Procrastination and Perfection: Thoughts

Detail of The Last Judgement by J. W. Scott (1907-1987)

Amulek’s sermon on procrastination 1 was mentioned in a letter from a missionary this past week. This made me curious about the use of the term “procrastination” in scripture.

This week’s study in Come, Follow Me also mentions perfection, with helpful exploration of the Greek etymology from then-Elder Nelson. Specifically, the word used in Greek that we translate “be ye therefore perfect” is not speaking of freedom from error, but arrival at a distant goal.

Procrastinating the Day of Our Repentance

There are three times where this wording arises in the Book of Mormon.

  1. Alma preaches to the people of Ammonihah (Alma 13):
    27 And now, my brethren, I awish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great banxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not cprocrastinate the day of your repentance;
  2. Amulek (of Ammonihah fame) preaches to the Zoramites (Alma 34):
    35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become asubjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth bseal you his…; 
  3. Samuel the Lamanite preaching to the wicked Nephites (Helaman 13) saying:
    38 But behold, your adays of probation are past; ye have bprocrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure…;

It is noteworthy that each of these pronouncements is to a people who are considered “ripe in iniquity” in the period immediately before disaster. This is not procrastinating on some personal goal such as weight loss or completing a homework assignment.

The people of Ammonihah were sufficiently depraved that the government conducted a mass immolation of a religious group which included women and children. Following this, the Lamanites (entirely unaware of the immolation) attacked Ammonihah and destroyed it.

Amulek was preaching to Zoramites, who had developed a wealth-oriented worship system. Not only were the poor denied the ability to worship, the Zoramites embarked on a programme of betrayal that contributed to the bloody wars depicted in Alma 43-62.

Samuel was preaching to corrupt Nephites who attempted to kill Samuel and in short order would gather all believers for mass killing, averted only by the fulfillment of Samuel’s prophecy that there would be a night that was as bright as day. Those who returned to active persecution of the righteous would perish in the tumult occurring at the time of Christ’s death.

The repentance that specifically was not to be procrastinated was repentance from murderous intent and repentance from preventing individuals from worshipping God. The consequence experienced by those who failed to repent was death and war, with some of these consequences also suffered by innocent bystanders and brave defenders.

Be ye perfect

My world was permanently altered for good one day years ago when J. D. Evans (now the patriarch for Annandale Stake) explained that the word “perfect” means to be complete. Brother Evans pointed out all the preceding content related to being more completely loving, including towards groups of people we often permit ourselves to hate or reject.

Those who have studied this week’s Come, Follow Me content may have read then-Elder Nelson’s comments regarding perfection at the October 1995 conference. Where Brother Evans focused on being complete with respect to love, Elder Nelson focused on being complete in our journey towards Godliness.

As we discussed this, my husband pointed out that the words are different between the New Testament and the Book of Mormon.

In the New Testament the Book of Matthew (Matt 5) reports Christ teaching:

48 ​​​​Be​ ye therefore ​​​perfect​, even as your ​​​Father​ which is in heaven is ​​​perfect​.

In the Book of Mormon (3 Ne 12) the resurrected Christ teaches:

48 ​Therefore I would that ye should be ​​​perfect​ even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.

Given that completion is a synonym for the perfection of which Christ taught, it is notable that Christ does not refer to Himself as perfect until He had completed his mortal sojourn and was a resurrected being.

Bottom Line

We cannot be perfect in this life, though we can strive to achieve the love towards all humanity that Christ taught.

The procrastination the prophets decry is procrastinating your repentance from murderous intent or action and vile oppression.

While it is good to strive for improvement, we should not separate ourselves from the love God is willing to shower upon us because we prefer to quest for false perfection and wallow in remorse for quotidian procrastination.

Notes:

  1. Alma 34
This entry was posted in General by Meg Stout. Bookmark the permalink.

About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.