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BE YE PERFECT
Is It Possible?
OME knowledge of the attributes of God is essential to intelligent worship. Granted that finite man cannot comprehend infinity; yet consistency forbids us carrying this self-evident truth to the extent of saying that because God is infinite man can have no conception of His nature or character.
If God be but a vast formless nonentity, filling all space and therefore illimitable, substanceless, devoid of body and parts, incapable of emotions and passions, He is not my Father, I am not His son. To the contrary, the Scriptures affirm that humankind are the children of God, fashioned after His likeness in both spirit and body; and conversely, He must be of definite form and feature, possessed of a body perfect in all its parts, and He likewise perfect in all His acts.
On the night of the betrayal, while comforting the sorrow-stricken Eleven by solemn and lofty discourse, Jesus said unto them: "Ye believe in God, believe also in me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him."
The faithful Philip broke in with an appealing request: "Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us." The Lord's response was an unequivocal avowal that He was His Father's exact presentment, so that whosoever had seen Him had seen unto what and whom the Father was like. Note the explicit and withal pathetic words of the heavy-hearted Christ: "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast
thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?" See John 14:1-10.
Jesus Christ, the Man, was and is in the express likeness of His Father's Person; and, since the consummation of His mission in the flesh and His victory over death whereby comes the resurrection, He has been exalted to the Father's state of glory and perfection. See Heb. 1:1-4.
Though the thoughts and activities of God be as far above the ways of men as the heavens are above the earth, they are nevertheless of a kind with human yearnings and aspirations, so far as these be the fruitage of holiness, purity, and righteous endeavor. Though our planet be but as a drop of the ocean compared with the many greater orbs, it is not the least of all; and what we have come to know of other worlds is primarily based on analogy with the phenomena of our own. Notwithstanding that Deity is perfect and humanity grossly imperfect, we may learn much of the Higher by a study of the lower in its true and normal phases.
As an impressive and profound climax to one division of the sublime discourse, The Sermon on the Mount, the Master said: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matt. 5:48.)
What led up to this utterance, calling for the explanatory "therefore" by which the relation of premises and conclusion is expressed? A studious reading of the entire chapter gives answer. Following the Beatitudes and certain well defined admonitions and precepts, the Lord made plain the distinction between the Law under which Israel had professedly lived from Moses down, and the higher requirements of the Gospel taught by Christ. Again and again the introductory, "Ye have heard that it was said by them
of old time," is followed by the authoritative, "But I say unto you." Obedience to the Gospel, which comprises all the essentials of the Law, was enjoined as the means by which man may become perfect, even in the sense in which the Father in heaven is perfect.
It is a significant fact that when Jesus Christ, a resurrected and glorified Being, visited the Nephite branch of the House of Israel on the Western Continent, He included Himself with the Father as the existent ideal of perfection, as thus appears: "Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect." (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 12:48).
The road to exaltation and perfection is opened through the Gospel of Christ. We cannot rationally construe our Lord's admonition as implying an impossibility. We are not required to assume that man in mortality can attain the perfection of an exalted and glorified personage, such as either the Father or Jesus Christ. However, man may be perfect in his sphere as more advanced intelligences may be in their several spheres; yet the relative perfection of the lower is vastly inferior to that of the higher. We can conceive of a college freshman attaining perfection in his class; yet the honors of the upper classman are beyond; and graduation, though to him remote, is assured if he do but maintain his high standing to the end.
After all, individual perfection is relative and must be gaged by the law operative upon us. In 1832 the Lord thus spake through His prophet Joseph Smith: "And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law, and perfected and sanctified by the same." (Doctrine & Covenants 88:34.)
The law of the Gospel is a perfect law; and the sure effect of full obedience thereto is perfection. Of those who
attain exaltation in the celestial kingdom Christ has declared: "These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect Atonement through the shedding of his own blood." (76:69.)
THE GLORY OF GOD IS INTELLIGENCE
Knowledge Is Power in Heaven as on Earth
N a revelation to Abraham the Lord made known the existence of spirits appointed to take bodies upon the earth. These spirits were designated as "the intelligences that were organized before the world was"; and elsewhere in the same record spirits are called intelligences. See Pearl of Great Price, pp. 65, 66.
This usage of the term has gained a place in modern English, as lexicographers agree. The Standard Dictionary gives us the following as one of the specific definitions of intelligence: "An intelligent being, especially a spirit not embodied; as the intelligences of the unseen world; the Supreme Intelligence."
The word is current as connoting (1) the mental capacity to know and understand; (2) knowledge itself, or the thing that is known and understood; and (3) the person who knows and understands. Beside these there are other minor usages.
In the revelation above cited the Lord impressed upon His ancient prophet and seer the fact that some of the spirits were more intelligent than others; and then proclaimed His own Divine supremacy by the declaration: "I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.
I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning. I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast
In such wise did God make known anciently the power by virtue of which He is supreme over all the intelligences that exist the fact that He is more intelligent than any and all others. In the heavens as upon the earth the aphorism holds good that Knowledge is Power, providing that by "knowledge" we mean application, and not merely mental possession, of truth. In a revelation through Joseph Smith the prophet given in 1833, the character of Divine authority and power is thus sublimely summarized: "The Glory of God is Intelligence." (Doctrine & Covenants 93:36.)
The context of the passage shows that the intelligence therein referred to as an attribute of Deity is spiritual light and truth; and that man may attain to a measure of this exalting light and truth is thus made certain: "He that keepeth His commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also."
The antithesis of light and truth is darkness and falsehood; the former is summarized as righteousness, the latter as evil. Reverting to the figure of mortality as a school for embodied spirits, we must admit that every pupil who ignores or rejects the truth as presented to him through the revealed word and his own experience is culpably responsible for his ignorance.