We live in the age where everyone’s life is perfect. Or at least it looks that way. From the photos of models to the pictures on social media, everything and everyone life, dog, and family look flawless. Sometimes it even feels like everyone at church is perfect. They have amazing spouses, faithful children, and awesome testimonies. It makes those of us who don’t have a perfect life feel like we don’t belong.
This past month I was visiting a ward in rural Utah and in the testimony meeting a lady stood up and said, “I don’t belong here, my life is not perfect. My children are not returned missionaries married in the temple…” She then started to weep, and continued, “My children are currently in jail. I don’t belong here.” I’ve thought a lot about this testimony over the past couple weeks. And how the strive for perfection causes many to feel unwelcome, and that they don’t belong.
The problem does not come with people striving to become better. It comes from a cultural belief that if your life is not perfect, then you are a bad Mormon. Mormon culture says things like: If your kids go less active, you are a bad Mormon. If your child struggles with same-gender attraction, then you are a bad Mormon. Or if all of your kids do not serve full-time missions and get married in the temple you are a bad Mormon.
Here is a simple truth. Anyone can live up to gospel standards. No one can live up to the cultural standards. Even God the Father would be considered a “bad Mormon” according to the culture, after all, He did not have one child go less active, but an entire third.
There is a big difference between the Gospel as taught by Jesus Christ and His Prophets and Apostles and the culture. Here are just three examples.
Being Perfect Vs Being Complete
Whereas culture says, “fake it till you make it” or “if you are not perfect, you are not living the Gospel<” Jesus Christ taught, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48.
Two things must be noticed about this command. First, the meaning of the word perfect that Jesus Christ used was not “Flawless, without error, and never making a mistake” the footnote clarifies being “perfect” as being “complete, finished, fully developed.” (Footnote 48 b perfect).
Second, and far more important is what happens when we look the same sermon given a few years later to the Nephites, when Jesus Christ says, “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” 3rd Nephi 12:48
After Christ was resurrected, He was complete, finished, and fully developed. Only with an immortal and glorified body did He declare become like Me or Heavenly Father. The command to be perfect is misunderstood if we think it means to be perfect now. The command is better understood as an invite and a challenge. Develop faith in Jesus Christ, repent, enter the waters of baptism, receive the Holy Ghost and endure to the end. Then your reward will be exaltation and eternal lives, or in other words, being complete, finished, and fully developed.