Path to Perfection
My father passed away on 28 September 2001, just a little over 2 weeks after 9-11. He was 75 years old and had lived his whole life on the cattle ranch that my great grandfather homesteaded, the Keyhole Ranch in Flowell, Utah. Shortly after he married his high school sweetheart, he built the home where my mother still lives, which has been remodeled and enlarged a few times and is my boyhood home. My mother is now 88 years old, healthy and independent. In 1984, my wife and I built our home next door to my father and mother. I had been away from Flowell for 15 years serving a mission, getting an education and starting my career.
As I grew up, I worked alongside my father on the ranch. When he was still a young man, he self-studied to become an electrician. He passed the tests required by the State of Utah and became a licensed master electrician. He became the manager of the Flowell Electric Association, the utility company that purchases wholesale electricity and distributes it to power the homes, farms and deep well pumps for irrigation in the area. His career allowed him to travel and meet people in the utility business in the surrounding states. He ranched as a side business. My involvement working with him on the ranch increased.
In 1983, I started my own engineering business so, before and after his death, I traveled the western United States selling business. I regularly ran across people who knew my father. People would ask if I was related to Ralph Robinson. They would invariably state that he was: honest, hardworking, dependable and a nice guy. I realized that I had big shoes to fill.
At the time of his death, he was serving as a Stake Patriarch in the Fillmore Utah Stake and a temple worker in the Manti Temple. He had been faithful and active in the church his whole life. He had served as Bishop and I think he genuinely tried to keep himself unspotted from the sins of the world. On the other hand, I knew him very well because I had spent so much time working with him. He was not perfect and he had weaknesses and trials just like everyone else. He did, however, try at all times to do right and to improve.
Occasionally I wonder whether or not he is a candidate for the Celestial Kingdom in view of the statement made by the Savior in the Sermon on the Mount, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5:48) Regardless of my father’s shortcomings, his intent and effort were exemplary and his effort would not be any less than that of you or me, Joseph Smith or any others who strive in this life, yet still do not reach perfection before they pass on. If my father is not in line for exaltation, then who in this world is? If he is not in line, then exaltation is only reserved for a select few of God’s children or none of God’s children because, except Jesus Christ, none of them reached or will reach perfection. And, our Father in Heaven wants all his children to return to live with Him.
With a narrow understanding of the work of life, Christ’s commandment to be “perfect” can appear utterly unrealistic and result in surrender to a, “what is the use of trying” attitude. Or, it can result in your entering the world of perfectionism where you wear yourself out being perfect in all things. This is a selfish way to live because you are always wrapped up in you, you are never good enough and it generally results in depression.
With a broader understanding of the work of life; however, you understand that you are a progressive being and you strive for excellence as you grow toward your final destiny of perfection in the life to come. This does not; however, excuse you in this life from doing the best you can, getting up when you stumble and continue striving.
Christ understood the concept of your progressing and growing toward perfection because, in the same sermon, he asked you to “seek” which is a process. He also instructed that you do not attain perfection, it is added or given to you. And, you must ask Father in Heaven for progress as you seek.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matt 6:33)
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matt 7:11)
James, the half-brother of Jesus, taught similar doctrine. He knew perfection is a work in progress admonishing us to have patience during our time on earth and ultimately, perfection is a gift from above.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights… (James 1:4)
This interpretation of progressive beings who are not intended to accomplish everything in this life but we progress toward perfection, is taught in the D&C.
24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. (DC 50:24)
13 Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected. (DC 67:13)
143 The above offices I have given unto you, and the keys thereof, for helps and for governments, for the work of the ministry and the perfecting of my saints. (DC 124:143)
Finally, through your efforts and Christ’s help in your path to perfection, I believe all your attributes and habits can become perfected just as you can become perfected through Christ’s grace after repentance from sin. Christ will make up the difference and heal you, , as you strive to improve personally and repent of sin during your life. (3 Nephi 9:13) “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him … that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ… (Moroni 10: 32) We call this striving for excellence, enduring to the end. “…if ye shall press forward…and endure to the end… Ye shall have eternal life. (2 Nephi 31:20) This is the path to perfection in life.
Your mission is no different. PMG p. 10 states that your success is measured by your commitment to the work. Just as my father did not attain perfection but did his best to strive for excellence in his life, you must also strive for excellence as a missionary. The description of a successful missionary in PMG includes words such as: develop, do your very best, work, seek earnestly, help, invite, go about and serve. This is to be done without comparing yourself, allowing yourself to be discouraged or lowering your expectations. You will never become a perfect missionary but you will be enough through your commitment to strive for excellence in your work.