Gospel Doctrine Lesson 38: Be as Perfect as Heavenly Father?

LDS Belief:

Perfection comes by complying with the formula Jesus gave us—keeping all the commandments and triumphing over sin. This command to be as perfect as Heavenly Father is an achievable goal.

LDS Words

Found in lesson 38, page 168:
After teaching the Nephites that they should love their enemies, Jesus said, “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Nephi 12:48). Why do we need the Atonement of Jesus Christ in order to be perfected? (See… Moroni 10:32–33—“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.”

Found in: The Miracle of Forgiveness, President Spencer W. Kimball, pages 208-209: “This progress toward eternal life is a matter of achieving perfection. Living all the commandments guarantees total forgiveness of sins and assures one of exaltation through that perfection which comes by complying with the formula the Lord gave us. In his Sermon on the Mount he made the command to all men: ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ (Matt. 5:48.) Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal.

Link to Lesson:

Gospel Doctrine Lesson 38

The Bold Truth:

Only Jesus kept all of Heavenly Father’s commands perfectly. He acted as our proxy and accomplished what we were unable to do—be as perfect as our Father in Heaven. Perfection comes by trusting that Jesus was perfect for us, in our place. Through the offering of Christ’s body as payment for your sin, you have been perfected forever!

My focus today is on one of the commands given to the Nephites. This command is also found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:48: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Have you ever noticed that Jesus has set Heavenly Father as our standard for perfection? I often wondered why Jesus didn’t command us to be as perfect as one of God’s Prophets, like Abraham. Did Jesus truly mean we couldn’t commit even one sin? James agrees with Jesus: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (2:10). This shows that even if we were able to keep 99.99% of God’s commands we would still fail. Perfection is an all or nothing thing—you either are or you aren’t!

The sobering truth is that God doesn’t overlook any imperfection. His penalty for even one sin is being cursed! “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10). As James says, the reason is because this law breaker is guilty of breaking the whole law! All who do not continue to keep every single command are cursed. Jesus will say to them, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

I’m often told that what Jesus must have meant is to “become” perfect someday. But notice the command doesn’t say to “become” perfect; it says to “be” perfect! Even Joseph Smith translated: “Ye are therefore commanded to be perfect.” The verb is “be” and not “become”. “Be” describes a present state and “become” describes a progression. For instance if your Bishop tells you to “be” morally clean, certainly he doesn’t mean for you to eventually progress towards becoming morally clean someday. He expects you to be morally clean right now.

Nephi testified “that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” President Kimball agrees: “Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal.”

There is a way to be perfect, but it is not through your own obedience as Mormon Prophets claim. The only way is to believe that God sent a proxy in your place to do what you were unable to do for yourself. His Son did not come to show you how to be perfect, but to be perfect for you. “For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). You are sanctified by the offering of his body (verse 10). Because Jesus kept all of God’s laws perfectly in your place, Heavenly Father accepts you as perfect right now. This wonderful gift from God comes not because of anything you have every done or could ever do, but because of what Jesus already did for you!

Eternal Consequences

If you believe your righteousness is achieved by keeping the commandments and triumphing over sin—you are in big trouble! Since Jesus is the only person who could achieve perfection with His own efforts, anyone else who tries will fail and is under God’s curse. For rejecting Christ’s efforts on your behalf He will send you to live eternally with Satan.

Additional Testimony of the Bold Truth:
No one does good:
– Psalm 14:2-3
– Ecclesiastes 7:20
– Proverbs 7:20
– Romans 3:10-12
– Romans 3:23
– Genesis 8:21
Our own Righteousness is like filthy rags in God’s eyes:
– Isaiah 64:6
Righteousness comes by Faith in Jesus not by works:
– 1 Corinthians 1:30
– Romans 1:17
– Romans 3:22
– Romans 9:30-32
– Romans 10:1-10
– Galatians 2:16, 21
– Philippians 3:9
– 2 Timothy 1:9
Own works will not profit us, trust in God:
– Isaiah 57:12-13
Christ has covered us with His robe of Righteousness:
– Isaiah 61:10
Through Christ’s sacrifice we have been perfected forever:
– Hebrews 10:10-14
Those whose hope is in Jesus are as pure as He is:
– 1 John 3:2-3
We are holy and blameless in his love:
– Ephesians 1:3-5
Links to Additional LDS words:

TofP=Teachings of Presidents of the Church

Christ came to establish the standard of God’s perfection
TofP-Harold B. Lee
TofP-Joseph F. Smith
God will not give us a commandment we can’t obey
Book of Mormon-Prophet Nephi
Gospel Principles-Basic LDS Doctrine

Human perfection comes through individual effort
TofP-David O. McKay
Savior would not mock us by giving us an unobtainable goal to be perfect
TofP-Harold B. Lee
Every member of Church can live all laws of gospel perfectly
TofP-Harold B. Lee
TofP-Heber J. Grant
TofP-Brigham Young
The Lord demands perfection, commanded to be supermen, gods in embryo
TofP-Spencer W. Kimball
TofP-Spencer W. Kimball
TofP-Joseph Smith
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Gospel Doctrine Lesson 38: All blessings are predicated upon obedience?

LDS Belief:

Jesus’ Atonement fulfilled the law of Moses. He gave us a Higher Law to follow. Our eternal destination is predicated upon our obedience to this Higher Law.

LDS Words

Found in lesson 38, page 168:
President Lee:
“In His Sermon on the Mount the Master has given us somewhat of a revelation of His own character, which was perfect, or what might be said to be ‘an autobiography, every syllable of which He had written down in deeds,’ and in so doing has given us a blueprint for our own lives” (Stand Ye in Holy Places [1974], 342).

Page 172:
3 Nephi 14: 21 “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Why must we do the will of Heavenly Father to be able to enter the kingdom of heaven? See D&C 130:20–21: “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated— 21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”

Have a class member read 3 Nephi 15:1 aloud. “And now it came to pass that when Jesus had ended these sayings he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and said unto them: Behold, ye have heard the things which I taught before I ascended to my Father; therefore, whoso remembereth these sayings of mine and doeth them, him will I raise up at the last day.”

The Bold Truth:

Jesus came to do God’s will and perfectly fulfilled His Law as our substitute. Our eternal destination depends upon what we believe: “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

For most of my childhood my father held callings within the Church, including Bishop, Stake President and Stake Patriarch. The sentence I most remember my father saying was “All blessings are predicated upon obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.” I am sure he taught this to me over and over because he loved me and he wanted me to learn what he believed was the only way to gain eternal life. These words are actually from a revelation given to Joseph Smith in D&C 130. In this week’s Gospel Doctrine Lesson we are referred to this revelation after the question is asked: “Why must we do the will of Heavenly Father to be able to enter the kingdom of heaven?” The answer, found in this section, is “when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

God has given to us many laws that must be obeyed before we can dwell in His presence. By far the most daunting command given was when Jesus said we must be as perfect as Heavenly Father Himself! (Matthew 5:48 ) The Apostle Paul revealed that no unclean person can dwell with God (Ephesians 5:5). The sobering truth is that there is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

This is why Jesus had to come to save us! He kept God’s commandments for us because we were doomed to failure without Him. Jesus perfectly obeyed God’s will in our place. He came to be our substitute for the righteousness demanded by Heavenly Father. The very purpose of His Atonement was to do what we were unable to do for ourselves—fulfill God’s law. “Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second” (Hebrews 10:9). He is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes (Romans 10:4).

From this week’s Gospel Doctrine lesson we see the Mormon belief that Jesus merely came to be our Example—to show us how to gain eternal life through our own obedience. LDS Prophet Harold B. Lee claimed that Jesus lived a perfect life “and in so doing has given us a blueprint for our own lives”. What do you believe Jesus did for you? Did He fulfill God’s law for you? Or did he give you a blueprint showing you how to fulfill the law yourself?

The blessing of eternal life can only be gained as a gift. That’s what blessings are—unconditional gifts given by our loving Father in Heaven! Jesus testified that this unconditional blessing is actually God’s will for all who believe in Him: “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

Please don’t make the mistake that my father did and teach your children that eternal life is predicated upon their obedience to God’s laws. Instead, teach them the glorious message that, in love, Jesus kept those laws perfectly for them!

Eternal Consequences

If you believe gaining eternal life is predicated upon your obedience to God’s law you will not attain it. On Judgment Day you will be found unclean because you rejected Christ as your substitute for Righteousness. Consequently Heavenly Father will reject you and deny you eternal life.

Additional Testimony of the Bold Truth:
Jesus came to do the will of Heavenly Father:
– Hebrews 10:5-9
Messianic Psalm:
– Psalm 40: 6-8
Jesus submitted to God’s will:
Jesus:
– John 4: 33
– Luke 22: 42
God’s will is to give eternal life to believers:
Jesus:
– John 4: 38-40
Jesus came to fulfill God’s law:
Jesus:
– Matthew 5:17
Christ’s Atonement is the end of God’s law for believers:
The Apostle Paul:
– Romans 10:4

Lesson 18 Beyond the Veil-Forgiveness through works?

LDS Belief:

A person is washed and cleansed from their sins (gains forgiveness) by keeping the commandments. Supporting LDS scripture found in Doctrine and Covenants 1:32 “Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.”

LDS Words
(Joseph Smith)

Found in lesson 18, page 220:
The Prophet Joseph Smith saw the following in vision, later recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76:50–59, 62, 68–70: “And again we bear record—for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just—they are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—that by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power; and who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.

The Bold Truth:

Jesus loves us and washed us from our sins in his own blood. (Revelation 1:5)

Joseph Smith revealed that a person gains forgiveness by keeping the commandments. But Jesus testified that doing all the things which are commanded of you is simply what God requires of you and is your duty (Luke 17:9-10). When you sin (fail to keep God’s commands) you incur a debt and need Heavenly Father’s forgiveness. Doing what is expected of you (keeping the commandments) cannot gain forgiveness for a debt. This merely prevents you from piling on more debt.

Here’s an illustration to explain what I mean: It’s expected that you will pay your monthly bills. Last month you used part of your bill money to go on vacation and so you couldn’t pay all your bills. You used your credit card to pay for these bills and so incurred a debt on your credit card. This month you paid all your bills. You call up your credit card company and say “I paid all my bills this month so please forgive my debt from last month”. Do you think your credit card company will accept this offer as payment for your debt? Heavenly Father also, will not accept as payment for your sin debt, the works He already requires of you.

So how does a sin debt get paid? The writer of Hebrews testifies that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). In the Old Testament we read that God’s people were required to offer animal sacrifices as payment for their sin. These animal sacrifices had to be perfect, without blemish. But even if you gave your life’s blood, as an offering to pay for your sins, your offering would be rejected by Heavenly Father. Why? Because you are not a perfect sacrifice! You are not without blemish. You are not without sin. Instead, you are in debt to God for all your sins. On Judgment Day, every single sin you’ve ever committed will be judged by Jesus for all to see (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Anyone found unclean (without blemish) will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

But take heart, you are not without hope! Jesus shed His blood and paid the price for the sins of the entire world. “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). Jesus was a perfect sacrifice—without any sin debt. Heavenly Father accepted Jesus’ payment for the sins of the world and forgave every person’s sin debt. In your place, Jesus offered His life as a perfect sacrifice and paid your debt. You can only receive forgiveness through belief, not through works (keeping God’s commands)! Believe that Jesus’ blood covers your sin debt and you will receive complete forgiveness of all your sins (past, present and future). Believe it and receive it! “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). Trust me; once you know you have been forgiven, you will live a life of thanksgiving! You will keep Heavenly Fathers commandments out of gratitude and love, not out of obligation or trying to gain something for yourself!

Eternal Consequences

If you believe you receive forgiveness by keeping God’s commands you will die in your sins. On Judgment Day you will stand guilty before Heavenly Father because you rejected Christ’s blood as payment for your sins.

Recommended Reading — The Apostle Peter’s Quest for Forgiveness

Unforgivable Saint

Additional Testimony of the Bold Truth:

Hebrews:
– Hebrews 9:12-15

Debt to God
Jesus:
– Matthew 6:12
Sacrifice for Sin
Heavenly Father:
– Leviticus 4:1-5
Works Judged
Jesus:
– Matthew 12:36
Forgiveness Through
Blood

The Apostle Paul:
– Colossians 1:14
– Ephesians 1:7
– Romans 3:24-25
– Romans 5:18-19
John the Beloved:
– Revelation 7:14
– Hebrews 9:12-15
The Apostle Peter:
– 1 Peter 1:18-19
Substitute Payment
The Prophet Isaiah:
– Isaiah 53:4-12
The Apostle Paul:
– Galatians 3:10-13
The Apostle Peter:
– 1 Peter 3:18
World’s Sin Paid
John the Baptist:
– John 1:29
John the Beloved:
– 1 John 2:2
No One Unclean
in Heaven

The Apostle Paul:
– Ephesians 5:5
Thankful Obedience
The Apostle Paul:
– 1 Corinthians 15:56-58

Lesson 18: Beyond the Veil: Life in the Eternities

LDS Belief:

Heaven consists of three kingdoms and people will be assigned to one of these kingdoms based upon their obedience to God’s law.

LDS Words (J. Smith)

Found in Lesson 18, pages 219-220:
“My text is on the resurrection of the dead, which you will find in the 14th chapter of John—‘In my Father’s house are many mansions.’ [John 14:2.] It should be—‘In my Father’s kingdom are many kingdoms,’ in order that ye may be heirs of God and joint-heirs with me. … There are mansions for those who obey a celestial law, and there are other mansions for those who come short of the law, every man in his own order.”

But,’ says one, ‘I believe in one universal heaven and hell, where all go, and are all alike, and equally miserable or equally happy.’ “What! where all are huddled together—the honorable, virtuous, and murderers, and whoremongers, when it is written that they shall be judged according to the deeds done in the body?

Additional Testimony of the Bold Truth:

Jesus:
– Matthew 13:37-43
– John 5:28-30

John the Baptist:
– Matthew 3:2

John the Beloved:
– Revelation 20:10-15
– Revelation 21:7-8
– Revelation 21:27

The Apostle Peter:
– 1 Peter 4:17

The Apostle Paul:
– Romans 2:6
– Titus 1:15

The Prophet Daniel:
– Daniel 12:2

The Psalmist:
– Psalm 1:1-6

King David:
– Psalm 11:5

The Prophet Ezekiel:
– Ezekiel 18:20

The Prophet Malachi:
– Malachi 3:18

The Bold Truth:

The very Son of God believed in one universal heaven and hell!

Jesus taught that there were only two eternal destinations for all peoples of the world. He claimed that Heaven is where God and His eternal family will dwell and Hell will be the domain of Satan, his demons and the wicked. Jesus also grouped all peoples of the world into only two broad categories-the righteous and the wicked. According to the Son of God, you are either righteous, or wicked.

Our Savior gave us a very vivid picture of this truth in Matthew 25. On Judgment Day all the nations of the world will be gathered before Him to have their works judged. But even before He begins the Judgment, God’s angels divide everyone into two groups. Those on Jesus’ right are called righteous because they did good to others in need. The wicked on His left are there because they didn’t do good to those in need. Notice that these wicked people aren’t even charged with doing what we humans might call grievous sins like murder or adultery. They are simply accused of committing sins of omission. Jesus condemns them as “cursed”—then sends them into everlasting fire to live eternally with Satan and his angels. This picture certainly shows Jesus’ belief in one universal heaven and hell. It also shows us that Jesus divides the whole world into only two broad categories.

Many Mormons have said to me “Heavenly Father is a loving God—He would never send someone into eternal punishment”. But Jesus testified that Heavenly Father will do just that. God has given Jesus the authority to judge the world on Judgment Day. Jesus (not Joseph Smith) will determine who is worthy to receive a mansion in the Kingdom of Heaven. To be Righteous a person must have kept God’s law perfectly. Falling short of God’s law, in even one point, makes a person wicked. God does not “grade sins”. Each and every sin is disastrous because it is rebellion against God. Jesus shows that not doing the good things God commands will cause a person to live eternally in hell with Satan.

Yes, Heavenly Father is a merciful and loving God and wants every person to live eternally with Him. That’s why He offered His Son as a sacrifice to ensure this could happen when Jesus paid the demands of Justice. Jesus’ shed blood truly covers over the sins of the entire world. All who believe that Jesus kept God’s law perfectly for them, are righteous because their sins have been removed. On Judgment Day, God’s angels will gather these true believers to sit at the right hand of Jesus—before He begins judging anyone’s works. Every believer will receive a reward in God’s celestial glory.

Eternal Consequences

Please don’t reject Heavenly Father’s offer of complete forgiveness through Jesus’ blood. If you do, this means you don’t have faith in what Jesus did for you and you will sit on His left! “Then shall he (Jesus) say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”