Sunday, July 19, 2015

Joseph Fielding Smith on perfection and the process of salvation

Joseph Fielding Smith (1876-1972) was the son of Joseph F. Smith, 6th president of the Church, and grandson of Hyrum Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph. He was called as an apostle in 1910, and served as the 10th president of the Church from 1970 until his death in 1972 at age 95.
"Salvation does not come all at once; we are commanded to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect. It will take us ages to accomplish this end, for there will be greater progress beyond the grave, and it will be there that the faithful will overcome all things, and receive all things, even the fulness of the Father's glory.
"I believe the Lord meant just what he said: that we should be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect. That will not come all at once, but line upon line, and precept upon precept, example upon example, and even then not as long as we live in this mortal life, for we will have to go even beyond the grave before we reach that perfection and shall be like God.
"But here we lay the foundation.  Here is where we are taught these simple truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in this probationary state, to prepare us for that perfection.  It is our duty to be better today than we were yesterday, and better tomorrow than we are today.  Why?  Because we are on that road, if we are keeping the commandments of the Lord, we are on that road to perfection, and that can only come through obedience and the desire in our hearts to overcome the world."
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:18–19

President Smith was a prolific writer during his long lifetime of service to the Church, and along with his father, one of the great doctrinal authorities of the modern era. In this excerpt, he reassures us that the requirement to seek perfection is very real; but he gives perspective, helping us understand that the process of getting to that point is one that extends beyond our mortal existence; and that there will actually be "greater progress beyond the grave."

However, lest we use that as an excuse to postpone our efforts, he also explains the importance of laying the foundation now in order to progress later. Now is the time to learn the gospel and implement its principles, so that we'll be prepared to make that progress in the life to come.

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