Imagine that you are asked to run two miles. You are told that by the end of the journey you will feel accomplished and better than you have ever felt before. As you approach the end of the second mile, bystanders start cheering you on, clapping excitedly, and tell you that you only have three miles to go. At the end of what has now become a five-mile journey, the crowds persist and continue to cheer you on and encourage you to keep going. Exhausted, tired, and unable to see the finish line, you keep going, hoping that whatever it is you are running to will be worth the effort.
What if there was a commandment that neither you nor I would be able to “attain” or be perfectly obedient to? We could never actually reach the finish line – at least in this life. This commandment even changes depending on our relationship with the Savior and our sensitivity to the Holy Ghost. Society and even our bishop couldn’t say if we are, or aren’t obeying this commandment.
Sounds like a riddle, right? Well, it’s a commandment that the Master himself taught his disciples during the Sermon on the Mount:
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
I am a very goal oriented, analytical individual and this is probably one of the hardest commandments for me to keep. Most of the commandments are straightforward and easy to understand. They are either obeyed or disobeyed. Honor thy father and mother. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Thou shalt not steal. Generally, I know at any given time if I am being obedient or disobedient to any commandment given in the scriptures or by modern day prophets. Not this one.
If I start reading my scriptures once a week, I will feel the spirit more, and the Holy Ghost will tell me to read everyday. If I read the scriptures every day, I might feel prompted to go to the temple once a month. If I go to the temple once a month, I might be inspired to become an ordinance worker in the temple. My goal for perfection becomes a moving target, and a never-ending race as I continue improve my spirituality.
How can you and I ever feel we are doing as the Lord has commanded?
I am often comforted by the idea of “striving” for perfection is what the Lord really asks of us. The eternal pursuit of trying to be perfect is what we are commanded to do. I wonder how different things would be if, when instructing his Apostles in his sermon would have merely commanded, “Be ye therefore kind of good.” or “Try to give this earth life thing your best shot.” Jesus set the standard at the same level of our perfect Father in Heaven, so that people like you and I always strive to improve our relationships with others, and His son Jesus Christ. I believe He intentionally set the bar on this commandment very high so that we would continually push ourselves, and each other, to do our very best.
In an October 1995 General Conference talk titled, “Perfection Pending“, Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “We all need to remember: men are that they might have joy—not guilt trips!” If you feel inadequate, like myself and thousands of other Latter-day Saints around the world, because you are only reading your scriptures once a week, try to read your scriptures more frequently, then rest assured that the Lord knows the destination. Our Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to be happy, and thinks we’re perfect, no matter where we are on our path to perfection. He is running along our side, cheering us on, and in the process, helping us become perfect – even as He is.
In that same talk , Elder Nelson later says, “Mortal perfection can be achieved as we try to perform every duty, keep every law, and strive to be as perfect in our sphere as our Heavenly Father is in his. If we do the best we can, the Lord will bless us according to our deeds and the desires of our hearts.” It is my testimony that as we strive for perfection, we will be perfected in and through Him and will be able to experience joy through our mortal journey on earth.