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Pathway to perfection

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In the athletic world, gymnasts and divers look to score that perfect 10; pitchers and bowlers aim at tossing the perfect game; others measure their performance against previous marks posted by record setters.

Why do we keep pushing ourselves to achieve that perfect score? One reason is because it comes so rarely. Another is that it is noteworthy and we heighten our sense of accomplishment. But when things turn out not so perfect, are we often quick to blame ourselves or our circumstances? Are we unwilling to focus on what we have achieved and not what we failed to achieve?

Sometimes we are so determined to record that perfect score that we lose sight of the path we have taken. The Savior taught, "For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36.) He told His disciples, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it." (Mark 8:35.)

The Savior did not wait for people to become perfect before He called them to discipleship. He did not withhold His embrace from unbelievers. He walked among and preached to those who needed His message.

In the Book of Mormon, we read: "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 31:20.)

President Gordon B. Hinckley said: "I certainly make no pretense of being perfect, nor do any of my brethren. There was only one perfect man who ever walked the earth. The Lord has used imperfect people in the process of building His perfect society. If some of them occasionally stumble, or if their characters may have been slightly flawed in one way or another, the wonder is the greater that they accomplished so much." (Teachings of President Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 430.)

We do not need to be perfect — right this minute. Our goal, our leaders have reminded us, is to be on the pathway to perfection. When we find ourselves straying from that which we know to be right and true, we need to return to the path quickly and without delay.

President Hinckley put it this way: "Shape up. I say that to myself constantly. Shape up. Stand a little taller. Be a little better, a little stronger, a little more thoughtful, a little humbler, a little more prayerful, that you may be worthy of the guidance of the Lord and of His wonderful blessings." (Teachings, p. 582.)

"If there is anything this troubled world needs it is the message of the Lord Jesus Christ. . . . There is nothing we can do that is more important than to listen to that which He has spoken. If we are His disciples, there cannot be meanness. There cannot be any of those things." (Ibid, p. 243.)

President Hinckley advises us on what we need to do to stay on the path: "We must cultivate faith to reform our lives, commencing where we are weak and moving on from there in our work of self-correction, thus gradually and consistently growing in strength to live more nearly as we should.

"With faith we can rise above those negative elements in our lives which constantly pull us down. With effort we can develop the capacity to subdue those impulses which lead to degrading and evil actions.

"With faith we can school our appetites." (Ibid, pp. 429-30.)

To those who lead others, President Hinckley said: "Let us cultivate the spirituality of the people. . . . Let us teach the people to rely upon the Lord and to look to Him for strength and guidance and sustenance and love. He is our Father and our God. He is our Savior and our Redeemer. We are His disciples in whose footsteps we ought to walk." (Ibid, p. 727.)

The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded that which awaits those who stay on the path: "Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet.

"These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.

"These are they who shall have part in the first resurrection.

"These are they who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just. . . .

"These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator. . . ." (Doctrine and Covenants 76:61-69.)