I just finished reading the November Ensign with all the talks from General Conference. A phrase that was used repeatedly was “keep the commandments” or something similar. For example, Elder Neil L. Andersen talking about a person’s spiritual journey said: “We then remain steady and patient as we progress through mortality. At times, the Lord’s answer will be, ‘You don’t know everything, but you know enough’ – enough to keep the commandments and to do what is right.” (p. 13)
This emphasis on keeping the commandments reflects a Book of Mormon passage, 1 Nephi 3:7. “I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” In other words, every command of God is achievable.
Including the command to be perfect. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Mt. 5:48) Apostle Russell M Nelson, in a General Conference address in 1995, said: “These words were given additional intensity in the Joseph Smith Translation.” That says: “Ye are therefore commanded to be perfect.”
Neither is there any thought in these translations of becoming perfect. If that is the case, then I could say that about every one of God’s commands. “I can eventually become chaste.” “I can eventually sometime in the future not commit adultery.” “I am in the process of quitting stealing.” If “be” means “become” that opens the door wide open.
Many Mormons have responded by saying that talking about perfection as something attainable now is ridiculous. At this point, a quote from the LDS manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles, is pertinent. “Perfection is a word that causes different reactions from many people. Some people say, ‘Perfection? Why, that is impossible!’ Others say, ‘Perfection! I get discouraged just thinking about it!’ Yet, would the Lord give us a commandment that was impossible for us to keep? And when he gives a commandment, doesn’t he, as Nephi said, prepare a way for us to accomplish what he commands? The Sermon on the Mount is the Lord’s blueprint for perfection.” (p.57) I find it striking that this manual ties the command to be perfect together with 1 Nephi 3:7. Therefore, according to Mormonism, it is possible to keep the command, “Be perfect.”
According to Mormonism, the way that the Lord has prepared to keep the commandment “Be Perfect” is Matthew chapters 5-7. That means one lustful thought (5:28) ruins perfection and is not keeping the commandments. That means one unkind word (5:22) ruins perfection and is not keeping the commandments. That means anything less than consistent love of enemies (5:43) ruins perfection and is not keeping the commandments. On and on it goes.
One more quote from General Conference. “Only He can bring us back into His presence. And He will do all of that and much more if we but remember Him to keep His commandments. What then shall we do? We will remember Him to keep His commandments. It is the only intelligent thing to do.” (p35) That, my friends, is a big “if”.
I prefer Romans 4:6-8: “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are coved. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”