This coming Sunday LDS members will be studying chapter six of the Teachings of President Lorenzo Snow. This chapter is entitled: “Becoming Perfect before the Lord: ‘A Little Better Day by Day’”. In the first part of the chapter two biblical verses are quoted.
“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect.” [Genesis 17:1.]
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” [Matthew 5:48.]
It then goes on to state: “We learn that the Lord appeared to Abraham and made him very great promises, and that before he was prepared to receive them a certain requirement was made of him, that he [Abraham] should become perfect before the Lord. And the same requirement was made by the Savior of his Disciples, that they should become perfect, even as He and His Father in Heaven were perfect.” (p.95)
Did you notice the subtle change made from the verses to President Snow’s explanations? Both verses use the word “be”. But they are both explained with the phrase, “should become perfect”. That is a subtle but huge change. There’s a big difference between being and becoming. Who would you go to if you were sick? A person who is a doctor or who someday might become a doctor? The idea of becoming inserts a degree of uncertainty – there’s no guarantee that the goal will be ever reached. It also introduces the reality that the person isn’t yet there – and we don’t know when they will be there. There’s a huge difference between being and becoming.
God commands perfection now – not sometime in the future. A perfection that is equal to the perfection of our Father in heaven. Who can meet such a requirement?
People who are trusting completely in Jesus’ works can! That’s what the Bible says. “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrew 10:14). When a person despairs of his own efforts and places all their trust in Jesus’ efforts, they are covered with his righteousness (perfection). “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:” (1 Cor. 1:31)
But they are the only ones who can. Everybody else is not perfect and thus won’t be able to enter God’s presence – for God cannot abide any imperfection. And that is why Mormonism is such a deadly religion. As this chapter amply illustrates, it doesn’t point people to Jesus’ perfection for them, instead it incessantly urges people to become perfect themselves. Even when it does talk about Jesus, it does so in a way that puts the burden back on the person. “Our hearts should be set on things above; to strive after that perfection which was in Christ Jesus, who was perfectly obedient in all things unto the Father, and so obtained His great exaltation and became a pattern unto His brethren.” (p. 102, my emphasis) Urging people to become perfect is nothing less than a recipe for disaster.
It is not about becoming perfect. It’s all about being perfect right now in Christ. That is the only way anybody will ever come into God’s presence. It is my prayer that more and more people see that – and believe that.