Paul says that those who are reborn through repentance and becoming a disciple of Christ, having been renewed by him, are “joint heirs” with Christ. (Read Romans 8:16-17 — note that here our relationship with the Father is established again as children).
That brings us to the full meaning of what it is to “be perfect as [our] Father in Heaven is perfect”. We will not become Him; we can become like him. There are two things which stand out here to me for questioning:
- What can we do to become perfect, or like our Father, which is also, like Christ; how can we become more Christlike?
- Is there some state of perfection that is static; a state where no progress, no learning, nothing is happening.
Becoming Like Christ — Being Born Again
It is obviously not easy to become like the Savior. I have studied the scriptures for years. I don’t say this by way of qualification, just saying that I have read, pondered, analyzed and prayed. One thing is obvious to me:
We are to learn to love all children of our Father as he loves them.
We are to have Faith, Hope and Charity. In my mind is often King Benjamin’s admonition to his people to not withhold aid from people, whom they deem “undeserving.” (Actually, the very word “undeserving” is very uncharitable and judgmental.) — read Mosiah 4.
We should display the Fruits of the Spirit: The Spirit never told a man to beat his wife; never gave a parent directions to use demeaning and belittling language; never directed one to lash out in anger against a reviler (revile not the revilers, says the Lord).
Note that humility and knowledge can indeed co-exist in us. The more we know, the more we become aware of how much there is for us to know, that we don’t know yet. If that doesn’t make one humble, all knowledge is in vain.
Virtue, it is said, is its own reward. How can I expect others to think well of me, if I can not think well of others. My wife says we should “excuse” our brothers and sisters. If someone is impertinent, she’s had a long and hard day.
Diligence and Obedience are important, too. Can you imagine picking up, say, a violin and playing a Mozart concerto with it (think of some instrument you can not play well)? Can anybody do that without diligently practicing according to the directions given by someone in the know? Likewise, can we become Christlike in an instant at Resurrection, if we haven’t “practiced”? Obviously, no!
You see how it is at the same time very obvious and very complex? But we don’t need to worry about the apparent paradoxes (lose yourself to find yourself; trying to save yourself is to lose yourself). We study, pray, ponder, have the FHE, go to church, magnify our callings &c and become more patient and loving. These are the “standard Mormon answers” because they’re so true.
To be born again is to have the Spirit sanctify us, as we put ourselves into whatever we are called to do. After this spiritual rebirth the world looks different to us; we won’t be seeing (in other words, looking for) the defects first in ourselves or others; we won’t want to be anybody’s judges, but their advocates.
That change is not instant. We can, and most of us, who feel we are indeed born again, have had a “paradigm shift” so to speak. But the real change in us is incremental.
Perfection Is Not Dull
There are people, who think — somewhat based on the scriptures, I grant you — that Heaven is a most boring place; you just “exist” there, with nothing else to do than to praise God, whose only job is to listen to our praises. I can not regard such a state the ultimate happiness.
My personal theory is — and I would recant this the minute pres. Monson or his successor says something clear about is, but the fact is we don’t know that much about this, thus this is open to hypotheses — that the gods that the Pearl of Great Price Creation narratives talk about have indeed a job, a work to do.
Our Father says to us that [his] work and [his] glory is to bring to pass the immortality and Eternal Life of Man Christ’s resurrection is a type of what he’ll do to us — because of the Atonement and Resurrection this is possible. That is our physical renewal. As Paul says, Christ was the “first fruits” of Resurrection. Not only; first.
Eternal Life means that we are “quickened in the Spirit” too. I have previously referred to something like flashes of life, of Eternal Glory, which shine like bright beacons in my life, that tell me Father loves me. He doesn’t love me just because he’s my father and a father’s supposed to love his children — he loves me. That thought gives me such joy it’s impossible to describe. And the Spirit bears witness that it is true. My family here is a type of Father’s family… the blessings of Abraham: “if you can count the stars or sands of the sea”.
I’m sorry, Elder McConkie, but I disagree somewhat. You’re right that he will not one day discover that the whole Plan of Salvation thing is useless, and cancel it. No, God is not a mortal man, who changes his opinions.
But Eternity is something that the human mind finds hard to wrap itself around, and trying to understand it causes interesting contortions (hence, the history of Christian philosophical theology which has emasculated and immaterialized a masculine and material God, our Father).
Infinite Space is just as difficult for human mind to grasp. How far is infinity, and how long does it take to get there?
There will be building up; there is room in the Multiverse (who says that only things we can directly observe are real?) to build up and rejoice in the fruits of our labors.
“The restful state of the Righteous” has become to mean our exertions will no longer be futile! What tires us is futile exertion, trying to do something we are not able to achieve.
And yet, I am certain that Father will experience some grief and disappointment when he sees some of his children choose following Lucifer into the “outer darkness” rather than coming into the kingdom of glory he has prepared for them — and it has not exactly been cheap to prepare!
Thanks be to the Father for the gift of his Son! Amen.