Perfection is not achieved quickly or at once, but more through a realistic outlook and relying on the Savior, President Cecil O. Samuelson of the Seventy and president of BYU said during the campus devotional assembly at Brigham Young University on Sept. 6 in the Marriott Center. He and his wife, Sharon, spoke to students in the first devotional of the fall semester.
"One area of confusion not rare among us is the notion that worthiness is synonymous with perfection," President Samuelson said. "One can be fully worthy in a gospel sense and yet still be growing while dealing with personal imperfections. ... [Perfectionism] is corrosive and destructive and is the antithesis of the healthy quest for eventual perfection that the Savior prescribes."
All individuals need to come to realistic and true perceptions about their environment and themselves, President Samuelson said.
Part of one's educational responsibility at BYU is to gain wisdom, personal insight and understanding as well as informed appreciation for the world.
"The uneasiness of which I speak is largely rooted in misunderstandings some have about timing and also about definitions," he said. "With respect to timing, we can confuse our current or proximal circumstances with distant or eternal expectations. With definitions ... some mistakenly consider worthiness to be the same as perfection. This is not true."
While both errors — timing and definitions — may be comprehendible and thus somewhat excusable, these faulty views of reality may have serious consequences if not corrected, he said.
"It is necessary to be properly grounded in understanding and in doctrine to build the proper bridge from where we are to eternal life," he said.
Drawing from Matthew 5:48 where the Savior says, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect," President Samuelson spoke of the important application it has in each individual's quest for perfection.
"The Lord gives no commandment that is not possible for us to keep or achieve," he said. "Likewise, much of what the Lord requires us to do is focused on our interactions with others. Frequently Heaven's expectations involve the support of families, friends, teachers, Church and priesthood leaders as well as the efforts we make in behalf of others."
He spoke of the importance of understanding which options and events are under an individual's control and which are not. Sometimes people have the tendency to blame others for their own deficiencies when in reality they should take responsibility. Other times, individuals blame themselves for things when circumstances were not completely under their control.
"This is not only unproductive, but can be debilitating," he said. "Let us be clear: No one is perfect in everything and likely will not be any time soon."
That is why the Savior's Atonement is crucial in the perfection process.
"We do not and cannot become perfect in everything by ourselves," he said. "We achieve eventual perfection because, not in spite, of His grace. In a real sense, we are called to be partners with Him in the perfection process. He knows what we do not know and has the strength we do not have. He asks that we do our part, but He does ask that we really do our part."
As individuals try to do their very best — understanding that they have both strengths and weaknesses — and accept the Savior's help and follow His commandments, they are able to do their part.
"Most suffering from the syndrome of perfection do not have nearly as much trouble loving God and others as they do themselves, President Samuelson said. "Almost all of us can accept without reservation that we must love God without restrictions or qualifications while sometimes forgetting the essential components of the companion verse. Yes, we must love our neighbor, but just as certainly, we need to learn to love ourselves."
Not to be confused with sin or slothful behavior, President Samuelson said that loving oneself includes not being unreasonable or too hard on oneself when one makes a mistake or acts imperfectly.
"When you have challenges about your abilities to measure up — and we all do from time to time — recognize that your teachers, advisers, bishops and other Church leaders and the excellent professionals in our counseling center are all willing to assist you as you do your part in accepting the grace of Christ and being patient in your progress.
"Please remember that worthiness is vital but is not the same as perfection ... not everything, especially perfection, can be achieved quickly or at once."
Sister Sharon Samuelson spoke of building bridges of faith for generations to come.
"All of you here today are crossing bridges you did not build but were constructed by others to bless your lives in many ways," she said. "It is now your responsibility to knit your generations together by the bridges you build. ... You are now the architects and project managers of your own bridges which are to be constructed for those who will one day follow you. ... Your bridges will only endure when well built."