I taught the first Sunday in July and my topic was perfection. More so – not letting perfection get in the way of trying. This topic…given to the one who starts planning out her lessons a month in advance and practices them until they are practically memorized…gee great. So I thought about it a lot, thought about how to open, what to focus on, what in the world to say. I listened/read podcasts, church talks, scriptures, etc. Here is goes…
In Matthew 5:28 we read, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
So I asked the girls, “What does perfect mean?” They came up with the same answers I did, “flawless; without mistakes”
Russel M. Nelson said:
“In Matt. 5:48, the term perfect was translated from the Greek teleios,which means “complete.” Teleios is an adjective derived from the noun telos, which means “end.” The infinitive form of the verb is teleiono, which means “to reach a distant end, to be fully developed, to consummate, or to finish.” Please note that the word does not imply “freedom from error”; it implies “achieving a distant objective.””
That’s completely different from what I thought ‘perfection’ to be, especially the “freedom from error” part.
While preparing for this lesson, I had the opportunity to go out with the Sister Missionaries. They had a lesson scheduled, but as happens so often to them, that lesson cancelled just as we arrived to the home. So we went to visit people nearby. One man we visited was baptized just a short while ago. When the sisters first met him, he was barely able to walk he was so drunk. They worked with him, got him attending addiction recovery and all the while visited with him and taught him about the gospel. When I first met him, he was sober and getting ready to be baptized. He was so optimistic.
Well, when we went to visit him on this night, he was not in such a good place. I had noticed he wasn’t at church the previous Sunday and he missed his friend’s baptism Sunday night. He was completely different than the man I met. He had fallen, and he had fallen hard.
At one point, he leaned forward and said to the Sisters, “I never said I was perfect. Never said I would be.”
His definition of perfect was the “flawless. without mistakes” definition and that’s a hard thing to live up to. When you fail to be perfect, it’s easy to just give up because it seems so unattainable. But perfection is not about finishing the race without any errors, it’s about finishing. Perfection, as we read, is about reaching a distant end, it’s about being fully developed and along the way to that, we make mistakes. Enduring is getting up each time you fall, recommitting each time you make a mistake, repenting each time you sin.
Then we watched this video: Men’s Hearts Shall Fail Them
I asked the girls what they thought about the video (I warned them I would ask this and yet it was still like pulling teeth afterwards – I told them I was fine sitting in silence and I finally got some talkers). The thing that stood out most was that perfection will come in the next life; don’t demand the unreasonable, but demand improvement.
I had a bishop once tell us that improvement was like looking at a calendar…let’s say you want to be better about saying your morning prayers. You do it the first day, and the next, and maybe even for a week but then you are late one day and skip it. By the end of the month you’ve said your prayers maybe 20 times out of 31. Have you failed? NO! You’ve improved, you’ve done better and you kept trying. Continue trying and soon you’ll have developed the habit of prayer.
We have to keep an eternal perspective rather than focusing on every failure.
In 1 Nephi we read the story of when Nephi and his brothers are sent back to get the gold plates.
In 1 Nephi 3:7 Nephi says, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded for 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.”
…so Nephi is armed with the knowledge that the Lord won’t let him fail – right? He should be able to walk right up to Laban (who currently had the records) and just ask for the plates right?
in verse 11 Nephi’s brother, Laman, is sent to talk to Laban. Laban was made and kicked Laman out and called him a robber and threatened to kill him.
Who would have given up here? I would have, I hate rejection, much less having my life threatened. But Nephi doesn’t give up. Why do you think that is?
In verses 15&16 we find out:
- 1)Because it’s a commandment
- 2) Because of Faith.
In verses 22-23 they’ve gathered all their gold and silver and precious things and they are going to try and buy the plates from Laban. Again-they are kicked out and their lives are threatened.
But does Nephi give up? Does anyone remember what happened between the brothers after this? (beating and an angel appears). What does the angel tell them? (go back)
So Nephi goes back and then what happens? He comes across a likely grotesque and definitely drunken Laban and is told to cut the guy’s head off…to which he hesitates because..well that’s murder. But he goes through with it, gets the plates and as a bonus he gets Zoram (and Zoram gets freedom).
Nephi by all counts, failed several times to get the plates. He wasn’t able to just walk in and get them because the Lord had commended it. But that didn’t stop him, it didn’t make him doubt if it was actually a commandment or not. He didn’t say, “well, maybe I’m just not cut out for it.”
The same as we aren’t able to JUST BE perfect because the Lord commands it. During what we may perceive as failures–we need to remember to have faith that the Lord prepares a way for us to accomplish the things he commands and there isn’t something WRONG with US when we don’t get it right the first time. Perfection isn’t attainable in this life, our job is to continue to improve.
An interesting thing I came across while working on this lesson. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus says, “be ye therefore perfect even as your father which is in heaven is perfect”. In 3 Nephi 12:48 he says, “be ye therefore perfect even as I, or your father who is in heaven is perfect.”
The interesting thing to note here is that in Matthew 5:48 – Christ had not yet been crucified or resurrected, whereas in 3 Nephi, when he visits the Nephites, he has already been resurrected. Even Christ was not truly perfect until after his mortal ministry was complete. By all definitions – Christ was perfect, except for Greek translation – “to reach a distant end, to be fully developed, to consummate, or to finish.”
Read Ether 12:25-27
The Lord, the same one who commands us to be perfect, GIVES us weakness. And through weakness, he can make us strong, he can make us perfect – or rather, complete. When we struggle, we must remember to turn to the Lord.
President Uchdorft gave a talk titled “You Can Do It Now!” in which he relates a story of a time he went skiing with his grandson. He fell and when he attempted to get back up he only fell again. After a few tries he gave up and tried to hide his face in case anyone he knew passed by. Then his grandson came over to him, reached out a hand and said, “You can do it now!” President Uchdorft said near the end of this talk, “You are stronger than you realize. You are more capable than you can imagine. You can do it now!”
I know that this is true for each and every one of you. I know from personal experience, having situations in my life where I felt physically and emotionally incapable of continuing and yet somehow I was able to reach my destination (physical or spiritual – sometimes both). I’ve had young women tell me that they didn’t think they could do something, and I’ve told them time and time again that they are stronger than they think. They will surprise themselves and will have many amazing experiences if they just continue trying.