped mountains, wind shaped dunes, the perfect wave. Humans, since the dawn of time have been charged with dominion over this beauty and our own very existence. We know God is perfection and we know that he wants us to be perfect. But does God really expect me to be perfect? We have been born into the eternal/mortal proverbial catch 22. Where God wants mortal imperfect beans to be like him: perfect. In Matthew, chapter 5, verse 48. It reads: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your father, which is in heaven is perfect.“ That sounds like a pretty tall order that everyone, especially me, fall short of. But I assure you that God will give us no commandment without giving us away to fulfill that task. As it says, in 1 Nephi, chapter 3, verse 7: “The Lord giveth no commandments onto the children of men, save he shall prepare away for them, that they may accomplish the thing which he commanded them.“
When Jesus commanded us to be perfect. It was at the end of the great discourse, “The Sermon on the Mount.“ When he started, he started with the beatitudes, blessing the righteous, the merciful, and the peacemakers. He told us that we are the light of the world, and that the law was fulfilled in him. This is where it gets dicey and we are reminded of the commandments. Then he goes onto the next level. We are commanded, not only not to kill, but also not to be angry. We are commanded not to commit adultery, but also not be to even not have impure thoughts. If we are smitten on the cheek, we are commanded to turn to him the other also. We have to love our enemies, bless those that curse us, and do good to them that hate us, and pray for them which despitefully use us. These things are not easy! We live in an imperfect and fallen world. We are also fallen, we are sinners, we are natural, we are carnal.
In Mosiah chapter 3, verse 19 it reads: For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be forever and ever unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and putteth off the natural man, and becometh as a saint through the atonement of Christ, the Lord, and becometh as as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth it, fit to inflict upon him, even as a child, doth submit to his father.”
We are imperfect in this way. As was said, when we “yield “to the spirit, we have an opportunity to be reborn spiritually. This can only happen through the infinite atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with a willingness to repent of our shortcomings and a desire to increase our righteousness always in our hearts we can pursue personal improvement in a way that won’t plunge into sadness because of our shortcomings. We are a constant, “Work in progress.”
Jeffrey R. Holland said, “I believe that Jesus did not intend for his sermon on this subject to be a verbal hammer for battering us about our shortcomings. No, I believe he intended it to be a tribute to who, and what God the eternal father is, and what we can achieve with him, eternally. In any case, I am grateful to know that, in spite of my imperfections, at least God is perfect, that at least he is, for example, able to love his enemies, because all too often the natural man and natural woman, in all of us , you and I are sometimes the enemy. How grateful I am that at least God can bless those who despitefully use him. Because without wanting or intending to do so, we all often despitefully use him sometimes. I am grateful that God is merciful and a peacemaker, because I need mercy. Of course all I say of the fathers virtues, we also say of his only begotten son, who lived and died under the same perfection. “
In our constant quest we need to remember that this is a process and throughout this journey, we are to have happiness and joy along the way. The term perfect was translated from the Greek, “Teleios“ which means complete. If you think of our journey throughout mortality, we are far from perfect complete. This is where the grace of Jesus Christ comes in. D&C, section 93, verse 13 it says: “And he received not the fullness at first, but continued from grace to Grace until he received the fullness.“ This is gods mission and his glory: To bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. We are commanded to act and to do, and to choose the will of God with our own free will. As Gandalf said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
Grace is divine help or strength given through the mercy of God. The enabling power of God allows men and women to obtain blessings in this life and exaltation and eternal life after we have exercised, faith, repented, and given our best efforts to keep the commandments. Every mortal person needs grace because of Adsm’s fall and our own weakness.
As many of you know, I work in law-enforcement. My current assignment is to train new recruits at the basic Academy. This has led me to create my own analogy on a new recruits journey through the academy. This is somewhat similar to our own journey through mortal life, and this constant struggle with perfection. A new recruit leaves behind their old life and steps into a new foreign world. Our Academy is a para-military boot camp style. At the beginning, a recruit does everything wrong. They are far, far, from perfect. They have to learn new skills, like shining in their boots, preparing their uniforms, and learning police 10 codes and penal codes. The environment is high stress and full of multitasking. A recruit juggles physical exhaustion, mental fatigue, and many different emotions. As they go through this journey, they have one goal; where at the end, they will be sworn in with an oath to protect and serve the people of their community. This goal is only achieved when they dedicate themselves to this goal and know that they will make many mistakes in the process. As they progress throughout the Academy they soon begin to grab the concepts of law. They become physically and mentally stronger and learn to work as a team. They still make mistakes and from time to time they will need to be, “retrained.“ That is where my team and I come! Sometimes that “retraining” is running a few more miles, or doing more push-ups, or more sit ups. The point is, they learn from these mistakes and become stronger and better. We teach them to give 100% in everything they do, and to be just a little better than they were the day before. When they finally graduate and are sworn in, they experience the joy and satisfaction for having achieved such an honorable goal after so much hard work. Their academy journey is, “Teleios” or complete. This is not the end, and they are still not perfect. The newly appointed deputy must now go through at least four more months of field training with a seasoned deputy before they are able to go out on their own.
Now I know this was a little lengthy explanation, but if you think about it, that is how life is. We experience ups and downs, trials and tribulations, happiness and sorrow. We make mistakes and that is OK! We are human. God loves us and wants us to be happy. That is why he sent his son Jesus Christ. To sacrifice himself for our imperfections and die on the cross, so that we could live again after death, as he does. This atonement, this victory over death and sin is the most important piece in our journey to perfection, because we will always fall short. When we place our eyes and trust in Christ his grace makes up the difference between our faults and our efforts to do his will. Will we be perfect? No, of course not, but we can be, “Teleios” or complete in our faith and devotion to Christ as our will aligns with the will of the father.
In Moroni chapter 10 verse 32 it says: “Yea, come onto Christ and be perfected in him and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if he shall deny yourselves of all and godliness and love, God, with all your might, mind and strength, then his grace is sufficient for you, that by his grace, ye may be perfect in Christ, and if ye by the grace of God, you are perfect in Christ, you can nowise deny the power of God.”
A Jeffrey R. Holland said, “Our only hope is for true perfection is receiving it as a gift from heaven. We can’t earn it. Thus the grace of Christ offers us not only salvation from sorrow, sin, and death, but also salvation from our own persistent self criticism.” We may not be able to be perfect in every way before God but I do not think it is too much for God to want us to be just a little more God like in the little things; how we speak and act, how we love and forgive, and how we repent and strive to give 100% in the things we do; and to be just a little better today than we were yesterday. I think this is within our ability to do. I know Jesus Christ lives. He is our beacon our example. I say these things in his perfect name, Jesus Christ, amen.