Be Ye Perfect?

When the Lord was on the earth he gave a curious commandment: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).

Clearly this state is to be fully realized after the resurrection, for it was not until then that Jesus included himself as a fellow exemplar of that status beside the Father; after his resurrection he told the Native Americans, “I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Ne. 12:48).

“That’s a relief,” we may think to ourselves. “I knew God wasn’t possibly asking little old me to be perfect!”

But what if he is asking us to be perfect now in every way other than immortality? A compelling argument for this being the case is the fact that the type of glorified body one receives in the universal resurrection of the dead is conditioned on the type of person one has become in spirit:

“They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened:
“Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
“And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
“And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness” (D&C 88:28 – 31, emphasis and bullets added).

So without a ‘portion’ of God’s perfection in mortality, one cannot obtain to a ‘fullness’ of his perfection in immortality.

Does this mean the onus is on us to actually be perfect in mortality? Yes—but only through the grace of Christ, who enables us to become clean every whit (see John 13:10):

“Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ” (Moro. 10:32).

The commandments of God are before us in the scriptures and, though requiring discipline to be borne, are not in themselves burdensome (in fact, the load is light and easy to bear [see Matt. 11:30]). If you take an honest introspective look at yourself, do you find that you are flagrantly breaking any of the commandments of which you are aware? If not, and you are trying to be good in every way you have been taught, your spirit may even now share in ‘a portion of the celestial glory’ and you may not know it (oblivious holiness is fairly common in the scriptures [see for example Gen. 28:16 and 3 Ne. 9:20]).

“No, I’m a inherently a sinner and must repent every day,” the back of your mind protests. But daily repentance is not the process God has outlined (daily improvement is a matter altogether different). Consider these two principles from the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“Repentance is a thing that cannot be trifled with every day. Daily transgression and daily repentance is not that which is pleasing in the sight of God” (Joseph Smith, STPJS, p. 148).

“What many people call sin is not sin” (Ibid., p. 193).

Together, these principles should allow you to consider that if you know the commandments and keep them to the best of your knowledge, then you need not fret daily about repentance.

You were not created to be a sinner, though in consequence of mortality you are subject to weaknesses and infirmities (see Moses 6:55)—but this is no excuse to choose to return to sin when you know better! For Christ has come to call us to become saints through his atonement, to bear our crosses in “holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life” (Luke 1:75; see also Mosiah 3:19 and Luke 14:27).

Christ came to enable us to become holy, to be set free from the sinking ship of our sins so that we might swim to dry land be holy even as he is holy (see 1 Jn. 3:3, 7). Our Heavenly Father has put this within the power of each of us if we would simply choose to obey and not break the commandments we have received. Peter sums it up:

“Prepare your minds for action and exercise self control…. Live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy'” (1 Pet. 1:13 – 16, NLV, emphasis added; see Lev 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7).

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