Or, why Mormons and other obsessive people demand perfection from themselves.
In this shameful post
, my distinguished (and far more prolific) co-blogger D-Train brings up as a Mormon belief that troubles him the idea that we can never be responsible for our own salvation. Ultimately, in the end, we're not capable. We need Christ. We need to admit to ourselves that we need Christ.
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls," says the Master himself in the eleventh chapter of Matthew
. "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
These scriptures are emphasized in Mormon theology, right up there with 2 Nephi 25:23
, in which Nephi explains, "for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."After
all we can do.
I'm a perfectionist. I don't exclude myself from the species of individual who feels that she must do everything right and perfectly, and somewhere deep inside is scared that she'll somehow miss something, will skip a step or let down her guard one time too many, and will not actually do all
she can do. And it's a downward spiral: someone with this outlook will see that she's faltering and then blame herself for not doing all
she can do, and will try harder, but by expending more energy in futile pursuits of perfection, will only make more mistakes.
Is it that we feel that we can't take up Christ's lighter burden until we've done all we can do? If so, we'll never get there. Just when you walk halfway across the bridge, then walk halfway across the remaining distance, then half of that
remaining distance, and so on, you'll never reach the other side...the same way, we'll never achieve perfection in this life, despite our best efforts. It's just not human.
Now, some of us have a hard time buying that. We're the ones who like to think we can do everything and anything, that nothing is impossible, and that no matter what someone demands or asks of us, we've got the strength/energy/ability to do it -- or, if not, then to learn how to do it, or to figure it out. Sometimes this belief is all that gets us out of bed in the mornings, but it's also what sends us crashing past midnight and getting up before the sun.
The reality of this is brought home as I try to write the perfect law school admissions essay. My goal? The "Celestial Kingdom" of law schools. My struggle? To write a perfect essay that conveys exactly what I want it to say and exactly what it needs to say for me to gain admission. I've spent a couple weeks hammering perfection of prose into one -- and now I can only look at it, disgusted, as it doesn't say half of what it needs to.
Unfortunately, there's no savior who I can give everything over to after I've done my best and be assured of entrance.
This post should end with something like a statement of testimony wherein I say how grateful I am for the atoning sacrifice that allows me to be imperfect and yet still return to live with my Heavenly Father someday.
And I am. Don't get me wrong.
But the reality of that has yet to really sink in for me, and in the end, I'm still trying to cross that never-ending bridge into perfection. And I wish I could be more laid back, and accept Christ's lighter burden, and stop worrying about how close I am or how far away or how much better I need to be.