Be Ye Therefore perfect; What does it really mean?

There was a great post over at Mormon Matters on whether God can tempt us above that which we are able.  In short, I think that it is possible for us to be tempted more than we can bear,  Does it come from God?  I’m undecided.  But if you want to weigh in on that topic, click here.

I did engage in somewhat of a threadjack, and want to post some of the comments regarding the concept of perfection here.  What does perfection really mean?  Here are some of the comments there.  The formatting is a little goofy, but here is the essence.

35.  Valoel

When people bring this up at Church, I usually take the opportunity to point out that it is not correct. God allows temptations of ALL people greater than their capacity. The proof is not a single person except Jesus Christ (according to our doctrine) makes it through this life without sin. If we ALL fail, then we must ALL have been tempted beyong our ability.

I know the response to that — well, people make the decision and choose to sin. They could resist right? Maybe in theory, but the testing is obviously waaaaaaaaaaay too intense or else surely 1 other person of the 70 billion that passed through mortal existence so far would have been perfect.

41 MH– Jan 3rd, 2009 at 11:57 am

  • I know my next comment is slightly off topic, but I want to piggy back off of Valoel’s comment about Jesus being sinless. I think we often have an unrealistic view of what “sinless” means. Surely Jesus lost his temper. In his day, he was known as a sinner who broke the Sabbath, associated with sinners, was a wine-bibber, was a blasphemer, and frequently lost his temper with the Pharisees. If we even go into a bar now, we would be viewed as a sinner. Surely if we lost our temper and referred to people as “vipers”, most would accuse us of sin. In fact, I would say that some of Jesus’ rants would be the same as flaming someone on a blog today…

  • MH, you might be interested in the following:

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2008/03/what-wouldnt-jesus-do.html

    From one of the comments:

    “Perfection” is the end result of continued progress, NOT an absence of mistakes. The gift of forgiveness changes the standard.

    Another one that might interest you:


  • hawkgrrrl

    MH: “In his day, he was known as a sinner who broke the Sabbath, associated with sinners, was a wine-bibber, was a blasphemer, and frequently lost his temper with the Pharisees.” I watched a show with a rabbi who said Jesus was basically an apostate Jew. It was an interesting change in perspective for me.

  • 45 MH

    Hawkgrrrl, what is the name of that show? It sounds quite interesting to me.

48 – MH

Ray, thanks for the links. I am getting more comfortable with what perfection is not, but I’m not sure I have good vision of what perfection really looks like in a practical sense.

51 spektator

If you consider the greek from which the word ‘perfect’ is derived from the New Testament (example Matthew 5:48), you will find that ‘complete’ is also a good definition. The connotation is not that we do everything completely right (perfect) but that we complete all that has been asked of us. In this sense, each of us may have different assignments to finish and each can be complete. Hope that makes sense.

52 Mormon Heretic

Yes, spektator, I’ve heard that definition before. But let’s talk about the implications. Does this now mean that Jesus was a sinner? If we are merely supposed to be complete, as Jesus, (Be ye therefore perfect, as I and my Father are perfect – 3 Nephi) rather than sinless, then that seems to have big implications regarding the atonement, doesn’t it? How does this all relate to losing one’s temper with Pharisees, or fellow bloggers? If we are supposed to be like Jesus, is losing one’s temper not a sin?

Please continue the conversation.

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68 comments on “Be Ye Therefore perfect; What does it really mean?

  1. God knows us better than we know ourselves. When we give into a temptation or if we’re simply not strong enough to tackle a trial that he throws our way, I don’t think he’s ever really surprised by it. He pretty much knows what we’re going to do. To me, this is why we believe in foreordination. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. Of course this is not the same as predestination and therefore there’s probably very little, if anything, that’s set in stone regarding us. But at the same time, I think that we all give God very little reason to be surprised since he knows what to expect from us. Sometimes maybe we slightly exceed those expectations, while at other times we fall short.

    I also never really understood this “Be ye therefore perfect” until I heard a story in RS a few weeks back. I included it in a post that I wrote, but I think I’ll include the story here, if you don’t mind, so that others can enjoy it. It’s a bit lengthy, so I apologize in advance, but I really loved its message. What I get out of it is that none of us can achieve perfection on our own. However, the sum of perfection = the Atonement + our best effort. Perfection is not something that we are capable of achieving, certainly not in this life, no matter how righteous we are. The Atonement has to be a part of the equation in order to reach 100% perfection. And at the same time, we have to contribute an honest percentage to the equation to make it balance out to 100%. Exactly what percentage we are capable of contributing varies from person to person, in my opinion. Some people seem to have Job-like lives with horrible trials and tragedies thrown at them. I cannot believe that a just God would expect them to be just as perfect as those who are born and raised into better circumstances.

    Anyways, here is the story. It’s from a small book which is, if I remember correctly, called “Finding Christ.”

    {“So what does it mean to give him everything? Some of us simply have more ability, more talents, than others. Yet according to the parable, those with only one talent or only two talents are not expected to earn five. Only the one with five talents is expected to earn five.

    Let me illustrate with an example. Many years ago I came into contact with a woman who was, initially at least, one of the roughest persons I have ever known. Abused as a child, she had run away from home and had lived on the streets for years. As a young woman, she traveled around the country with a motorcycle gang. In late middle age, her beauty gone, she spent most of her time in a pub, where some missionaries met her when they went in to get change for a pay phone outside. When she was baptized, many of the members worried that her conversion wouldn’t last, and there were good reasons to suspect it might not.

    For a long time after her baptism, this sister still swore like a trooper, even in Church, and never quite lived the Word of Wisdom one hundred percent. On one occasion during her first year in the Church, she lost her temper during a Relief Society meeting and punched out one of the other sisters. Her ex-husband is an alcoholic, and her children have all spent time in jail. Now the question before us is whether someone like this can seriously expect to be saved. What hope does a person like this, with all her faults and weaknesses, really have? With her background and problems, why bother coming to Church at all?

    “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” God does not lie. Whoever will come, may come. All are invited, none is excluded. Though this sister had further to travel than most, the same covenant was offered to her: “Do all you can. I will do the rest while you learn how.” And she was as faithful as she could be under her circumstances. She never said, “No, I won’t,” or “Get off my back,” or “Why talk to me? Talk to him, he started it.” She always said, “I know; I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better.” Then she would try to do better. Often she would fail, but little by little over the years, she improved a great deal. First she gave up coffee, tea, and alcohol. Then she stopped swearing. Later she overcame smoking and got her temper somewhat under control. Finally, after she’d been in the Church many years, she was ready to go to the temple. Can such a person really expect to inherit the kingdom of God? Of course.

    But now the harder question. At what point did this sister become a candidate for the kingdom? Was it when she finally gave up her cigarettes, or when she got her language and temper under control? Or was it when she finally qualified for a temple recommend? No. It was none of these, though they were all important landmarks in her progress. She was justified through her faith in Jesus Christ on the day that she repented of her sins, was baptized, and received the gift of the Holy Ghost, for she entered into that covenant in good faith and in all sincerity. She believed in Christ, and she believed Christ. Like the widow with her mite, she gave all she had and held nothing back. It may not have been much, but it was everything.

    Every week she took the sacrament, having repented of her mistakes and resolving again to eliminate them. Some things took years to overcome. Other things perhaps haven’t been overcome yet, but she still tries, and she won’t give up. And as long as she won’t give up but endure to the end in the gospel harness, pulling towards the kingdom, her reward is sure. God knows our circumstances, and he judges us accordingly. He knows who is standing in a hole and who is standing on a chair, and he does not just measure height — he measures growth.

    Each of us operates at a different level of performance within the covenant boundaries. The percentages vary both from person to person and, even for the same person, over a period of time. In my case, my efforts might take me twenty percent of the way to perfection. The Savior covers the other eighty percent. In your case, your efforts might take you fifty percent — or two percent — of the way. The Savior still covers the difference. But in every case the sum of the joint effort is the same — anyone’s best efforts, however great or small, plus the atonement of Christ will equal 100 percent of what is needed to enter God’s kingdom.”}

  2. Also, I wonder, like you, about losing our tempers. I’ve always felt conflicted by the story of Jesus and the moneychangers in the temple, where he seemingly loses his temper. Yes, they needed to be rebuked. But I can’t help but think that it was a bit of an overreaction (flipping over tables, etc.) and that he simply lost his temper, which Ive always understood to be a bad thing and a sign of human weakness. I remember seeing pictures of this story as a kid, where Jesus looks angry and is flipping over tables, holding what looks like to be a whip, and making a scene in the temple. I’ve never really understood this. I personally have problems accepting that any physically-damaging action (i.e. destroying the money changers’ property or wielding a whip) can be justifiable except in a matter of self-defence. If someone were to enter one of our temples today and set up shop, would we be justified in destroying their property and using physical violence, or would it be better to “turn the other cheek” and leave it up to the cops to figure out.

    I can’t find the exact picture that I remember seeing, but I do distinctly remember seeing a whip. As a child, I remember feeling sorry for the moneychangers. I realize that the whip may have been the artist’s interpretation, but here is another similar picture to the one I remember.

  3. Your commentary seems to take it for granted that anyone who COULD become perfect, would obviously choose to be so.

    I find this to be a fundamental denial of free-agency. It basically posits a predestined universe where everyone is either on a perfection track or not – but in either case, it has nothing to do with their own choices. If you aren’t tempted, you have no choice but to become perfect. If you are tempted, it’s not your fault.

    You sound like a Calvinist.

  4. MH,
    This is what I posted on Mormon Matters:

    I am not sure how you jumped from ‘complete’ to Jesus being a sinner. I would suggest that Christ accepted an assignment to come to mortality and become the lamb without blemish. He did fully ‘complete’ the assignment given to him by His Father. We have not been given that same cup to drink, but we have been given an assignment here in mortality. I believe it is best expressed in the following scripture:

    “…this is the word which he hath given unto the children of men. And for this cause he fulfilleth the words which he hath given, and he lieth not, but fulfilleth all his words.
    And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.
    Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.” (3 Nephi 27:18-20)

    Implicit in this statement is the idea that we will sin. To ‘complete’ our assignment, we must apply the gospel as defined here in our lives. We become perfect/sanctified through completing this assignment; washing our garments in the blood of Christ.

    As to the question about losing one’s temper. Was Christ angry or fulfilling prophecy when he cleared the temple? We have been told that the doctrine of Christ is to become as a little child. I can separate the ‘assignment’ Christ received to fulfill prophecy from our ‘assignment’ to humble ourselves as little children.

  5. Who says losing your temper is necessarily always a sin to begin with?

    Our current, PC, boring, sterilized, anal-retentive culture. That’s who.

  6. MH – sorry but I can’t remember what the name of the show was. It was probably on A&E or History Channel, but I simply don’t remember. It was about the same time as the Jesus Tomb was running. Wish I could be more help. However, the rabbi’s perspective is pretty much a standard Jewish response to Jesus when you think about it. Jesus rejected components of Judaism in establishing his own teachings.

  7. FD. I’m not sure where I stand on predestination or foreordination, but I tend to downplay such things. I agree with Seth that this would tend to take away free agency.

    As a statistician, I would say God is the ultimate statistician. He knows the models, can predict how many of us will succeed, but probably not necessarily how each of us individually will do. Sure, he might have some people like Moses, Abraham, Joseph Smith, who he can see have great attributes to be good leaders, but I don’t think God is necessarily involved in every single person’s daily life. God has a good idea how we’ll turn out, but I think predestination or foreordination is going too far.


    Let me explain my logic a bit better regarding perfect/complete/sinless. In mormon culture, we all think that perfect means sinless. As you mentioned, a different translation of this word might mean “complete.” I find both words have problems.

    Every Christian claims that Christ was sinless, and therefore the only one capable of paying for our sins. Mormons often believe that we need to be perfect or sinless. Well, if we change this definition of perfect to be complete rather than sinless, then it seems to take off the pressure to be sinless. I think mormons tend to overemphas ize the sinless part of perfection.

    So now let’s look at the scripture again, this time using the definition of complete. If Jesus is telling us to be complete, rather than sinless, then is sin really important? After all, I think it is relatively easy to be complete. Many of us are well-rounded individuals.

    So, does being sinless really matter anymore? FD brought up the story of Jesus cleansing the temple. One could look at that and say that Jesus is no different than Bobby Knight. After all, Bobby threw a chair on the basketball court, and Jesus overturned tables of money changers. One could argue (especially if one was jewish) that Jesus was not sinless, and in fact guilty of many things: blasphemy, vandalism, drunkenness. As Hawkgrrrl mentions, Jesus was just some apostate like the Laffertys, the FLDS, or some other group.

    So, Seth, are you saying that losing one’s temper is not a sin? I guess Bobby shouldn’t have been suspended for his actions. The money changers at the temple were providing a service–by providing animals to offer sacrifice for out of town travelers. Yes perhaps, it was a bit too commercial, but is this materially different than the shopping malls today at Christmas? Would we be sinless if we suddenly overturned a small vendor’s cart selling Christmas presents? Is civil disobedience a sin? It is breaking the law….

    It is quite obvious to me that the vendors at the temple were acting legally, or else the Pharisees and Sadducees would have outlawed the vendors. Yes perhaps the vendors were overdoing it, but Jesus cleansing the temple has been argued to be an instigating incident into his own execution. It could be argued that Jesus contempt for Pharisaic authority meant that he got the ultimate punishment, and from a jewish perspective, an appropriate punishment for disrespecting God’s temple.

    Seth, I’m not trying to be PC here, but I am trying to understand your comments in the case of Jesus. It seems he was certainly disrespectful to the “elites.” Are you saying we can be equally disrespectful, especially if we happen to be debating/arguing religious subjects? Is that what Jesus would do?

  8. To clarify, I think Jesus was pretty mad at the temple.

    However, I rather doubt he lost control of himself.

    What kind of person who’s completely lost control and in the midst of a rampage, thoughtfully refrains from assaulting the helpless birds trapped in their cages and instead orders them removed? Doesn’t really mesh to me.

    I just don’t like the fact that a modern American culture where people have been raised and programmed not to feel things deeply, or care too much about things, is whining that Jesus was “too intense” for their liking.

    I’m sure to a culture that has essentially been emotionally neutered, he certainly comes off that way.

  9. I have to agree with Seth R. about anger. I don’t think anger itself is a sin. It is primarily how we handle our anger and how easily we become angered which is the problem. It seems to me that anger is a very important emotion and not bad in and of itself. It can move us to take necessary action that we might not otherwise take.

    God himself becomes angry because of wickedness, so it seems that anger itself can’t be a sin. D&C 5:8, “Oh, this unbelieving and stiffnecked generation–mine anger is kindled against them.”

    Regarding the concept of perfection and whether it can include sin is an irrelevant discussion when using Jesus as an example, IMO. There are a number of scriptures which indicate that Jesus was without sin. 2 Cor. 5:21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Heb. 4:15, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Heb. 7:26, “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.” 1 Peter 2:21-22, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.” 1 John 3:5, “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.” D&C 45:4, “Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be purified.” He was perfect and he was without sin, so to debate, based on the life of Jesus, whether one must be sinless to be perfect seems pointless. Maybe I’m missing your point MH.

    In addition, breaking the law (of the land) is different than breaking the laws of God. We certainly believe in obeying the law, but to break the law is not a sin, unless that law is also a law of God, such as murder or theft. The vendors in the temple may have been acting legally according to the law as set forth by men, but that doesn’t mean they were obeying the laws of God, or that they were not respecting the spirit of the law itself.

    And finally, regarding the topic of foreordination and foreknowledge (not predestination), God most certainly knows what choices we will make and he knows precisely what our final outcome will be. It isn’t a matter of having a general idea based on statistics. He KNOWS. The past, present, and future are all before him. This knowledge is different from predestination. It does not rob us of our agency. The fact that God knows the choices we will make, does not take away our ability to make them freely. There is an excellent talk by Neal A. Maxwell which addresses this subject. It is titled, “A More Determined Discipleship”

  10. Seth, please review this incident again.

    Matt 21:12 – “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, ”

    Overthrowing tables is not losing control? Please–Bobby Knight did less than this–he only threw 1 chair, not “seats”. Surely Bobby lost control–how can you say that Jesus did not lose control? I’ll bet that there were many Pharisees that would say that Jesus “lost it”, or “cracked” at the temple by his destruction there. It was one of the events which led to his death.

    He ordered the doves to be removed? Was this some PC attempt at animal rights? Was he condemning the slaughter of doves? I think not.

    Seth and Tara, I agree that anger is not necessarily a sin. But I can’t agree with you on Jesus not losing control. Perhaps it was justified, with him being the Savior, but I have to real issues with this trite phrase: What would Jesus do?

    Most people act like Jesus never raised his voice, never got angry, never got drunk, as if he were some sort of Ghandi. I find this characterization ridiculous. It is clearly obvious that many of the jews considered him a vile sinner. It is also obvious to me how many people judge us, especially concerning anger. I believe that both ancient or modern cultures would consider overturning tables and seats as certainly “losing control”, and probably sin. What would Jesus do? If we are truly to act like Jesus, then it should be ok to overturn tables and chairs. Please explain this paradox to me.

    I’m really not trying to be contrarian here, but trying to understand the how perfection, completeness, and sin intersect. I think far too many people have a 2-dimensional view of the Savior. I believe he is quite 3-dimensional, and when we truly study his life, he did some things that modern Christians would find objectionable.

    I think we all agree that certain acts of civil disobedience (as in the case of Jesus cleansing the temple) are not sin. However, if you were a bird vendor, operating legally, would you have been entitled to compensation to Jesus for loss of income and property for his destruction?

    And if we allow for certain kinds of civil disobedience to be acceptable, where do we draw the line? Obviously, bombing abortion clinics is over the line, but is picketing abortion clinics, harassing employees and patrons ok? Can we go inside the clinic and overturn tables, saying “This is a den of thieves and murderers?” Is this what Jesus would do? (I believe that some Christian fundamentalists would answer this question “yes”; I believe the answer is “no”, but by looking at the cleansing the temple episode, I agree that a case can be made for “yes.”)

    Let’s not forget that Jesus was accused of being a wine-bibber. Today’s word would be that Jesus was a drunk. Now the Mormon culture considers all wine as sin. Obviously it was different in Jesus day, but I think there is enough evidence in the Bible that shows that Jesus enjoyed wine, so much so that some people considered his enjoyment to be in excess, which is why they called him a drunk (or wine-bibber).

    Tara, I do not think looking at Jesus “sins” is irrelevant. This whole idea of “what would Jesus do?” is a good idea, but I think that sometimes it is not based in reality. Jesus would get angry. Jesus would overturn tables. Jesus would drink wine. Jesus would yell at people who disagreed with him. Jesus was rude at times.

    I understand all the scriptures state that Jesus did not sin. However, would you advocate a position that Jesus do some restitution for his vandalism rampage if he was found guilty in a court (assuming they decided not to execute him)? Now, I am agreeing with you that Jesus cleansing the temple would not be sin, but it would be an act of civil disobedience. In such a case as this, should Jesus pay restitution? Should he give unto Ceasar, that which is Ceasar’s?

    Finally, I think God acts quite differently in the Book of Mormon than he does in the Bible. In the Book of Mormon, war for the Nephites was strictly an act of defense. They would not have gone to war if the Lamanites had left them alone. However, in the Bible, as we have talked before, the wars were more offensive in nature, as in a conquest of the promised land of Canaan/Israel. There is no conquest in the Book of Mormon, except by the wicked Lamanites. The only exception to this is Captain Moroni’s threat to attack his own Nephites if they did not help— of course, he discovered later that the government was against him, so this seems entirely justified.

  11. MH said, “This whole idea of “what would Jesus do?” is a good idea, but I think that sometimes it is not based in reality. Jesus would get angry. Jesus would overturn tables. Jesus would drink wine. Jesus would yell at people who disagreed with him. Jesus was rude at times.”

    MH, you’ve said something that I’ve sometimes felt and thought when reading The New Testament, but haven’t really dared to say myself. Although many of Christ’s words and actions emanate love and compassion, there are others that have made me feel like Jesus is someone that is harsh and unapproachable. I’ve tried to reconcile these feelings with the understanding that there can be mistranslations and cultural differences that make my perspective on it inaccurate. Still, though, some things seem downright “rude,” as you said.

    Take for instance this passage from Matthew:

    22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
    23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
    24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
    25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
    26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.
    27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.
    28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

    OK, so things turned out fine in the end. Yes, Jesus was compassionate and healed her daughter, before anyone accuses me of overlooking that. 🙂 But I’ve always been troubled by the way that he:

    a) ignored her
    b) seemingly tried to get rid of her by saying that his mission wasn’t to people like her
    c) in a way, calling her a dog

    I understand that he was probably trying her faith and, as we know, she passed the test. But let’s say that she wasn’t the persistent type. I try to put myself in her position. I believe that this man has supernatural powers that can heal my daughter. So I seek him out and he does a, b, and c. Not exactly emanating love or compassion. If it were me, I probably would have gone away feeling disillusioned and disappointed that this man wasn’t as “nice” as everyone said he was, and feeling guilty for “bothering” him.

    Not unless, of course, I was capable of coming up with the smart come-back line that the Canaanite woman did. 🙂

  12. Yes, FD, I had that story in my mind when I wrote that comment. We can find some other stories where Jesus engages the Pharisees as well, and he was so rude they took up stones to throw at him.

    While I know that my labeling Jesus as rude is going to be controversial, I want everyone to understand that I am not merely trying to be controversial. I’m really trying to understand what is really meant by “be ye therefore perfect/complete/sinless….” I really don’t think “sinless” is really a part of the definition here. If we remove sinless from the definition, this tends to de-emphasize the perfect part of the definition. But “Complete” doesn’t seem to fully emphasize what Jesus is saying here as well, does it? So, what really is Jesus telling us to do in this scripture?

    Also, should we become more civilly disobedient in our communities? Is this what Jesus would do? Or do we improve communities solely by peaceful means? Or is it a combination?

  13. Looking at Jesus’ so-called “sins” is fine, but linking them with perfection is irrelevant. We know from the scriptures that he was without sin, so whatever behaviors he may have exhibited, however offensive or “rude” they may have been, did not fall into the category of sin. You can’t say that since Jesus did these things and was considered perfect, then it must be possible to be perfect and still sin. You still haven’t sufficiently separated sin from perfection in this case.

    You said, “Now, I am agreeing with you that Jesus cleansing the temple would not be sin, but it would be an act of civil disobedience. In such a case as this, should Jesus pay restitution?”

    I’m not sure why Jesus paying restitution is relevant to the discussion. Perhaps you could elaborate.

    Also, where do you learn that Jesus yelled at people? As far as Jesus being a wine-bibber, do you think it’s possible that people were looking for a reason to find fault with Jesus? Kind of like the anti’s who work so hard to find fault with the leaders and members of the LDS? They find grains of truth and distort them to suit their purposes. Doesn’t make those claims entirely true.

    Regarding the story of the Canaanite woman, I think that Jesus used every opportunity to teach people and try their faith. If this woman had just given up, then how great was her faith? Isn’t faith what it’s all about? I think we need to remember who this man was. He is the man who did not sin, in whom there was no guile, who fulfilled all that the father asked of him. He took our sins upon him and paid the price for them at an unimaginable cost in suffering to himself–all because he loves us. Why can’t we just have a little faith in him and know that he probably knew what he was doing, and certainly had a better perspective than we do seeing as he was there and we weren’t, also keeping in mind that he had the ability to perceive people’s thoughts. Perhaps he wouldn’t have been “rude” if he knew that this woman would easily take offense. Maybe he was trying to teach his disciples who were suggesting to him just how he should handle her.

    Back to perfection. Can we truly say we are perfect if we sin? God and Christ are perfect and they are without sin. Can we honestly say that we can reach perfection and still sin? If we still have improvements to make in our ability to resist sin and temptation, can we truly be considered perfect? How can we be complete if we still give in to temptation? It seems we have some kind of a deficiency present in us–perhaps a lack of faith. If our faith were perfect, would we sin?

  14. “I’m not sure why Jesus paying restitution is relevant to the discussion. Perhaps you could elaborate.”

    I think it’s a relevant question. A regular person would, I’m guessing, have owed something in restitution for the destroyed property. Was Jesus simply exempt from the law because of his godhood (i.e. if a regular person like me flipped over tables, then I would have to pay for the damaged property), or was he 100% justified in destroying property without making restitution (meaning that the moneychangers had a non-case)? Are gods above the law (not Roman, but moral, eternal law)? Isn’t destruction of property without restitution a no-no, sort of like stealing without paying restitution?

  15. “You can’t say that since Jesus did these things and was considered perfect, then it must be possible to be perfect and still sin.”

    That’s not what I’m trying to say. I am trying to understand truly what constitutes sin. For example, most people today would consider that a person who got angry enough to tip over tables and chairs would be a sinner. Well, this is not necessarily the case–Jesus was angry and rude, and but did not sin. Ok, so can we all agree that a person can get angry or be rude, and still be considered perfect? I think that many orthodox folks are going to have a problem with this apparent paradox, don’t you?

    So, if “be ye therefore perfect” means that we can still be angry and rude, then what else can we do, and still be considered perfect? That’s the point of the post–better defining what “perfect” means. What traits might a perfect person have? Can we list them?

    Kind & rude: obedient to God & civilly disobedient (when the cause is just): meek & angry. Do you agree with my list so far? What else should we include/exclude?

    Finally, regarding restitution. Article of faith 12 states, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. “

    Let’s say that Jesus was not executed after cleansing the temple. Let’s say that a Roman court (with Jewish backing) agreed with Jesus and said there shouldn’t be so much commerce at the temple. But let’s say that they told him that he should have used non-violent methods to promote his cause, and found him guilty of vandalism and destruction of property. They sentenced him to 30 days in jail, and ordered him to pay restitution to all the temple vendors for whom he destroyed tables and chairs, and that he must pay for any birds which were released in the episode. Should Jesus submit to this court, or is he above the law?

  16. Here are some cases of Jesus was probably yelling. Note, the exclamation point in many verses. If Jesus was in a church, he would have been pounding the pulpit. There is certainly much passion in these statements of condemnation.

    Mat 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in [yourselves], neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

    Mat 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

    Mat 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

    Mat 23:16 Woe unto you, [ye] blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!

    Mat 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier [matters] of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

    Mat 23:24 [Ye] blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

    Mat 23:25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.

    Mat 23:26 [Thou] blind Pharisee, cleanse first that [which is] within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

    Mat 23:27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead [men’s] bones, and of all uncleanness.

    Mat 23:28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

    Mat 23:29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,

    Mat 23:30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.

    Mat 23:31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.

    Mat 23:33 [Ye] serpents, [ye] generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

  17. “A regular person would, I’m guessing, have owed something in restitution for the destroyed property.”

    I have no problem with Jesus being subject to the law and therefore liable for damages if he were judged by the law to be so. I just don’t see how this relates to the subject at hand.

    “I am trying to understand truly what constitutes sin.”

    Okay now, that makes much more sense. Why didn’t you just say that to begin with? But then what about this statement and similar statements in this thread: “If Jesus is telling us to be complete, rather than sinless, then is sin really important?” Is your intent still in determining what is and is not sin, or are you downplaying the role sinlessness in relation to perfection?

    “Ok, so can we all agree that a person can get angry or be rude, and still be considered perfect? I think that many orthodox folks are going to have a problem with this apparent paradox, don’t you?”

    I have no problem with it whatsoever, nor do I see it as a paradox. Like I’ve said previously, I don’t think that anger itself is a sin. I don’t even think rudeness is a sin. If you can show me otherwise in the scriptures, I might reconsider my position.

    With regards to Jesus yelling, as I suspected, that is just speculation. I think many of those statements could’ve been spoken in a firm, raised tone of voice, but not necessarily yelling, as in someone whose blood is boiling. A message delivered passionately however, can have a great effect at getting the attention of one’s audience. I don’t see that as sin or weakness of character.

    Speaking of all these emotions, I have to say that I really question, and in some ways resent, the portrayal of Jesus in movies and such as being so calm and lacking in emotion. I’ve never believed that such a portrayal was realistic. I don’t see how he couldn’t experience all he did, know all he knew, and not feel angry at times. Nor could I imagine that he made it through life without laughing.

  18. Tara, if you will notice, I did say in the 2nd paragraph in my original post, “What does perfection really mean?” Also, “I think we often have an unrealistic view of what “sinless” means.” I was really trying to steer the topic in that general direction: “I am trying to understand truly what constitutes sin.”

    Regarding Jesus yelling, if you want to interpret it differently, then there is nothing I can do to change your interpretation. However, I can’t fathom Jesus tipping over tables and chairs while whispering, or speaking quietly, “My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Mark 11:17)

    We see how serious Jesus was in Mark 11:16 “And would not suffer that any man should carry [any] vessel through the temple.” This had to require intimidation to prevent people from carrying items through the temple grounds.

    Surely this required some use of physical force. And verse 18 shows how angry the leaders were: And the scribes and chief priests heard [it], and sought how they might destroy him.

    I agree with you and Seth completely that Jesus is a caricature of himself today. Jesus was full of passion, not necessarily full of peace. He could be a real firebrand at times. It is interesting that the Gospel of Judas shows Jesus laughing hard! Jesus loved a good party, and he didn’t mince words with those who disagreed with him. “Sermon on the Mount Jesus” and “Cleansing the Temple Jesus” almost seem to be polar opposite personalities.

    Regarding anger, I must say I am in the midst of a family culture war. My dad has been known to get very angry. I also can get quite angry and animated. My wife, on the other hand, views EVERY raised voice as completely wrong and unnecessary. I haven’t talked to her about Jesus cleansing the temple, but my guess is that she would justify Jesus every time, yet condemn me nearly every time, and I don’t knock over tables and chairs like Jesus did. I must say that her family is very reserved, and never raises voices. The in-laws all find this frustrating; it seems many of my brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law came from similar backgrounds as I did. I guess opposites do attract.

    I think that most of the images we have of Jesus are of carrying a lamb, the Footprints poem, weak and suffering on the cross. In my home, I have a painting of him washing feet, him standing at a door knocking, and a statue of him standing with his arms outstretched, wounds in palms. I don’t have anything showing cleansing the temple, or denigrating pharisees. In our culture, these attributes of Jesus are certainly not aspects viewed as worthy of emulation.

    My wife is going to view kind and rude as a paradox of perfection. She would easily exclude rude and angry from the list of a perfect person. I doubt she would endorse most acts of civil disobedience, and if I made a scene at the temple denigrating someone’s “unholy” attire at the temple (I’d would never do this, BTW), I think she would be embarrassed and tell me it is not my place to speak. What if the Temple President did this in a very rude manner? What would you say to convince her that anger and rudeness can still constitute a perfect person? And if the Temple President and I used the same words, is it right if the president does it and wrong if I do it? Is this a double-standard?

    “Is your intent still in determining what is and is not sin, or are you downplaying the role sinlessness in relation to perfection?”

    Yes. 🙂 Actually a bit of both. I don’t know if “downplaying the role of sinlessness” is the correct term, but rather we need to better define sinlessness. I think mormons can be very pharisaical, especially regarding the Word of Wisdom with some people outlawing Coke, and chocolate. Often mormons in trying to keep the Sabbath day holy have a hard time being a good Samaritan, and might view certain things as Sabbath breaking activities.

    We know in the mormon culture, that there are countless people who get depressed because they are not perfect. No matter how hard one tries, one always sins. However, as I stated before, I think these kind of people have a naive view of sin. These kind of people (and my wife is one of the people I have in mind) think anger is a sin. If I say so myself, I think my wife has the most guilty conscience of any person I know. So, yes, I think that sin, perfection, and completeness are all related. And the mormon culture overemphasizes sin in relation to perfection and completeness. So, I’m trying to get some balance back into this conversation, as I feel that people focus too much on sin, and not nearly enough on grace. Perhaps that’s where completeness fits into the equation. My wife constantly beats herself up because the house isn’t clean enough, she doesn’t visit teach enough, isn’t a good mother, etc, etc. She always compares her worst to other people’s best, and no matter who points this out to her, it doesn’t make her feel any better.

    Even if we substitute the word “complete” into the scripture as Ray did when he said ‘”Perfection” is the end result of continued progress, NOT an absence of mistakes’, I don’t know that completeness is necessarily a proper adjective either, as it seems to downplay sin. Yes, Ray has a very good point, but it changes the meaning rather significantly. Do you agree?

    Tara, I don’t understand why you are having such a hard time linking Christ’s cleansing the temple with sin. It seems to me that FD and I are on the same page here. On the one hand, you agree that Christ is subject to the law of the land. You agree that he should reimburse for damages inflicted to the vendors. It shouldn’t be a great leap to you that this is a form of restitution, which is part of the repentance process. It isn’t a great leap to say that Jesus was in need of repentance in this instance.

    Now I already can hear your answer–that Jesus is sinless and didn’t sin against God. If he broke the laws of man, then that is not a sin. I don’t know that the vendors would agree with you, and would feel Jesus could have handled the situation differently. But I think that people like my wife aren’t necessarily going to make that distinction (tipping over tables is not a sin), and she (like FD) will wonder why he didn’t handle the situation in a more peaceful manner. Don’t you see the paradox here? If Jesus was guilty in a court of law for vandalism, most people would call that a sin. I understand that you are not calling it a sin, but don’t you agree that it is somewhat of a dilemma?

    The ultimate answer to this dilemma is Jesus admonition to “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (Of course Joseph Smith added the word unrighteously.) Obviously the pharisees were very judgmental of Jesus, which is why they frequently referred to him as a sinner. However, I think mormons can be overly critical of fellow mormons. It’s not just the pharisees or anti-mormon’s who have a problem with this. Once again, what does a perfect person look like? I don’t think sinless is a correct answer. Interestingly, even Jesus was accused of being a sinner.

  19. I did not say that I thought Jesus was speaking in a soft tone when he was pronouncing woes upon the scribes and pharisees or when he was cleansing the temple. I in fact said that he probably had a raised tone and a firm voice. But I don’t imagine that he was yelling in the true sense of the word.

    Regarding the culture war that you are facing with your family, I think that maybe you should consider that you and your wife are both partially right. I think in a family setting, anger tends to damage relationships if managed improperly. I think there are times when a raised voice with a child serves to let them know you mean business, and that they need to listen and obey. But if voices are raised too often, it tends to be ignored and can cause damage to the relationship. Between husband and wife, I’m not sure that raised voices do much to help anything. I know personally that this is the case. But I can sympathize with your wife. I imagine that she is probably very sensitive to raised voices, not being accustomed to it in her upbringing. I am very sensitive to it as well and don’t respond well to it. Some people respond better to it than others, I think.

    My husband and I were both raised in families who raised their voices, primarily our mothers. My father was and is very quiet and not much of a disciplinarian–very patient man though. My husband’s father is more “action” than words so I don’t think he yelled much. In spite of or perhaps because of my experiences, I’ve been able to see the damage that anger and yelling can do. It can do a great deal of harm to a relationship if not used judiciously. I do yell. I’ve gotten better over the years about not yelling at my kids as much and I can see a difference. They respond better to me when I don’t yell and they seem happier as well.

    Regarding the pictures of Jesus that we display at home or elsewhere, I think the reason we don’t see pictures of Jesus cleansing the temple or chastising the pharisees is not because we find those actions of Jesus to be reprehensible, but because the emotion of anger is generally something that we need to control better, not develop. We focus on those aspects of Jesus’ character that we DO need to develop more fully. We don’t need more anger, we need more patience, more humility, more mercy. Though, perhaps your wife’s family might benefit from a picture of Jesus cleansing the temple 😉

    Now, what would I say to convince your wife that anger and rudeness can coexist in a state of perfection? I would start with the verse in D&C that I quoted earlier showing how even God gets angry. There are a number of examples in the scriptures which show God expressing anger, and there were times when the prophets, such as Moses, had to try and calm his anger and convince him not to take drastic measures. There are a number of times when the prophets prevented the destruction of the people in their pleas for mercy. Also remind her of the scripture in Matthew 5:22 which says, “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement…” According to this scripture, there are times when anger is justified. If anger were never justified, then it wouldn’t have included the phrase, “without a cause.”

    Double standard? Probably. As difficult as it may be to live with though, you have to understand that your wife has a vested interest in you and in your future together. She only wants what she sees is in your best interests. You may disagree on the small details, but which bet is safer? Will it hurt for you to be more restrained? Isn’t greater self-mastery what we should be striving for?

    On a similar note, you talk about pharisaical Mormons. I say, what does it hurt to take things further if one has the discipline to do so? I think that we are given the lesser law to be goverened by, but I think that for those who are capable of living a higher law, by all means, more power. I just don’t think it is constructive for us to dwell on the small details. I think our time is better spent with a healthy amount of guilt to drive us to do better, not allowing that guilt to take over our lives and cause us to dwell on our imperfections. That is what Satan wants us to do to the point that we get depressed and give up. Unfortunately, as you’ve pointed out, too many of us place an unhealthy level of focus on our weaknesses to the point that it becomes detrimental to us. We do need to focus more on grace. I don’t think we need to worry so much about what everyone else is doing and judging them, or whether we are doing everything perfectly and worrying ourselves over the smallest details, and just find comfort in the fact that as long as we are all doing what we believe to be right and good, striving to do the best we can at whatever that might be, then all will be fine in the end. We all have a different understanding and knowledge of the gospel and will be judged on that basis.

    Next time your wife beats herself up over her housecleaning abilities, ask her if she thinks the Lord is going to judge her on that. Then remind her of the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42. Some things are just more important than the housecleaning, and those just may be the things that we are judged on.

    Does “complete” change the meaning of perfection significantly? I guess that depends on how you define complete. In my view, I don’t see how I can be complete when I still have weaknesses. Complete, to me, means finished, and interestingly, the Bible also includes that in the definition of perfect. If I still need to make improvements, am I truly complete or finished, or do I settle for “good enough”?

    I do have a hard time linking Christ’s cleansing of the temple with sin because I take the scriptures very seriously, and they say that Jesus was without sin. Not only that, but as the Savior of mankind, he had to live a perfect, sinless life in order to meet the requirements of that role. He could not have paid the price for our sins if he, himself, was in dept.

    I don’t disagree that restitution is directly related to repentance. What I disagree with is that restitution necessarily warrants repentance to God, which IS necessary in the case of sin. In the case of Jesus cleansing the temple, his act was not a case of warrantless vandalism out of spite or just for the fun of it. Such reasons would probably require repentance to God. But he was trying to restore the sanctity of something holy. I think motivation is important in differentiating behaviors that constitute sin. I don’t think he just got mad and lost it. Certainly he was angry, but I think it was righteous anger. The scripture in D&C 121:43 comes to mind, which says, “Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost…” Is it possible that Jesus was moved upon by the Holy Ghost and was perfectly justified in what he did?

    Did Jesus need to repent to the vendors for the damage he inflicted? I don’t think so. They were guilty of something much more serious in violating the sanctity of the temple. They were the ones who needed to repent. In our politically correct, separation of church and state mentality, we’ve been conditioned to think that imposing our beliefs on others is a serious offense. There was no separation of church and state for the Jews so such actions, though unwelcome, might be viewed differently. I think we may lack the cultural perspective necessary to be able to judge accurately in many cases.

    Who cares what the vendors thought? The judgements of man will not affect one’s standing with God.

  20. Tara,

    I think you state your case well. Yes, I agree that both my wife and I are probably both right and both wrong. I am striving to be more like her, but it can be challenging.

    I think it would have been interesting if Jesus had cleansed the temple when bloggers, CNN, and tabloids were around. I suspect that he would have been quoted as having yelled, by several sources. I suspect that if we had writings of the pharisees, they would say Jesus yelled, and probably would have devoted much more detail to the vandalism that occurred in the temple, proclaiming that Jesus was desecrating the temple.

    Of course, defenders of Jesus (such as the Bible we have, as well as modern-day conservative bloggers), will dispute pharisees contention that Jesus was yelling. I can’t help but think that the Bible is trying to put Jesus in the best possible light here. Do you think that the Bible might be omitting/minimizing the fact that Jesus yelled while cleansing the temple?

    I think it is pretty well-known that the Bible does not claim to be objective history. It’s purpose is not objective history, but rather evangelizing the gospel. It is written to proclaim Jesus divinity and mission. Facts like “yelling” are likely to be minimized, in favor of putting Jesus in the best possible light, don’t you think?

    Certainly you’re entitled to your opinion. What one person calls a stern voice, another will call shouting. I think it depends on your point of view. I know that if I was tipping over tables, my wife would say I’m yelling, and out of control, and I would probably agree with her. I think it’s pretty hard to objectively say Jesus wasn’t yelling or out of control in the midst of this incident. If you want to call it a stern voice under control, then that’s your prerogative, but I will disagree with you. It certainly set in motion the chain of events which led to his execution.

    Regarding separation of church and state, I think if you were forced to pay taxes to a muslim, catholic, jewish, or other church not of your choosing, you would be grateful that we have separation of church and state. It seems to me that the puritans, who came to America for religious freedom, were quite happy to persecute and impose their religion upon people who did not agree with puritanical religious views. The original 13 colonies all started as various religious enclaves, and often persecuted others not of their faith. I believe it is Pennsylvania which was the first colony to advocate that every religion was welcome to live there.

    I get what you’re saying, but with the thousands of years of church and state being combined, there were much worse religious abuses of power than anything in our new PC culture, which admittedly is becoming more secular. Yes, I don’t want God outlawed in government, but neither do I want religion mandated by legislation. It is likely that if this nation was founded upon the Church of England, then Joseph Smith may never have been allowed the freedom to organize our church. The religious diversity of the 13 colonies and subsequent freedom of religion were forerunners to the separation of church and state concept we have today.

    I’d hate to live in a place like the middle east where calls to prayer are basically mandated by religious zealots. I plan a post on early Christianity in Iraq. Christianity, which dated from the time of Christ there used to be a supermajority in the early centuries, following Christ. With the recent US invasion, muslims don’t hesitate to persecute Christians there now. It is really a sad situation for Christians there today, and their numbers are dwindling rapidly.

  21. “I say, what does it hurt to take things further if one has the discipline to do so?”

    Orthodox jews are well-known for only walking a certain number of steps on the Sabbath. Is this the discipline we all should have? Perhaps we should not heal on the Sabbath as the Pharisees said–this is work.

    I found this interesting from Wikipedia:
    The letter of the law versus the spirit of the law is an idiomatic antithesis. When one obeys the letter of the law but not the spirit, he is obeying the literal interpretation of the words (the “letter”) of the law, but not the intent of those who wrote the law. Conversely, when one obeys the spirit of the law but not the letter, he is doing what the authors of the law intended, though not adhering to the literal wording.

    “Law” originally referred to legislative statute, but in the idiom may refer to any kind of rule. Intentionally following the letter of the law but not the spirit may be accomplished through exploiting technicalities, loopholes, and ambiguous language. Following the letter of the law but not the spirit is also a tactic used against an oppressive government.

    In the New Testament, Pharisees are seen as people who place the letter of the law above the spirit (Mark 2:3-28, 3:1-6). Thus, “Pharisee” has entered the language as a pejorative for one who does so; the Oxford English Dictionary defines Pharisee with one of the meanings as A person of the spirit or character commonly attributed to the Pharisees in the New Testament; a legalist or formalist.

    The phrases “the letter of the law” and “the spirit of the law” themselves are not found in the Bible. Some might connect 2 Corinthians 3:6 with such an idea, but that passage talks about “the letter” versus “the Spirit”, where “the letter” refers to the Old Covenant and its rules, while “the Spirit” refers to the Holy Spirit (and the New Covenant).

    see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_and_spirit_of_the_law

  22. “Complete, to me, means finished, and interestingly, the Bible also includes that in the definition of perfect.”

    Well, when we die, we’re all finished, one way or another…. 🙂 We might not be complete, but we’re definitely finished! (Sorry, I just need to add a little levity once in a while.)

  23. I just don’t get why you are so bent on trying to paint Jesus in an unfavorable light. It would be one thing if there was solid evidence to back up your claims, but you are just extrapolating from the text. Whatever your reasons, it just doesn’t feel right to me.

    You keep worrying about how others would perceive Jesus’ actions, but I don’t really care what other people would think.

    The Bible may not be objective, but I don’t think it necessarily hides the truth. There are a lot of unflattering things involving the chosen people and even the prophets included in the text. Such things could’ve been omitted or painted in a much more favorable light if the objective was merely to “sell” a concept.

    “It certainly set in motion the chain of events which led to his execution.”

    That doesn’t mean that Jesus was acting in an out-of-control manner. The scribes and pharisees didn’t like Jesus from the get go. I’m sure they were looking for any opportunity to get rid of him, and this just happened to be one they could work with.

    You may continue to characterize Jesus as out-of-control in his attack on the vendors at the temple, but if you can’t see how it is possible to engage in such behavior while still being in control of one’s self, then perhaps you’ve never experienced controlled anger. I’ve experienced controlled anger on many occasions, and I know it is possible to do what Jesus did while still maintaining control.

    I didn’t want to get in a debate over separation of church and state. I was just trying to point out how that is our experience, which is a much different experience than the Jews faced. I think it is an important principle for our country, but it’s different from what the Jews experienced, so we may not be able to relate.

    With regards to “going the extra mile”, are you saying that someone with that mindset is not following the spirit of the law? I didn’t have counting your steps on the Sabbath in mind when I wrote what I did. I had things such as caffeine and chocolate in mind.

    Some members don’t consider caffeine a problem at all and partake freely of it since there is no prohibition against it. Others believe that the spirit of the law says that we should avoid or limit those things which are unhealthy or addictive, and since caffeine is not healthy and is addictive, it should be used in moderation or avoided all together. I don’t have a problem with any of those choices so long as people are doing what they believe to be right and are happy doing so. Where the law is not specific, we are free to interpret it how we see fit.

    But I agree that there are extremes that should be avoided, such as counting one’s steps on the Sabbath, because that becomes a distraction from the spirit of the law and its intended purpose.

  24. Tara, It’s not that I’m trying to paint Jesus unfavorably, but rather trying to paint him as a real person–a person who could be misunderstood. I think far too often we mythologize people we like, and demonize people we don’t like. The truth is often somewhere in the middle. If I knock off a few pieces of myth in order to “liken the scriptures unto us”, I think that is quite helpful. Jesus is not a myth, but a real person. He was both human and divine, and we shouldn’t get upset to discover that he actually was human. I think we should explore his human side, not completely ignore it in favor of the divine. I think exploring the human side of Jesus will help us better understand how we can deal with our own humanness. Being human is not a bad thing, but too often, we think it is.

    I also think we are all guilty of unrighteous judgment. This is related to the topic at hand. We denigrate the Pharisees, who so obviously judged Jesus unrighteously, but fail to see this same attitude in ourselves. Let me give a few examples.

    In John Dehlin’s interview of Greg Prince regarding David O McKay, Prince tells of a story where President McKay attended a basketball game somewhere. Pres McKay was thirsty, and asked for a drink. One of his associates returned with a soft drink, and apologized because the cup advertised the Coca-cola logo. President McKay’s response was “I don’t care what’s on the drink, I only care what’s in the drink.”

    Now, imagine you are one of these people who “goes the extra mile” regarding both the Word of Wisdom, and “avoiding the appearance of evil”, and you see Pres McKay drinking a Coke? Are you making an unrighteous judgment? Absolutely. In today’s age, it is so easy to fire off an email, and say, “I saw President McKay drinking Coke”, that the church would then have to come up with some sort of silly response over what really is a non-issue. This is when we as mormons become pharisaical.

    And let me diverge into the Word of Wisdom for a minute. The spirit of the Word of Wisdom was not to completely eliminate alcohol and caffeine, but to avoid its excess. As part of my job as a freelancer, I cover several games at BYU, Utah, and the Jazz. BYU has a policy that they will not sell any caffeine including both coffee and Coke on campus. Is this being pharisaical? I say yes. I do not believe that Joseph Smith would have endorsed a complete ban on coffee, Coke, or even wine. These are not inherently evil, yet mormons have assigned evil to innocuous things.

    Overuse of coffee, caffeine, and alcohol are the problem. Yes, I understand that an outright ban is easier to implement, and helps eliminate problems associated with alcoholism, intestinal problems (in the case of caffeine), etc. However, if we allowed caffeine on the campus of BYU, it is one less thing for non-LDS people to complain about, and I think it is a silly ban. (Mind you, I do not drink any caffeine as part of going the “extra mile” as you say, except when I am driving late at night. I will drink Coke, Mountain Dew, or Dr Pepper on those occasions specifically to keep me awake.) I do not condemn others who choose to drink coffee, but many mormons do. I have heard stories of mormons engaging in fornication and adultery, but refusing to break the word of wisdom on religious grounds. Isn’t this an example of completely misplaced priorities? Isn’t this being pharisaical? Isn’t this the same as the Pharisees accusing Jesus of working on the Sabbath when he was healing the sick?

    At the other end of the spectrum, we have people like Mitt Romney, and the Marriotts. In an article in the Boston Globe, I learned that the Romneys kept alcohol in the house and offered it to guests. Of course the Romneys never drank themselves, but considered it good manners to offer it to others who did not follow the Word of Wisdom. Alcohol is prominently offered at Marriott hotels. My wife is a flight attendant, and knows how to mix drinks as part of her job. Some of my sisters-in-law are uncomfortable with this aspect of her job. I think it is really silly. I worked in a coffee shop in college student as well. I think some pharisaical mormons would find me and my wife are not avoiding the appearance of evil.

    However, as it is documented in the Bible, Jesus did not avoid the appearance of evil either. He associated with publicans, sinners, and people of ill-repute. How are we supposed to do missionary work, if we only associate with the righteous? What better place is there to do missionary work, than in a coffee shop, or while serving alcohol to a passenger on a flight? The problem with Jesus, according to the Pharisees, was that he didn’t appear to be righteous. He didn’t avoid the appearance of evil at all, and openly flaunted his “sins.” This is who Jesus was. To borrow a modern day phrase, Jesus was no angel. Jesus was real. Jesus was confrontational. Jesus was perfect.

    Doesn’t this give new insights into “perfect”?

  25. While reading your comments, I wondered something.

    I think we’ve established that anger when justified is not a sin. Sometimes we need to be angry in order to motivate people to stop their bad behaviour, protect the vulnerable, seek justice, etc.

    But is yelling ever OK?

    I’m like MH’s wife. I hate to be yelled at and I hate to yell. When I get angry, I usually get quiet, snippy, or sarcastic. However, there have been a few instances in my life where I “lost it.” At times I have yelled out of anger and I think I have always felt bad about it afterwards — even when I feel quite certain that I was justified in my anger.

    A few years ago I had an argument with my grandmother (the one I think I’ve mentioned before who has some racist views). Some of her actions were causing contention in our family, the tension had built up to a point where I couldn’t take it anymore and one day I got sick of it, called her up and yelled at her. A couple of days went by and I felt really really guilty. I couldn’t relax until I apologized for yelling. I couldn’t apologize for what I said because I felt it was justified. To this day, I don’t think that my anger was unjustified. However, I did and still do feel that my yelling at her was unjustified. She accepted my apology and admitted her mistakes, and we both felt much better afterwards.

    So I’m trying to put myself into Jesus’ position. Could I ever yell at someone or destroy their property without feeling guilty about it afterwards, even if I was justified in my reason for being angry? Is it ever OK to chew someone out — especially in public — and not apologize, at the very least, for our tone?

  26. FD,

    As I said before: what one person calls a stern voice, another will call yelling. I can think of a case with a car dealer where someone said I “chewed them out”, when I thought I was really under control, and I wasn’t going to put up with their incompetence. In that case, I told the manager that I was being much tougher on him than the assistant, and that I did not yell. I also stated that I thought the assistant was very tender-hearted if he thought I yelled. (I also stated that if he wanted to know what chewing someone out was like, I would be happy to demonstrate.)

    So perception is a big issue here. All I’m trying to say is that a vendor may have perceived that Jesus yelled, while Jesus and Tara may have thought that it was just a stern voice. That is why I brought up the “Judge not…” scripture, as perception has much to do with “proper” judgment. I don’t recall that Jesus ever apologized, and I’m sure Tara would say that he had nothing to apologize for.

  27. FD,

    The more I think about your situation, I don’t think you were out of line for your response to your grandmother. Would you feel guilty if you had reacted the same way to a member of the KKK or Nazi party?

    Now obviously there are some family dynamics here, and the whole part about honoring our fathers and mothers, but I don’t think we need to honor racism. I take great issue with racist comments and bigotry, and I find them quite offensive. I served a mission in the South, and have many black friends. Here in Utah, I was a supervisor to many latinos, and was probably more popular with them than the white workers. I think racism should be dealt with directly, even if it is confrontational. I think your guilty conscience in this situation is misplaced guilt.

    So FD, how would you feel if you reacted the same way Jesus did? Instead of yelling, what if you tipped over a table and chairs at your grandmothers house and said in a firm voice, “This house should be a place of love, but you have made it a den of racism.” Would your conscience be clear?

    Is there any material difference between these 2 ways to handle racist comments?

  28. MH, I was thinking about that as I wrote my last comment. I can’t imagine pulling a “Bobby Knight” as you put it (I love the analogy, by the way 🙂 ) and feeling OK about it afterwards, even if I was justified in my reasons for being angry. Take Bobby Knight, for example. His job was dependent on the performance of his team. If they weren’t giving their all on the basketball court — which was a reflection on him — then he had a good reason to be angry. The players are supposed to be there to win (or at least play like they want to win). In a coaching situation, yelling can be motivational (in a good way) or demeaning and insulting (more Bobby Knight’s style).

    Actually, the coaching analogy gives me an idea. Could it be that Jesus was yelling in a motivational tone? In the scriptures, we only have his words. It’s impossible to capture the tone in which they were said, which plays a big role. Still, though, it’s hard to feel OK about what he said sometimes, such as the Canaanite woman and the dog comment. And I’m still having trouble reconciling the angry flipping over tables.

    I think you’re right about how I would have felt about yelling at the KKK or Nazis. It’s hard to imagine feeling guilty about it afterwards. I think the guilt with my grandmother stems from, as you mentioned, being taught to respect our elders. As well, though, I think I felt guilty because I know that my grandma isn’t a bad person and that these prejudices were something she was raised with in pre-WWII England. I think that my yelling hurt her deeply, and I think she knows that some of her comments hurt our family deeply. And I must say, if she still has these views, she’s doing a great job of keeping them to herself. My brother and his African-American wife had a baby girl last fall (her first great-grandchild) and she seems to be in love with her just like any other baby.

    “Is there any material difference between these 2 ways to handle racist comments?”

    I guess, for me, a lot depends on the person’s heart. Of course, I don’t always know what’s in someone’s heart, but I knew my grandma enough to know that she wasn’t a hateful, bad person. Therefore, I thought my tone with her was out of line, even though the words I said were not.

    But on the other hand, I think my tone would have been more justified if I had been dealing with Hitler or leaders of the KKK.

    Still, though, the destruction of property is bothering me. Would I be justified in destroying KKK headquarters?

    I don’t know. I don’t think so.

  29. I understand what you are saying about connecting with Jesus on a human level, and I can see how that could be helpful for us, but I just don’t like your characterizations of him. Jesus was human, yes. But he was no ordinary man, and I think it borders on disrespect when we mischaracterize him as the Jews would, by saying he was a winebibber or a vandal or he was “no angel” (no, he was actually much more than that). That is not who he was or is. I think we could point the things out that he did and try to understand them better in relation to our own lives, but I think there may be danger in attaching those labels, possibly making him an ordinary man.

    I just think there is a fine line here, and while I think some may be able to walk it just fine, keeping the distinction clear, there may be others for whom the line could be easily blurred. Am I making sense?

    Regarding the Word of Wisdom, I didn’t know that BYU banned sales of caffeinated beverages. At first I thought that sounded kind of silly too, but then I thought about it some. Maybe the reason for the ban has to do with perception, both in the church and out. Certainly the Word of Wisdom doesn’t ban all caffeinated beverages, but I think that the spirit of the law says that we should at least be moderate in our consumption of such substances. If BYU were to sell caffeinated beverages, would it appear that the church is saying there is nothing wrong with them? Now I can see how a private individual might want to provide alcohol, tea, coffee, etc. for guests, but I think it paints a different picture when the church or any organization within the church endorses the selling of those things. While it may be a minor thing, I can see how it might create more controversy than not selling it at all. Perhaps it gives one less reason for people to accuse us of hypocrisy, since most people think that it is strange that we can drink cokes but not coffee or tea, since most people think it is solely on the issue of caffeine.

    I don’t have a problem with people working in jobs where they have to serve coffee, tea, or alcohol. I was a waitress and had to serve tea and coffee regularly. But I might not feel entirely comfortable if the church were making a profit off the sale of those things. At the very least, I wouldn’t like how it would make us look to those not of our faith if we did.

    You think it would give non-LDS one less reason to complain about us, but I don’t think that’s the case. There would still be those who would complain that we are being hypocritical by selling the stuff.

    I’m wondering, do they sell the caffeine free versions of any of those beverages?

    Since we keep going back to the subject of Jesus cleansing the temple, I thought I would try to make more sense of it. I found an interesting article by Hugh Fogelman. It is found at this site. It still kind of leaves me wondering what exactly did happen, but it was nice to have a little background information to help in understanding what the motivation may have included, and I think in this situation, Jesus may have had sufficient justification for destroying property. Anyway, here is the text of the article:

    There is much “hype” of Jesus cleansing the Temple. This was such an important event in Jesus’ life that books and movies told this story. All four Gospels record an astonishing event about Jesus while in Jerusalem going to the Temple and angrily cleaning out the moneychangers and merchants from the Temple. According to Matthew 21:12 (KJV), — Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves.” By saying, “went into the temple of God” this means the event happened in the Temple proper. Mark and Luke just wrote, “Jesus went into the temple” which is bad enough.

    However, according to the NIV Study Bible and the New American Bible (Catholic), they correctly have Matthew saying Jesus”entered the Temple AREA” (Matthew 21:12). The Temple area was large, over 30 square acre, and these activities were happening in the courtyard, away from the worshiping area that was inside the Temple building. The King James Version (KJV) of the New Testament cleverly skipped over the exact details of this event by simply saying all this happened “inside the Temple of God.” To those not understanding, the diagram of the Temple area consisted of several acres within four walls on top of a high mount and within these four walls were the areas used for marketing. The Temple building itself, for worshiping, also stood within these four walls. Now for the real story.

    The Christians NIV Study Bible had the courage to fully explain this:

    “The Temple Area: the buying and selling took place in the large outer court of the Gentiles, which covered several acres.” Several courts surrounded the main temple buildings, including the court of the women, the court of the men and the court of the Gentiles. The Court of the Gentiles was used by Gentiles to worship (King Solomon also opened the Temple to non-Jews). The Gentiles saw that the Jewish pilgrims coming to the Passover needed animals that met the Jewish ritual requirements for sacrifice. Gentile vendors set up their animal pens and money tables in the court of the Gentiles.”

    The Christian Abingdon Bible Commentary (pg. 986) explains the reason why Jesus protested was because “the traders were in the habit of defrauding the pilgrims who came to the city from all land. A den of robbers aptly describes the methods of these men. Just as the pilgrims at Mecca today are outrageously fleeced, so they were in Jerusalem in the days of Jesus”. The commentary wrote, “of these men.” It did not say Jewish men. This is because the merchant’s area was divided into two parts, one for Jewish merchants and one for Gentile merchants. But, most Pastors quote from the King James Version and always imply that the “Den of Thieves” were the Jewish merchants. Couldn’t the Den of Thieves been among the Gentile merchants? The commentary says; “Just as the pilgrims at Mecca today are outrageously fleeced,” clearing stating just like the Arabs in Mecca today. Arabs are non-Jews. Gentiles are non-Jews. Yet the church puts 100% blame on THE JEWS as being the “thieves.”

    The historical facts (not the biblical supposition) of the event show these money-changers and dove-sellers were not doing anything wrong as they were performing a necessary service and were acting in accordance with Jewish laws found in the Torah. Just as tourists today in a foreign country must exchange their money for local currency, so in the time of Jesus, visitors from other areas outside of Judah needed a place to exchange their coins for local coins. Jerusalem, being the capital and location of the Temple was the center of great activity. The courtyard outside of the Temple sanctuary was a natural and appropriate place to set up exchange booths. This is confirmed in the Christian NIV Study Bible.

    Thousands of Jews all over the known world would come to Jerusalem three times each year to observe the important Jewish holidays. During Passover, they came to make offerings in the Temple of animals, doves, grains and fruits. Instead of traveling to Jerusalem with these offerings, many found it easier to buy the offerings in the Temple courtyard thus enabling the foreign pilgrims to trade the shekels of Judea for the drachmas of the Roman Empire in order to purchase such items as pigeons, doves or anything else they could afford. The Torah authorizes exchanges of produce and livestock for silver. That way coins impressed with foreign idolatrous images were replaced with coins acceptable as donations toward the Temple’s expense funds i.e. the half shekel head tax also commanded by God (see Deuteronomy 14:24-26)

    Outside the Temple was also the place for Rome to collect taxes. For Jews to worship, every Jew had to pay a “temple tax” which went into the Temple coffer (treasury) that paid the Temple expenses and Roman graft. Rome found this was another way to increase their coffer. This tradition of paying the Temple Tax is stated in the Gospels when the tax collector went to Jesus for the Temple Tax (Matthew 17:24-27). The New Testament and most Pastors fail to mention that Roman soldiers were stationed right outside the Temple courtyard to watch over the “tax money.” Not only were the Roman soldiers stationed outside the Temple area, they were all over Jerusalem. During Jesus’ time, the Jews were stirring up thoughts of rebellion against Roman rule. Roman soldiers were constantly checking any disorder, which could spill over into an uprising against Rome. According to Jewish scriptures, the Jews had a major concern of keeping the pagan Roman soldiers out of the Temple area. Not only would their presence in the holy building be a desecration, but also the Sadducees did not want them to find any opportunity to loot the Temple treasury. Therefore, it would not be logical to have any disturbance of any kind in the Temple area that would have brought in the Roman soldiers.

    Besides, if Jesus had done what the Gospel writers claim, the Jewish Temple guards would have put a quick end to his behavior because the Jewish pilgrims would not have tolerated any acts of aggression that would have endangered the Temple. These worshippers, having traveled so far would not hesitate to suppress any person who, for no logical reason at all, invited disaster. They would not have appreciated being prevented from fulfilling the religious duties for which they made their pilgrimages. This act of Jesus “cleansing the Temple” just doesn’t make any sense once you understand Jewish law and what was happening in the courtyard during Jesus’ time. The Gospel writings made you think that the money-changers and merchants were inside the Temple praying area. However, Christians fail to understand that our Talmud FORBIDS anything but prayer inside the praying area. Logically, if these money-changers and merchants were inside the praying area, the Jewish Temple guards would have immediately dealt with them–before Jesus ever entered the area. Logically, is the Christian story even feasible? Jesus just walks in and causes all this commotion and simply leaves — and no one does anything?

    No! This is not logical.

    I find it very disturbing that during the various inquires at Jesus’ trial, at which Jesus was repeatedly questioned, no mention was ever made by his enemies (the Jewish high priests, according to the New Testament) of the violent attack on the commercial activity going on in the Temple. This attack surely had a major affect on the revenue of the Temple and of Rome. You would think, if this “cleansing of the Temple” had occurred, it would have been used against him at one time or another. Hearing the total silence of this major event and now knowing the history and customs of the time, it is easy to realize it simply NEVER HAPPENED.

  30. FD,

    Of the 2 methods we listed to combat racism, I think yelling is the nicer option. If you had broken tables and chairs, you would have had to pay for a new dining room set. 🙂 If there were hardwood floors, there probably would have been so much noise that I’ll bet she would have told you that you yelled anyway….

    I’m sure you are right in your assessments of your grandmother. However, I want to point out that you did not notice a change in her behavior until after you “reproved her with sharpness.” I think your apology afterwards, “showing an increase of love towards her whom thou hast reproved, lest she esteem thee to be thine enemy”, is perfectly following D&C 121:41-43. Frankly, this is one of my favorite scriptures, because it is so applicable to so many areas of life, not just the priesthood for which the section is primarily aimed. Without you taking a stand against racism, I really doubt your grandmother would have changed her behavior. Your yelling was motivational for change, and I rather think it is accounted to you for righteousness, especially in light of your desire to heal the relationship by apologizing. If you explicitly followed the Savior’s example, I don’t know that the apology was necessary. But it certainly was going the extra mile, and is a model of D&C 121.

    Also, I think you would be justified in destroying property of the KKK or Nazis. Of course, by doing so, you’re doing an act of civil disobedience, especially if you were in front of Hitler. Certainly, you would have been sent to a concentration camp, or executed as Jesus was. So, you will have to decide if that sort of thing is worth death. Jesus chose death, and I’m grateful for his sacrifice, but I don’t know that is always the correct choice. I’d be curious what Tara thinks regarding you knocking over your grandmother’s table, or the KKK’s.

    I took an institute class several years ago, and the teacher mentioned that there might actually be 2 cleansing the temple episodes. It seems that the gospels relate an episode at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and another at the end, so some scholars (LDS and non-LDS) have conjectured that there were 2 episodes, with the latest episode occurring just before his betrayal by Judas.

    Tara, in our interactions, you have usually come down on the side as a biblical literalist. I am quite surprised that you are quoting someone who says the cleansing the temple did not happen. I think Fogelman does an excellent job describing the scene, but I completely disagree with his conclusion. I believe Jesus did cleanse the temple as stated in the Bible. I can’t imagine that you would agree with his conclusion that “it simply NEVER HAPPENED.”

    I also take one other issue with Fogelman. He tries to make the case that Jesus was merely cleaning out the gentile merchants. “Couldn’t the Den of Thieves been among the Gentile merchants? He then goes on to talk about the fleecing of the jews, and I am sure this happened, probably by both jewish and gentile merchants. However, as I mentioned earlier in Mark 11:18, “And the scribes and chief priests heard [it], and sought how they might destroy him.” I simply can’t believe the chief priests would have been upset with Jesus actions solely against the gentiles. They would have applauded Jesus’ efforts for defending jews from the fleecing by the gentiles. It is obvious to me the jews were upset, and considered Jesus actions as an act of defiance against the temple.

    Other than that, I think Fogelman paints a quite accurate picture of jewish temple life at the time of Christ.

    Jesus was no ordinary man, but I don’t think it’s disrespectful to call him human. By focusing so much on his divinity, we only pay lip service to the fact that he endured many of the same things we do. None of us can be perfect if we have a warped sense of who he was, and I hope to get a better understanding of what he was really like. All of us can be brash at times; Jesus was too and is perfect. Before this conversation, had you explored that side of him? Yes, it can be a fine line to walk, but I am hopeful that it has been enlightening. Do you feel your concept of perfection has changed at all?

    Yes, BYU does allow the sale of caffeine-free Coke and Pepsi. But for the non-LDS tv crew members who fly in late the night before the game, get to the cold stadium at 6 AM where it is 26 degrees outside, they specifically want a hot coffee, or at least a caffeinated Coke. (You’ll still see them smoking outside the tv truck.) It seems quite silly to ban caffeinated soft drinks, and makes BYU more strange than it needs to be, especially since just up the road in Salt Lake City, (headquarters to the church), coffee and Coke are provided at the University of Utah, as well as the other universities in Utah. I will also add that the U of U was established by Brigham Young, and is the university where Pres Hinckley graduated. (I always got a kick out of signs that said, “The prophet is a Ute!”) Utah’s president, Michael Young is a BYU grad, and BYU’s President Cecil Samuelson is a Utah grad.

    Of course, coffee, tea, and soft drinks are equally available for the Jazz, where mormon Larry Miller is the owner. Just 2 weeks ago at a BYU game, a director actually asked if mormons celebrate Christmas, right after making a comment about Coke. (It was a serious question too.)

    I will say that a non-LDS crew member mentioned to me that he thought it was highly inappropriate for UCLA to be serving alcohol in the press box (his comment was “Only in California!”), so I think most non-LDS understand the alcohol prohibitions at public or private universities. (UCLA plays in the Rose Bowl off campus.) Non-LDS won’t complain about universities not offering alcohol, but the caffeine ban is just silly.

  31. I have issues with the Fogelman article. I don’t believe that the cleansing of the temple didn’t occur, but I do think that it may have happened differently than we might envision it did. But whatever actually happened, I think Jesus was probably justified in what he did. If people (whomever they were) were being defrauded (by whomever–Jews or Gentiles), I’m glad those rotten vendors had their property destroyed. That is their just reward for their theivery.

    I have no problem calling Jesus human. But I do have a problem assigning him labels not befitting a man who lived a perfect, sinless life, who is the Savior of mankind.

    I’ve considered many times the fact that he went through the same sorts of things that we go through every day. I get that. I hadn’t, however, really considerd the issue of anger being displayed by Jesus and how it relates to us, and so I hadn’t explored that side of him in this way or to this degree. I think it has been beneficial. Has my idea of perfection changed? Somewhat, at least as far as how to better judge what is and is not sin.

    Perhaps the caffeine ban is silly, but I try to be fair when I judge such decisions because I don’t know all the issues that the leadership had to consider in making that decision, and if I knew, I might see the wisdom in it. That is why I had such a hard time finding fault with what Jesus did. I wasn’t there. I don’t have the same background information he did. What might look, at first glance, to have been an over-the-top reaction, might, with further light on the issue, prove to have been perfectly justified. I’ve served in leadership positions in the church and I know that most people within the organization don’t know all of the issues that face the presidencies, and so they don’t know all the thought and reasoning that goes in to making decisions that not everyone agrees with. That is why we should always be careful when we judge without having facts outside of our own narrow viewpoints.

    If you haven’t figured it out by now, I try to be very cautious in my judgements of the actions of others. When I trust someone’s character, I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, knowing that my information is limited in comparison to their first-hand experiences, and that if I knew what they were thinking or experiencing, I would have a much greater appreciation for the tough decisions they made. Such examples in our discussions have included Moses and Joshua, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, as well as other Latter-Day prophets, George Washington, and now Jesus.

  32. MH, I think you’re probably right about my grandmother. She perhaps needed to be “shaken,” at least verbally, in order to wake up. That verse from D&C 121 is great wisdom to live by. It would be interesting to know whether Jesus did that with the moneychangers. 🙂

    “Also, I think you would be justified in destroying property of the KKK or Nazis.”

    I don’t know about this one. OK, I certainly think that the Allies were justified in destroying Hitler’s “property” during WWII because of what they were doing with it (mass-murdering people in gas chambers). But in the case of the KKK, as despicable as their beliefs are, would it not be a violation of free speech and right to free assembly to destroy their property? It was a different story, of course, when they were using their property to lynch black people. Then it becomes just as justifiable to destroy their property as it was to destroy Auschwitz.

  33. Tara,

    I see that you show great reverence for past leaders, much more than I do. Some of the ways I look at things are unconventional, and irreverent. I hope you see that I’m trying to “think outside the box”, and look at things in an innovative way. I have a love for science, and have learned that all great discoveries and inventions come from looking at things in different ways, and alternate points of view. I hope you understand that I’m not being irreverent for the sake of being simply irreverent. I think Jesus was revolutionary in his day, and that he threatened the establishment by his irreverent point of view. I think much can be learned if we look at Jesus from an unconventional point of view, because he certainly was unconventional.

    FD, a case can be made that you might be violating the KKK’s free speech by knocking over some tables. However, is combating racism a more just cause? I think so, and I believe God thinks so too. So while you might be violating man’s laws, as Tara says, civil disobedience is not a sin.

    I fully believe that Christ knew the consequences of his actions, and did them anyway. This is true courage. Yes, you might be subject to some civil penalties, but the godly blessings that would be yours would far outweigh these penalties. My guess is that many would be impressed by your example. Of course, you’d also be setting yourself up as a target of the KKK as well. These circumstances obviously need to be carefully considered.

  34. FD has a very interesting post, which dovetails on this topic at http://thefaithfuldissident.blogspot.com/2009/01/skeletons-in-closet.html regarding intellectualism in the church.

    One of here commenters named Laura, has an excellent quote from Pres Hinckley regarding intellectionalism, and I think Tara would find it quite interesting. Check out Laura’s comment (#2).

  35. MH, I am coming way late to this, but there is one more post I wrote that might interest you in relation to the “WWJD” line of reasoning.


    Let’s just say I’m not going to be reading that post as a sacrament meeting talk in the near future.

  36. Ray,

    Excellent post!!! I really like the following 3 paragraphs. I don’t want to beat this horse to death, as Tara and I so often do, but if she’s reading, I’d like her to comment on this, and also encourage her to read the entire post to make sure I’m not quoting out of context. I think it is important to understand Ray’s distinctions between “sins” and “transgressions” when reading this quote.

    Now, turn to the example of Jesus. We know he was subject to the Fall because of his mother’s fallen status. This means that He inherited from her the ability to “sin”, but it also means He inherited from her the same type of weaknesses and inclinations and tendencies to “transgress” as we do from our mortal parents. ***This means that he had to go through the process of overcoming His “natural man” exactly like we do, while never “sinning”.***

    Have you ever considered that Jesus was acting in His role as Redeemer not just for everyone else, but also for Himself? Lest I be called a heretic, remember, I also believe He never “sinned” – acted in opposition to what He understood and knew. I’m just saying that we are not held accountable for our transgressions; the Atonement paid for them. Therefore, I believe, the Atonement also paid for His transgressions, as well – those “innocent” mistakes He made as a child and as He was learning and growing from grace to grace. He probably was a more naturally obedient child than most, but I think it’s instructive that, like other prophets, He was not accepted “in His own country” – by those who watched Him grow up as just a normal child in their eyes.

    When He condescended to come to earth, He agreed to do so in a way that put Him in subjection to the Fall – so He could experience EVERY aspect of mortality that we do. I believe that in doing so there had to be a way provided for *all* of us to be freed from the effects of the Fall – including He who condescended to become as one of us – in every way other than succumbing to actual sin.

  37. First of all, there is no way to know if Jesus was guilty of any “transgressions”. I also don’t know if it is possible for Jesus to have atoned for his own transgressions. That is something I will have to study more about.

    Second, I think Ray is not quite correct in his definition of transgression. Transgression and sin can be used interchangeably. Some transgression is indeed sin. Some transgressions, while technically sin, are not punishable because they are not committed intentionally or without understanding.

    Third, in his post, Ray said that a person who was raped would be guilty of transgression. I completely disagree with this. The person who is raped did not “act” either intentionally or unintentionally. The act of rape was perpetrated upon the person. To be guilty of sin or transgression, a person has to take action in order to commit it. Having it imposed is not taking action or making a choice. Transgression and/or sin involves making a choice and taking an action whether intentionally or unintentionally (as in the case of an accidental homicide) or without knowledge of wrong doing. To equate being raped with transgression is the same, IMO, as saying that if you are murdered you are guilty of transgression because even though you didn’t commit the act, your “body” was involved in the act. If someone stole something from you, you wouldn’t say that you were guilty of transgression because the item stolen belongs to you. In the same way, a rapist has stolen something from his/her victim.

    Aside from these few issues, I think the post is great.

  38. I find myself agreeing with both Ray and Tara on this (and of course disagreeing as well.)

    Tara, I think the way that Ray differentiates between transgressions and sins would allow Jesus to have committed a transgression while destroying property in the cleansing the temple, while not committing sin. I have never considered Jesus to be paying for his own transgression, since I’ve always used the terms interchangeably, as Tara did. It is an interesting point, Ray, and I have to say I am inclined to agree with you and your distinctions for transgressions. I’d never considered Jesus paying for his own transgressions, and I’ll tentatively embrace your heretic status. 🙂

    However, I agree with Tara on your rape analogy. In my mind, a victim would not be guilty of a transgression at all. It would be no different than if someone held a gun to you and forced you to withdraw money from an ATM. If you’re doing something against your will, I can’t possibly imagine that God would say you transgressed anything. This strikes me as inherently unfair.

    Now perhaps a better analogy would be for someone in a war, and was guilty of transgressions of killing people. If a prisoner is waving a white flag and is killed, a soldier would be guilty of the sin of murder. But for people in tanks killing people on the opposite side also in tanks, then I’d call this a transgression, not a sin. To me, this is a more appropriate analogy. I must say I was disturbed by your rape analogy, and don’t really think it is appropriate.

  39. Tara, it depends totally on the meaning of “transgression”. The case of rape was hashed out in the comments on the post. I’m curious if you read them. To summarize:

    At the most basic level, when is something is “transgressed” it simply means that a rule or law has been broken. There can be “active transgression” (the one who causes the rule or law to be broken); there can be “passive transgression” (someone who is involved in the breaking of a rule or law but not responsible for breaking it); there can be “ignorant transgression” (breaking a rule due to not understanding it); there can be “intentional transgression” (knowing a rule and breaking it anyway). Of these categories, generally speaking, only those that are done intentionally and in violation of one’s understanding are viewed as “sins” that require direct, personal punishment. All others (the passive and the ignorant) are believed to be covered by the Atonement of Jesus. (I tend to use James’ definition of “sin” that requires knowledge and/or understanding.)

    A rapist is an active transgressor, but s/he also can be either an ignorant transgressor (think of a ruler who has been taught since childhood that sex is his right and refusal is not an option, living in a society that reinforces that assumption) or an intentional transgressor (the VAST majority of cases – probably 99.9999% in our day and age). Someone who is raped is NOT “guilty” of ANYTHING, specifically because s/he is a passive transgressor – involved in the technical violation of a rule or law, but not responsible in any way for it.

    I understand the theft analogy, but I don’t think ANYTHING has been stolen in a rape, since I don’t agree that a victim of rape has “lost her virtue”. A victim of rape is still every bit as “pure” and “chaste” and “virtuous” after the rape as she was before it, specifically because she is not held accountable for what happened – and because the Atonement covers passive transgressions completely.

    I think Jesus definitely “transgressed” while He was growing up, IF that is focused narrowly on “ignorant transgressions” – and perhaps breaking a lower law to fulfill a higher law (like ignoring his parents to stay in Jerusalem and teach in the temple). The Bible says he grew from grace to grace and in favor WITH GOD and man. That means he was “more favorable” with God than he had been previously – probably as he learned of and accepted his divine role and “put away the natural man”. Sure, that’s speculation to some degree, but I think it’s grounded in very clear scriptural statements.

    That actually is the heart of the post – that there are things that occur in our lives that “technically” violate commands that will not be accrued to our “debt” simply because we didn’t choose them. They are part of the package we inherited by “keeping our first estate” – and our job is to improve our character and multiply our talents (pursue perfection [wholeness, completion, full development]), NOT get bogged down with guilt and obsess over our “natural (wo)man” faults. Those have been redeemed already through the Atonement as part and parcel of The Fall, so our responsibility is to work to eradicate them by acquiring the characteristics of godliness that will replace them.

    I hope that clarifies things, especially with regard to the rape example. It’s easy to read “guilt” into my description, when I don’t assign any guilt at all.

  40. Try a different, less emotional, example of passive transgression:

    A man is taken at gunpoint and told that his wife and children will be tortured and killed if he doesn’t drive the get-away car in a bank robbery. He agrees and does so.

    In that case, would he be charged with a crime? No, even though he was involved in violating the law, because he was an unwilling participant. He was a passive transgressor, involved purely through the force and coercion of someone else, so he would not be accountable for his actions. In a way, the man who held the gun to his head and threatened his family was the rapist, and he was the rape victim. His will was violated (was violently assaulted), so he was not “guilty” of anything and was as “innocent” legally after the robbery as he was before it. He was “at one” with his former self legally.

  41. I did read the comments actually, which is why I put the part about the “body” being involved in the act. But I still wasn’t convinced.

    I understand the differentiation in the various types of transgression, and I like your example of the man being forced to drive the get away car, but I still see it as a matter of action or inaction. The man took action, even though it was through coercion. I understand that he was an unwilling participant, but he still made a choice and took action. He aided the thief in the commission of a crime in order to save his and his family’s life. In the case of rape, the victim does not take action. Action is taken upon the victim. The victim does not aid the perpetrator in the commission of the crime.

    With regard to what one loses as a result of rape, I wasn’t referring to virtue or chastity. There is no doubt that victims of rape lose something. Recovery from the trauma of it can last years or even a lifetime. I personally know someone who was raped and you can see how it definitely changed the course of her life. She made choices in marriage that she probably wouldn’t have made otherwise. The first time she married, she married for safety. She married in the temple, but the marriage didn’t last a year. Soon after, she remarried for the wrong reasons and this time to a non-member who is somewhat abusive. She is still married to this man.

    I didn’t think that your intention was to ascribe guilt to your description. I understand your point, and I understand it’s all just a technicality, but I still have to disagree.

    I have to go right now. Got to get to a church basketball game, but I will try to respond further when I get a chance.

  42. Tara, I understand and respect that distinction. In that light, I agree that the victim has lost something real and important.

  43. I am just not comfortable saying that Jesus was guilty of innocent transgressions based solely on speculation, particularly in light of scriptures and quotes such as these:

    “And it came to pass that Jesus grew up with his brethren, and waxed strong, and waited upon the Lord for the time of his ministry to come.

    “And he served under his father, and he spake not as other men, neither could he be taught; for he needed not that any man should teach him.

    “And after many years, the hour of his ministry drew nigh.” (Matthew 3:24–26, Inspired Version.)

    Joseph Smith said, “When still a boy, He had all the intelligence necessary to enable Him to rule and govern the kingdom of the Jews, and could reason with the wisest and most profound doctors of law and divinity, and make their theories and practice to appear like folly compared with the wisdom He possessed; but He was a boy only, and lacked physical strength even to defend His own person; and was subject to cold, to hunger, and to death.”

    It seems that Jesus was so far superior and advanced as a child than even many adults that I can see how he could possibly have escaped childhood without being guilty of even innocent transgressions.

    But I think what we should be asking is whether it is possible for Jesus to have committed innocent transgressions and still have been able to qualify as a sacrifice for sins. Would it be possible for him to pay the price for our debts if he himself was in debt?

    Also, is there any evidence that innocent transgressions even need to come under the power of the atonement?

    I’ve looked for answers to these questions and haven’t been able to come up with any. Maybe you are better informed on these questions than I am.

  44. Tara, honestly, I think it might be semantics – and it’s influenced greatly by my concern over how the concept of “perfection” has been mutated so badly since the Sermon on the Mount was delivered. I also realize how the denial of Jesus’ humanity has warped far too many things over the centuries, and claiming that he never made any mistakes in his entire life belies that he actually did become as one of us in any meaningful way.

    My wife laughs at me, but I can’t stand the sentiments expressed in the following statements:

    “Jesus once was a little child; a little child LIKE ME. But he was pure and meek and mild, like a little child SHOULD BE. . .He never got vexed when the game went wrong, and he always told the truth.”

    “Little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.”

    Perhaps I am picking at nits, but those statements REALLY bother me. NO!! Little children shouldn’t be perfectly meek and mild and always in control of their temper and never cry. They are kids!

    **Just because we believe they are sinless doesn’t mean they are mistake-free.** They are sinless even given their mistakes (and some VERY serious ones, in some cases) specifically because they are not accountable. In my terms, their transgressions are not accrued as debt, because they are not capable of signing a contract of indebtedness until they are accountable.

    The idea that Jesus was not “perfect” (in the NT sense) is a central theme in the NT. All I’m saying is that, in practical terms, that means NOTHING unless we find a way to show that someone can be “imperfect” and still be “sinless” – and it has to apply to unbaptized children as well as to Jesus.

    You’ve seen how I do that; if you do it differently, I’m cool with that. I just believe it has to be tackled and contemplated and reconciled to make the Atonement and Jesus’ literal mortality (being “as one of us”) mean anything of substance.

  45. I see your point and I have no problem with it. It’s just that on the other end of the spectrum, I don’t want to see us make Jesus too human to the point that we either lose some respect or to the point that we start justifying our mistakes too much. I think most people can probably make the distinctions and handle it fine, but there are always those who don’t know how to not take anything too far.

    You said, “Little children shouldn’t be perfectly meek and mild and always in control of their temper and never cry. They are kids!”

    Actually, they should, but the fact that they are kids tells us that they won’t be most of the time, and as adults we understand that children are as imperfect as we are and need to learn and gain the experience necessary, just as we do, in order to become perfected in different ways. That is why we are patient and understanding with their weaknesses, but that doesn’t mean we should excuse them or overlook them. What irks me is that people too often just laugh off their kids misbehavior saying, “oh, they’re just kids”, and then do nothing to correct the behavior. That is why we have a lot of youth in our ward right now who don’t behave as they should, skipping out of class and behaving irreverently when they do attend and such. They have parents who do little or nothing to correct their behavior and demand better from them.

    You also said, “The idea that Jesus was not “perfect” (in the NT sense) is a central theme in the NT.”

    I’m not sure what perfect in the NT sense is, nor am I familiar with Jesus’ imperfection being a central theme of the NT. Perhaps you could school me.

  46. Tara,

    While Jesus pre-ministry is pretty much unknown in the New Testament, there is the story of him getting separated from his parents. Mary was upset that Jesus did not let them know he was in the temple. Wouldn’t this constitute a transgression, rather than a sin? Don’t we all teach our children to let us know where they are, so we don’t worry that they’re kidnapped, lost, or whatever?

    I haven’t read the gnostic gospel called, the Infancy Gospel of Christ, but I understand that it tells many tales from Jesus childhood, attributing miracles to him. While this gospel is of dubious sources, it tells of Jesus miracles as a child. In some cases, it seems likely that Jesus engaged in unrighteous dominion. Now it is not authoritative in the same way the gospels are, but it is interesting nonetheless.

    I have to agree with Ray that the western mind probably takes an over-literalist view of perfection. In the New Testament, Christ says in Matt. 5: 48, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

    But in 3 Nephi, 12:48, it is changed slightly. “ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect. ”

    This would seemingly imply that Jesus was not perfect in his earthly life, and only gained perfection after the resurrection. Hence, I think our definition of perfection has always been a flawed definition. Jesus wasn’t perfect until after he died. Our perfection definition needs to undergo some changes, and I’m not sure that sinless or flawless is the correct definition. Complete is better, but I’m not entirely convinced it is the best definition either.

  47. Tara, first I agree completely with your concern over undisciplined children and not taking responsibility for our actions. Actually, I think what you and I are addressing is a GREAT example of how Church policies can change based on prophetic insight – prophets reading the signs of the times and tweaking focus a bit to avoid cultural influences that are going too far (like emphasizing actions and obedience during the 60’s and 70’s but emphasizing grace much more through the 90’s and currently).

    The footnote to Matthew 5:48 says “perfect” means “complete, whole, fully developed”. If you want to read the specific post I wrote first about that passage, it is at the following url:


    (It is referenced in one of the comments in MH’s original post, but it’s easy to overlook when reading the post.)

    There are 34 multiple-verse passages and verses that use the word “perfect” in the NT. All of them at least imply an end result of a process. The following are fascinating examples of how “perfect” is used in them to show nuances of progress:

    Acts 22:3 – Paul says he was “taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers”. In other places, he talks of the law being dead and fulfilled in Christ, so “perfect” can only mean “complete and full” (meaning that he was taught EVERYTHING the law contained – that his education in the law was complete and fully developed).

    Acts 24:22 – “And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way” (“More perfect” is not an oxymoron, it only makes sense, if “perfect” is an ultimate end of a state of progression, NOT a simple condition of being free of mistakes. If it meant “sinless” or “mistake-free”, “more perfect” would make no sense whatsoever.)

    James 2:22 – “Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” (Faith without works is dead, being alone – and, therefore, incomplete and partial. Proper works or “fruit” make faith complete and whole – or “perfect”.)

    Without going into detail, I’ve always loved the concept of a great, eternal whole(ness).

  48. Ray,

    Thanks for the link. Something you wrote deserves further discussion.

    Apostate Christianity has addressed this commandment in two ways: 1) by applying a legalistic meaning (“never make a mistake/commit a sin”) and, based on the impossibility of that definition, 2) turning it into a suggestion – something one cannot hope to achieve but a nice platitude regardless. (“Try not to make mistakes/sin, but realize it doesn’t really matter in the long run.”) While this sounds fine – and even laudable – to most people, it totally destroys the power and beauty of the command itself. It is my conviction that someone simply cannot understand the atonement (and the full grace that makes “atonement” possible) if they accept and internalize this apostate definition of perfection.

    (1) I agree that we are way too legalistic in our definition of perfection–which is why I wanted to discuss it in this post. (2) “Try not to make mistakes/sin, but realize it doesn’t really matter in the long run.” That’s also why I had a problem with substituting the word “complete” instead of “perfect” into the scripture, as I agree with you: “it totally destroys the power and beauty of the command itself.”

    So, you posted the 2 apostate definitions, but I didn’t see the “correct” definition on your blog. How would you define perfection correctly?

  49. I’m ok with “complete” as long as the further nuances of “whole” and “fully developed” are included.

    For example, I believe that we can become “perfect” in this life in some things, but it takes effort to “fully develop” whatever it is we are striving to become. I know it’s possible, for example, for some people to be perfectly in control of their temper – to never “lose their temper” and act out out of anger. I’ve seen it, and I’ve seen it in people who weren’t always in control. They have done so not out of “sheer force of will”, per se, but rather by focusing on becoming something else – in this case, meek. Fully developed meekness eliminates angry outbursts, but it still allows for confrontation and correction.



    or look up “meekness” in my labels. There are 3 posts in that category. There also are a few more if you search for “meek” in the search option at the top of my blog.

  50. I just want to clarify something then. Are we (as a church) taking “perfect” out of the context of Matt 5:48? Is Jesus really saying, “be ye therefore fully developed?” This seems more attainable to me. I like this definition better.

    But since you mentioned temper, I have to drag you back to the cleansing the temple episode. Jesus appears to be far from meek, humble, or benevolent here. Yes some people are more disposed to be “perfectly in control of their temper”, but Jesus display appeared to be more similar to Bobby Knight than one who is meek and in perfect control of his temper, such as Mother Teresa. Perhaps we can chalk this episode to a transgression, and not a sin?

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