(This is a reprint of a post I did a few years ago.)
One way that I like to picture God’s holiness is as strong radiation. His holiness constantly is radiating out from him. By its very nature, it destroys anything imperfect with which it comes into contact.
That is why, in order to enter God’s presence, we can’t have the slightest imperfection. Otherwise we will be destroyed. But how can we do that? By being clothed in Christ’s righteousness. “he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:10) Or, in keeping with the illustration, by wearing the radiation suit made by and given by Jesus.
But just suppose that Jesus has given me that radiation suit but I had been working hard on making my own. I realize that Jesus’ suit is vastly superior so I put it on. But I have worked so hard on my own suit that I decide to use just one glove from it. So I substitute the glove I made for the one Jesus supplied. I walk into God’s presence only to be destroyed by his holiness. My glove couldn’t protect me from the radiation of his holiness because it wasn’t perfect – it was flawed. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10)
The point is that no matter how little we are relying on ourselves – maybe I just replace one finger on one glove – that little bit of reliance on self becomes a fatal flaw. Even the tiniest flaw in a radiation suit spells disaster. Neither does it matter what my motivation is for slightly relying on myself. It could be prideful reluctance to give up what we worked so hard doing – it could be the thought that this is what God wants. It doesn’t matter – if we are relying even, very slightly, on what we have to do in order to stand in God’s presence, we have a flawed radiation suit – and we will be destroyed.
That is why Mormonism is so dangerous. It points people not only to Jesus but also to themselves. For example, its 3rd Article of Faith states: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” Since we sin so much, our obedience isn’t perfect. Therefore the only thing our imperfect obedience does is make our suit flawed. And a flawed suit is a formula for disaster.