Be Ye Perfect

April 12, 2011 | 70 comments
By

SunlightThe gospel instructs us in a certain way of being imperfect. Here, salvation turns on practicing what Elizabeth Bishop calls “the art of losing.”

Jesus famously describes this art of losing in Matthew 5:48. “Be ye therefore perfect,” he says, “even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Here, the term “perfection” indexes that “certain way” that is peculiar to both Jesus and the Father.

The baseline meaning of perfection, of teleios, is completion. But what kind of completion? My suggestion is that, rather than burying Jesus’ teleios beneath layers of curdled metaphysics and ripe fantasy, we ought to simply read the preceding verses in which Jesus tells us exactly what kind of perfection or completion he has in mind.

Here are the preceding verses:

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.

41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

If you want to be “perfect” – not in the abstract, not as some shiny, stainless steel composite of John Keats, Brad Pitt, Albert Einstein, and Gordon B. Hinckley, but as the Father is perfect – then you must be complete in the same way that the Father is complete.

The Father is “complete” because he is not “partial.”

To be like him, you must love completely. You must love not just your friends but even (especially) your enemies. You must love not just the just but the unjust. You must make your sun shine on all. You must make your skies rain on everyone.

Perfection consists in being im/partial. It is equanimity.

This is the gospel: be impartial in your love by greeting whatever comes, good or bad, friend or enemy, with the same care, attention, and compassion.

Thus, verse 44 commands: “Love your enemies.” If something bad or evil or offensive comes your way, you must greet it, as would your Father, with selfless care, attention and compassion.

Verse 28 addresses a similar situation, except from the other end of the spectrum: “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The advice is the same. If something good or beautiful or desirable comes your way, you must also greet it, as would your Father, with the same selfless care, attention and compassion.

You must greet both the good and the bad with the same im/partial care, attention, and compassion.

If you do not greet the bad and offensive with impartial care, then anger or hatred results and you are a fool. If you do not greet the good and desirable with that same impartial care, then greed or lust results and you are an adulterer.

Either way, veering from this “perfection,” we fall off into the mire of sin. Greed and hatred take us to the same place.

What interests me most, though, is one additional question we might ask: in light of this sermon, how ought I to greet my own evil and imperfection?

The answer is the same. I am commanded to greet my own imperfection as I would any other imperfection: with care, attention, and compassion. That is, I am commanded to greet my own imperfection with the same impartiality/completion/perfection.

In what way is the Father perfect? He greets all perfection and imperfection the same way. I must do the same. And doubly so when it comes to greeting my own imperfection.

Righteousness arises in my perfect greeting of my imperfection, not in my obliteration of it.

The gospel reveals this certain way, this divine way, of greeting (and being) imperfection.

The gospel is the practice of this art.

70 Responses to Be Ye Perfect

  1. Brad on April 12, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Splendid sermon, Adam. I think the injunctions regarding teleios dovetail in key ways with the early Christian emphasis on charis, the etymological root of our “charity” which translates roughly as grace, kindness, or generosity. An act of grace, of real generosity, is one which transcends boundaries drawn by justice. It comprises acts of kindness above and beyond what the recipient has earned or deserves. It is sunshine not just on the just but on the unjust, love toward not just friends but enemies. An act of mercy is, by definition, extended toward one who does not deserve it. Were it deserved, it would merely be an act of justice. But such justice, as Christ reminds us, is easy. Even the scribes and pharisees do that. And Benjamin completes the circle by insisting that none of us deserves even the most basic gifts God gives, the air we breathe, the sustenance of our very lives. Not one of us deserves God’s love. And yet we all receive it, because of His perfection. We are to treat all with the charitable, patient, compassionate, merciful, undeserved equanimity which we instinctively extend toward ourselves, because deep down we know we are unprofitable servants with no binding claim on the loving gifts of God. This is the mysterious key to the gospel, which Benjamin reveals when he teaches us, against our better logical judgment, that if we just constantly remember our own wretched nothingness before God, we shall forever rejoice.

  2. Adam Miller on April 12, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Nice, Brad. The gospel: grace/nothingness.

  3. nat kelly on April 12, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    “Righteousness arises in my perfect greeting of my imperfection, not in my obliteration of it.”

    Beautifully said.

    I’ve heard the teleois thing analyzed to death so often that I almost stopped reading when I saw it, but I think you took it in a really meaningful and new direction. I love your perspective here. I’ve never noticed the message of moderation in the sermon on the mount. Very nice.

  4. Thomas Parkin on April 12, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    I take what you’ve said well, and think you are right, so far as it goes. But I think that finally it underestimates the ‘fulness of the Father’, which subsumes and transcends any individual principle, even one as fine as the one you’ve described.

  5. iguacufalls on April 12, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    my favorite word in English is “integrity” because it has so many layers of meaning. Coming as it does from the same root as “integer” (whole), it implies that a person with integrity is a whole, or complete person.

    Another meaning is taking the root words at face value — “in-”(not) + “tangere” (to touch) – meaning that someone who is complete is “untouched”, or “unbroken”. I like to think of this in terms of the atonement, where through Christ we can become untouched by sin, unbroken and whole, which in turn makes us perfect. To me, at least, this fits perfectly with the concept of teleios. Thanks for your insight

  6. Jax on April 13, 2011 at 7:12 am

    Like Thomas, I liked the post but think it falls short somehow. This sentence just doesn’t feel right,

    “Righteousness arises in my perfect greeting of my imperfection, not in my obliteration of it.”

    I’m not sure if you’re saying that we can be perfect by just being content/happy/loving/understanding of our sins – if because I love myself anyway I don’t have to “obliterate”, or overcome, my sins and shortcomings.

  7. Adam Miller on April 13, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Jax, good question. I’m saying that evil – whether my own or other’s – isn’t overcome by obliterating it. It’s “overcome” by greeting it, as Jesus suggests, with impartial care, attention, and compassion. I’m also suggesting that not all imperfections are “sins” that need to be (or can be) obliterated or overcome.

  8. Jax on April 13, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Adam,

    What then do you make of this Joseph Smith quote,

    “Such characters [traitors] God hates; we
    cannot love them. The world hates them, and we
    sometimes think that the devil ought to be
    ashamed of them…. Such characters God hates.”

    Are we to greet these people with open arms and welcome them into our company and society of Saints? Because that is what this sentence suggests:

    “This is the gospel: be impartial in your love by greeting whatever comes, good or bad, friend or enemy, with the same care, attention, and compassion.”

    I agree with the principle to love your enemy and pray for them, but I like the way that Brigham Young talked about it:

    “Let us love one another, and love God
    supremely. It is written, “Love your enemies.”
    Brother Erastus Snow was going to correct Paul
    for trying to excuse himself. I do not think the
    term was any more misapplied than when the
    Apostles wrote, “Love your enemies;” for I do
    not believe a word of that. “Love your enemies!”
    What, love hell? When people do that, they get
    where devils are. If it had been written, “Love
    the spirits God has placed in tabernacles, and try
    to reclaim them and do them good, and pray for
    those who despitefully use you,” I would feed
    and clothe them, take peculiar care of them, and
    place them where they would not hurt anybody.
    You may think that I am disputing the Bible. If
    you understood what the Lord means when he
    talks about loving his children, you would
    understand that he does not love them as they are
    now; for he hates and is angry with the wicked.
    He dislikes their wicked acts, but he loves his
    children, because he has organized them, and he
    wishes to see them obedient.”

    What are your thoughts?

  9. Jax on April 13, 2011 at 9:50 am

    More BY that I’d like your thoughts on Adam,

    I do wishthat you would let them alone severely. If we do
    anything we will pray for them, instead of giving
    them for naught our time, our energies, our gold
    and silver, our grain and the good things the Lord
    has given us for our individual and mutual
    benefit. Pray for them; but let them alone, unless
    they are willing to hear the truth.

  10. really? on April 13, 2011 at 10:14 am

    @ Jax Glad you are finding away to justify your hate, Jax . . . You mean, those traitors like who? Clearly we should just bomb them. Love doesn’t work. Christ hung with “bad” people to help them, that’s different, clearly, then supporting their views/actions – but your actually suggesting we hate them? Wow . . . you need a much stronger case than some BY quotes.

  11. really? on April 13, 2011 at 10:18 am

    God’s is allowed to “hate” all he wants, but YOU? That’s not the command.

  12. Adam Miller on April 13, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I suppose my short answer is that Jesus did not mean “like” when he said “love” and he did not mean “enable” when he said “help.”

  13. Sonny on April 13, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Excellent post, Adam. Thank you.

  14. larryco_ on April 13, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

    33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moroni 10)

    I believe this is the best explanation of how we are to become “perfect”.

  15. Adam Miller on April 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Larry, this is a nice explanation. But I think Matthew 5 is much better on the “how” of how one comes to Christ and denies oneself of all ungodliness.

  16. larryco_ on April 13, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    Adam:

    Agreed. I have found that latter-day saints typically approach the concept of “perfection” one of two ways: Either they become overwhelmed at trying to “make themselves” perfect, or they blow off the concept completely, figuring that it’s something for the afterlife. Both approaches miss the point. The fact is, we are COMMANDED to become perfect (notice the JST comment at the bottom of the LDS scriptures at Matt 5).

    I think one can follow the path begun in Matthew 5, proceed to the intercessory prayer of Jesus recorded in John on the need to become “one” with the Father and the Son (as well as the role of the Holy Ghost), and conclude at the end of Moroni 10 mentioned above. This way we learn that perfection is in Christ; that it is not in flawlessness of behavior but sincerity of heart that we become perfect.

  17. Howard on April 13, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Great post Adam! Interesting thread.

  18. Geoff-A on April 14, 2011 at 1:02 am

    Great post Adam, However my interpretation is slightly different. Background – Christ was always perfect but he continued to grow. There is negative perfection where we repent and are then perfect until we do something wrong- and there is the positive perfection which is covered by the beattitudes.

    So to me v48 says choose to be negatively perfect and then add on the positive perfection that will make you a celestial being.

    So we can all be negative perfect by applying the atonement – repenting and then choosing not to do wrong- and then use the rest of our life to develop the positive perfection.

    Think how different you outlook would be if you got up in the morning believing you were perfect, and just had to remain that way, and improve the quality of your perfection.

    In the lesson on Matt5 earlier in the year our teacher said of course no one can expect to become perfect during this life. I said my wife and I are both perfect, and explained about repentance and negative and positive. Stopped him in his tracks.

  19. Jax on April 14, 2011 at 3:54 am

    @Really?

    No I wasn’t suggesting we ‘hate’ anyone. that was the word BY used. I was asking what Adam meant by the word ‘greet?’ How did he suggest that we greet people who fall under JS’s and BY’s descriptions?

    Or since the “love your enemies” scripture was used, let me ask (in seriousness, not derisively) how to mesh that with these scriptures:

    2 Tim 3:1-7 Lists all kinds of sins existing in the
    “last days.” Among the list are: men shall be
    lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters,
    proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents,
    unthankful, unholy, without natural affection,
    trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent,
    fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors,
    heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more
    than lovers of God; having a form of godliness,
    but denying the power thereof. And the given
    counsel is: from such turn away. Doesn’t sound very “greeting”

    2 Thess 3:6 Members are commanded to
    “withdraw yourselves from every brother
    that walketh disorderly, and not after the
    tradition which he received of us.”

    I’m asking in all seriousness how to go about greeting and loving those who evil and the command to turn away from them, from all unrighteousness? We’ve been given a perfect to judge (Moroni 7) between them, so where is the line in action toward them?

    Thanks for jumping on the He-must-hate-everyone-and-want-them-dead assumption though. I appreciate it. I suppose if BY quotes hold no weight though, then maybe I’m confused and thought that this was a forum of people who sustained him as a prophet. Am I wrong?

    @ Geoff

    I liked your input in the perfection part of the discussion – that perfection includes the covering of the atonement for follies and weaknesses that I/we are still in the process of making strengths, and that the term doesn’t only apply to those who have already overcome all of theirs. Thanks.

  20. Dave on April 14, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Very nice post, Adam. I like tying Matt 5:48 in with the preceding verses, rather than quoting it as a single verse implying a moral duty to achieve perfection in this life. Turning the other cheek or kicking in an extra cloak is not easy, but we can rise (descend?) to that level.

  21. Sonny on April 14, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    @Jax,

    Do you actually believe that if Really, or anyone else, is unsure of the exact intended meaning of a 150 year old quote from Brigham Young that means we can conclude that he is not sustained as a prophet? Is every extant quote made by a GA, especially one made so long ago, completely what the speaker intended to say, or not in any way subject to another interpretation?

    Actually, you don’t have to answer that because it will take us off the topic completely. However, I in sincerity suggest that you don’t imply someone does not sustain a leader just because a certain quote is called into question in some way.

  22. Jax on April 14, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Sonny,

    I’d be happy to answer. Really? said that I need stronger case than “some BY quotes” – he didn’t talk about one in particular but stated simply that quotes from BY aren’t a good enough source of information. He didn’t offer another interpretation, nor answer my honest question, he simply made an attack on me based on faulty assumptions. I reject your suggestion and DO imply that completely rejecting arguments made by a President of the Church as a whole is failing to sustain them. A given speech or quote can be taken and analyzed his/her remarks did much more than that.

    Again though, my question was in honesty. Where do we draw the line in inclusion and love versus avoidance and remaining aloof? I have a close friend whose marriage just fell apart in the last few months, wife is a nightmare to be with, he had an affair, it is an ugly mess. But how do I now act toward him? Do I embrace him as a brother and try to love him back into the chruch? or reject him as an adulterer and stop communcating with him (the purpose of ex-communication)?

    I wasn’t being glib or rude or seeking to criticize Adam or his post. I’m asking a question that will affect my daily life and I was hoping to get some suggestions/answers, not attacks and bad assumptions.

  23. Sonny on April 14, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    @Jax,

    “he didn’t talk about one in particular but stated simply that quotes from BY aren’t a good enough source of information”

    I must have missed where Really? said that quotes from BY as a whole are not good enough. It may or may not be the case that Really? feels that way, but I certainly did not conclude that from his/her comment.

    “I reject your suggestion and DO imply that completely rejecting arguments made by a President of the Church as a whole is failing to sustain them”

    Again, I don’t see where Really? said he/she rejects quotes from BY as a whole, but that quote on that subject. If you feel that one must support every statement made by a prophet authentic/divine/authoritative in order to sustain him as prophet, I suspect you will be casting a wide net over many, many faithful Latter-Day Saints, including current and past leaders.

    “Where do we draw the line in inclusion and love versus avoidance and remaining aloof?”

    A very fair question, Jax. I also hope to see some insight here as well.

  24. brian larsen on April 14, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    @Jax, How sure are you about the purpose of excommunication? Any sources? I’m to recall that there were three purposes: save the soul of the sinner, protect the innocent, and also to safeguard the name and purity of the church.

    Also, in the Timothy scripture, “such” can easily apply to “sins” and not “people,” however, such interpretations can be debated, which is the point.

    How did Christ treat the woman taken in adultery? That’s a good model to start with. I would suggest that if someone has a hard time associating with people who have sinned seriously, or do, because it leads them to sin in like manner, then staying away is sound advice. Otherwise, I haven’t heard much advice that we should shun them from our love. Perhaps from teaching or administering, but that’s another matter – and that’s what the Thess. scripture seems to suggest (via footnotes) – don’t let them in the flock in a way that will leads other astray. Not that footnotes are scripture, but then again, not everything is (even BY quotes) as “really” seems to be implying. Some scripture do contradict others. We can pick and choose, or try to work through them. It seems like you are working through some difficulty, and good luck with that. I suggest you go with the spirit, and not worry too much about specific interpretations of scriptures. If it’s a bug concern – talk to some priesthood leaders.

  25. Jax on April 14, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    Sonny,

    I did take his quote that way, that he rejected BY quotes as a whole. He didn’t lead out with any comment on the BY quote I used, just a personal attack and rejection of my question. He then said if I was to make the argument he mistakenly thought I was trying to make, I would need more than BY quotes. This implies to me that no matter which or how many BY quotes I used, he would not care. That seemed to me, even if it did not to you, as though he really was rejecting BY altogether.

    Brian,

    No sources on the “excommunication” definition except that is what I was taught growing up. ‘Disfellowship’ meant exactly what the word sounds like it should mean – to stop fellowshipping. Same with excommunication – to stop communicating with. That we saved their soul by showing them what is meant to be excluded from the kingdom so that they will want to be reunited with it. And that if their fellowship or friendships with the saints weren’t affected by their membership, how much harder would it be for them to see the benefits of that membership? I’ve often wondered that there isn’t more guidance from the leadership on what the terms mean and how the general church membership should react, but that is what I was taught as a youth. Can you give me any references? either for or against this position? I’d love to see some.

    I don’t feel one must support every statement by GA’s, because they all make statements of opinion or speculation. That is why they must be taken one by one, not wholehandedly rejected by saying things like, “it will take more than some Pres. Monson quotes to convince me…” Because unless you hear and understand the specific quote, how do you know if it applies?

    Timothy’s scripture could go either way, but when coupled with these quotes I’ve always thought it definately meant the people:

    Brigham Young (does he count?):
    “Do you know that there is no fellowship between
    Christ and Baal? Do you think a union has taken
    place between them? Can you fellowship those
    who will serve the Devil? If you do, you are like
    them, and we wish you to go with them; for we
    do not want you. We wish that all such men and
    women would apostatize and come out boldly
    and say, ‘We are going to hell upon our own
    road’; and I will say, ‘Go ahead, and may the
    Devil speed you on your journey!…’ But do not
    be snooping round pretending to be Saints, at the
    same time be receiving such men into your
    houses and such spirits into your hearts, as many
    do …”

    “How many times Elders of Israel try to make me fellowship
    the Devil, or his imps, or his servants; also try to
    make you fellowship your enemies, to
    amalgamate the feelings of the Saints and the
    ungodly? It cannot be done; it never was done,
    and never can be accomplished. Christ and Baal
    never can be friends.”

    “I have not the least desire to mingle with or look upon the
    faces of those who hate God and his cause.”

    “I pray both
    for my friends and for my enemies, that, if they
    will not repent, the earth may be speedily
    emptied of the ungodly.”

    Joseph F. Smith

    “Some
    of our good Latter-day Saints have become so
    exceedingly good (?) [question mark in
    original—a little sarcasm?] that they cannot tell
    the difference between a Saint of God, an honest
    man, and a son of Beelzebub, who has yielded
    himself absolutely to sin and wickedness. And
    they call that liberality, broadness of mind,
    exceeding love. I do not want to become so
    blinded with love for my enemies that I cannot
    discern between light and darkness, between
    truth and error, between good and evil.”

    “I feel
    in my heart to forgive all men in the broad sense
    that God requires of me to forgive all men, and I
    desire to love my neighbor as myself; and to this
    extent I bear no malice toward any of the
    children of my Father. But there are enemies to
    the work of the Lord, as there were enemies to
    the Son of God…. but they are not and cannot
    become my bosom companions. I cannot
    condescend to that. While I would not harm a
    hair of their heads, while I would not throw a
    straw in their path, to hinder them from turning
    from the error of their way to the light of truth; I
    would as soon think of taking a centipede or a
    scorpion, or any poisonous reptile, and putting it
    into my bosom, as I would think of becoming a
    companion or an associate of such men.”

    “We should keep ourselves aloof from the wicked; the
    dividing line should be distinctly drawn between
    God and Belial, between Christ and the world,
    between truth and error, and between right and
    wrong. We ought to cleave to the right, to the
    good, to the truth, and forsake the evil.”

    Bruce R. McConkie:

    It is one thing to extend the hand of prospective fellowship to
    those who seek the truth and who are living
    according to the best light and knowledge they
    have, but it is quite another to clasp an enemy to
    the bosom of the Church. ‘Public meetings,
    which are held before the world,’ are open to
    anyone. Non-members ‘who are earnestly
    seeking the kingdom’ are welcome in sacrament
    meetings. (D&C 46:3-5.) However, those who
    have known the truth, and who have rebelled
    and become enemies of the Church, are in a
    different category. Those who sin and remain
    unrepentant are cast out of the Church. (D&C
    42:20-28.) Excommunicated and
    disfellowshipped persons have definite
    restrictions placed upon them. Even God cast
    one-third of the hosts of heaven out for
    rebellion.”

  26. Jax on April 14, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    That turned out to be a really long post….sorry! Any insights to help me reconcile those quotes and how I act towards my newly excommunicated friend would be appreciated. Please hold the criticisms to yourselves.

  27. brian larsen on April 14, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Jax, I see nothing in those quotes that suggests you should not love or help people, including the person you are asking about. “Bosom companion” is hardly the same a being friends with someone. Bruce says nothing about what those restrictions are; as you noted, the church doesn’t discuss often what those are, but I take that as a positive. Brigham quote: if you think this person is truly an imp of the Devil, then by all means, leave them alone. If people don’t want to be helped or come to God, that is their choice. We can still love and pray from them.

    You could take the honest, brave approach – approach the “close friend” and say you would love to know what to do, what your concerns are, etc.

    Again, are you looking for someone else to dictate what to do? You have plenty of agency – that’s not say it’s easy, but I doubt you’re going to find a clear answer from scriptures. Every situation is different. He that is commanded . . . Some people will attend their gay friends weddings, others won’t – our choices on difficult topics. Good thing, too, I say.

    I looked up “excommunication” on the Church website and there is plenty of material there to look through. One of which provides the three reasons that I mentioned. The lds newsroom points bloogers, journalists, etc. to an article by Elder Ballard called “A Chance to Start Over” which is worth the read. You seem very caught up on BY, which is your prerogative, but there are lots of other sources to check out: more recent, with clearer contexts.

    If they can still attend church meetings, I’m not sure there is any reason to decide to shun/avoid/avoid helping the person. If they don’t want your company, well, then that’s their choice. No one seems to be asking you to avoid them.

  28. Jax on April 14, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Brian,

    Thanks for the reference to the Ballard talk….that is what I was looking for – direction, not someone to dictate what I should do. I’m not caught up on BY, but those are the quotes that come to mind when I think about this situation, I’m hoping some additional references and different talks will help me come to a better conclusion than the non-conclusion I have now, I’ll go to that talk for starters. Thanks.

    Anyone out there have similar experiences that they can share that would help?

  29. Chuck Whicker on April 14, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    I agree with Adam in his statement that “to be perfect” means to “be complete as the Father is complete.” Judging from Adam’s subsequent words, however, I get the feeling he thinks that all one needs to be “complete” is to love everything and everyone, and esteem them fully and impartially. The completelness of the scriptural God includes a great deal more than love. It includes discernment of all things and all men, proper judgment, wrath in its place, mercy where it belongs, etc. To me, this is the balance and completeness of the Father. I really am coming to despise the idea of “unconditional love.” Do you realize that this is an eastern philosophy, and does not originate in the gospel? Joseph’s doctrine on love is that “love begets love”, and if it doesn’t, then it dies. There is NOTHING unconditional about a God who establishes all things by covenant, executes all penalties by covenant, builds all things by covenant, destroys by covenant, blesses by covenant, curses by covenant, seals by covenant, and unseals because of covenant. The very concept of covenants is CONDITIONS!! I fully realize that love is the foundation of God’s character; but I am also aware that He is in control of his emotions, they do not control Him. Unconditional love means love without conditions! It is a codependent state, which is a sickness. It is not godly, it is human. The ability to LET GO of relationships that don’t bare fruit is godly; the inability is weakness. God’s love is enduring, there is no doubt, but He does not love evil, and He ceases to love those who become the incarnation of evil.

  30. Chuck Whicker on April 16, 2011 at 10:30 am

    Ilove Jax’s quotes, both of Brigham Young, and of Joseph F. Smith who sheds good light on the proper, balanced view of love. As a church, I believe we truly are slipping into the idolatrous, worldly view of love which implies that love is best manifested by tolerance. In my youth, if a man was disfellowshipped he was not allowed to attend priesthood meetings. Today that is changed. Penalties have become more and more slack, which is a clear indication of “love equals tolerance.” In Brigham’s day (and Joseph’s), if an endowed man was excommunicated, his wife could not remain with him unless she partook of the same penalty. She could either choose to suffer through it with him, and then be restored with him through repentance, or she could leave him and remain in good standing all along. This is because an endowed woman, who wears the priesthood garment, was not to have sexual relations with a man who doesn’t. It was considered out of order, and I agree with that concept. Today, in contrast, we have endowed mormon women sleeping with an irreligious, uninterested husband all the time. It seems everything in the church, pertainiing to the laws of the priesthood and principles of divine judgment, has gotten out of order.

  31. Ardis E. Parshall on April 16, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Well, thank heavens we have you here to set us all straight, Chuck. Again. And again. And yet again. Repeatedly. Over and over. About everything. Ad infinitum. Ad nauseum. Until the cows come home. And then again. With followups. At great length. On and on. More times than I can count. Ceaselessly. Unceasingly. Without ceasing. Multiple times. A multiplicity of times. A manifold multiplying of multiple times. Times without end. Endless times. From beginning to end. From top to bottom. From alpha to omega. From head to heels. From stem to stern. From the mountaintops. From the valleys. From the high places and the low places. In the highways and in the byways. By way of brotherly love. By way of commandment. By way of wisdom. Right. Wrong. Indifferent. At great length. With many words. With redundantly repetitious repeated restatements.

    The one thing you haven’t done is dust your virtual feet and depart. May we look forward to that someday soon?

  32. Sonny on April 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Chuck has given be great inspiration, and Ardis partially beat me to it. In the name of not being so lovey dovey tolerant with others’ behavior, the Church really should bring back the good ole days of routinely dusting feet when someone does not accept our message, as was done often in the 1800s. After all, it is right there in the Doctrine and Covenants and it is to be done in the spirit of love. Somewhere along the line some church leaders got soft and decided it should only be done in extremely rare circumstances.

  33. DavidH on April 16, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    Jesus was regularly condemned by the self righteous for his association with those who were openly sinners. He replied that the sick needed physicians more than those who were well. If we are to be “perfect” as Jesus was, perhaps we should follow His example.

    Church discipline, under current practice, governs the relationship between the institutional church to the affected individual, not our relationship with the individual. That is part of the reason why Church discipline is no longer announced, except in rare cases. That way we continue to interact as before, hopefully with love and without our judgment’s being colored by knowledge of things that may not be our business. Disciple is largely a personal matter.

    Thus, in terms of your acquaintance, I would say that Church discipline one way or the other should not affect your dealings. I am not aware of an exception to the command to love one another (although as Adam says, there is no command to like one another).

    An other resource to check is Marvin J. Ashton’s conference talk “While They Are Waiting” in April 1988, about how we should treat each other, including those who may be under Church restictions.

  34. Jax on April 16, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    Thanks David

  35. Adam Miller on April 16, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    I don’t believe I ever said anything about “tolerance” or “approval” or “co-dependent enabling.”

    Let’s say, though, that God “let’s go” of certain relationships or withdraws from them. Surely he does. But why think that this is not itself an act of love?

    If God withdraws from me, it’s because he loves me and doing so may help me. The “letting go” is itself an expression of his boundless compassion.

    Anything else is nonsense.

    Thinking that all love is “approval” misunderstands its character. It guts love of any capacity to effect change, transformation, and conversion. It guts the gospel itself.

    God’s love doesn’t simply “approve” and “reward” the already-good. It reaches out to and transforms that which is not. In loving his enemy, God doesn’t “approve” of him. He saves him.

    Love is not approval.

    This is parenting/marriage 101.

  36. Jax on April 16, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Adam,

    I agree that love doesn’t equal approval. And I’ve read the articles mentioned and found some useful insights. I don’t want to lose this friend and my relationship to him, I want to be able to feel good about maintaining contact even though I was taught as a youth to ‘dis-fellowhip’ and ‘EX-communicate’ myself with such. I am looking for GA’s who have said to still reach out to such people, even in the time immediatley following their serious sins, so that I can feel good about still reaching out to and loving this brother. I am NOT looking for justification to hate or ostracize him, as some may suppose.

    But if God’s act of ‘letting go’ is a sign of love, wouldn’t it follow that our ‘letting go’ of transgressors is also an act of love?

  37. Chuck Whicker on April 16, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    D&C 64:10-13 indicates we should always feel love and compassion, as a church, but still must execute the appointed penalty, “not because ye forgive not, having not compassion, but that ye may be justified in the eyes of the law, and that ye may not offend him who is your lawgiver.” The desire to please the world too easily takes precedence in our desire for converts, and to present an image of kindness. Don’t you think? I know I have the same tendencies, in my private life, as the church does officially.

  38. Sonny on April 16, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    @Jax,

    I really liked what DavidH said. “Church discipline, under current practice, governs the relationship between the institutional church to the affected individual, not our relationship with the individual.”

    I think this is absolutely true. Also, like DavidH said I think that in the instance of how we treat others, even sinners, and perhaps even particularly sinners, I suggest we look to the example of the Savior. For me, I don’t look at isolated passages that may seem to indicate we should do otherwise. I also would not look to prior statements made 150 years ago either. Instead, look at what we hear over the pulpit at Conference from our living Prophet and Apostles. When have you last heard a conference talk exhorting us to shun others, or do anything like it?

    I respect your wrestling with this and you seem very sincere at doing the right thing.

    If none of this helps you sort this issue out, my suggestion would be to trust Heavenly Father and go with what feels right to you in terms of how you reach out to your friend.

  39. Sonny on April 16, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    @Jax,
    Hope you don’t mind if I add one more thing, for what it’s worth. I have a firm testimony of reaching out to others that have been abandoned by friends and family. I feel divine approval each and every time I do so. It utterly and completely feels right and I am uplifted, just the same as if I was helping anyone in time of need.

  40. Chuck Whicker on April 16, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Better yet, Sonny, trust the cannon of scripture and use them to discern the words of the current leadership. The gospel must be the same, yesterday, today, and forever; otherwise we are just another catholic church. Joseph Fielding Smith tried to correct the current tradition when he said: “My words, and the teaching of any other member of the Church, HIGH or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine. You cannot accept the books written by authorities of the church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works. Every man who writes is responsible, not the Church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted”. (Answers to Gospel Questions, vol.2, p. 113-114). This statement agrees with all that Joseph taught on the subject, making us individually responsible to discern the modern prophets against the written word.

  41. Sonny on April 16, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    I’m sorry if I sounded like I was bearing testimony on that last comment. I was saying it as a statement and not as a testimony, and I should have worded it differently to better differentiate.

  42. Chuck Whicker on April 16, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Sonny, I didn’t mean to sound like I was accusing you of anything; just wanted to show that the idea of current leadership taking preference, doctrinally, over the original doctrines found in our scriptures, is backwards in its priority.

  43. Sonny on April 16, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    Right-O Chuck. I’m sure you are doing a good job of interpreting scripture and holding current leaders feet to the fire to make sure they don’t deviate one jot or tittle.

  44. Chuck Whicker on April 17, 2011 at 12:04 am

    I try not to do any interpreting. I just believe what is plainly written. I’m not saying you shouldn’t obey their authority – just saying that YOU have the authority to discern their teachings. Discernment is a personal responsibility. The catholics believe all they have to do is believe everything coming from the Pope, no personal discernment necessary. Don’t be catholic. Be a latter-day saint. Take full responsibility for your own salvation.

  45. brian larsen on April 17, 2011 at 8:21 am

    @40 Chuck,

    Funny, isn’t it, how you use modern prophets to justify questioning modern prophets.

  46. Chuck Whicker on April 17, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Just and holy principles are already justified, in and of themselves. I quoted a man whom I respect and love (Joseph Fielding Smith), because he did not set himself up as the Standard, but he reminded us of our responsibility to discern him and all who occupy his office. Blessed are they who do not take offense at his warning, and who are not offended at similar warnings of all the holy prophets since the world began. Have you ever read the JST version of Mark 9:40-48? I encourage you to do it. Always respond humbly, with a child-like desire to understand, and avoid the spirit of mockery. In this manner you are guided by the Holy Ghost. And if I am wrong, this child-like attitude puts you in tune to recognize wherein, so that you can sincerely explain it to me.

  47. Sonny on April 17, 2011 at 10:25 am

    @Chuck,
    Please re-read #31.

  48. Chuck Whicker on April 17, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Sonny,

    Mockery, of course, is the way of insincere men to avoid the issue.

  49. brian larsen on April 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Chuck, it’s hard to argue that you shouldn’t adhere to the teachings of JFS, a man you respect and love. Just realize that it’s hard for you to argue the same against someone else who others respect and love for the same reasons. That’s the beauty of life and personalities, etc. Would it, then, be safe to say you don’t respect and love President Benson, who said the living oracles (prophets) are more important than the standard works (and, by consequence, the many, many others who have quoted that talk?) Maybe people don’t love and respect him, I’m just wondering about you. How about what Christ said about what constituted scripture in D&C, how do you feel about that? (or any of those other points in D&C about the words of the voice of prophets? you only accept them if you like the person?)

    Also, any selection of “authoritative sources/comments” implies, and is, an act of interpretation, which you said you don’t do. And besides, even if you didn’t create your own cannon, which you seem to be doing, you are still interpreting plenty any time you read.

    Look, I’m not saying the prophets are infallible, or that we shouldn’t learn for ourselves if their words are true, or that everything they say are true. I’m just wondering when, exactly, according to you “everything in the church, pertainiing to the laws of the priesthood and principles of divine judgment, has gotten out of order,” and does that include the leadership of the church, as it seems to imply?

  50. KerBearRN on April 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    I find Chuck’s reference to the “cannon of scripture” rather ironic, since he seems to USE scripture (and assorted GA quotes) as a WEAPON. I’m curious about the effectiveness of such an unbending approach. It seems less than kind to me.

  51. Grant on April 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Off of KerBearRN’s point, I can’t exactly figure out where Chuck is coming from and I’m not sure I want to. There does appear to be an agenda and some disagreement with the current leadership of the Church. I do recognize the technique though, it’s the same old proof-texting to pull out quotes from scripture and the prophets to support some preconceived notion. It’s almost as if he were some kind of Protestant Minister trying to bait us. My interest in these blogs is to learn and share – certainly to influence by appropriate means. But I have no interest in indoctrinating or being indoctrinated upon.

  52. Chuck Whicker on April 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    My “agenda” is honest. I know what Zion is – its laws and principles are so clearly defined in the scriptures. The lower laws that the church has digressed to are not adequate, and will not prepare any people for the Lord’s presence. I have shown, from the patterns of scriptural history, that the occupant of a prophetic office doesn’t necessarily mean he is a prophet; this testimony is consistent with the divine mandate to discern all things. I respect Ezra Taft Benson. I don’t dispute that modern prophets are important. But they are not authorized to change the standard. They are not autorized to change the ordinances. They are not authorized to undo anything that Joseph set in place. If they do, they have abused their authority and we have the right, and the scriptural keys, to discern it.

  53. Jax on April 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    I can see where Chuck is coming from, having had some of the same feelings of “where is the leadership taking us?” feelings in the past – though I don’t hold to them as fiercely as he does. My may question is this: how did he lead everyone into the same argument in three different threads? Couldn’t this all be discussed in 1 more appropriately named thread about the authority of current church leadership? and leave these other threads to discuss the topics they were intended to cover?

  54. KerBearRN on April 17, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    @Jax

    You are right. I think that is why Ardis commented as she did to give Chuck the little hint that he is repeating himself again. And again. And again.

  55. Grant on April 17, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    Thanks, Chuck. And I want no part of that “agenda.” I will get to Zion, if at all, along with the current holders of the keys. I agree that as a people we have a long way to go. But I think President Eyring was spot on how we have every opportunity to live the Law of Consecration today through the Church Welfare program – selfless giving of service and fast offerings of all our financial resources beyond our righteous needs and wants. I have a ways to go. If you have some better plan interpreting the Prophet Joseph and how our current leaders fall short, there are lots of groups around working on that in their bunkers with their wives and their guns.

  56. Chuck Whicker on April 17, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    You will get to Zion by living the actual laws of Zion, and in no other way. Redefining the sacrifice required is an identifier of pharisee leadership. Keys are as easily lost as gained, historically.

  57. Sonny on April 17, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Chuck,

    I think we all have an idea of where you stand, so why don’t you give it a rest.

  58. Chuck Whicker on April 18, 2011 at 12:16 am

    I stand with the prophets.

  59. Chuck Whicker on April 18, 2011 at 12:17 am

    Both ancient and modern.

  60. Ardis E. Parshall on April 18, 2011 at 3:17 am

    Chuck, the lenses in your glasses are probably marked “Objects are nearer than they appear,” or some such, because you’re not standing where you think you’re standing, as is obvious to all of us. I echo Sonny’s call for giving it a rest.

  61. Chuck Whicker on April 18, 2011 at 9:01 am

    I’m giving it a rest. But if I may make one more little observation. I’ve noticed,with most of you, that your responses, while always opposing me, have not included a single reference to the word of the Lord to back you up. I am the only one quoting scriptures, the only one citing history, the only one appealing to the conscience. This leads me to believe, since you consider YOURSELVES to be the source of divine authority. Ah, well; it is a practice you have learned from a leadership who tends to do the same. It’s kind of a bummer, don’t you think? — that you now reside in a church where the man who loves Joseph and all that he stood for, who cleaves to the Standard Works, is the one who holds the least influence. I wish you all a peaceable Catholic existence for as long as judgment remains supsended.

  62. Hans on April 18, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Chuck,

    I can counter your arguments with an example from the scriptures. It comes from Numbers 22:28 and is about Balaam and his donkey. In other words, people who come to a blog and condemn others to a peaceable Catholic existence because of God’s suspended judgments are talking like asses. Give it a rest and show everyone else the same respect they showed you.

  63. brian larsen on April 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Chuck, I pointed to some scriptures, you just ignored them. That’s the point. Others could see quite readily that you weren’t really interested in discussion, just a soap box. Also, I’d be careful wishing for more immediate divine judgment. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that you are an ark-steadier (though, actually, I am very close to that – maybe I would say that) – but, regardless, good thing we don’t get zapped every time we do. I believe in repentance and change. Finally, mockery (#48)may be a less effective (as in persuasive) way to challenge something, but it is a valid mode of challenge and may be both sincere and anything but an avoidance. When you criticize it, I don’t have a problem, but when you ignore that arrogant pig-headedness can do the same thing, but is even less persuasive, you have lost your credibility. Good luck with your life. Hope you’re happy.

  64. Chuck Whicker on April 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Nice contribution, Hans! Your enlightenment astounds all who read your words!

    Brian, I honestly haven’t been able to find an instance where you pointed to scripture and I ignored it. Can you specify? Otherwise, this is my last comment here.

  65. Sonny on April 18, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Brian, please don’t feel you have to dig up where Chuck may ignored your scripture reference, and let’s let Chuck ride off into the sunset as he said he would, on this post at least.

    Adam, I’m sorry that your post was threadjacked. Thank you for posting it.

  66. Adam Miller on April 18, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    “The art of losing isn’t hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is not disaster . . . “

  67. DavidH on April 18, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Jax. If interested in specific current instructions, you might ask your bishop to let you read section 6.11 of the first volume of the Church Handbook of Instructions, entitled “Fellowshipping After Discipline”. Among other things, it states that the bishop’s job is not done once discipline is imposed; that his job continues until the affected individual is back in full fellowship and, if necessary, has his or her blessings restored. Moreover, it states that the period immediately after the imposition of discipline is critical to the person’s recovery and that leaders and other Church members should be “patient and sensitive to the needs of those involved and give special encouragement and assistance.”

    In my opinion, it is unfortunate that we still use the terms “excommunication” and “disfellowshipping” because those terms can be construed to mean the opposite of the intent of discipline: the intent is to help those affected return and come into better or greater communion with God and greater fellowship with one another. As Jesus taught the Nephites, that even if one loses membership privilegs, we should “continue to minister” with the hope that he or she will return to complete communion with God, including formal recognition through renewed or restored ordinance blessing. 3 Nephi 18: 32.

  68. Jax on April 18, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    DavidH…thanks for the reference…I’ll check with the Branch Pres.

    What is our opinion though when dealing with an exed adulterer, still married but living with the adulteress? How should I be “patient and sensitive to [his] needs” when he is still openly breaking his covenants?????

  69. Sonny on April 19, 2011 at 11:15 am

    @Jax,

    I know you asked DavidH, but I hope you don’t mind if I make a suggestion. What if your friend has a need to know and feel that he has friends in the church that have not abandoned him, and that are looking past the sin to show compassion for the sinner? I would think that he would not conflate your friendship with approval for the sin. You could even tell him as such, something like, “As much as I do not agree with your current circumstances, I want you to know that I am your friend that you can turn to and will be there for you regardless…..” And then drop the subject for now and continue to be his friend. What do you think?

  70. Geoff-A on April 25, 2011 at 12:42 am

    Jax, I don’t think you need to remind him that you disaprove of his choices, just be a friend.

    Things are not always as black or white as we would like them to be. I know of 4 ex Bishops who have left their wives of many years. One is a close friend who we have shared a group dinner with monthly for 20 years.

    In most of these cases the wives were overly righteous to the point of making life for their husbands hell, and the wives still do not seem to realise they were part of the problem.

    The brother I know well is much happier with the woman he lived with and then married, than with his wife. He went inactive before he found another woman so I don’t know whether he is still a member or not.

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