Over the years, a number of Mormons have quoted to me the beginning of Moroni 10:32. “Yea, come unto Christ and be perfected in him.” They then have said that Mormonism also teaches that we become perfect in Christ. But is that passage saying the same thing Christians say when they claim to have perfection in Christ?
Here’s the entire passage. “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and IF you shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind, and strength, THEN is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.” (My emphasis)
I have emphasized the “if” and the “then” because they are a significant expansion of this verse. “If – then” commonly denote a cause and effect relationship. If somebody does A, then B follows. But B doesn’t follow if A doesn’t happen. If I go to work, then I will get a paycheck. It follows therefore to say that if I don’t go to work, then I won’t get a paycheck.
Note the A and B in the verses above. The A has two parts: 1) If you deny yourselves of all ungodliness and 2) if you love God with all your might, mind , and strength. The striking word in both is the word “all”: “all ungodliness” “all your might, mind, and strength”. By the repetition of all, this verse is emphasizing a totality – not just of effort – but of results. It doesn’t say try with all your might to deny ungodliness. It says “deny yourselves of all ungodliness”.
It’s only then that the “then” happens. “THEN is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”
This is completely different from what the Bible teaches. “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14) A few verses before he addresses who are the sanctified when he writes: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb. 10:10) There are no if. . .then clauses here. All there is here is the offering of Jesus Christ. The wonderful news of the Bible is that perfection is not based on our denying ourselves or loving God with all our might, mind and strength. According to the Bible perfection is based entirely on what Jesus did for us. And for that I am eternally grateful.