Quotes on Perfection

See also: D&C 93; Alma 12:9-11; 2 Nephi 28:29-30  

We all occupy diversified stations in the world, and in the kingdom of God.  Those who do right, and seek the glory of the Father in Heaven, whether their knowledge be little or much, or whether they can do little or much, if they do the very best they know how, they are perfect.  (Brigham Young, “Discourse,” Deseret News, 31 Aug. 1854, p. 1) — Elder LeGrand R. Curtis, Ensign, July 1995, p. 34

One of the seven greatest heresies is that you must be perfect before you die. — Elder Bruce R. McConkie

We may be quite sure that Christ-centeredness and Christ-likeness will never be attained by our own unaided efforts.  How can self drive out self?  We could as well expect Satan to drive out Satan.  We’re not interested in skin-deep holiness and a merely external resemblance to Jesus Christ.  We’re not satisfied by a superficial modification of behavior patterns in conformity to some Christian subculture which expects this, commands that, and prohibits the other.  No, what we long for is a deep inward change of character resulting from a change of nature and leading to a radical change of conduct.  In a word, we want to be like Christ, and that thoroughly, profoundly, entirely.  Nothing less than that will do. — Robert Millet, 1992 CES Symposium at BYU

That Jesus attained eternal perfection following his resurrection is confirmed in the Book of Mormon.  It records the visit of the resurrected Lord to the people of ancient America.  There he repeated the important injunction previously cited [to be perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect], but with one very significant addition.  He said, “I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.”  This time he listed himself along with his Father as a perfected personage.  Previously, he had not.

Resurrection is requisite for eternal perfection. . . . Eternal perfection is reserved for those who overcome all things and inherit the fulness of the Father in his heavenly mansions.  Perfection consists in gaining eternal life – the kind of life that God lives. — Elder Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, November 1994, p. 87

Christ was perfect and sinless, not because he had to be, but rather because he clearly and determinedly wanted to be. — President Howard W. Hunter, Ensign, November 1976, p. 19

We need to come to terms with our desire to reach perfection and with our frustration when our accomplishments or our behaviors are less than perfect.  I feel that one of the great myths we would do well to dispel is that we’ve come to earth to perfect ourselves, and nothing short of that will do.  If I understand the teachings of the prophets of this dispensation correctly, we will not become perfect in this life, though we can make significant strides toward that goal. . . .

I am also convinced of the fact that the speed with which we head along the straight and narrow path isn’t as important as the direction in which we are traveling.  That direction, if it is leading toward eternal goals, is the all-important factor. — Elder Marvin J. Ashton, Ensign, May 1989, pp. 20-21

The Lord works from the inside out.  The world works from the outside in.  The world would take people out of the slums.  Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums.  The world would mold men by changing their environment.  Christ changes men, who then change their environment.  The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature. — President Ezra Taft Benson, “Born of God,” Ensign, November 1985, p. 5

We consider that God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and a faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has overcome the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker, and is caught up to dwell with Him.  But we consider that this is a station to which no man ever arrived in a moment: he must have been instructed in the government and laws of that kingdom by proper degrees, until his mind is capable in some measure of comprehending the propriety, justice, equality, and consistency of the same. — Joseph Smith, History of the Church 2:8

It may appear strange to some of you, and it certainly does to the world, to say it is possible for a man or woman to become perfect on this earth.  It is written “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  Again, “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”  This is perfectly consistent to the person who understands what perfection really is.

If the first passage I have quoted is not worded to our understanding, we can alter the phraseology of the sentence, and say, “Be ye as perfect as ye can,” for that is all we can do, though it is written, be ye perfect as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.  To be as perfect as we possibly can, according to our knowledge, is to be just as perfect as our Father in heaven is.  He cannot be any more perfect than He knows how, any more than we.  When we are doing as well as we know how in the sphere and station which we occupy here, we are justified in the justice, righteousness, mercy, and judgment that go before the Lord of heaven and earth.  We are as justified as the angels who are before the throne of God.  The sin that will cleave to all the posterity of Adam and Eve is, that they have not done as well as they knew how. — Brigham Young, December 18, 1853; Journal of Discourses 2:130

Brothers and sisters, I testify that no one of us is less treasured or cherished of God than another.  I testify that He loves each of us –  insecurities, anxieties, self-image, and all.  He doesn’t measure our talents or our looks; He doesn’t measure our professions or our possessions.  He cheers on every runner, calling out that the race is against sin, not against each other.  I know that if we will be faithful, there is a perfectly tailored robe of righteousness ready and waiting for everyone (see Isa. 61:10; 2 Ne. 4:33; 9:14), “robes . . . made . . . white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14).  May we encourage each other in our effort to win that prize is my earnest prayer. — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Other Prodigal,” Ensign, May 2002, p. 64

Your weakest point will be the point at which the Devil tries to tempt you, will try to win you, and if you have made it weak before you have undertaken to serve the Lord, he will add to that weakness.  Resist him and you will gain in strength.  He will then tempt you in another point.  Resist him and he becomes weaker, and you become stronger, until you can say, no matter what your surroundings may be, “Get thee behind me Satan” (Luke 4:8). — President David O. McKay, Conference Report, Oct. 1959, p. 88

The recognition of our frailties need not propel us to try to achieve perfection in one dramatic commitment of effort.  The best progress sometimes comes when we are not under intense duress.  Over zealousness is at least as much to be feared as apathy.  Trying to measure up to too many particular expectations without some sense of self-tolerance can cause spiritual and emotional “burn-out.” — Dean L. Larsen, “The Peaceable Things of the Kingdom,” BYU Speeches of the Year, 1985, p. 72

I do not expect that any of us will ever become in mortality quite so perfect as God is perfect; but in the spheres in which we are called to act, and according to the capacity and breadth of intelligence that we possess, in our sphere and in the exercise of the talent, the ability and intelligence that God has given to us, we may become as perfect in our sphere as God is perfect in His higher and more exalted sphere.  I believe that. — President Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, April 1915, p. 140

When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel – you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation.  But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them.  It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 348

The best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the way we treat other people. — Elder Marvin J. Ashton

I do not expect that we can be as perfect as Christ, that we can be as righteous as God.  But I believe that we can strive for that perfection with the intelligence that we possess, and the knowledge that we have of the principles of life and salvation. — President Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 132

Elder Bruce R. McConkie said this about “that road to perfection”:  “As members of the Church, if we chart a course leading to eternal life; if we begin the processes of spiritual rebirth, and are going in the right direction; if we chart a course of sanctifying our souls, and degree by degree are going in that direction; . . then it is absolutely guaranteed – there is no question whatever about it – we shall gain eternal life. — Elder Bruce R. McConkie, 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year, p. 400

It is written, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  This is perfectly consistent to the person who understands what perfection really is. . . . We can alter the phraseology of the sentence, and say, “Be ye as perfect as ye can,” for that is all we can do, though it is written, be ye perfect as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.  He cannot be any more perfect than he knows how, any more than we. When we are doing as well as we know how in the sphere and station which we occupy here, we are justified in the justice, righteousness, mercy, and judgment that go before the Lord of heaven and earth.  We are as justified as the angels who are before the throne of God.  The sin that will cleave to all the posterity of Adam and Eve is, that they have not done as well as they knew how. . . . When we use the term perfection, it applies to man in his present condition, as well as to heavenly beings.  We are now, or may be, as perfect in our sphere as God and angels are in theirs, but the greatest intelligence in existence can continually ascend to greater heights of perfection. Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 89

Brothers and sisters, the scriptures are like a developmental display window through which we can see gradual growth – along with this vital lesson: it is direction first, then velocity!  Enoch’s unique people were improved “in process of time.”  (Moses 7:21)  Jesus “received not of the fulness at first, but received grace for grace” (D&C 93:12) and even He grew and “increased in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52). — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Not Withstanding My Weakness,” Ensign, November 1976

We all occupy diversified stations in the world, and in the kingdom of God.  Those who do right, and seek the glory of the Father in heaven, whether their knowledge be little or much, or whether they can do little or much, if they do the very best they know how, they are perfect. . . . 

To be as perfect as we possibly can, according to our knowledge, is to be just as perfect as our Father in heaven is.  He cannot be any more perfect than He knows how, any more than we.  When we are doing as well as we know how in the sphere and station which we occupy here, we are justified in the justice, righteousness, mercy, and judgment that go before the Lord of heaven and earth. — Brigham Young,  Journal of Discourses, 2:129-130

Salvation is an eternal goal we gain by a process of constant upward change.  Doubt is spiritual poison that stunts eternal growth.  We must first feel our way before we can see it with any clarity.  We prove ourselves by making numerous correct decisions without being absolutely sure; then comes a greater knowledge and assurance, not before. Happiness is created.  Love is its center.  Its principal ingredients are sincere faith, true repentance, full obedience, and selfless service. — Elder Richard G. Scott, “Happiness Now and Forever,” Ensign, November 1979, p. 70

We will not attain a state of perfection in this life, but we can and should press forward with faith in Christ along the strait and narrow path and make steady progress toward our eternal destiny.  The Lord’s pattern for spiritual development is “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (2 Nephi 28:30). Small, steady, incremental spiritual improvements are the steps the Lord would have us take.  Preparing to walk guiltless before God is one of the primary purposes of mortality and the pursuit of a lifetime; it does not result from sporadic spurts of intense spiritual activity.

I witness that the Savior will strengthen and assist us to make sustained, paced progress.  The example in the Book of Mormon of “many, exceedingly great many” (Alma 13:12) in the ancient Church who were pure and spotless before God is a source of encouragement and comfort to me.  I suspect those members of the ancient Church were ordinary men and women just like you and me.  These individuals could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence, and they “were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God” (v. 12).  And these principles and this process of spiritual progress apply to each of us equally and always. — Elder David A. Bednar, “Clean Hands and a Pure Heart,” Liahona, November 2007, pp. 80-83

. . . we must be careful, as we seek to become more and more godlike, that we do not become discouraged and lose hope.  Becoming Christlike is a lifetime pursuit and very often involves growth and change that is slow, almost imperceptible.  The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant. . . . But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples.  Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule.  For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible.  Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life.  They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment.  They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.” (3 Ne. 9:20) — President Ezra Taft Benson, “A Mighty Change of Heart,” Ensign, October 1989, p. 2

In this long eternal quest to be more like our Savior, may we try to be “perfect” men and women in at least this one way now – by offending not in word, or more positively put, by speaking with a new tongue, the tongue of angels.  Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity, the three great Christian imperatives so desperately needed in the world today. — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Tongue of Angels,” Ensign, May 2007, pp. 16-18

Perfection is a long, hard journey with many pitfalls.  It’s not attainable overnight. Eternal vigilance is the price of victory.  Eternal vigilance is required in the subduing of enemies and in becoming the master of our lives.  It cannot be accomplished in little spurts and disconnected efforts.  There must be constant and valiant, purposeful living – righteous living.  Do we have the power to attain this kind of abundance?  The psalmist was inspired to write:

“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.  Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.”  (Ps. 8:4–6.)  There are those today who say that man is the result of his environment and cannot rise above it.  Those who justify mediocrity, failure, immorality of all kinds, and even weakness and criminality are certainly misguided. Surely the environmental conditions found in childhood and youth are an influence of power.  But the fact remains that every normal soul has its free agency and the power to row against the current and to lift itself to new planes of activity and thought and development.  Man can transform himself.  Man must transform himself. — President Spencer W. Kimball, “The Abundant Life,” Ensign, October 1985, p. 5

But how do we even begin to master ourselves and overcome Satan, sin and temptation?   President Benson suggests the practical process of goal-setting.  He suggests that we conquer these things one at a time.  He said: “Every accountable child of God needs to set goals, short – and long-range goals.  A man who is pressing forward to accomplish worthy goals can soon put despondency under his feet, and once a goal is accomplished, others can be set up.  Some will be continuing goals.  Each week when we partake of the sacrament we commit ourselves to the goals of taking upon ourselves the name of Christ, of always remembering Him and keeping His commandments (see Moroni 4:3; D&C 20:27). — President Ezra Taft Benson,  “Do Not Despair,” Ensign, October 1986

Do not expect to become perfect at once.  If you do, you will be disappointed.  Be better today than you were yesterday, and be better tomorrow than you are today.  The temptations that perhaps partially overcome us today, let them not overcome us so far tomorrow.  Thus continue to be a little better day by day; and do not let your life wear away without accomplishing good to others as well as to ourselves. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, p. 103

The path toward fulfilling our divine destiny as sons and daughters of God is an eternal one.  My dear brothers and sisters, dear friends, we must begin to walk that eternal path today; we cannot take for granted one single day.  I pray that we will not wait until we are ready to die before we truly learn to live. — President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Of Regrets and Resolutions,” Ensign, November 2012

One day we will take that unavoidable step and cross from this mortal sphere into the next estate.  One day we will look back at our lives and wonder if we could have been better, made better decisions, or used our time more wisely.

To avoid some of the deepest regrets of life, it would be wise to make some resolutions today. Therefore, let us:

    •    Resolve to spend more time with those we love.

    •    Resolve to strive more earnestly to become the person God wants us to be.

    •    Resolve to find happiness, regardless of our circumstances. . . .

Yes, this life is passing swiftly; our days seem to fade quickly; and death appears frightening at times.  Nevertheless, our spirit will continue to live and will one day be united with our resurrected body to receive immortal glory.  I bear solemn witness that because of the merciful Christ, we will all live again and forever. Because of our Savior and Redeemer, one day we will truly understand and rejoice in the meaning of the words “the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.”  (Mosiah 16:8; see also 1 Corinthians 15:54) — President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Of Regrets and Resolutions,” Ensign, November 2012

Perfection is a long, hard journey with many pitfalls.  It’s not attainable overnight. Eternal vigilance is the price of victory.  Eternal vigilance is required in the subduing of enemies and in becoming the master of oneself.  It cannot be accomplished in little spurts and disconnected efforts.  There must be constant and valiant, purposeful living-righteous living. — President Spencer W. Kimball, “Be Ye Therefore Perfect,” BYU Devotional, Sept. 17, 1974

We must recognize that excellence and quality are a reflection of how we feel about ourselves and about life and about God.  If we don’t care much about these basic things, then such not caring carries over into the work we do, and our work becomes shabby and shoddy.  Real craftsmanship, regardless of the skill involved, reflects real caring, and real caring reflects our attitude about ourselves, about our fellowmen, and about life. — President Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, February 1978

To be Saints indeed requires every wrong influence that is within them, as individuals, to be subdued, until every evil desire is eradicated, and every feeling of the heart is brought into subjection to the will of Christ. — Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 19:66

Though we are in the world, yet we should be as perfect as mortals are required to be.  We are not required in our sphere to be as perfect as Gods and angels are in their spheres, yet man is the king of kings and lord of lords in embryo. — Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses  10:223

To be as perfect as we possibly can, according to our knowledge, is to be just as perfect as our Father in heaven is.  He cannot be any more perfect than He knows how, any more than we can.  When we are doing as well as we know how in the sphere and station which we occupy here, we are justified in the justice, righteousness, mercy, and judgment that go before the Lord of heaven and earth.  We are as justified as the angels who are before the throne of God.  The sin that will cleave to all the posterity of Adam and Eve is that they have not done as well as they knew how. — Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 2:129-30

This was a favorite theme of President Snow.  He often reminded the Saints of the Lord’s command to be perfect, and he assured them that through their own diligence and with the Lord’s help, they could obey that command.  He taught, “We ought to feel in our hearts that God is our Father, and that while we make mistakes and are weak yet if we live as nearly perfect as we can all will be well with us.”  (In “Impressive Funeral Services,” Woman’s Exponent, Oct. 1901, 36) Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, Chapter 6, pp. 94-95

Do not expect to become perfect at once.  If you do, you will be disappointed.  Be better today than you were yesterday, and be better tomorrow than you are today. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, 2011

Developing spirituality and attuning ourselves to the highest influences of godliness is not an easy matter.  It takes time and frequently involves a struggle.  It will not happen by chance, but is accomplished only through deliberate effort and by calling upon God and keeping his commandments.

 . . . Part of our difficulty as we strive to acquire spirituality is the feeling that there is much to do and that we are falling far short.  Perfection is something yet ahead for every one of us; but we can capitalize on our strengths, begin where we are, and seek after the happiness that can be found in pursuing the things of God. — President Howard W. Hunter, “Developing Spirituality,” Ensign, May 1979

This life, this narrow sphere we call mortality, does not, within the short space of time we are allowed here, give to all of us perfect justice, perfect health, or perfect opportunities.  Perfect justice, however, will come eventually through a divine plan, as will the perfection of all other conditions and blessings – to those who have lived to merit them. — President Spencer W. Kimball, “The Abundant Life,” Ensign, October 1985, p. 3

The true end of life is not mere existence, not pleasure, not fame, not wealth.  The true purpose of life is the perfection of humanity through individual effort, under the guidance of God’s inspiration.  Real life is response to the best within us.  To be alive only to appetite, pleasure, pride, money-making, and not to goodness and kindness, purity and love, poetry, music, flowers and stars, God and eternal hopes, is to deprive one’s self of the real joy of living. — President David O. McKay, General Conference, October 1963