The Crushing and Deadly Quest for Self-Perfection
One of the three main missions of the LDS Church is to “perfect the saints” (the other two are preach the gospel and redeem the dead). It highlights this in a number of different ways. For example, the mission statement of BYU begins with it: “The mission of Brigham Young University – founded, supported, and guided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – is to assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life.”
Or consider these two statements from the current (September 2018) issue of the Ensign. An LDS leader wrote how the history of the church showed that the Restoration “provided the experiences by which its leaders and members could grow toward perfection as they learned from their triumphs and their mistakes.” A couple of sentences later he writes: “the history of the Church gives us hope that we too can ultimately be ‘perfected in [Christ]’ (Moroni 10:32)” (p. 60).
Note the words used. The BYU mission statement talks about the “quest for perfection”. The Ensign article says people could “grow toward perfection” and talks about the “hope that we too can ultimately be perfected.” Gaining perfection is pictured as a process, a long, long process.
Think about it for a moment. Just yesterday I talked to a man who was in the home stretch of getting state certified to be a counselor. Even though he had a master's degree, he still had to put in a lot of hours to gain certification. It was obvious he was weary of the process and thankful it was coming to an end.
His process, however, was nothing compared to the one Mormons face. Their process to be perfected stretches way past death into the distant eternity. Like the space probes we send into the hinterlands of our solar system, they really don’t know what is all involved or what they will all encounter.
Even though the Mormon Church has tried to make the process less intimidating by drastically watering down sin and thus dramatically lowering the bar of perfection, many Mormons are still crushed by trying to be perfect. It is one significant reason many have become inactive. This is also the reason why many active Mormons are running themselves ragged. Just last year one of their apostles addressed the “toxic perfectionism” plaguing many Mormons.
The most tragic consequence, however, is that anyone who relies on anything they have done to be worthy to stand in God’s presence won’t be able to. Relying on one’s own perfection results in nothing less than God’s eternal condemnation.
The quest for true perfection begins and ends at Jesus. He is the Lord, Our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6). He kept every single commandment perfectly and completely every single minute of every day. He didn’t fail – not even once. He did this not to gain anything for himself but to gain everything for us. With his perfect obedience, he weaved a beautiful robe of righteousness, not for himself, but for us (Isaiah 61:10). By the sacrifice of his body (both in living for us and then in giving it up as payment for our sins), he made us perfect (Hebrews 10:14). True perfection is not attained through a long process. It is Christ’s gift to us. Being covered with his perfection through faith is the only way anybody will be able to stand in God’s presence. And those who are so covered, will not only stand in God’s presence, they will live with him forever as his beloved children.
May we always cherish this wonderful news. May we always share it. To God be all glory.
Would you like to read more on the LDS concept of perfection? Check out my blog post: Be Ye Therefore Perfect – Eventually?!?