In Matthew 5:48 we are given the command to be perfect.
My question is: Is it possible for a person to become perfect? There are several things to consider like:
1. Abraham became perfect in this life? Do you know if there were others?
2. Somehow it must be possible, for God would not give a commandment, save it were possible to comply with.
3. And what will happen if you don’t become perfect?
I know is quite a bit to chew on, but I’ll be glad with any contribution on this matter.
The command to be perfect spans dispensations. Jesus famously gave both the Old World and New World saints the charge to be “perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48). By no means was this a new commandment, as Abraham similarly heard the premortal Jesus tell him to “be thou perfect” (Gen 17:1). Despite this charge to be perfect, we have no scriptural record that Abraham was indeed perfect (that’s not to disparage his character, as modern revelation does note that he is exalted (D&C 132:29)). In the list of worthies who are described as “perfect”, we find Seth (D&C 107:43), Noah (Gen 6:9), and Job (Job 1:1), with King Asa receiving an honorable mention for his perfect heart (2 Chr 15:17).
The Greek word used in the New Testament is “teleios“, which means finished or complete (with a nod towards “fully mature”). When we look at the usage in the Old Testament, we find a similar Hebrew vernacular. Job’s perfection (“tam”) is “complete”, but also “morally innocent” and “having integrity”. Similarly, perfect Noah (tamiym) is “complete” and “whole”. Asa’s heart is described as perfect (“shalem”) in a measured and complete sense.
The recurring theme here is to become complete and whole. I’m sure you recall the description of the Savior’s youth, in which He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). This should be our model in becoming perfect. You can make yearly and montly goals to work on some area where you feel you are deficient and work to improve it. Undoubtedly, it will fall into one of these four categories: intellectual, physical, spiritual, social.
There’s another aspect to becoming perfect, and that is the role of the Savior in this. Make your goals a matter of prayer and you will find His grace strengthening you, even in seemingly temporal affairs. Additionally, when He visited the Nephites, the resurrected Jesus added another example: “be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Ne 12:48). This level of perfection comes after the resurrection, when our mortal frailties and corruptible bodies have been laid down and raised incorruptible and immortal.
As with many commandments, you can make this a matter of prayer to know your standing before God. What’s more, He will direct you in which aspects of your life you need to improve as you reach for this goal.