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How good do I have to be? Am I good enough?

This is an article I have been prompted to write about for a few months now. I am not sure why I waited so long. Maybe now I actually have enough material to write a meaningful message about it. As with all my posts, I hope it is helpful in allowing us to let go of traditions in favor of truth.


In some form or fashion, all of us at one point in our lives has fallen into one of the following categories:

CATEGORY 1: "I just don't fit the 'Peter Priesthood' or 'Molly Mormon' mold. I believe the Church is true and accept Jesus Christ as my Savior. I don't break any major commandments and I am probably worthy to hold a temple recommend. I just find it stale to be all about the appearance of righteousness."

CATEGORY 2: "I will never be good enough to get to the Celestial Kingdom. I just have too many weakness that often beset me. I believe in Jesus Christ, but I fall too many times for repentance to fully compensate for."

These two categories may appear to be polar opposites, but I would suggest they both misunderstand the same things and hold on to traditional notions and beliefs that are totally inconsistent with scripture and prophetic teachings.

This article has been written with hopes to rectify those concerns and misunderstandings.


Over two years ago I was making my way through Royal Skousen's 'The Book of Mormon: The Earliest text' from Yale's printing press (can be found here) and found an interesting insight. In 2 Nephi chapter 4 we find Nephi starting to lament over many things. Scholars call this chapter the Psalm of Nephi and what Nephi is saying appears to have been triggered by the death of his father Lehi. In this Psalm, Nephi laments over his sins, his inability, and his depression.

Starting in verse 17, Nephi exclaims that he is 'wretched'. He laments over his 'iniquities'. He notes that he is surrounded by temptation and has sins which easily beset him. Starting at the end of verse 19, Nephi begins to change his tune because he knows in whom he has trusted. He rejoices in the Lord's continual support, continual preservation, an endowment of love, confounding of enemies, giving of knowledge by visions, the visitation of angels, and the revelations on high mountains to great for man to utter.

Verse 26 is where the insight came to me. In the earliest Printer's Manuscript of the Book of Mormon (found in Royal Skousen's book), this verse said the following:
"O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited ME 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?" (Caps and bold and underline added for emphasis)
This slight change converts Nephi's meaning from the Lord's general ministry to men into a reference of many personal visitations. This is consistent with the verses before where Nephi is talking about the many things the Lord has done for him personally.

As I read this for the first time, I was struck with the following insight:

"Nephi has temptations, sins (plural) which beset him, and is guilty of iniquities. Like us, Nephi's heart groans because he feels he isn't good enough. BUT!, despite his flaws and sins, THE SAVIOR STILL MANIFESTED HIMSELF TO HIM AND STILL OUTPOURED KNOWLEDGE AND BLESSINGS UPON HIM."

Obviously, this ran counter to my notions about the need for perfection and how the Lord expects flawless living. 


After this insight, I have kept my eyes open to see if this theme or similar things occur in scripture. Over the last two years, I have seen it abundantly. The following are examples:

Ether 2:14-15 - The Lord appears to the Brother of Jared in a cloud. Rebukes him for not calling upon the name of the Lord (in my opinion, is a reference to not accessing his priesthood privileges), ironically, in the midst of an event a comparative few have experienced.

Ether 3:2-3 - Ironically, again, probably the greatest theophany recorded in the Book of Mormon began with the Brother of Jared seeking repentance and forgiveness for himself and his people.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 - Paul mentions he has a thorn in the flesh and temptations from Satan that are poignant to him. Paul even mentions he asked the Lord to remove the said thorn, but the Lord refused. Another ironic example of divine communication despite one's flaws, sins, and weaknesses.

Mosiah 28:4 - This example is a little different but sufficient for our purposes. I would use this scripture all the time in an addiction recovery class I taught. Alma and the sons of Mosiah are called "the very vilest of sinners" here. If we look further in the Book of Mormon we will see that, at least for Alma, he went from the vilest of sinners to one worthy of the blessing of translation.

Alma 39:1-8 compared to Alma 48:17-19 - Corianton was the son of Alma who had chastity problems and problems with doctrine. The transformation that took place in Corianton's life after Alma spoke to him about his sins is not described at all really. The only hint we get is in Alma 48:18 (and Alma 49:30 where Corianton is still preaching the gospel) where it says ALL of the sons of Alma were like Captain Moroni in that the powers of the devil had no power over them.

These examples will suffice. I didn't even bring up the examples of Moses and Enoch who both had issues with their sins and/or flaws. Nor the example of Jonah (whether the story actually occurred or not) who literally ran away from the Lord, but then came back around. King David might be the worst or, ironically, the best example for this too.


In light of all this, I had the realization a few years ago that the gap of where we are compared to where these holy men were is, perhaps, a lot smaller than we realize. In fact, I have learned that the category of people discussed above (which used to include myself) miss the point of a Savior that appears to come unto us when we make a little effort to come unto Him. It might just be that every step we take towards Him, he takes many steps towards us; not in an effort to water down whom he is, but in an effort to nurse us and help us make it fully back home to him. 

I have learned that the coined phrase by King Lamoni's father, "I will give away all my sins to know thee", is not a requirement that needs to be met first. It is simply the attitude the Lord is asking for. He wants a broken heart and a contrite spirit. He wants to minister to us personally in the midst of our sins and afflictions. Isn't that the very purpose of His atoning sacrifice? Could it be that is what the phrase 'the condescension of God' is referring too? Therefore, our focus for too long has been on a quid-pro-quo view of salvation and/or our sins and weaknesses. This lengthy quote from Elder McConkie might put things into a better perspective:
"That all men commit sin, before and after baptism, and for that matter, before and after their calling and election is made sure, is self-evident. There has been only one Sinless One—the Lord Jesus who was God's own Son.
Thus in the revelation announcing the setting up of the restored church in this day, the Lord says: "There is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God Therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation Yea, and even let those who are sanctified take heed also." (D. & C. 20:32-34.)
The prophets and apostles from Adam and Enoch down, and all men, whether cleansed and sanctified from sin or not, are yet subject to and do in fact commit sin. This is the case even after men have seen the visions of eternity and been sealed by that Holy Spirit of Promise which makes their calling and election sure. Since these chosen ones have the sure promise of eternal life, and since "no unclean thing can enter into" the Father's "kingdom" (3 Ne. 27:19), "or dwell in his presence" (Moses 6:57), what of sins committed after being sealed up into eternal life?
Obviously the laws of repentance still apply, and the more enlightened a person is, the more he seeks the gift of repentance, and the harder he strives to free himself from sin as often as he falls short of the divine will and becomes subject in any degree to the Master of Sin who is Lucifer. It follows that the sins of the god fearing and the righteous are continually remitted because they repent and seek the Lord anew every day and every hour.
And as a matter of fact, the added blessing of having one's calling and election made sure is itself an encouragement to avoid sin and a hedge against its further commission. By that long course of obedience and trial which enabled them to gain so great a blessing the sanctified saints have charted a course and developed a pattern of living which avoids sin and encourages righteousness." - Bruce R. McConkie (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. 1966-73, 3:342-43)
 How 'good' do you have to be?

As we have seen above, this question misses the point; both for those who are looking at it from a category 1 or category 2 perspective. The better questions are the following:

Am I coming unto Christ?
Am I seeking to know the Lord?
I don't have to fit any mold, but do I have a broken heart and contrite spirit?
Have I had a mighty change of heart?

In closing, the comparing of these two statements is instructive:

"You can change anything you want to change and you can do it very fast. It is another Satanic falsehood to believe that it takes years and years and eons of eternity to repent. It takes exactly as long to repent as it takes you to say “I’ll change”—and mean it." - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (1)

"... could we all come together with one heart and one mind in perfect faith the veil might as well be rent today as next week, or any other time." - Joseph Smith (2)

What keeps us out of the Lord's presence isn't necessarily our sins, therefore. It is our lack of accessing the mighty change of heart that Alma speaks of. It is our lack of being in a "posture of repentance".

What allows us into the Lord's presence?

"Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;" (D&C 93:1)

As you can see, there seems to be some contradiction in the scriptures with men who clearly sin and who have clearly seen the Lord. Or, could it be that forsaking our sins simply means we are approaching a status the Elder McConkie spoke about above. This unlocks the secret of what it means to be "Perfect in Christ". This is how men like Job and Noah were described as perfect men.

In short, we are much closer than we think.


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