THE WORD: Pursuing perfection
Published 7:54 am Thursday, May 23, 2019
In this season of graduations and award ceremonies, I think of the ultimate final exam requirement given by Jesus: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). For most of us, perfection will be a good long while in coming, even after we finish this life and continue our eternal progression in the next. I also think of the dream that Jacob had in the Old Testament, where he saw a ladder connecting earth and heaven. On the ladder, Jacob saw “angels of God ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:12).
As imperfect children of God, we are like those angels, sometimes ascending and sometimes descending as we strive to stay on the covenant path and prepare to meet our God. Thomas Wolfe echoed the often-zigzag path most of us follow in the pursuit of perfection: “… human growth does not proceed in a straight line to its goal.” Whether we arrive early or late, Jesus taught in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, all will receive the same joy that awaits us through repentance (Matthew 20:1- 15).
Noting the grumbling from that parable among those that had worked all day for their wages and who envied the same reward given to those who joined the workforce later in the day, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, an Apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taught: “We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those.”
Rather than grumbling about the distribution of rewards, we can humbly ask, like the young man who approached Jesus: “What lack I yet?” (Matthew 19:20), and then be prepared to act on the promptings and inspiration that we receive. Thankfully, in the story as recounted in the Gospel of Mark, there is a phrase which gives each of us hope: “Then Jesus beholding him loved him” (10:21).
One day we will each have a conversation like this with our Savior. He will not hold back from blessing us with challenges and trials, and reminding us of the commandments and high expectations inherent in the Gospel as he did with this young man. But He will do all this after looking deeply into our eyes and, above all, loving us with perfect charity. Because He suffered for each of us, including all our pains, sicknesses, sins and infirmities, He alone is able to understand our needs, offer correction and provide needed encouragement.
In the words of the cherished hymn, “Where Can I Turn for Peace?”: “Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish? Who, who can understand? He, only One.”
BRENT ROBERTS is the Elders Quorum President in the Sandy River Branch, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and also Dean of Greenwood Library at Longwood University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.