President Cecil O. Samuelson and Sister Sharon Samuelson spoke in the first Devotional of the semester on Tuesday.
President Samuelson addressed a problem he spoke of as common at BYU — perfectionism.
“It will be an even better year for each of us personally if we can avoid making unnecessary or foolish personal mistakes,” President Samuelson said. “You may believe I am talking only about slothfulness or Honor Code violations. Equally concerning to me is the rather common problem of perfectionism.”
President Samuelson clarified in his message that students should not confuse worthiness with perfection.
“One can be fully worthy in a gospel sense and yet still be growing while dealing with personal imperfections,” he said.
President Samuelson explained that mistakes are usually a result of a misunderstanding of one of two things — timing and definitions.
“With respect to timing, we can confuse our current or proximal circumstances with distant or eternal expectations,” he said. “With definitions, as I have mentioned, some mistakenly consider worthiness to be the same as perfection. This is not true.”
President Samuelson referred to Matthew 5:48, a verse that states that we are commanded to be perfect.
“The Lord gives no commandment that is not possible for us to keep or achieve,” he said.
President Samuelson proceeded to explain that certain things are possible to perfect right now — the Honor Code, for example. Other things are partially under students’ control, but not completely. Getting a date, for example, takes a decision by another person to achieve, he said.
Still other challenges that prevent perfection are entirely out of our control.
“We all run the risk and usually have an experience of being the recipient of the terrible choices of another person where we have virtually no control or influence in an event that might be extremely hurtful to us,” Samuelson said. “Thus, it is extremely important to understand clearly which options and events are under our control and which are not.”
He explained that while continually and diligently working toward perfection, students should not expect to reach it immediately, or even within the time of their mortal lives.
“All of the standard works are replete with references to the expectation of perfection and yet all seem to acknowledge that the perfecting of the saints is a process that is likely never to be absolutely complete in mortality,” President Samuelson said.
Sister Samuelson shared thoughts about the building of bridges, both literal and figurative.
Starting with the example of the Brooklyn Bridge, Sister Samuelson explained that many people have gone before us to build bridges that we cross daily without having to do any extra work. BYU is an example of something established by others that benefits us greatly.
“For example, there is the Prophet Brigham Young who asked a German convert, Karl G. Maeser, to go to Provo to be the principal of Brigham Young Academy,” Sister Samuelson said. “Brother Maeser became the spiritual architect of what is now the largest private church-sponsored university in the United States.”
She then explained our responsibility in bridge building.
“At this moment you are constructing bridges for your descendants,” Sister Samuelson said. “in the world of today where the morals and standards are declining and the adversary is gaining many in his camp, it is vital that we build bridges to link the generations before and after us.”