Study helps: Jeffrey R Holland – Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Eventually


Some of those you teach may feel that they do not measure up when it comes to living the Savior’s teachings. What does Elder Holland teach that can comfort and encourage those who might feel this way? You could invite Relief Society or quorum members to look for something in this message that they might share with someone who is struggling to feel that they are “good enough.” Or they could find something in the message that inspires them to feel “greater love and admiration for [Christ] and a greater desire to be like Him.”

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Feeling good enough

My brothers and sisters, except for Jesus, there have been no flawless performances on this earthly journey we are pursuing, so while in mortality let’s strive for steady improvement without obsessing over what behavioral scientists call “toxic perfectionism.”

What does the command to be perfect actually mean?

Perfect – ‘This word commonly means “finished, complete, pure, holy.” ‘ (Barnes Notes on the Bible)

‘The Savior’s declaration to be perfect even as Father in Heaven is perfect would have reminded his Jewish audience of familiar concepts from the Old Testament. The most obvious example was Noah, described in Genesis as “a just man and perfect in his generations” (Genesis 6:9). The Hebrew word translated as “perfect” is tamim and means, among other things, “whole, sound, healthful” and “having integrity.” The Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Old Testament—uses the word teleios (the same word used in Matthew 5:48) to mean perfect in the sense of “complete” and “entire.” Neither the Hebrew word nor the Greek word carries the connotation that Noah had somehow achieved a state of flawlessness. Certainly the example of Noah’s drunkenness would argue against that interpretation (see Genesis 9:20–21). (Be Ye Therefore Perfect – The Elusive Quest for Perfection, Frank F Judd Jr)

‘I love to hear my brethren speak. Their testimony yields joy and consolation to my heart. But notwithstanding the pleasure it would give me to sit and hear them continually, it is obligatory upon me to occupy the position I do, and let my voice be heard in connection with theirs.
We all occupy diversified stations in the world, and in the kingdom of God. Those who do right, and seek the glory of the Father in heaven, whether their knowledge be little or much, or whether they can do little or much, if they do the very best they know how, they are perfect.
It may appear strange to some of you, and it certainly does to the world, to say it is possible for a man or
woman to become perfect on this earth. It is written “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matt. 5:48 Again, “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” James 3:2 This is perfectly consistent to the person who understands what perfection really is.
If the first passage I have quoted is not worded to our understanding, we can alter the phraseology of the sentence, and say, “Be ye as perfect as ye can,” Matt. 5:48 for that is all we can do, though it is written, be ye perfect as your Father who is in heaven is perfect. To be as perfect as we possibly can, according to our knowledge, is to be just as perfect as our Father
in heaven is. He cannot be any more perfect than He knows how, any more than we. When we are doing as well as we know how in the sphere and station which we occupy here, we are justified in the justice, righteousness, mercy, and judgment that go before the Lord of heaven and earth. Ps. 89:14 We are as justified as the angels who are before the throne of God. The sin that will cleave to all the posterity of Adam and Eve is, that they have not done as well as they knew how. James 4:17. (Brigham Young December 1853, Journal of Discourses)
The purpose of the Church is to help us incrementally improve:
‘How does His Church accomplish the Lord’s purposes? It is important to recognize that God’s ultimate purpose is our progress. His desire is that we continue “from grace to grace, until [we receive] a fulness” Doctrine and Covenants 93:13 of all He can give. That requires more than simply being nice or feeling spiritual. It requires faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism of water and of the Spirit, and enduring in faith to the end.[See  2 Nephi 31:17–20)] One cannot fully achieve this in isolation, so a major reason the Lord has a church is to create a community of Saints that will sustain one another in the “strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life.”‘ (D Todd Christofferson, General Conference, October 2015)


A greater love and admiration for Christ

I testify of that grand destiny, made available to us by the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, who Himself continued “from grace to grace” until in His immortality. He received a perfect fulness of celestial glory. I testify that in this and every hour He is, with nail-scarred hands, extending to us that same grace, holding on to us and encouraging us, refusing to let us go until we are safely home in the embrace of Heavenly Parents. 

D&C 93:13 And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from agrace to grace, until he received a fulness;

‘This is so helpful, especially in view of how the Father and the Son have encouraged us, afresh, to become more like them by developing the requisite qualities in our lives. (See  Matt. 5:48  3 Ne. 12:48  3 Ne. 27:27 What Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount about striving for this grand goal was said in earnest. Moreover, having been advised that we are to become childlike, we are firmly told of the specific attributes needed. (See  Matt. 18:3  Mosiah 3:19  Alma 7:23  Alma 13:28) (Neal A Maxwell, General Conference, April 1986)

A greater desire to be like Him

Brothers and sisters, every one of us aspires to a more Christlike life than we often succeed in living. If we admit that honestly and are trying to improve, we are not hypocrites; we are human. May we refuse to let our own mortal follies, and the inevitable shortcomings of even the best men and women around us, make us cynical about the truths of the gospel, the truthfulness of the Church, our hope for our future, or the possibility of godliness. If we persevere, then somewhere in eternity our refinement will be finished and complete—which is the New Testament meaning of perfection.

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See Perfection Pending by Russell M Nelson

See Christ-like attributes – obedience


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