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Becoming: As a Little Child

As I’ve implied in a previous post, based on the original meaning in Matthew 5, I wish “Be ye therefore perfect” was translated in our own modern vernacular as, “Become ye therefore perfected.” I like “become perfected” much more than “be perfect” – since it doesn’t carry the same mis-perceptions about being mistake-free in the here and now.

Envision a sculptor laboring for years over his “masterpiece” – perfecting it carefully, smoothing over flaws in the initial creative process, altering it by chipping away the rough edges or redoing the blurred and faded colors. Such a product wouldn’t be “imperfect” due to “mistakes”; it would be imperfect simply because it is not completed / finished / wholly developed – because there still is work to do and changes to make until it is what its creator meant it to be when he first started molding the original lump of clay. Any marring caused by exposure to the wind or rain or hardness of the material itself would be “fixed” by extra attention and detail and softening of the material itself – making it more malleable in the hands of the sculptor.

How do we become perfected by our own Master Sculptor? First and foremost, by realizing we are His work (children), and it is our responsibility to allow Him to sculpt (raise) us and by trusting that sculptor to never stop sculpting – to grasp that hope and never let go; next by striving to recognize flaws (areas in need of alteration) – and turning those defects toward Him, to receive His attention and the needed alterations; third, by becoming softer and more malleable – more able to internalize the characteristics of perfection (those articulated in the Beatitudes and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount) that ALL denote a degree of softness and openness rather than “a hardening of resolve”. This process can be seen as coming alive in the hands of the sculptor – consciously choosing to reduce our natural rigidity and allow ourselves to be molded into what He envisioned when He condescended to create us as His children.

With this vision, we could stop beating ourselves up over things in our past that we simply cannot change (since they are in the past) and focus instead on identifying those flaws that caused the pain of our past and allowing Him to work them out of us. We could stop trying to fix ourselves through the sheer force of our will and focus on following His blueprint for spiritual growth that will fix our flaws. We could develop a softer heart to accept and internalize His will for us, rather than develop a harder resolve to do what we think we should do when He tells us otherwise.

It truly is one of mortality’s greatest ironies that babies and young children often heal much more quickly and suffer far less serious injury than adults when the exact same thing occurs, and it is related directly to their lack of rigidity and being less hardened and “set” in their condition. Children change constantly, but those closest to them – who see them every day – often see those changes less clearly than those who only see the children every month or year. Perhaps being as a little child means more than just being open to vocal correction – as it often is perceived. Perhaps it means being open to “alteration” and “growth” – being more malleable and able and willing to be molded and changed – to continue to grow and become something different every day and week and month and year, even when what one becomes is different than what someone else becomes. Perhaps it means being willing to accept the slow and incremental growth inherent in the process of alteration (the possible), rather than demanding a condition before it is complete and being frustrated with the inability to achieve the desired end right now (the impossible).

Please, think of this difference (an on-going process of growth as a little child vs. a mistake-free condition that adults tend to emphasize) before you use the word “perfect” in a spiritual sense.

{ 22 comments… add one }

  • Sharilee10 August 28, 2008, 6:05 pm

    Oh, Ray– I was so excited by the title. I will look forward to seeing this when I get home. Off to football practice– well, I’m reading and walking, my son is playing football!

  • Ray August 28, 2008, 6:34 pm

    It’s fixed now, Sharilee – and everyone else. Sorry about the delay.

  • facethemusic August 28, 2008, 7:25 pm

    Wow, Ray!!! I LOVE the comparison of the growing child! That gives the whole thing an entirely different perspective.

    I must say, and not to brown-nose or anything– but I don’t think there’s ONE article you’ve written here from which I haven’t actually LEARNED something new. You have an INCREDIBLE gift for putting things in a new light that gives new understanding and helps a gospel principle become more easily and more thoroughly understood.

    Keep ‘em coming– I need all the “understanding” I can get!

  • agardner August 28, 2008, 8:10 pm

    :devil:brown noser!

  • facethemusic August 28, 2008, 8:23 pm

    It’s my natural skin color….. REALLY!!!!!!!!!!!! :tooth:

  • agardner August 28, 2008, 8:38 pm

    In all seriousness, I enjoyed this article very much as well. It is much along the lines of what I have come to believe as I have watched my children grow. I also enjoy your insights, Ray. They always give me something to think about.

  • Lewis_Family August 28, 2008, 9:47 pm

    Posted By: agardnerbrown noser!

    ha! I was thinking along the same lines… more teacher’s pet or something :wink:

  • Ray August 28, 2008, 10:07 pm

    See how fun it is to act like little children? :tongue:

  • Alison Moore Smith August 28, 2008, 11:30 pm

    Great insights, Ray. I like the idea of being open to growing and alternations. One of the speeches I give is all about goal setting and it makes me crazy no end to hear things like, “Well, that’s just the way I am.” As if there is some habit or personality trait that is written in stone and it out of our control. We can be whatever God wants us to be…if we will let him guide us.

  • naomlette August 29, 2008, 5:36 pm

    We could stop trying to fix ourselves through the sheer force of our will and focus on following His blueprint for spiritual growth that will fix our flaws.

    This quote is what I liked best about your article. Sheer force of will to change is what really keeps me from changing. I want so badly to change certain things that I know I can change. So I try to force myself to change. And I get mad when I slip and fall two days later, or the next hour, or the the next second. So I try again. And I fail again. It truly NEVER occured to me that if I followed the blueprint layed out in the scriptures (and in Primary! :bigsmile:), that I would naturally change. Pray and at least read the scriptures if I can’t get through actually studying them. Everything else will happen naturally as I expand my mind and heart in that way. I will naturally want to follow the Prophet, I will naturally want to go to church, I will naturally become a kinder, more loving person to those around me, etc. Now, while this won’t happen without some sort of effort, it will come easier, will stick better, the change will happen more naturally. Because I’ve made myself more like clay, and less like marble, by just following those simple guidlelines.

    Now, whether my stubborn self will actually do this or not, well, that’s the hardest part of me to change. Because I don’t like my answers to be so simple. That frustrates me. I’m pretty sure I would have been one of the Isralites to turn away from the snake and staff thing that could have healed me just by looking on it, because it was too simple of an answer. :cry:

    But I loved your article, and I loved how you didn’t equate becoming perfected eventually, with being perfect now. One of my favorite things to say is that Heavenly Father is as perfect as He KNOWS HOW TO BE and only expects us to be as perfect as we know how to be. The Atonement takes care of the rest. I love that.

  • Michelle D August 30, 2008, 3:21 pm

    This is a great article, Ray. So much of what others have pointed out also hit home for me. However, this is what strikes me the most:

    being willing to accept the slow and incremental growth inherent in the process of alteration (the possible), rather than demanding a condition before it is complete and being frustrated with the inability to achieve the desired end right now (the impossible).

    I need to practice this aspect of becoming childlike. Too often I act as if I am hoping the growth and alterations in my personal clay will achieve the desired completion right now!

  • kiar August 30, 2008, 3:25 pm

    I feel like all I ever do is crawl.

  • facethemusic August 30, 2008, 3:33 pm

    Hey–crawling is good, too. You find a lot of loose change that way. :tooth:

  • kiar August 30, 2008, 5:40 pm

    lol!!! I guess you can look at it that way!

  • Ray August 30, 2008, 6:14 pm

    kiar, when you crawl, you are on your knees. Maybe you are being like a little child in more good ways than you realize.

  • facethemusic August 30, 2008, 7:33 pm

    ooooooooooohhhh….. well spoken, Ray.

  • kiar August 30, 2008, 7:53 pm

    Thank you Ray, I love your insight.

  • Sharilee10 September 6, 2008, 6:39 pm

    Ray– Sorry it took me so long to get back to your article. I haven’t had much time to spend on MM and so I have set aside the articles I knew I would want to spend time on until a time when I had more time to devote. Well– I guess today was that day for this article, and I am so glad I took time to read it. Very well, written, and very thought provoking.

    Throughout my life I have had several interesting experiences regarding the scripture, “Be ye therefore perfect.” First of all– the translation for ‘perfect’ in the Korean Bible means ‘whole’. “Be ye therefore whole.” This fits well with the fact that when Christ gives this counsel in the Bible he says, “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” However, when he appeared to the Nephites in the Americas, following his crucifixion and resurrection, He said, “Be ye therefore perfect even as I and your Father in Heaven are perfect.” So– does that mean that being perfect, or whole, is something that we are all working toward, but will not– literally CAN NOT– be fully accomplished in this life? That has always been my understanding.

    Another explanation that has stuck with me is the thought that a 1st grade student can achieve 100%– a PERFECT score– on a 1st grade test and be, in essence, a ‘perfect’ first grader, even though he/she would not perform well on a 5th grade test, or perhaps even a 2nd grade test. A few years down the road, if they continue to study and learn and grow, that same student may get 100% on a 5th grade test, becoming a perfect 5th grader, although they would struggle with a middle-school or high school test. You get the idea. The message is basically that we can all be ‘perfect’ where we are at the moment by doing the very best we can where we are at– but realizing that we still have progress to make and must continue to learn and study and grow and BECOME.

    One other thought I had, Ray, regarding your references to sculpting, was from one of my very favorite books, The Angel Inside. That powerful story contains some thoughts that go right along with what you are saying regarding being open to chipping, sculpting, sanding and polishing by our Creator and Our Father. Some of my favorite quotes from the book, that go right along with this article, can be found here.

    Thank you, Ray, for a very well-written, thought-provoking article!!

  • mlinford September 7, 2008, 11:15 pm

    Perhaps it means being open to alteration ? and growth ? – being more malleable and able and willing to be molded and changed

    loved this. thanks

  • davidson September 10, 2008, 10:36 am

    Everything you said rang true. Thanks for the opportunity to ponder. I wish I’d had this Monday when we had a family home evening about cardio-ossification (hardening of the heart) and what we can do about that. I think most of us recognize when our hearts our hard, but we don’t talk very much in the church about what is effective in taking care of a hardened heart. I have learned by difficult personal experience that gratitude and hope are great heart-softeners, and applying them daily in small amounts is a much better practice than waiting until your heart is so hard that it requires serious measures.

  • Michelle D September 12, 2008, 8:35 pm

    gratitude and hope are great heart-softeners, and applying them daily in small amounts is a much better practice than waiting until your heart is so hard that it requires serious measures.

    I love this perspective, Serena!

  • nanacarol September 14, 2008, 11:12 am

    “…We could stop beating ourselves up over things in our past that we simply can’t change and focus instead on indentifing those flaws that caused pain…”

    This is what really caught my attention the most. It us a huge habit of mine that does cause me much grief. I can tell from talks and lessons given in Relief Soceity that it causes alot of women lots of pain. If we could just let go and move on. And I wonder if we applied the lesson of becoming a little child again and relearning new habits we could let go. Something to try and work on.

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