Be Ye Therefore Perfect – Eventually?!?
This is a title of a talk (without the question and exclamation marks) given at the recent LDS general conference (October 17). It was given by one of their apostles, Elder Jeffrey B. Holland. It is also presently highlighted on the opening page of lds.org.
I added the question and exclamation marks. It was my way of saying, “Really?”
A couple of sentences in, he states: “But have you noticed that every now and then a passage will appear that reminds us we are falling a little short?” Now he really has my attention. His title is about perfection and he begins by talking about falling a little short? He can’t be talking about Matthew 5:48, can he?
But that is indeed where he goes! He refers to some of the other commands Jesus gives in Matthew 5. Then he says,
"If that is your morning scripture study, and after reading just that far you are pretty certain you are not going to get good marks on your gospel report card, then the final commandment in the chain is sure to finish the job: 'Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father … in heaven is perfect.' With that concluding imperative, we want to go back to bed and pull the covers over our head. Such celestial goals seem beyond our reach. Yet surely the Lord would never give us a commandment He knew we could not keep. Let’s see where this quandary takes us."
His answer? His title gives it away. Perfection is something for the distant future. Now all we have to do is make a little progress. “While in mortality let’s strive for steady improvement without obsessing over what behavioral scientists call ‘toxic perfectionism.’” Steady improvement rather than immediate perfection is how he interprets Jesus’ command. And he doesn’t think his interpretation does violence to Jesus’ words. One final quote: “What I now say in no way denies or diminishes any commandment God has ever given us.”
Truth in Love Ministry has devoted an entire website to Matthew 5:48. It is simply called beyeperfect.org. On it, we show in depth that Jesus demands perfection now. Jesus even phrased it the same way legal requirements were worded. Any interpretation which says differently denies and diminishes Jesus’ command.
This is exactly what Elder Holland does. But he does so much more. His talk is just another way Mormonism is keeping millions in the dark of unbelief. It is an opioid dulling the pain of God’s law. Because of such talks, millions don’t see the danger they are in and thus don’t feel any urgency to be saved.
Contrary to what Elder Holland says, Jesus wanted it and his other commands to hit us hard. He wanted them to hit us so hard that we would despair – despair of any thought we could do anything on our own to please him. He designed his commands to show us our desperate state, that “there is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).
Only when we see this will we be eager to hear about our Savior. The Savior who was perfection personified. The Savior who covered us with his perfection and wiped away the stain of our horrendous failings. The Savior, in whom, and in whom alone, we can be perfect right now. “This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6).
I encourage you to go to beyeperfect.org and see how we share this wonderful truth with Mormons - and we encourage you to do the same. We have even created a simple way for you to do this. We designed a special Christmas card highlighting “The Lord Our Righteousness”. They are available in our store. Order a set to give to a loved one, friend or neighbor this Christmas.