Perfection (Latter Day Saints)

Perfection (Latter Day Saints)

Latter Day Saints teach that Perfection is a continual process requiring the application of Faith, Works, and Grace in compliance with the admonition of Jesus Christ to:

: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. [Mathew 5:48]

In response to an inquiry on the beliefs of the church, Joseph Smith, Jr. wrote what came to be called the Wentworth Letter, the last section of which was canonized as The Articles of Faith. The third, fourth, and thirteenth articles state the essence of Latter Day Saint belief concerning Faith, Works, and Grace. Although the words 'Grace' and 'Works' do not appear and 'Faith' only appears once, references to the concepts of Faith, Works, and Grace appear throughout the text:

: 3 We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.: 4 We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.: 13 We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

Latter Day Saints believe that Faith, Works, and Grace form a continuous cycle in the journey to Perfection.

Doctrine

The Bible, other Latter Day Saint scriptures, Apostles and Prophets provide clear explanations of the Latter Day Saint doctrines of Faith, Works, Grace and Perfection.

Faith

Latter Day Saints believe:

:…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. [Hebrews 11:1]

:…faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things, therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true. [Alma 32:21]

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, an LDS General authority and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that action or works is an essential element of faith:

:Faith exists when absolute confidence in that which we cannot see combines with action that is in absolute conformity to the will of our Heavenly Father. Without all three—first, absolute confidence; second, action; and third, absolute conformity—without these three all we have is a counterfeit, a weak and watered-down faith. [Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Shall He Find Faith on the Earth?,” Ensign, Nov 2002, 82]

LDS President and prophet Gordon B. Hinckley taught that faith is the foundation of true conversion:

:This precious and marvelous gift of faith, this gift from God our Eternal Father, is still the strength of this work and the quiet vibrancy of its message. Faith underlies it all. Faith is the substance of it all. Whether it be going into the mission field, living the Word of Wisdom, paying one’s tithing, it is all the same. It is the faith within us that is evidenced in all we do.

:I was asked at a news conference on one occasion how we get men to leave their vocations, to leave home, and serve the Church.

:I responded that we simply ask them, and we know what their answer will be.

:What a marvelous and wonderful thing it is, this powerful conviction that says the Church is true. It is God’s holy work. He rules over the things of His kingdom and in the lives of His sons and daughters. This is the reason for the growth of the Church. The strength of this cause and kingdom is not found in its temporal assets, impressive as they may be. It is found in the hearts of its people. That is why it is successful. That is why it is strong and growing. That is why it is able to accomplish the wonderful things that it does. It all comes of the gift of faith, bestowed by the Almighty upon His children who doubt not and fear not, but go forward. [Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Miracle of Faith,” Ensign, May 2001, 67]

Although Latter Day Saints view faith as a gift from God, they also believe that faith can be cultivated. Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

:…a testimony does not burst upon us suddenly. Rather it grows, as Alma said, from a seed of faith. “It will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow”. [Alma 32:30] If you nourish it, it will grow; and if you do not nourish it, it will wither. [Boyd K. Packer, “The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ—Plain and Precious Things,” Ensign, May 2005, 6]

President Packer was referring to the ‘Seed of Faith’ [Alma 32:26–43] sermon, taught, as Latter Day Saints believe, by the prophet Alma in the Book of Mormon. Alma speaks of the need to nourish the seed of faith once it begins to grow:

:And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit. :But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.

:Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof. [Alma 32:37-39]

Latter Day Saints believe that faith is both evidenced and nourished by various kinds of works.

Works

Latter Day Saints believe that Jesus Christ taught:

: And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. [Matthew 25:40]

: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. [Matthew 5:14-16]

Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explains the Latter Day Saint view on works:

:We agree with the Apostle James that “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone,” and we say to all those who make such an accusation, “Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” [James 2:17-18]

:Buttressed by covenants and ordinances, Latter-day Saints observe the law of the fast, pay tithes and offerings, send their children on missions, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” [2 Nephi 25:23]

:As converts mature spiritually, they gain “a reason [for] the hope that is in [them] .” [1 Peter 3:15] The gospel becomes as satisfying to the mind as it is soothing to the heart. We spend our lives learning the things of God. [Boyd K. Packer, “‘The Peaceable Followers of Christ’,” Ensign, Apr 1998, 62]

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, an LDS General authority and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that these essential works must be performed with the correct attitude:

:We are challenged to move through a process of conversion toward that status and condition called eternal life. This is achieved not just by doing what is right, but by doing it for the right reason—for the pure love of Christ. The Apostle Paul illustrated this in his famous teaching about the importance of charity [1 Cor. 13] . The reason charity never fails and the reason charity is greater than even the most significant acts of goodness he cited is that charity, “the pure love of Christ” [Moro. 7:47] , is not an "act" but a "condition" or state of being. Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion. Charity is something one becomes. Thus, as Moroni declared, “except men shall "have" charity they cannot inherit” the place prepared for them in the mansions of the Father [Ether 12:34 emphasis added] . [Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 32]

Although perfection is the ultimate goal, Latter Day Saints believe that it is a gradual, incremental process. LDS President and Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley taught:

:My beloved associates, far more of us need to awake and arouse our faculties to an awareness of the great everlasting truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each of us can do a little better than we have been doing. We can be a little more kind. We can be a little more merciful. We can be a little more forgiving. We can put behind us our weaknesses of the past, and go forth with new energy and increased resolution to improve the world about us, in our homes, in our places of employment, in our social activities.

:We have work to do, you and I, so very much of it. Let us roll up our sleeves and get at it, with a new commitment, putting our trust in the Lord. [Gordon B. Hinckley, “We Have a Work to Do,” Ensign, May 1995, 87]

::Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear; ::But with joy wend your way. ::Though hard to you this journey may appear, ::Grace shall be as your day. [Hymns, 1985, no. 30]

Grace

Latter Day Saints believe that the grace of God is the enabling power that makes the Plan of Salvation work:

: "...Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief." [Mark 9:24]

:“...My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness...” [2 Corinthians 12:9]

Elder David A. Bednar, an LDS General authority and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that Latter Day Saints depend upon the grace of God to give them the strength to do all things the Lord requires:

:I have reflected on the teaching of Paul that “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” [1 Cor. 1:27] . This morning I take great comfort in knowing that I am one of the truly weak things of the world.

:I have pondered the instruction of Jacob as contained in the Book of Mormon:

::“Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.

::“Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things”. [Jacob 4:6–7]

:Brothers and sisters, please pay particular attention to the word grace as it is used in the verse I just read. In the Bible Dictionary we learn that the word grace frequently is used in the scriptures to connote a strengthening or enabling power:

::“The main idea of the word is divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.

::“… It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts”. [LDS Bible Dictionary, p. 697]

:Thus, the enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement helps us to see and to do and to become good in ways that we could never recognize or accomplish with our limited mortal capacity. I testify and witness that the enabling power of the Savior’s Atonement is real. Without that strengthening power of the Atonement, I could not stand before you this morning. [David A. Bednar, “In the Strength of the Lord,” Ensign, Nov 2004, 76]

Perfection

Latter Day Saints view Faith, Works, and Grace as part of a continuing process of "perfection", which they believe Jesus Christ commanded his followers to pursue:

:Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. [Mathew 5:48]

In the original Greek, this sentence starts with the word εσεσθε.which is a verb, meaning ‘will be’ or ‘shall be’, or in other words, ‘become’. The Greek words translated as ‘perfect’ are τελειοι and τελεοις, meaning ‘complete’, ‘finished’ or ‘mature’. [ [http://scripturetext.com/matthew/5-48.htm Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect ] ]

Latter Day Saints take this command to become complete, finished, or perfected very seriously. Elder M. Russell Ballard an LDS General authority and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

:Our works consist of placing our full confidence and trust in Jesus Christ and then exercising our desire and willingness to live by His teachings. We do this by repenting of all our sins and obeying the laws and ordinances of Christ’s gospel. As we do this faithfully over our lifetime, we are sanctified by the Holy Ghost and our nature is changed.

:The scriptures inform us that Jesus grew from “grace to grace” until He received a fulness of the Father’s grace. What I understand that to mean is that He obeyed His Heavenly Father’s will and by so doing He received an increase of our Heavenly Father’s power. Thus He increased in the divine attributes of godliness until He was perfect in virtue and holiness like His Father. Jesus thereby showed us the path of holiness and then promised us: “If you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace” [D&C 93:20] . [M. Russell Ballard, “Building Bridges of Understanding,” Ensign, Jun 1998, 62]

Practice

Works

Latter Day Saints serve in callings that are assigned to them by church leaders through what they believe is revelation. These callings may require from about an hour or two a week up to twenty hours a week for the more demanding callings, such as Bishop. All leadership positions in the church are voluntary, including no salary. Consequently, these leaders maintain full time jobs in addition to their ministerial duties. All men in the church who worthily hold the priesthood are also assigned some number of families that they are to home teach, which typically consists of a monthly visit to each family where a lesson is taught. The home teacher's responsibility is to provide guidance and service to the family, meeting any needs that they might have and acting as a representative of the Bishop and, by extension, the Savior. Any concerns that the home teachers have for their families are communicated back to church leaders. Women are likewise assigned other women that they are to visit and teach.

The Relief Society consists of women of each unit providing comfort to unit members. They provide such services as delivering meals and providing baby sitting services to families after births, hospitalization, deaths, etc. The Relief Society presidency is instrumental in providing food supplies to families in need as part of the Church Welfare Service.

Church classes are typically interactive and concentrate on how LDS members can apply gospel principles to improve their own conduct. Class instructors are expected to teach accepted Gospel principles rather than theory or speculation, and illustrating how such principles can be applied to the daily lives of the class members. ["Teaching No Greater Call" - The Teacher's Divine Commission [http://lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b3bc55cbf541229058520974e44916a0/?vgnextoid=a9832ce2b446c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=df3397a7c1d20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1&contentLocale=0] ] In most cases, the purpose of a lesson is not to teach a new principle, but rather to nourish class members spiritually ["Teaching No Greater Call" - Nourishing the Soul [http://lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b3bc55cbf541229058520974e44916a0/?vgnextoid=a9832ce2b446c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=a42397a7c1d20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1&contentLocale=0] ] and provide examples of how they can apply known principles to our daily lives. ["Teaching No Greater Call" - Helping Others Live What They Learn [http://lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b3bc55cbf541229058520974e44916a0/?vgnextoid=a9832ce2b446c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=f90697a7c1d20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1&contentLocale=0] ]

The LDS Church provides world-wide services through their Humanitarian Services organization. [ [http://www.lds.org/humanitarianservices/0,19749,6208,00.html Humanitarian Services ] ] For example, when Hurricane Katrina was approaching the US coast, the church loaded trucks full of emergency supplies and headed them towards the area expected to be affected. As a result, supplies were available shortly after the hurricane hit. [ [http://www.lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b12f9d18fae655bb69095bd3e44916a0/?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=eb2478de9441c010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1] [http://www.lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b12f9d18fae655bb69095bd3e44916a0/?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=47571f4b23fae010VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1] ] Such supplies are typically available to LDS members and non-members alike. [ [http://lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b12f9d18fae655bb69095bd3e44916a0/?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=8918e2270ed6c010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1 "Tender Hearts and Helping Hands"] by David Burton (Presiding Bishop). May 2006 "Ensign".]

References


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