The Quest for Perfection

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Minyan Man
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The Quest for Perfection

Post by Minyan Man » 19 Aug 2020, 07:11

There is a verse in the NT that has always bothered me: Matthew 5:48
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
There is a book titled: The Sermon on the Mount in Latter-day Scripture"
There is a chapter titled: "Be Ye Therefore Perfect": The Elusive Quest for Perfection
Written by: Frank F Judd Jr

He interprets this verse in terms of Latter-day scripture & revelation. He quotes Brigham Young:
If they do the very best they know how, they are perfect.
Joseph F Smith said:
We do not look for absolute perfection in man. Mortal man is not capable of being
absolutely perfect.
FWIW: It helps me to understand this scripture better. (I need all the help I can get.)

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SilentDawning
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Re: The Quest for Perfection

Post by SilentDawning » 19 Aug 2020, 17:50

Expecting perfection is a recipe for poor mental health in my view. I have learned that even with working with people as a leader/manager, you get more if you expect general behavior within a certain range, rather than outright perfection. There needs to be allowance for people to do things the way they see fit, and NOT to micromanage.

It's strange that the scripture you quote above, however, is pretty clear that we are to "be perfect like God". That's a pretty high standard. But then we have two prophets who appear to contradict that clearly worded statement.

What do you believe? The scriptures, or the opinion of two prophets?
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

Minyan Man
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Re: The Quest for Perfection

Post by Minyan Man » 19 Aug 2020, 20:31

SilentDawning wrote:
19 Aug 2020, 17:50
What do you believe? The scriptures, or the opinion of two prophets?
For me, it's the two prophets. Scriptures over time can be wrong or misinterpreted.
The two Prophets quoted are relatively recent.

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DarkJedi
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Re: The Quest for Perfection

Post by DarkJedi » 20 Aug 2020, 07:18

I think this scripture is perhaps incomplete (maybe Matthew or some future transcriber left something out) but also widely misinterpreted and misapplied.
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
In context the verse comes toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount, which extols Christlike (Godlike) virtues. I interpret the verse not as a commandment but as a summary of where one would be were one to accomplish all of those virtues ("therefore...perfect"). I don't see any expectation that we accomplish all of those things, at least not in this lifetime (and at some future time will be perfect).
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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nibbler
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Re: The Quest for Perfection

Post by nibbler » 20 Aug 2020, 09:26

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
How perfect is our father which is in heaven?

Our relationship with and the very nature of god has evolved over time and will continue to evolve. The bar for being as perfect as god during OT times might be different than the bar for being perfect today. The god of the OT could be described as jealous, capricious, wrathful, etc. Not things we typically associate with perfection nowadays.

It also comes down to how one defines perfect. Some define perfect as "whole." When I play my definitions game i ask, what does it mean to be whole? When the whole of someone is considered, don't we consider both the good and the bad?

One thought is that maybe being as perfect as our father in heaven means whole, and being whole means feeling complete. Perhaps being whole means being content with what we already possesses (both materially and spiritually). That moment we end our quest to obtain because we recognize that we already have.
SilentDawning wrote:
19 Aug 2020, 17:50
Expecting perfection is a recipe for poor mental health in my view.
Agreed. Besides, with the more culturally common definition for perfection it's a fool's errand.

If perfectionism is taken to extremes it can lead to scrupulosity, which serves as more of a roadblock to a spiritual journey.
SilentDawning wrote:
19 Aug 2020, 17:50
What do you believe? The scriptures, or the opinion of two prophets?
I beat this horse a lot but scriptures are just opinions of prophets that are written down. That's the joy in the contradictions. In the end it's just three opinions, the one that you gravitate towards reveals something about you to yourself. Our interpretations of scripture say much more about us by the things we choose to hold up to be the ideal than they do about the definitive nature of god.
Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
― Jesus

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On Own Now
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Re: The Quest for Perfection

Post by On Own Now » 24 Aug 2020, 13:59

Hi, everyone. I just wanted to weigh in on this one.

<long explanation, entirely my own view>

It's a great question.

One major problem is that within Mormonism, we tend to think of perfection as the absence of sin. If you sin, you need to repent and not do it any more. It is as if the way to God is through a purging process, with which I couldn't disagree more. I often have said that getting closer to God isn't by the absence of something (sin), but by the presence of something (spirituality). Unfortunately, this verse has a strong tendency to bolster the Mormon view of Pharisaical sin-elimination (impossible), and which leads to things like "exact obedience" as an article of faith.

However, in somewhat recent times, there has been emphasis on the idea that 'perfect' in this verse is not meant in the same way that you and I think of flawlessness, but rather has the connotation of completeness, a finished product, like when you put the last touches on the home improvement project. From the world's most authoritative source, wikipedia:
The term rendered "perfect" in most English translations [of Matthew 5:48] is τέλειοι (téleioi), the same word used in the Septuagint for תָּמִים (tamím) and meaning "brought to its end, finished; lacking nothing necessary to completeness.". According to Barnes, "Originally, it is applied to a piece of mechanism, as a machine that is complete in its parts. Applied to people, it refers to completeness of parts, or perfection, where no part is defective or wanting." Some link the Gospel's use of the term with its use by the Greek philosophers. To them something was perfect if it fully be its intended function.
But, that can also still point toward the impossible ideal. What I like to do is boil it down to the context. It's the closing statement of a specific portion of the Sermon on the Mount (or Plain, in Luke) that talks about how to deal with others, and boy, is this a teaching we could sorely use in our world today. Consider the following complete passage that the final statement belongs to:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. - Matthew 5:38-48, NRSV
What does "be perfect" mean in this passage? It doesn't mean "be free of all sin". You should answer for yourself before reading my interpretation in the next sentence, because your own interpretation is more important to you than mine is to you... OK, last chance, I urge you to come up with your own meaning... going... going...gone. I take it to mean that our human nature gives us prejudice and impatience toward others who aren't in our in-group. To be a finished product (perfect) like God, in this case, means to see all people with love and patience; even and especially when it is not reciprocated.

It's also interesting to compare the above passage to how Luke reported it:
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. - Luke 6:27-35, NRSV

</long explanation, entirely my own view>
- - -
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ― Carl Jung
- - -
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." ― Romans 14:13
- - -

Curt Sunshine
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Re: The Quest for Perfection

Post by Curt Sunshine » 25 Aug 2020, 05:43

I like the following rewording, which is entirely consistent with the original meaning:
"In this manner (living according to the rest of Chapter 5), become like your Father in Heaven: complete, whole, and fully developed."
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

Minyan Man
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Re: The Quest for Perfection

Post by Minyan Man » 25 Aug 2020, 07:13

SilentDawning wrote:
19 Aug 2020, 17:50
It's strange that the scripture you quote above, however, is pretty clear that we are to "be perfect like God". That's a pretty high standard. But then we have two prophets who appear to contradict that clearly worded statement.

What do you believe? The scriptures, or the opinion of two prophets?
I don't think they contradict each other now. Previously I did. The point for me is perfection is a process not a destination.
The other part of this topic for me is, once I think I'm living a perfect life, than I can judge others in they way they are
conducting their life? Again, for me absolutely NO. I have seen too many people who put people (members) into categories.
"Active" & "Inactive" is a good example. I have seen good people who told their children, "If you come home early from your
mission, you will have to walk home from the airport". They could of been kidding, but, the message is clear. Just a couple of
examples.

Roy
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Re: The Quest for Perfection

Post by Roy » 25 Aug 2020, 12:59

Our former bishop told me that he never misses a chance to pay tithing because it is one of the few areas where he has the opportunity to be mathematically perfect. I was not and am not in a position to encourage my bishop to self reflection but I do wonder if he is totally missing the message of Matthew 5:48.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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