Monday, December 21, 2009

Angels Among Us

Thank you for your enthusiasm and congratulations for my good news! But some of you forgot to share your own good news, so please do it this week! It's always fun to share and I loved reading the different bits of good news from those who left it.

As I was thinking about what I would post this morning, I was reminded of a post I did on my personal blog a few years ago and felt that I should share it here today.

It comes from a quote by Elder Merrill J. Bateman in the December Ensign from 2007. Elder Bateman was the president of BYU when I was there and is a leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have been inspired by him so many times and just love him. The Ensign is a magazine printed by our church.

Anyway, here is an excerpt from that post:

"What is the lesson for us today as we enter a new Christmas season? Who will minister to those in need? Who are the angels that will prepare the way for His return? I have noticed that during the early stages of a dispensation, angelic ministers come from the other side of the veil, but as time elapses and the number of faithful members increases, more is expected of those in mortality. For example, when a new country is opened to the gospel, missionaries learn that many have been prepared in miraculous ways to receive the gospel, and miracles occur with some frequency to advance the work. Once a core of members is established, however, the Lord’s assistance changes as He provides opportunities for the members to become the miracle workers.

"Consequently, miracles during this Christmas season require our faith and works. As we sing the hymns of Christmas and speak of angels sent to earth to witness the Savior’s birth in the meridian of time, may we rise to the occasion and minister to those in need in our day. May we be reminded of our promises to “bear one another’s burdens, … to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places … and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that [we] may have eternal life” (Mosiah 18:8–9).

"I bear witness that Christmas is a season for angels. As they ministered to the Savior and others in the “meridian of time,” may we, as angels of mercy, minister to other families and to those in need in the “fulness of times” so that the Lord’s work may move forward."

I read this while working out at the gym this morning and it just really appealed to me. I don't know that it's necessarily a totally new concept, I just like the way he put it all together. And it got me thinking about all of the people who have acted as angels in my life. There are too many to count, from the countless times that friends and family have called or dropped by or sent a note when I needed some extra love, to strangers who have smiled at me on the street or held a door when I've got my arms full, to my beautiful children who are so amazing at making me feel special. I have been blessed with the most amazing family and the most amazing friends. And of course, I get to keep my most amazing angel for eternity. My incredible husband who has saved me from everything from unbearably dark days to a really really bad haircut that I got last weekend. Not very many husbands could look at a really miserable haircut and determine how to style it so it actually looks cute. And that's only one of his many amazing skills. He is such an amazing blessing that I don't always deserve. But I'm trying to.

Anyway, after realizing just how blessed I've been by all of these angels (i.e. all of you) in my life, I decided to add another resolution to my list for 2008. I resolve to live so that I can be attentive enough and flexible enough to be someone else's angel whenever the Lord needs my help.

Back to 2009. I still remember writing this post. The reason it hit me so poignantly that day is because of my little nephew who just turned 2. He was born several weeks early and my brother and his family had to deal with all the trials and difficulties and fears that sort of thing brings. It was so hard living across the country from them and feeling helpless.

Then I heard them share the stories of all the wonderful people who did live close enough to help and were doing a great job of it. And I was so thankful to all these people that I didn't even know. They were like angels to me as well as my brother's family, because they provided me with peace of mind.

And the thought occurred to me that maybe that's a part of God's plan. We can't always be close enough to bring soup to a sick friend or relative, but there is someone nearby that we can help. We can be angels for someone else.

Kind of like Karma, or something? I don't know. It's one of those concepts that made more sense in my head than it is here. But when I help someone here that I don't know very well, I feel like that's my way of making a deposit in the Bank of Good Works. And then hopefully, when someone I love needs help, someone else near them can make that withdrawal for me. Does that make any sense?

Anyway, just something to think about during the last few days of Christmas season and as we head into the new year. I'm so thankful to my Savior Jesus Christ for being the supreme Example of serving others. I know that by following Him in that way, we will become closer to Him. And that is the pathway to eternal happiness.

Have a Very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Good News

That's what I want to share this week.

Because I'm overwhelmed by all that I should be doing, but really don't feel like doing.
Because last week's post was very long.
Because I was sick and snowed-in most of last week and that makes me feel entitled.
And because I have really good news that I've been waiting for weeks and weeks to share.

21 weeks to be exact.

I was hoping to be able to share whether it's a boy or a girl, but I still don't find out for another week. My doctor must know that I really need a lot of practice in patience. And I have something else planned for next week's post.

But I am very excited to announce that HH and I are going to be welcoming another little baby to our family next spring. (Remember when I was so sick a few months ago--now you know why!)

Doesn't sharing good news always make you feel good? What is your good news? It doesn't have to be anything monumental--but it can be. Either way, let us know! What is good in your life today?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Perfection Pending

Well, Christmas season is definitely in full swing. And I have a backyard full of snow with the promise of more to go with it. I just wish I could have the snow with out the freezing cold. Is that really too much to ask?

Does anyone else find themselves feeling a tad overwhelmed at this time of year? I know I frequently do. But this year, my gift-giving game plan was drastically different, so I haven't been as caught up in the stress that can cause. Thank goodness.

However, there is a subject that has the potential of weighing me down all year long. And that is Perfection.

Does anyone else get a little queasy when this topic is brought up? That's what we're all striving to be, right? In so many different, overwhelming ways--right?

I think the only thing I'm perfect at so far is forgetting birthdays. Actually, I remember my immediate family members', so I guess I'm only really good at that.

Anyway, I came across an article by Elder Russell M. Nelson, a leader in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, several months ago regarding this very subject. I've been holding onto it and felt very strongly that today I should share it with you.

Elder Nelson helps provide a much needed and very comforting perspective on attaining perfection.

Perfection Pending

If I were to ask which of the Lord’s commandments is most difficult to keep, many of us might cite Matt. 5:48: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” 1
Keeping this commandment can be a concern because each of us is far from perfect, both spiritually and temporally. Reminders come repeatedly. We may lock keys inside the car, or even forget where the car is parked. And not infrequently we walk intently from one part of the house to another, only to forget the reason for the errand.

When comparing one’s personal performance with the supreme standard of the Lord’s expectation, the reality of imperfection can at times be depressing. My heart goes out to conscientious Saints who, because of their shortcomings, allow feelings of depression to rob them of happiness in life.

We all need to remember: men are that they might have joy—not guilt trips! 2 We also need to remember that the Lord gives no commandments that are impossible to obey. But sometimes we fail to comprehend them fully.

Our understanding of perfection might be aided if we classify it into two categories. The first could pertain uniquely to this life—mortal perfection. The second category could pertain uniquely to the next life—immortal or eternal perfection.

Mortal Perfection

In this life, certain actions can be perfected. A baseball pitcher can throw a no-hit, no-run ball game. A surgeon can perform an operation without an error. A musician can render a selection without a mistake. One can likewise achieve perfection in being punctual, paying tithing, keeping the Word of Wisdom, and so on. The enormous effort required to attain such self-mastery is rewarded with a deep sense of satisfaction. More importantly, spiritual attainments in mortality accompany us into eternity. 3

James gave a practical standard by which mortal perfection could be measured. He said, “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man.” 4
Scriptures have described Noah, Seth, and Job as perfect men. 5 No doubt the same term might apply to a large number of faithful disciples in various dispensations. Alma said that “there were many, exceedingly great many,” 6 who were pure before the Lord.

This does not mean that these people never made mistakes or never had need of correction. The process of perfection includes challenges to overcome and steps to repentance that may be very painful. 7 There is a proper place for chastisement in the molding of character, for we know that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” 8

Mortal perfection can be achieved as we try to perform every duty, keep every law, and strive to be as perfect in our sphere as our Heavenly Father is in his. If we do the best we can, the Lord will bless us according to our deeds and the desires of our hearts. 9
Eternal Perfection

But Jesus asked for more than mortal perfection. The moment he uttered the words “even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” he raised our sights beyond the bounds of mortality. Our Heavenly Father has eternal perfection. This very fact merits a much broader perspective.

Recently I studied the English and Greek editions of the New Testament, concentrating on each use of the term perfect and its derivatives. Studying both languages together provided some interesting insights, since Greek was the original language of the New Testament.

In Matt. 5:48, the term perfect was translated from the Greek teleios, which means “complete.” Teleios is an adjective derived from the noun telos, which means “end.” 10 The infinitive form of the verb is teleiono, which means “to reach a distant end, to be fully developed, to consummate, or to finish.” 11 Please note that the word does not imply “freedom from error”; it implies “achieving a distant objective.” In fact, when writers of the Greek New Testament wished to describe perfection of behavior—precision or excellence of human effort—they did not employ a form of teleios; instead, they chose different words. 12

Teleios is not a total stranger to us. From it comes the prefix tele- that we use every day. Telephone literally means “distant talk.” Television means “to see distantly.” Telephoto means “distant light,” and so on.

With that background in mind, let us consider another highly significant statement made by the Lord. Just prior to his crucifixion, he said that on “the third day I shall be perfected.” 13 Think of that! The sinless, errorless Lord—already perfect by our mortal standards—proclaimed his own state of perfection yet to be in the future. 14 His eternal perfection would follow his resurrection and receipt of “all power … in heaven and in earth.” 15

The perfection that the Savior envisions for us is much more than errorless performance. It is the eternal expectation as expressed by the Lord in his great intercessory prayer to his Father—that we might be made perfect and be able to dwell with them in the eternities ahead. 16

The Lord’s entire work and glory pertains to the immortality and eternal life of each human being. 17 He came into the world to do the will of his Father, who sent him. 18 His sacred responsibility was foreseen before the creation 19 and was foretold by all his holy prophets since the world began. 20

The atonement of Christ fulfilled the long-awaited purpose for which he had come to the earth. His concluding words upon Calvary’s cross referred to the culmination of his assignment—to atone for all humankind. Then he said, “It is finished.” 21 Not surprisingly, the Greek word from which finished was derived is teleios.

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 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.” 22 This time he listed himself along with his Father as a perfected personage. Previously he had not. 23

Resurrection is requisite for eternal perfection. Thanks to the atonement of Jesus Christ, our bodies, corruptible in mortality, will become incorruptible. Our physical frames, now subject to disease, death, and decay, will acquire immortal glory. 24 Presently sustained by the blood of life 25 and ever aging, our bodies will be sustained by spirit and become changeless and beyond the bounds of death. 26

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. 27

Ordinances and Covenants of the Temple

Scriptures identify other important prerequisites to eternal perfection. They relate to the ordinances and covenants of the temple. 28 No accountable individual can receive exaltation in the celestial kingdom without the ordinances of the temple. Endowments and sealings are for our personal perfection and are secured through our faithfulness. 29

This requirement also pertains to our ancestors. Paul taught “that they without us should not be made perfect.” 30 Again, in that verse, the Greek term from which perfect was translated was a form of teleios. 31

In latter-day revelation, the Lord was even more explicit. His prophet wrote: “My dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation. … They without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect.” 32

Encouragement from the Savior’s Example

Our climb up the path to perfection is aided by encouragement from the scriptures. They hold the promise that we shall, if faithful in all things, become like Deity. John the beloved Apostle wrote:

“We should be called the sons [and daughters] of God. …

“… When he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” 33

Continuing encouragement comes as we follow the example of Jesus, who taught, “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” 34 His hope for us is crystal clear! He declared: “What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” 35 Thus, our adoration of Jesus is best expressed by our emulation of Jesus. 36

People have never failed to follow Jesus because his standards were imprecise or insufficiently high. Quite to the contrary. Some have disregarded his teachings because they were viewed as being too precise or impractically high! Yet such lofty standards, when earnestly pursued, produce great inner peace and incomparable joy.

There is no other individual to compare with Jesus Christ, nor is there any other exhortation equal to his sublime expression of hope: “I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” 37

This divine entreaty is consistent with the fact that, as begotten children of heavenly parents, we are endowed with the potential to become like them, just as mortal children may become like their mortal parents.
The Lord restored his church to help us prepare for perfection. Paul said that the Savior placed in the Church Apostles, prophets, and teachers, “for the perfecting of the saints, … for the edifying of the body of Christ:

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” 38

The perfect man described in Paul’s quotation is the completed person—teleios—the glorified soul!

Moroni taught how to gain this glorious objective. His instruction stands in any age as an antidote for depression and a prescription for joy. I echo his plea: “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; … love God with all your might, mind and strength … [Then] ye may be perfect in Christ, … holy, [and] without spot.” 39

Meanwhile, brothers and sisters, let us do the best we can and try to improve each day. When our imperfections appear, we can keep trying to correct them. We can be more forgiving of flaws in ourselves and among those we love. We can be comforted and forbearing. The Lord taught, “Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now … ; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected.” 40

We need not be dismayed if our earnest efforts toward perfection now seem so arduous and endless. Perfection is pending. It can come in full only after the Resurrection and only through the Lord. It awaits all who love him and keep his commandments. It includes thrones, kingdoms, principalities, powers, and dominions. 41 It is the end for which we are to endure. 42 It is the eternal perfection that God has in store for each of us. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

His footnotes follow at the end, but I just wanted to add some brief thoughts (as if this wasn't already long enough!). I just want to say that I'm grateful for this Christmas season and for the frequent reminders of our Savior's birth. I am so grateful He came to earth to show and teach us the way we must go, so we too, can be perfect, even as He and our Father in Heaven are perfect.

And I know that, as Elder Nelson said, by following the teachings of Jesus we can have "incomparable joy". I know it because I have faith in my Savior, because I have faith in the teaching of one of His servants Elder Nelson, and I know it because I have experienced glimpses of it as I strive to be a little more perfect each day.

What do you do to maintain this perspective? How do you keep from getting overwhelmed by your own shortcomings? How do you stay focused on this all-important goal when so many other things are going on all around?


1. Those words were given additional intensity in the Joseph Smith Translation: “Ye are therefore commanded to be perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (JST, Matt. 5:50).

2. See 2 Ne. 2:25.

3. See D&C 130:18–19.

4. James 3:2; emphasis added.

5. See Gen. 6:9; D&C 107:43; Job 1:1.

6. Alma 13:12.

7. See Heb. 5:8.

8. Heb. 12:6.

9. See D&C 137:9.

10. Incidentally, the feminine form of this noun is teleia, the Greek term for a period at the end of a sentence.

11. Footnote b for Matt. 5:48 states: “gr complete, finished, fully developed” (LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979, p. 1195).

12. A few examples include:• “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise” (Matt. 21:16; emphasis added).• “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master” (Luke 6:40). In both of these verses, perfect came from the Greek term katartizo, which means “to fit out, equip, put in order, arrange, adjust; to fit or frame for one’s self”—an act of preparation.• Another speaks of “perfect understanding” (Luke 1:3; emphasis added). In this instance, perfect came from the Greek adverb akribos, which means “exactly, accurately.”• Another verse refers to those who touched the hem of the Master’s garment and “were made perfectly whole” (Matt. 14:36; emphasis added). Perfect in this instance came from the Greek diasozo, which means “to preserve through danger, to bring safely through, to save, keep from perishing, to rescue.”

13. Luke 13:32; emphasis added.

14. In the Greek text of that proclamation, the verb teleiono was again used, in its future tense—teleiouma.

15. Matt. 28:18; see also D&C 93:2–22.

16. See John 17:23–24.

17. See Moses 1:39.

18. See 3 Ne. 27:13.

19. See Moses 4:1–2; Moses 7:62; Abr. 3:22–28.

20. See Acts 3:19–21.

21. John 19:30. In modern revelation, Jesus used similar language. He said, “I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men” (D&C 19:19; emphasis added).

22. 3 Ne. 12:48; emphasis added.

23. See Matt. 5:48.

24. See Alma 11:45; D&C 76:64–70.

25. See Lev. 17:11.

26. LDS Bible Dictionary, s.v. “resurrection”: “A resurrection means to become immortal, without blood, yet with a body of flesh and bone.”

27. See Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection (Independence, Missouri: The Genealogical Society of Utah, 1946), p. 331; Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), p. 237.

28. Joseph Smith taught, “Being born again, comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 162).

29. See Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., comp. Bruce R. McConkie (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 2:45.

30. Heb. 11:40; emphasis added.

31. Teleioo

32. D&C 128:15; see also Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 159.

33. 1 Jn. 3:1–3. For additional commentary, see Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, pp. 7–9.

34. 1 Pet. 1:16; see also Lev. 11:44–45; Lev. 19:2; Lev. 20:26.

35. 3 Ne. 27:27.

36. See Neal A. Maxwell, We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1984), p. 145; Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965), p. 199.

37. 3 Ne. 12:48.

38. Eph. 4:12–13; emphasis added.

39. Moro. 10:32–33.

40. D&C 67:13.

41. See D&C 132:19.

42. This concept is supported by the fact that in verses of the New Testament that refer to the end for which we are to endure, the Greek word from which end was translated was also derived from telos (see Matt. 10:22; Matt. 24:13; Mark 13:13).