Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Today


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As gospel doctrine teacher where I attend church, I have been expounding on the Old Testament and now recently the New Testament over the last year or two in Sunday School and striving to build upon a certain theme, continually helping those who attend to aggregate information line upon line and precept upon precept using figures like Noah, Job, and others to shed light on what I probably consider not only the most important saying of Jesus Christ, but also a commandment: to be perfect without delay. This has involved teaching repetitively two concepts: idolatry and repentance. The Old Testament provided a plethora of examples to illustrate both.

In my lifetime, I have heard so many friends say that it’s impossible to be perfect in this life. But what they really mean is it’s impossible to be flawless. The way most people use the word perfect, they really mean to say without fault. And yet we readily use the word perfect to describe a sunny day, an article of clothing, or even a gift. We throw the word around with hyperbolic flair all the time: “It’s perfect!”

Jesus Christ used this word differently when He summarized a powerful sermon: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).” After His resurrection, He visited the people in the Book of Mormon and taught them essentially the same sermon and summarized it with a small difference: “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect (3 Nephi 12:48).” Therefore many Latter-day Saints believe they will only be able to become perfect after they resurrect because of this modification and so this important sermon then gets pushed into the proverbial back burner to be given little to no more thought.

The New Testament’s usage of the word perfect was translated from the Greek word teleios which means complete and refers to a person’s integrity and maturity. The Old Testament’s usage of perfect was translated from the Hebrew word tam which means complete and also blameless. Consider the following scripture:

Job 1:8 And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?

God describes Job in no uncertain terms: perfect, upright, etc. How could he have been the only one on Earth to be so highly regarded? Where were the patriarchs? Did Job live after Abraham? He did not have a covenant like Noah, Abraham, or Moses did. He was not under a law like the Israelites were. He was a random guy in the Old Testament from the land of Uz and yet God said he was perfect and God is not a liar. Because of Job and others in the scriptures that were considered perfect, blameless, etc, it is reasonable to conclude that any of us can be perfect in this life, too. And because Job was perfect, he had Satan’s and God’s attention. This resulted in Job not only suffering greatly because of Satan, but he was also given a personal tour of the universe by God, and more importantly developing a personal relationship with God.

I would like to postulate the following: They who are perfect in God’s eyes are they who have reached the full degree of development that God expects of them at any given time. And as they grow in the light and as their understanding increases, so does His expectation of their degree of development. Where much is given, much is required! Are we doing everything to our best ability that we understand God expects of us? We will not be able to claim ignorance while our scriptures collect dust on our shelves either. The following image is an oversimplified bar graph of Job’s development with relation to God’s expectation:

In the New Testament, a certain young ruler who was rich approached Jesus Christ, calling Him Good Master, and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus essentially told him that he needed to keep all the commandments to which the young man said he had done from his youth up to that point. Jesus told him that he yet lacked one thing: “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me (Matthew 19:21).” If this young man had done so, he would have become perfect as Jesus declared or in other words, complete and blameless and no doubt Jesus would have taught him more things and expected more things of him. Instead the young man went away sorrowful because his heart was set upon his worldly treasures. A crude bar graph of his life would look something like the following:

He was so close yet so far! He had knelt before Jesus and Jesus had loved him, but did this young ruler really believe that Jesus was the Son of God or did he consider Jesus to be just another rabbi? So Jesus challenged him asking why he called Him good. Likewise, do we really believe Jesus Christ’s sayings? Do we really believe that He expects us to be meek, to refrain from being angry with a brother, to be reconciled with others before we bring our offerings to the altar and all the other things He commanded us to be and do in His sermon? Was His injunction to “be ye therefore perfect” just an arbitrary suggestion or is it a very real and paramount expectation? What would a bar graph look like for any of us today?

Are we slothful in our discipleship? Are we striving to learn everything that proceeded from Jesus Christ’s mouth and to do all that He said to do and to become all that He said to become? Are we aligning ourselves with ALL that we understand that God expects of us? If we are not aligned with Him, we will inevitably stray off the straight and narrow path. We must be oriented toward Him alone. To deviate from this path is to miss the mark. The Hebrew word for this is hata which means to stray or miss the mark. The English translation of this is to sin. How do we not sin? How do we ensure that we do not miss the mark or stray from the path? He gave the Nephites slightly different words than He did the Jews who needed to be more righteous than the Pharisees. In His sermon to the Nephites, He added:

3 Nephi 12:19 And behold, I have given you the law and the commandments of my Father, that ye shall believe in me, and that ye shall repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Behold, ye have the commandments before you, and the law is fulfilled.

20 Therefore come unto me and be ye saved; for verily I say unto you, that except ye shall keep my commandments, which I have commanded you at this time, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

The “Sermon” wasn’t a set of suggestions. We are commanded to obey it. God expects us to become perfect and we can do that right now according to our best understanding. But we must do everything that we believe in our hearts that Jesus Christ would do in our place and not do anything that we believe in our hearts that Jesus would not do if He were in our place. Whatever your understanding is right now of loving your enemies, you are expected to live by it and as your understanding of it grows, so should your actions match it and so on with all the sayings, teachings, and commandments. As you learn line upon line, precept upon precept, you must live accordingly to remain perfect from day to day. Of course we know that Jesus Christ was perfect throughout His mortal life and the standard by which we must strive to live. He lived up to everything that He knew His Father in heaven expected of Him, thus He was sinless. And when He resurrected, His perfection was enlarged as He was glorified which is why He told the people in the Book of Mormon to be perfect as He also was perfect.

The more light and truth that we accumulate and live up to, the more like Jesus we become and this should be our focus. He is the light. He is the truth. Conversely, like that rich young man who preferred his riches and to go no further, but instead turned around, whenever we decide that we have had enough light and desire no more understanding, by halting our growth, we damn ourselves. This by definition is damnation. Like flowing water that becomes stopped, we simply stagnate and eventually dry up. This is spiritual death. Don’t be like that rich young man. Take inventory of all that you know you should do and be. Then begin living up to it today. If you’re not sure how Jesus would conduct Himself or what you should work on first, prayerfully ask the Lord, “what lack I yet?” Whatever inspiration the Lord gives you, work on that. You probably already know what you should be doing (or not doing) right now. Then work on the next thing. Take it one step at a time, incrementally, line upon line, precept upon precept. We become in spirit what we do in the flesh. Strive to become perfect today.

The Man Dressed In A White Robe


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For ten years I have had discussions with many different people about the man “dressed in a white robe” in Lehi’s vision recorded in 1 Nephi chapter 8. Some firmly believe that he was an angel or a true messenger from the Lord. Others believe that he was just a man. Lehi chose to follow this man and ended up walking through darkness for many hours until he finally decided to pray to God for help. What do we know of this man? We know only two things:

1. He was a man.
2. He was dressed in a white robe.

Lehi’s vision initially placed him in a dark and dreary wilderness. After he decided to follow this man, he discovered that he had been led into a dark and dreary waste and there is no more mention of this man. Finally after many hours of traveling in the darkness, he prayed for mercy. It wasn’t until after he prayed that he beheld an enormous field with a very special tree in the field whose fruit was “desirable to make one happy.”

But this was not Lehi’s first vision. In the very first few verses of the very first chapter of the Book of Mormon we read about Lehi’s vision where he sees God sitting on His throne and then he sees One descending whose “luster was above that of the sun at noon-day..” Then twelve others follow Him and “and their brightness did exceed that of the stars in the firmament.”

But the man who asked Lehi to follow him in his second vision of the tree of life had no glory or brightness to speak of, yet Lehi chose to follow him. The most elect of God’s people are also willing to and readily follow men who dress in white without question just as Lehi followed this man who had no glory or brightness. There is no shortage of men (and women) in this world who desire that anyone and everyone follow them with mottos and promises of rewards. There are many gospels of success and prosperity for the right price. Satan himself may be transformed as an angel of light ready to deceive anybody willing to pay attention. Korihor was deceived by Satan who had appeared to him in the form of an angel. In the Pearl of Great Price, however, when Satan appeared to Moses in chapter one, Moses could tell that he had no glory to speak of, unlike God who had just spoken to him while His glory was upon Moses, so Moses could discern the difference and had the presence of mind to reject Satan.

Some readers of the Book of Mormon might think it should have been important enough to God to make this man dressed in white identifiable (Nephi in another vision identified a different man in a white robe as John but this is another discussion). But I consider the anonymity of the man dressed in a white robe in Lehi’s vision an important feature and not a fault of the vision and its intended message. We must learn by sad experience never to trust in the arm of flesh as one Old Testament Prophet did which resulted in his tragic death. Sometimes such a lack of discernment can be fatal. Oftentimes it leads to bruised egos and also humbled hearts as with Lehi who had become lost in a dark and dreary waste.

Most believers have a shallow understanding of the scriptures and the powerful lessons they teach. We are given those lessons so that we may be wiser than they were and not make the same mistakes that they did. One of the most important lessons is to trust your own connection to God. Trust the Holy Ghost which you should have received if you were baptized.

D&C 45:56 And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins.

57 For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day.

If you do not have more than a superficial understanding of the scriptures or the breadth and depth of knowledge and wisdom which they impart, it is incumbent upon you to study them in order to know how Satan operates in all his subtlety. But more importantly, studying and pondering them deeply and doing what God has taught and commanded brings you in harmony with Him. And if you are attuned to His voice, you will know when any man dressed in white, though well intentioned he might be, is leading you–whether naively or deliberately–from the dark wilderness you now occupy into a dark waste.

Two Masters

We live in a world where the vast majority of us operate our lives in shades of gray. We relate to one another more easily in this vast Telestial and dreary sphere. Very few, if any, operate at the opposite ends of the spectrum being either black or white or in other words, utter darkness or glorious light. If you ever run into one of these two, your instinct would very soon impel you to turn around and avoid such a person. Very few would be drawn to such an individual. One such person who existed on the light end of this scale was Jesus Christ. During His mortal life, He said:

Matthew 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

There was no room in between. You were expected to drop what you were doing and never look back if you wanted to follow Him. This is why people either loved or hated Jesus Christ. Our world is full of of all kinds of permissiveness and it extends well into the lives of all who claim to follow Him. In a world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, people permit varying degrees of pornography, graphic violence, and other vices into their homes and thus into their hearts. Furthermore, idleness and idolatry in all its colors permeate the very spaces that should be most closely guarded. We live in an age where all this information is instantly accessible by the touch and swipe of a finger.

If Jesus Christ or any such individual who operates solely in the white came into your life, he would seem weird to you. You would not want to spend very much time around him if at all. He would not care to indulge in all the things that you consider enjoyable or relaxing. Conversations with such a person would be very brief; your eyes might even glaze over. You would ultimately become bored of such a friendship and you really wouldn’t want to be around him.

We should spend our lives tirelessly pushing toward the light and striving to push all the filthy gray behind us. If you ever make friends with a person or people striving to cling only to the light and to avoid all the shades of gray, do yourself and that person a favor and cling tightly to that friendship and strive together. It is all too easy to find those who are drawn to the dark end of the scale and desire to partake in its filthy blackness. This leads to death.

The Drunkards of Ephraim

There are four “woe” chapters in Isaiah (28-31) representative of a covenant curse. Obedience to God’s commandments brings covenant blessings while disobedience brings covenant curses. In chapter twenty-eight, Isaiah addresses Ephraim:

Isaiah 28:1 Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine!
2 Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand.
3 The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet:
4 And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up.

Isaiah addresses the heads of Ephraim crowned with pride yet refers to them as fat valleys, or in other words, rich and low. They are drunk with wine, or in other words, intoxicated with their own sense of pride, power, and glory. But they will reap destruction. Isaiah can always be read as a historical record as Ephraim was indeed destroyed along with the entire northern kingdom, but it can also be read allegorically and prophetically. Because human nature is the same in every generation and every civilization, we can expect the same to happen with Ephraim in the last days. Ephraim’s father was Joseph who was sold into Egypt who married Asenath an Egyptian woman. So Ephraim was half Hebrew and half Egyptian. Jews always seemed to have familial and economical ties with Egypt, a superpower in its day and its influence no doubt is seen in Lehi’s life as well as Nephi whose name’s etymology is Egyptian.

“The Prophet Joseph Smith informed us that the record of Lehi was contained on the one hundred sixteen pages that were first translated and subsequently stolen, and of which an abridgment is given us in the First Book of Nephi, which is the record of Nephi individually, he himself being of the lineage of Manasseh; but that Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim, and that his sons married into Lehi’s family, and Lehi’s sons married Ishmael’s daughters, thus fulfilling the words of Jacob upon Ephraim and Manasseh in the 48th chapter of Genesis [verse 16] which says: ‘And let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.’ Thus these descendants of Manasseh and Ephraim grew together upon this American continent, with a sprinkling from the house of Judah, from Mulek descended, who left Jerusalem eleven years after Lehi, and founded the colony afterwards known as Zarahemla found by Mosiah — thus making a combination, an intermixture of Ephraim and Manasseh with the remnants of Judah, and for aught we know, the remnants of some other tribes that might have accompanied Mulek. And such have grown up upon the American continent.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 23, pp. 184, 185)

So why do I bring up Lehi? Well, I sometimes tend to go off on tangents and this is one of them, although it’s all connected. But if we liken Isaiah’s words concerning Ephraim to ourselves, what does his ties with Egypt have to do with us? Egypt and America fit the same superpower archetype. I like how Avraham Gileadi described the matter:

“It would be inconsistent with a God who communicates his will to his children if the endtime revelations he gave through his prophets didn’t specifically mention America, the superpower of the world today. In fact, America features prominently in Isaiah’s prophecy under another name.

That name—a codename belonging to the great superpower of Isaiah’s day—is Egypt. Having seen the end from the beginning, Isaiah synchronized the things he chose to write about ancient Egypt so they would match endtime America, one nation being the mirror image of the other.

Like Egypt, America reaches a peak of prosperity, then experiences sudden decline. Nations who rely on America’s military for protection against an endtime Assyrian alliance, are disappointed as America descends into anarchy and a harsh taskmaster takes over the reins of government:

Isaiah 31:1
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
     relying on horses,
putting their trust in immense numbers
     of chariots and vast forces of horsemen,
but who do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
     nor inquire of Jehovah!

Isaiah 19:2
I will stir up the Egyptians against the Egyptians;
     they will fight brother against brother
and neighbor against neighbor,
     city against city and state against state.

Isaiah 19:3
Egypt’s spirit shall be drained from within;
     I will frustrate their plans,
and they will resort to the idols and to spiritists,
     to mediums and witchcraft.

Isaiah 19:4
Then will I deliver the Egyptians
     into the handof a cruel master;
a harsh ruler will subject them,
     says the Lord, Jehovah of Hosts.

Because of the people’s wickedness, idolatries, and abominations, plagues and natural disasters desolate America and its economy collapses. Its heads of state in the political capital consider themselves as wise as the founding fathers but they make a total mess of the nation’s affairs:

Isaiah 19:5–6
The waters of the lakes shall ebb away
     as stream beds become desolate and dry.
The rivers shall turn foul,
     and Egypt’s waterways recede and dry up.

Isaiah 19:9–10
Manufacturers of combed linen
     and weavers of fine fabrics will be dismayed.
The textile workers will know despair,
     and all who work for wages suffer distress.

Isaiah 19:13–15
The ministers of Zoan have been foolish,
     the officials of Noph deluded;
     the heads of state have led Egypt astray.
Jehovah has permeated them
     with a spirit of confusion;
they have misled Egypt in all that it does,
     causing it to stagger like a drunkard into his vomit.
And there will be nothing the Egyptians can do about it.”

We see this happening today. But what about Ephraim? Most Latter-day Saints are grafted into that great tree through Ephraim. In another blog, I quoted the following scripture:

Isaiah 2:2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

I also posed the following question:

Could one replace Judah with Ephraim and Jerusalem with Salt Lake City? Is there another candidate for the Lord’s covenant people in the latter days if not Judah? Who else sang joyfully, “O Babylon, O Babylon, we bid thee farewell. We’re going to the mountains of Ephraim to dwell?” (LDS Hymns, Ye Elders of Israel, p. 319).

And yet Brigham Young lamented how much the saints had brought Babylon with them:

Have we separated ourselves from the nations? Yes. And what else have we done?… Have we not brought Babylon with us? Are we not promoting Babylon here in our midst? Are we not fostering the spirit of Babylon that is now abroad on the face of the whole earth?… Yes, yes, to some extent, and there is not a Latter-day Saint but what feels that we have too much of Babylon in our midst.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 17, p. 38).

Brigham Young also declared:

I am more afraid of covetousness in our elders than I am of the hordes of hell. Have we men out now of that class? I believe so. I am afraid of such spirits; for they are more powerful and injurious to this people than all hell outside our borders. All of her enemies in the United States or in the world and all hell with them marshaled against us to not do us the injury that covetousness in the hearts of this people to do us; For it is idolatry. (Journal of Discourses, vol. 12, p. 269).

Before him, Joseph exclaimed the following at Far West:

Brethren, we are gathering to this beautiful land to build up Zion…But since I have been here I perceive the spirit of selfishness, covetousness exists in the hearts of the saints…Here are those who begin to spread out, buying up all the land they are able to do…thinking to lay foundations for themselves only, looking to their own individual families…Now I want to tell you that Zion cannot be built up in any such way…I see signs put out, beer signs, speculative schemes are being introduced. This is the ways of the world—Babylon indeed, and I tell you in the name of the God of Israel, if there is not repentance…you will be broken up and scattered from this choice land. (Edward Stevenson, Life and History of Elder Edward Stevenson, p. 40-41).

The saints indeed were broken up and scattered. The Lord gave them an opportunity to build Zion, but they built up foundations of commerce for themselves instead. They served Mammon rather than God. Hugh Nibley expounded further:

“Elders of Israel are greedy after the things of this world. If you ask them if they are ready to build up the kingdom of God, their answer is prompt–”Why, to be sure we are, with our whole souls; but we want first to get so much gold, speculate and get rich, and then we can help the church considerably. We will go to California and get gold, go and buy goods and get rich, trade with the emigrants, build a mill, make a farm, get a large herd of cattle, and then we can do a great deal for Israel.

I have heard this many times from friends and relatives, but it is hokum. What they are saying is, “If God will give me a million dollars, I will let him have a generous cut of it.” And so they pray and speculate and expect the Lord to come through for them. He won’t do it: “And again, I command thee that thou shalt not covet thine own property” (D&C 19:26). “Let them repent of all their sins, and of all their covetous desires, before me, saith the Lord; for what is property unto me? saith the Lord” (D&C 117:4). He does not need our property or our help.

Every rhetorician knows that his most effective weapons by far are labels. He can demolish the opposition with simple and devastating labels such as communism, socialism, or atheism, popery, militarism, or Mormonism, or give his clients’ worst crimes a religious glow with noble labels such as integrity, old-fashioned honesty, tough-mindedness, or free competitive enterprise. “You can get away with anything if you just wave the flag,” a business partner of my father once told me. He called that patriotism. But the label game reaches its all-time peak of skill and effrontery in the Madison Avenue master stroke of pasting the lovely label of Zion on all the most typical institutions of Babylon: Zion’s Loans, Zion’s Real Estate, Zion’s Used Cars, Zion’s Jewelry, Zion’s Supermart, Zion’s Auto Wrecking, Zion’s Outdoor Advertising, Zion’s Gunshop, Zion’s Land and Mining, Zion’s Development, Zion’s Securities–all that is quintessentially Babylon now masquerades as Zion.”

The drunkards of Ephraim in the last days are on course to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy. They pretend to build up Zion by waving the flag, but they prop up Babylon instead.