Perfection, pt. 6: Becoming a Saint

Christ promises a new heart to every person who comes to Him. His intention is to put His law in our inward parts, and write it in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33; cf. Ezekiel 36:26-28). He is the Word of God; as we plant Him in our hearts, His love, character, and Spirit will grow within us until we are transformed into what He is. Then we will be like Him.

After entering in by the way, Nephi emphasizes the importance of feasting upon the words of the Christ, “for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:3).

There are layers to this mystery, but we’ll just explore one as it relates to this topic.

The word of God is truth (John 17:17). Christ is the Word of God (John 1:14), and He is truth (John 14:6). It’s not just that He intellectually knows truth, but rather is truth. It’s characteristic of His being.

What then are the “words of Christ?” As Nephi points out, the words of Christ are associated with the angels who embody and deliver His words (2 Nephi 32:3). Angels (seen and unseen) minister for the purpose of bringing us to Christ, and Christ for bringing us to the Father. However, all of these “words” are equally so the “truth,” because of the source from which they flow. The word of Christ is truth. Feasting upon it will be the key to going further in our journey. It is how we “come unto Christ”— following His words back to the source.

“And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:19-20).

When you eat, or “feast” on something, you internalize it; it becomes a part of you. This is the idea of Christ putting His law in our “inward parts” and writing it in our hearts.” It’s also the spiritual truth being conveyed in the symbol of the Sacrament. We are internalizing Christ—His words and truth—so that we become like Him (John 6:53-56).

If the Lord has shown us our weakness—some part of our heart that is not aligned to Him—it is further truth that will enable us to overcome that. This is how He turns weakness into strength.

That being said, we must maintain the attitude of desiring and submitting to His truth at all times—whatever that might be. That requires continual faith on our part, or what Nephi calls a “steadfastness in Christ.” There is a difference between discovering some part of your heart is not in harmony with God, and outright rejecting or resisting the truth that can save you. One is entering into the mist of darkness, the other is abandoning the iron rod.

As we continue to grow in truth, we will become like He who is Truth.

Now, I’d like to move beyond the abstract and break down the mechanics of how this works. What is it about internalizing greater truth that allows us to become like Christ is?

Temptation and Intelligence

If Jesus’s command was “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” we should start by asking: why is God the way He is? What makes Him a perfect and glorious Being? Why doesn’t He sin?

In D&C 93, we read: “The glory of God is intelligence, or in other words light and truth” (D&C 93:36). God is who He is as a consequence of the light and truth He possesses; that is His glory. The difference between God and fallen man is a matter of intelligence. If we want to be “perfect, even as he is perfect,” we must be intelligent, even as He is intelligent. We must possess greater light and truth.

Deception, temptation and sin are always based in lies. Always. Every tactic of the adversary involves getting you to accept a lie that will then weaken you, lessening the light and truth that you possess. He is “the father of all lies,” a “liar from the beginning.” Every time he offers you a lie (whether it be deception, temptation, discouragement, etc.) and you accept it, you take in greater darkness.

In the scriptures, darkness and lies are synonymous with chains—what Alma calls “the chains of hell” (Alma 12:11; cf. D&C 123:7-8). This is because, whereas light and truth empower you, darkness and lies restrict you.

Agency is really a function of how much light we have; the greater light we possess, the greater power we have to act in the world (God being the greatest light we can conceive of, and consequently the Being of greatest power). Conversely, the less light we have, the more restricted we are in our ability to act (drug addiction is a great example—it’s a form of bondage/captivity; you’re subject to external circumstances, being “acted upon,” etc.).

So in this context, why do we sin?

Because all temptation is rooted in lies, we are only enticed by them if we believe the “lie” in question could be true. For example, you’ll probably never be enticed by the prospect of eating a rock, because you have no reason to believe that will be a good experience. On the other hand, though downing an entire sleeve of Oreos will probably make you sick, you might have a reason to believe that that could be a good idea (e.g. it tastes good). The lie is, “it doesn’t matter,” or “you probably won’t feel that bad,” or “just don’t think about it.” You get the idea. Satan tends to minimize the negative consequences of sin and overplay the positive ones; like he told Eve regarding the fruit, “thou shalt not surely die” but “shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

Our desires are not inherently bad. We’re intended to eat, sleep, reproduce, be in relationship with one another, create, learn, etc. Temptation happens when our desires are disorganized, or out of order. In order to be like Christ, all of these things must be intelligently ordered according to His light. He does this by providing us with spiritual truth.

Losing the Desire to Sin

Because temptations are always based in lies and deception, they have no power over beings filled with light and truth. Hence, “light and truth forsake that evil one” (D&C 93:37) . When you are filled with truth, temptation loses its appeal.

Another funny example I like to refer to is being 6 years-old and hearing the ice cream truck come down the street. At 6, you might lose your mind begging your parents for ice cream money, and then have a total meltdown when they say no. With a limited perspective, it can seem like your whole world hangs on this one thing. At 36, you probably (hopefully) don’t feel the same way. Even with enough money to clear the shelf, an over-priced Tweety Bird popsicle just doesn’t seem to have the same appeal anymore.

What changed? Perspective. You have a better understanding of value in light of a bigger picture. And the knowledge you’ve gained isn’t just intellectual—it’s woven into the very essence of your being. The same way that Christ doesn’t just “know” truth, but is truth, the perspective you’ve gained becomes a part of who you are.

We might also think about this in terms of our tree analogy from earlier in this series. As you “mature” in the gospel, you lose the desire for sins, habits, and activities that once seemed appealing. Why? Perspective. You see their true value and consequences with greater clarity. Where stretching the truth, or vegging on TV, or trying to maintain an “image” may have once seemed desirable, those things are seen for what they really are.

“What value does ‘x’ thing have in view of eternity?” You might find, in considering that question, that most of what entrances the world is like an overpriced Tweety Bird popsicle. Sports, video games, fashion, material things, money. The value and appeal of all these things is an illusion sustained by a limited perspective. As you grow in truth, your desires are realigned.

Truth puts lies to shame. Temptation only has power over you to the extent that you lack truth. For this reason God, whose glory is light and truth, is neither swayed nor enticed by any of these things. As we trust in God, and seek His light, He will show us why these things will not fulfill what we’re seeking, or that they’re inadequate to do what we think they’ll do.

If you feed off the dopamine that comes from scrolling on social media, or watching porn, or getting high, He will show you why those things are hollow and insufficient to meet your actual needs. He will take away their appeal by infusing you with greater light and truth, and then you will understand the condition Isaiah described of the wicked regarding that thing—it is like “when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite” (Isaiah 29:8).

On the other hand, He will also show you why His path is the only one that will bring you true joy and fulfillment. Every other option, no matter how enticing, is an illusion and will actually cause you greater suffering. And so it is always a matter of finding and holding onto the iron rod—greater truth—and pressing forward on its path. We must trust that that the Lord’s course will bring about the greatest outcome at increasingly higher levels; then with the doing comes the understanding (faith leads to knowledge).

When we possess lies, we possess distortion and impurity. If I believe I am the central reality in my universe, I’m going to be inclined to see others as objects—either as tools or obstacles—in the context of getting what I want. If someone else had needs that postpone me from fulfilling my self-centered desires, I’d be inclined to be frustrated, angry, impatient, etc. However, that belief is not true.

If I turn to the Lord and seek the truth I am missing, He may reveal to me that I’ve been placing myself above others, acting selfishly, and seeing them as objects rather than people whose lives are as real as mine. In order to continue on the Lord’s course, I must humbly receive this truth, repent, and let the old beliefs go—no matter how hard it may be. If I harden my heart against that revelation, I am turning my back on the iron rod and insisting I can find my own way through the darkness—but I can’t. No one can. There is no other way.

When I internalize this truth, “feasting upon the words of Christ,” my emotional disposition will change when others’ needs arise. The core belief is what dictates my feelings and behavior—the frequency on which I vibrate. God is truth, and God is love; these things are of the same nature. To have greater truth is to have greater love.

Because our desires are determined by the truth (or lies) we possess, intelligence is synonymous with purity/holiness. Intelligence indicates the degree of light and truth we possess. Because lies are distorted truths, our desires are distorted when we hold them. On the other hand, because truth is pure, we are made purer by receiving it—the greater truth we possess, the purer are our hearts and desires.

Sanctified Through Truth

Spiritual truth is the key to transforming our desires.

The Savior prayed, “Sanctify [my disciples] through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:17-21; emphasis added).

In D&C 130, we read: “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:18-19).

This is why the prophet taught, “Knowledge saves a man” (TPJS p. 357), and “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God” (TPJS p. 217).

When you are made aware of some part of yourself that is not aligned to the light of Jesus Christ, it’s important to identify precisely what that is. If we sin, it’s because we lack truth. If we lack truth, we ought to search it out and receive it with full purpose of heart.

Seeking truth is more than an intellectual attempt to think your way out of the natural man, but is rather the process of spiritually bonding with God and allowing His glory to work in you. “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (D&C 88:63). As we come nearer to Him, the glory (light and truth) of His presence can sanctify us, if we yield our hearts to Him.

Much of this work can only be done in solemn prayer and meditation. The references Nephi makes to prayer in his discourse on Christ’s doctrine are worthy of their own study. Know that when you are baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost, “then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel” (2 Nephi 31:13). “And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost? Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:2-3). We are all directed to “hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray” (2 Nephi 32:8), because this is the mechanism whereby we are brought into a state of oneness with God (Romans 8:26; D&C 46:30; 3 Nephi 19:24; Moroni 7:48; Moroni 8:26). That’s all I will say here, but the scriptures are replete with insight on this principle and I would highly recommend making a study of it.

The book of Helaman provides an example in the righteous Nephites who suffered persecution at the hands of their brethren: “Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God” (Helaman 3:35).

When we prayerfully identify the part of ourselves that is not reconciled to God, and offer it up in complete faith, we prepare our hearts to approach Him and receive the greater truth He desires to bestow upon us.

As we draw near to Him, the truth of who He is will illuminate our souls. This is more than intellectual information, abstract facts, or ideas. It is as though He shares with you the very essence of His being. And if you’ll receive it, it will have the power to replace lies with truth, and a disposition to sin with one to do righteousness.

This requires us to live in His light, to seek Him, and to surrender to any higher truth He reveals to us. This may be difficult at times, but for this reason it’s imperative we have faith that His ways are higher than our ways, and that He seeks our joy and welfare.

“As far as we degenerate from God, we descend to the devil and lose knowledge, and without knowledge we cannot be saved, and while our hearts are filled with evil, and we are studying evil, there is no room in our hearts for good, or studying good. Is not God good? Then you be good; if He is faithful, then you be faithful. Add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, and seek for every good thing.” (TPJS p. 217).

By reconciling to God in prayer and meditation, feasting upon the words of Christ, our belief systems can be restructured so that we know what God knows, feel what He feels, and do what He does.

Nephi’s Example

Consider Nephi’s example in this process. He is first made aware of “sins which so do easily beset [him].” There is a weakness he falls prey to. In this instance, he’s referring to the anger he feels towards his enemies—presumably Laman and Lemuel—because of the afflictions they cause him. He is controlled by his external circumstances (being “acted upon” rather than acting), and desires greater light and truth so that he is free from these temptations.

Notice how he works through the root desire by orienting himself towards God. He reaffirms that his trust is in God, and not “the arm of the flesh.” He trusts that God is just, and will deliver him and make all he has suffered right. Internalizing that truth dispels any fear or belief that these things will go unrecognized by God, and will sap the temptation to be angry of its power.

“Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.

“My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep. He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh. He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me. Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time. And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me. And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.

“O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?

“And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?

“Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul. Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions. Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation.

“O Lord, wilt thou redeem my soul? Wilt thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin? May the gates of hell be shut continually before me, because that my heart is broken and my spirit is contrite! O Lord, wilt thou not shut the gates of thy righteousness before me, that I may walk in the path of the low valley, that I may be strict in the plain road!

“O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.

“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm. Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.”
(2 Nephi 4:17-35)

Conclusion

Faith in God allows us to receive greater truth, and greater truth is the cure to temptation. We are sanctified by truth, which is the glory of God. Light dispels darkness, love casts out fear, and truth sets us free.

In the scriptures (particularly in Isaiah), salvation is equated with healing, wholeness, and peace. The peace Christ gives is “not as the world giveth.” It is not dependent on external factors—it is peace in the face of all adversity; to grow in agency, or the capacity to act and not be acted upon. It is to overcome the world; to arrive at a point where you possess sufficient truth to overcome the lies pertaining to this world, so that Satan loses all power to tempt you here, and you bind him through your faith and righteousness. This is how and why he will be bound for a thousand years—and it is something you can begin doing today through your faith. This is what it means to overcome the world.

Transformation through Christ is possible. As a person grows from grace to grace in His truth, his heart will become increasingly pure until he has “lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker, and is caught up to dwell with Him” (TPJS p. 51).

Alma taught, “Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God”(Alma 13:12). In other words, when we are “pure, even as he is pure,” we shall “see him as he is” (1 John 3:2; cf. Matthew 5:5).

More will be said on this in the following post.

One thought on “Perfection, pt. 6: Becoming a Saint”

  1. I love this and know it is true. Thank you for the time you take to articulate such beautiful doctrine. The Lord is raising up a Zion people.

    Like

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