Thursday, June 11, 2009

Perfection is in the Journey

I'm settled at the free throw line, tossing up shot after shot. Enjoying the moment. Pondering the wonders of the universe, as I'm prone to do.

Suddenly, I'm struck by an astounding thought: Suppose after shooting one hundred free throws, I make sixty-five. Then, I keep shooting indefinitely and never miss another shot. Thus, every time I make a shot, my shooting percentage increases.

So if I keep shooting forever, never missing a shot, my percentage will increase forever. Yet it will never reach one hundred percent (or so I think). How is it possible for it to increase for eternity and never reach one hundred percent?

This thought seized me and wouldn't let go. I had to find the answer. Luckily, I have a brilliant mathematician friend. I contacted him, and here was his response:
"The pure theoretical answer to your question is that if you did shoot infinitely long, then you would eventually reach one hundred percent. In mathematical terms, the limit of (x-40)/x as x goes to infinity is 1 (or one hundred percent). Intuitively, infinity minus forty is still infinity (since it never ends)."

Is it just me that's reeling?

What a mind-boggling, piercing, hope-infused concept. Mathematically, if we continue to progress eternally, we are perfect.

Perfection is attained through eternal progress, not in never making a mistake. It is in the repeated showers of repentance, not completely avoiding the mud puddles of sin. It is a state of perpetual motion, a continuum, a progressive journey -- not a static position or condition.

Even Christ's perfection was achieved "line by line." As Ezra Taft Benson taught:
"The Lord asked the question of the Nephites: 'What manner of men ought ye to be?' Then he answered by saying, 'Verily I say unto you, even as I am.' (3 Ne. 27:27.) What manner of man was Jesus during those thirty years when He was personally preparing Himself for His three-year public ministry? Turning to the Book of Luke in the New Testament, we read these words: 'And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.' (Luke 2:52.) From modern-day revelation we learn that Jesus 'received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace [not from sin to grace, but from grace to grace], until he received a fulness' (D&C 93:13)."
Though Christ was never stained by sin, neither did He arrive on earth as he would eventually become. He became perfect through eternal progression.

Burrow even deeper and we expose the truth that Christ's "infinite atonement" made this concept of progressive perfection possible. Furthermore, Christ is the "Alpha and Omega," the beginning and the end -- the Infinite One.

Perfection is built into infinity, and infinity is Christ. Those who come unto Him are therefore perfect every moment they repent. It's not that perfection is a future hope or ideal, as in, "I can't wait until I am perfect." Through the atonement, we can be perfect here and now, on this tiny speck of an eternal timeline.

If we can't be perfect in any given moment, we can never be perfect, since infinity is not bound by this mortal existence. We reside within eternity. All imperfection is erased by 1) our choice to improve eternally, and 2) the nature of eternity itself, which is the nature of Christ.

Keep moving forward and you're perfect -- you're not moving toward perfection; you are perfect. What matters, then, is not your current position, but the direction you're heading. Everyone who consistently gets closer to God is perfect.

So how does it feel to be perfect? And how does it feel to be surrounded by perfect beings? I don't know about you, but I'm glowing.

(And if your mind isn't boggled enough, consider this: If you start one mile away from your home and cover half the remaining distance every ten minutes, how long will it take you to get home? Answer: Eternity.)


Judy Francisco said...

This is a perfect clarification of, yes, a mind-boggling concept. It speaks to me! Thanks for sharing it.

Hyrum D. Lefler said...

You were right about it interesting me, Steve! Thanks for sharing that profound concept. You are a great man, and I really appreciate the honor of knowing you and your family. -Hyrum

Mike W. said...

Steve, I think this is very much right on. Thanks. If we are remaining in that covenant, perfection is part of what we are and are becoming. It's really refreshing and unique to see it in this perspective.

It's similar to Galileo's ideas of infinity being the same as unity (one). If we are one with God and Christ, we are infinite with them and thus perfect.

Hyrum D. Lefler said...

This topic makes me think of seeds. When is a tree perfect? Is it when it is a seed? A seedling or a young sapling? Or is it when it is a full grown and/or old and magestic patriarch of the forest? When are we perfect? It seems to me that if we are planted in infinite soil, and when we are tended to and nurtured by God, we can in one small sense be perfect as we grow. There is a phrase in the Book of Mormon (a very important book of Scripture in my Mormon Faith). The final chapter talks about being "Perfect in Christ." The finite being planted in infinite soil (the soil being Christ)... and in this way being perfect as it grows, and perfect when it reaches full potential.
Thanks for stirring the mind with this article! -Hyrum

rachel said...

Great food for thought. I think that eternal life = perfection. In other words, as we leave time and enter eternity (the infinite) we leave the context of once was/becoming and become unity with I Am. Thus our perfection is not in becoming, but in being. I liked Hyrum’s question about the tree and seed.

I do think I would reword this:

“Though Christ was never stained by sin, neither did He arrive on earth as he would eventually become. He became perfect through eternal progression.”

Christ was perfectly what he was in every instance, notwithstanding his “becoming”. And his becoming was an element of perfection as he entered time not to leave behind imperfection (as I did) but to expand his reign and realm of perfection.

I think you did not contradict this in the least in spirit, but the language of “He became perfect” does not perfectly reflect what you are communicating (if I understand you correctly).

Thanks for the little oasis!


Eric said...

Fascinating, enthralling and profound. I've read it three times now and am still trying to wrap my head around it.

It's a delightful counter-view to the popular philosophical idea that perfection would be stagnant. I've come across that view many times in my studies--if something is perfect than it would never change--and I've always hated it. I've consistently thought that progress is eternal, and I've had trouble fitting perfection into the same picture. The article shows how they coincide; in fact, they are one in the same when looked at with an eternal perspective. In this continuum, the journey is the destination.