Sunday, November 10, 2013

Imperfectly Perfect

Are you perfect? Do you consider yourself to be perfect? What about your life; is your life perfect? Take some time to ponder those questions, then continue reading this post.

Last October, in the Saturday morning of session of general conference, Elder Scott D. Whiting of the Seventy spoke on the subject of temples. He shared a very instructive story about the attention to detail that is in every single aspect of building a temple, even those aspects that would be entirely unbeknownst to all but a very select few such as the quality of the sanding beneath wallpaper.

The very precise nature of the temples is one of the many things that makes it such an amazing and inspiring place to be. Every temple I have visited has been a marvel to behold. The intricate carvings on the doors and the handrails, the peaceful nature of the paintings on the walls, even the flowers see to point to peace and serenity and help me feel the Spirit of the Lord in great abundance as I attend the temple. The grandeur of each and every temple is truly a marvel to behold.

I was raised with the understanding that temples are houses of the Lord. On the outside of every LDS temple is the engraving "Holiness to the Lord - the House of the Lord". As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we put such an emphasis not only on temples in generally but on the beauty and cleanliness and perfection of every temple because we believe that they are quite literally the houses of the Lord. As such, we believe they should be constructed to the best ability possible so as to demonstrate our love and appreciation to our Father.

That is what I have always been taught and that is what I have always believed. But one day I had an interesting experience that taught me a very powerful lesson with regards to the temple. When serving my mission, I had the great blessing of being able to serve in the Provo temple on a weekly basis. Each week those missionaries serving in the referral center would go to the temple and serve for a few hours. It was an uplifting and refreshing experience to spend time in the temple and to feel of the Lord's love not only for me but for those around me.

My father is a builder. From as early as I can recall, I remember my father building. Whether it was a tree house, a deck, a basement, or whatever else you can think of, my father was and still is great at working with his hands to create new things. Although I am not nearly as good with my hands as he is, I would often spend time with my father as he worked on these different projects. With every project he performed, one saying came up over and over and over. It is a saying that everyone who has ever built anything has heard: "Measure twice, cut once." For obvious reasons, this is a crucial rule of thumb to follow when building anything.

Well, one day on my mission as I was serving in the Provo temple, I noticed a part of the temple where there was a metal bar about two feet long. Attached to the end of that bar was another metal bar that was about three inches long. I haven't build much in my lifetime but I have watched my father enough to know that this was not right. It was apparent to me that the longer bar had been cut a few inches shorter than intended. As a result the builders needed to add a small extension to make things work.

At first I was disappointed that such an oversight was made in the construction of a temple. "This is supposed to be a place of perfection, where everything is measured three times to made sure that the cut is correct. Even so, someone must have noticed this problem before; why hasn't this been fixed?"

Each summer the Provo temple closes for a few weeks for deep cleaning and small renovations. As the summer was approaching I thought surely this problem would be fixed and corrected so that there would not be this imperfection in the house of the Lord. But as we returned to the temple after the summer closing I observed that this bar had not been replaced and the problem not corrected.

I was quite confused by this, but I knew that the temple was a sacred and holy place and ultimately one small mistake wouldn't influence the feelings experienced and the sacredness of the ceremonies so I let it go and didn't think much of it until a few days ago. I was sitting in my institute class when I had this powerful realization: Maybe the seeming mistake and apparent flaw is a part of the perfection of the Provo temple.

Think about that. What is perfection? What does it mean to be complete and perfect? Does it mean to be without flaw? Possibly. I think that is without doubt a characteristic of one who is perfect, but I do not believe that is the only characterization of perfection. What is perfection is something far greater than that? What if perfection is simply when something goes the way God intended?

Now, to go back to those questions I asked at the beginning of the post. Do you consider yourself to be perfect? I would suspect that everyone would respond with a resounding "no". And why is that? Personally, I would claim that I am not perfect because I make mistakes, a lot of them! How can I be considered perfect when there are so many things I need to improve in my own life and so many flaws that need to be corrected? I don't know the thoughts each of you have about yourselves and whether or not you consider yourself to be perfect, but I would guess many people share this same sentiment.

But again, is that what perfection really is? If so, you and I are both very far from being perfect. But let us shift our perspective and realize that you are perfect! Who you are, where you are, everything you have experienced in your life is so completely, entirely perfect. It really is. You are who you are, you are where you are, and you have been through those things because that is exactly what God had in store for you.

I was studying the Book of Mormon a few days ago and I came across a scripture that teaches this principle with such power that I had to memorize it so that it could become a part of me. "And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land".

Did you catch that? Let me put some emphasis on this magnificent part. "...We have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land". How imperfect is that? These people had to flee Jerusalem, the land where their family had lived for generations. And as a result of a few experiences they had to run away in order to keep their lives. And not only that, they traveled across the "great waters" to some giant island with nobody else.

How easy it would be to feel abandoned by the Lord. How easy it would be to feel ignored and shafted. But this wonderful prophet of God saw how perfect this imperfection was. In his eyes, they weren't kicked out of the land of their inheritance to some deserted island, they were led by the hand of the Lord to a land that would offer far more opportunities and provide better resources than Jerusalem. And they never would have known about this wonderful land, this "land of promise", had it not been for a seeming imperfection. This imperfection is really what made their lives perfect.

As Elder Whiting says in his talk, "The high standards of temple building employed by this Church are a type and even a symbol of how we should be living our own lives." This includes the small but existent flaws.

According to you, your life is probably as imperfect as it gets. Things haven't gone the way you foresaw. You didn't get the job you wanted, you aren't in a relationship with that person you admire so much, you have made poor decisions and have put yourself in a tough situation financially. There are a whole slew of things that cause you heartache and make you feel inferior and make your life imperfect. From your limited perspective imperfections abound!

But those are the very things that make your life so perfect. According to your all-knowing, all-powerful, and most importantly all-loving Father, you are perfect and your life is perfect. He has made your life utterly, completely, entirely imperfectly perfect.

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