The Journey to Perfection

I have heard several times from members of the church that they simply cannot be perfect like the men and women of the scriptures, that these prophets were perfect and that level is too hard to attain.  I find something different there, however. I find example after example of men willing to quickly admit their own multiple imperfections and say that they had managed to fulfill the will of the Lord despite the sometimes serious mistakes they made. It is a challenge for a people like us to look back over a period of thousands of years and find the true hearts of men by only reading a small snapshot of their lives.

 In the first and only chapter of Enos, we find Enos going out to hunt beasts of the forest. In the bible dictionary, we learn that in the times when there has been no temple upon the earth, the Lord has commanded his people to go to the mountains so that they might converse with Him. I have been hunting alone in the mountains. It is a solemn experience without music and phones and distractions. It allows one to reflect upon the things of one’s life. Enos said, “I will tell you of the wrestle that I had before God.” Note that Enos did not say he wrestled WITH God but that he wrestled BEFORE God. I assume that the wrestle that Enos had was with himself. He sought forgiveness and mercy of the Lord for the sins and shortcomings he knew that he had.

He said that he “Kneeled down before my maker and cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for my own soul, and all the day long did I cry unto Him, and when the night came I did still raise my voice” I don’t suppose he shot any meat that day. But there, in verse 4, are probably some of the most understood words in scripture, “And my soul hungered” I don’t talk much about my youth or upbringing. I endured some things that have left me with scars that are deep and wide even 30 years later. It has affected the way that I approach the Lord in prayer and my relationship with Him in ways I barely understand. So when a man says to me, even through the words of a book, thousands of years later, “My soul hungered” I understand it in a very poignant way. I have felt my soul hunger when I have been completely and utterly out of strength; when I felt I could not go another moment. When the gospel and the promise of the scriptures have been the last knot I have clung to in the rope of my sanity and I have held on for dear life. I know I am not alone. Enos knew that despite his failings that the Lord heard him, even though it took him all day and all night. And when finally the moment came when the Lord told him that his sins were forgiven, he recorded five other words that I expect many have sought for during many long and lonely and sleepless nights, “Wherefore, my soul did rest” I have been places in my life I never expected to go and many I pray I never go again.

Each of us had memories of things that cannot be erased, so you find a way to live with them or they make you literally, crazy. This is the promise of the Book Of Mormon and the Atonement and the Gospel. You may find rest to your soul despite these things. Enos knew very well he was not a perfect man. And I believe that is why this short chapter is here. Of the thousands of pages that Mormon had to sift through and choose to include or not, he picked this single chapter, a recounting of a single day in the life of a man who never became a scriptural legend, but was a mighty man none the less. Why? Because he sought forgiveness for his sins and then says that he went out and sought to help others. 

One of my other favorites is Omni. If you’re anything like me, you’ve read the very short chapters between Enos and Mosiah and wondered why they were included. Mormon had so many records to chose from and so little space, yet he included these. I have often asked myself why. In verse 9 of Omni, Chemish, the son of Ammaron, grandson of Omni, wrote a single verse. Just one. Chemish offers no context, nothing about his life or his times, or even a selfie. Chemish says only that he was a witness. He got the plates from his father and he gave them to his brother. He established what in law enforcement is called a chain of custody. So anyway, Omni. 

Omni said of himself, “I would that you should know that I fought much with the sword to preserve my people, the Nephites, from falling into the hands of their enemies, the Lamanites. But behold, I myself am a wicked man, and I have not kept the statues and the commandments of the Lord as I ought to have done.” This is my personal interpretation only, but I don’t expect that Omni was nearly the bad man he paints a portrait of. I expect that he did some things he knew he wasn’t supposed to do and as mentioned, he didn’t always do what he knew he should have been doing with regard to his gospel responsibilities. This is probably many  of us at one point or another.

When it mattered though, when Omni was called to defend the freedom of his people, and thus the gospel, he was found doing so, even if by his own admission, perhaps he enjoyed it more than he should have. When he was asked to keep the records safe, and he did in his own words, “I had kept these plates according to the commandments of my father” he did so diligently and instructed his son Ammaron to do the same. Ammaron was a apparently a righteous man. That wasn’t an accident, He didn’t fall into that. Someone taught him and led him. Hopefully he was taught by his father like Enos. I think of the men who now sit in the chairs of the leadership of this church. Several of our apostles had fathers who were not members of this church. Who likely would have described themselves as “Wicked men who did not keep the statues of the Lord as they ought to have done” and yet, their sons and their daughters now stand at the head of the church as witnesses of Jesus Christ and their actions lead many others to Him. We have just one short verse were Omni is self reflective and only three where he defines his whole generation. I believe Omni had his heart inclined towards the Lord. We don’t know how long he kept and maintained the records, but certainly he knew their importance and killed men to preserve them. 

Finally, I think of Amulek. In the 10th chapter of Alma, Amulek says this, “I am Amulek, I am the son of Giddonah, who was the son of Ishmael, who was a descendant of Aminadi, and it was the same Aminadi who interpreted the writing which was upon the wall of the temple, which was written by the finger of God.” Amulek is not only establishing his genealogy, he is establishing his standing as he prepares to lecture the leaders of the city and call them to repentance. He is saying he is descended from powerful Jewish legends in the old world.

He then goes on to establish his lineage from Nephi and Lehi and cement his legacy in the new world. Then he says, “I am also a man of no small reputation among all those who know me, yea and behold, I have many kindreds and friends, and I have also acquired much riches by the hand of my industry.” He is basically saying, I am wealthy and well connected. I have now abandoned all or most of that to come and be mocked before you. But verse 5 is the key. He says, “Nevertheless after all this, I never had known much of the ways of the lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power. I said I never have known much of these things, but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and marvelous power, yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people. Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times but I would not hear, therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know, therefore I went on rebelling against god, in the wickedness of my heart.” 

In the next few verses, Amulek recounts how he was visited of an angel not once, but twice. Quite a feat for man who said he had a hard heart. In the same verses, he suggests that he is now speaking before the leaders of the city in the very same month that the angels came to him and Alma came to stay with him. How is it that he went from having a hard heart to causing Zeezrom to tremble with fear due to his preaching in just a few short weeks? In another very short amount of time, we are not told how long, he would be tied to a pole and threatened with death. He would be tortured and forced to watch people he likely knew, remember he said he was well known and regarded, burned to death. He was constrained by Alma to not save them, even though he was sure that either he or Alma had the power to do so, and then he walked free when the power of the Lord caused the walls of the prison to crumble, killing all of his antagonists. My goodness. Amulek had a busy July. He then left all of his wealth and fame behind him and went with Alma to establish the church in other cities. “I was called many times but I would not hear.” I wish I could say this a hundred times and write it on the palm of my hand so that I will remember to listen. 

None of us is perfect. We are commanded to be perfect, and we should actively be trying. But we should be patient with ourselves as well. It is a process, as with Enos, and sometimes, perhaps often, we will fall short, like Omni, and other times, we will seize the moment and change hearts and lives as did Amulek. Let us be prepared when these moments come. 

Chris Butler

Chris is a father of four living in Gilbert AZ. Married in the LA temple for 22 years. No current callings. MBA Graduate of the U of U.

Thanks, Chris! Chris has been a friend on social media for years. He is a funny guy who mostly goofs around on Facebook – I appreciate him sharing this and showing a bit of his serious side.

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  1. It’s interesting how the same things can be taken differently depending on how you choose to interpret them. For instance, Faith is an extremely important principle we need to develop while here on earth. One of the stumbling blocks for many members (or Ex-members) is Joseph Smith’s imperfections. I don’t have a problem with that at all–if he had been more perfect, people might have joined the church in droves but be very, very weak in testimony. So it never bothers me about any of the prophets from the Book of Mormon either. Learning to have faith, even when someone else (even a Prophet!) is imperfect, makes us stronger and able to deal with the “slings and darts” of the adversary.

  2. As a youth, I somehow had the idea that I must be perfect RIGHT then.
    Since I knew that I wasn’t, I made several choices that were not worthy of myself.
    At some point, in listening to a gospel lesson, reading a Conference talk, reading something in the scriptures, or all of the above…I realized that perfection is something we won’t have in this life, but are progressing forward to, each & every day [as mentioned above…spiritual maturity].
    I feel blessed that I was impressed by the spirit to make those changes, so that I can progress, sometimes forward and sometimes back & forth again, each day that I can live here in probation.

  3. About the compilation – I thought Mormon abridged the large plates and Moroni abridged the book of Ether, and they included the small plates written by Nephi because they were told to by the Lord. Then when Martin Harris lost the 116 pages, Joseph Smith had the small plates which were substituted in. So the small plates which take us through Omni weren’t selected or abridged by Mormon, they’re the straight stuff. Do I remember right?

  4. The word most often translated as “perfect” actually means to be “spiritually mature” or “completed”. This mis-translation caused many people a lot of unnecessary grief.

  5. I’m not very bright, so I make insulting comments about politics on a post that has nothing to do with politics.

  6. Love this post.

    FYI, “Christ has been a friend on Facebook for many years and is a funny guy.”

    That is probably true.

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