Over the years, one of the Bible passages I have repeatedly returned to is Matthew 5:48. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” I have talked about it so much because Mormonism talks about it so much. We see it again in one of the first talks given in the recent General Conference. Elder Ulisses Soares cites it in his talk entitled, “Be Meek and Lowly of Heart.” After quoting it, he continues by saying, “If we ‘come unto Christ, . . .deny (ourselves) of all ungodliness; . . .and love God,’ then through Christ’s grace the day will come when we may be perfect in Him.”
First of all, note the conditions he cites for becoming perfect especially the condition of “denying ourselves of all ungodliness”. It’s not just denying some ungodliness but all ungodliness. This must happen before Christ’s grace becomes active – note the “then”. This agrees with one of the steps of LDS repentance, namely, the forsaking of sin. In either case, whether you talk about denying all ungodliness or forsaking sin, an awful lot has to be done by the person. It is like the Book of Mormon says: “We know it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do.”
Besides noting those conditions, note the uncertainty of when this happens. “The day will come when we may be perfect in Him.” Again that depends mainly on the person. A little bit later in his talk, Elder Soares quotes President Snow. “It is our duty to try to be perfect. . .to improve each day, and look upon our course last week and do things better this week; do things better today than we did them yesterday.” According to Mormonism, you can’t know when you will be perfect.
In striking contrast is the message of the Bible. “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” Instead of talking about the day that will come sometime in the future, it talks about the day that has already come. And instead of talking about conditions people have to fulfill, it talks about what Jesus has already done for us with his one offering. Through the offering of Christ on the cross on that one day close to 2,000 years ago, believers are perfected. It is a done deal. Or as Jesus himself said, “It is finished”.
What the Bible says and what Mormonism teaches is in striking contrast. Mormonism talks a lot about what people must do in order to be perfect and acceptable to God. The Bible talks a lot about the fact that perfection and acceptance depends not partially, but entirely, on what Jesus did for us. Mormonism speaks of eternal life as a reward. The Bible describes it as God’s gift to us.
It is my prayer that LDS members simply read the Bible as a child would and see the great things God has done for them. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5). To God be all the glory!