Have you ever tried to do something perfectly?
Maybe you’ve wanted to answer every single question correctly on an exam, or
maybe, while learning to play an instrument, you’ve experienced that one pesky
measure in a song that you play over and over to get just right till you can hardly
Maybe you’ve trained persistently or ran drills to perfect a skill in sports. Or
maybe, you’ve tried a thousand varying adjustments in that cookie recipe to get
that gooey-to-crispy ratio just right.
Trying to perfect anything can be extremely challenging.
This week, in come follow me, we had the chance to study Christ’s words as he
set forth a higher and holier law of living during His sermon on the mount.
At the end of the sermon, He leaves us with this final charge:
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is
It’s easy to feel like this expectation is unfair and unrealistic. We might even be
tempted to think that if God really loved us so much, why would he command us
to do something so seemingly impossible? Shouldn’t love come free of
requirement or expectation?
I can’t help but wonder if this sentiment was ever felt by Job as he watched his
family perish, his friends abandon him, and his body become covered in painful
Or by Nephi and his brothers, as they risked their very lives in order to fulfill the
Lord’s commandment to obtain the golden plates.
Or by Abinadi, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and many of the apostles as they were
severely persecuted and eventually died as martyrs for the truth.
Learning about these scriptural accounts, as well as struggling to live up to the
expectations we have in our own lives can lead us to ask, why do Heavenly
Father and Jesus Christ expect so much of us?
In a conference address from April 2014, Elder Todd D. Christofferson helped us
understand a vital truth that helps answer this question.
“A God who makes no demands is the functional equivalent of a God who
does not exist. A world without God, the living God who establishes moral
laws to govern and perfect His children, is also a world without ultimate
truth or justice.“
Nearing the end of his life, The Book of Mormon prophet Lehi also expanded on
this truth in one of his final messages to his posterity.
2 Nephi 2:13
And if ye shall say there is no law (or nothing required of us), ye shall also
say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is
no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness.
And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment
nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no
God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of
things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have
He reassures us in verse 14.
2 Nephi 2:14
And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit
and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the
heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act
and things to be acted upon.
As we learn from Lehi, God’s law and commandments must exist in order for
there to be happiness at all.
And although my wife and I are currently preparing to be parents for the first
time, I’m becoming confident that having great expectations for our children is a
natural consequence of truly and fully loving them.
It’s no secret that because Heavenly Father and his Son love us, they want the
very best for us. And they know exactly what will be the very best for us, even
when we are unsure ourselves.
In Hebrews 12:6 we learn “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth”
God knows our potential because we are his children. That is no metaphor. We
are true sons and daughters of God. When we understand who we are, and
God’s purpose in our lives, their expectations of us begin to make more sense.
We can begin to see that they aren’t due to a lack of love, but they exist precisely
because of their love.
That being said, there have been more than a few times in my life when I have
felt either unworthy, inadequate, or even utterly incapable of living up to the
expectations of our Heavenly Father.
I remember one instance, as a fairly new missionary, working alongside my
companion for months in a small village, trying to find people to teach.
We had reached a point where we had either visited, or attempted to visit, every
available home in that area at least twice, or so we believed.
As we kept working and experimenting with new ways to find people who were
ready to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ, weeks began to turn into months
without a single person who was willing to accept or keep the commitments we
extended to them.
There were even a few occasions where we had finally begun to see progress
with a newfound friend when, all of a sudden, we’d arrive at their door to find that
they had up and moved out of the area without any warning.
I really began to wonder if we were cursed!
I’ve learned through these experiences that the adversary, if we allow him, can
be very effective at convincing us that we are not enough. Or that the Lord’s
expectations of us are unattainable. So why even make the effort at all? I’ve
found that Satan will try anything if it means keeping us from coming to our
Savior for help.
The good news, as I’ve learned, and am certainly still learning, is that Satan is a
liar (a good one too). But we don’t have to listen to him.
Through that experience on my mission, as well as other times in my life where
my own choices have fallen far short of what the Lord desired of me, The Lord
has blessed me with an eternally valuable lesson.
That repentance is not a punishment, but a gift.
A gift provided through the atoning blood of the most loving, merciful, just, and
perfect being to ever walk this earth.
A gift we can fully enjoy if we will humble ourselves and recognize that there are
changes required in our lives that Christ alone has the power to make.
October 2022 Elder Paul V. Johnson - “We may have a tendency to think we
have to perfect ourselves, but that is not possible. Following every
suggestion in every self-help book in the world will not bring it about.
There is only one way and one name whereby perfection comes. We are
“made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who
wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own
blood.” Our perfection is only possible through God’s grace.”
Our Savior, who knows us better than anyone, has never believed for a single
moment that you or I wouldn’t be able to one day become as he is.
He knows and loves us as children of God, and through getting to know him, we
can become confident in that truth ourselves.
What’s left is to ask ourselves, do we really trust Him? Do we believe that His
way is the true and only way to everlasting joy, happiness, and fulfillment?
The Lord expects us to be perfect, but I don’t believe he expects it of us
immediately, and certainly not for us to do it on our own. We simply cannot.
He expects us to trust that he can make us perfect if we will choose to follow him.
His grace is sufficient.
So, what are we to do?
As I mentioned earlier, the gift of repentance, working with God to make
changes, both big and small, that align ourselves more closely with him, is the
way to receive the grace that Christ stands ready to bless us with.
As we look for his strength to improve, there is prayer, studying His word through
the scriptures and modern-day prophets, spending time learning with Him in the
temple, making and keeping sacred covenants that bind us to Him and to each
other, as well as many other ways we can participate in the work of God.
When we think of every single thing we could or should be doing, it’s easy to
become overwhelmed all over again. When I begin feeling this way, I’ve found it
best to stop and pray to Heavenly Father for help so he can help me see the path
forward, one step at a time.
Working towards becoming like our Savior is not easy or convenient. We learn
from the Savior in Matthew 7:13-14 that “straight is the gate, and narrow is
the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Even though the path is difficult, and we will be called upon in this life to make
great sacrifices, I know that God has prepared a way for us to make it back to
him, despite our sins and weaknesses. And that way is through Christ.
Moroni, worried about his own weaknesses, told the lord about his concern that
his writings in the Book of Mormon wouldn’t come across as powerfully and in the
way he wanted them to.
In response, the Lord gave us this remarkable counsel.
26 …the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn;
and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage
of your weakness;
27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.
I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is
sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble
themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things
become strong unto them.
I testify that the Savior lives. I testify that through the gift of repentance and the
mercy and Grace of Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father, we can all return
home to one day be perfected as they are.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.