In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made a statement that should be the basis for all our interpersonal relationships.
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
Traditionally, Latter-day Saints have interpreted that scripture as referring to the future: Jesus was giving us our ultimate goal. That is a true interpretation, for being perfect as God is perfect is our ultimate goal.
There is, however, another interpretation of being perfect, one that can help us improve our relationships with others. Notice that Jesus said “Be ye therefore perfect”, as if he were talking in the present tense. How can we be perfect now? Don’t we all, as Paul said, commit sins? (Romans 3:23) Yes, we do all commit sins and will continue to commit sins throughout our life. But, we are perfect now, for the Greek word which means “perfect” is teleios, which means full or complete. It does not mean “without sin”.
What does it mean to be complete now? I think that from God’s viewpoint it could mean to have everything necessary for us to return to him, for his purpose is for us to obtain Eternal Life. Think about this for a moment.
Small Children are Perfect
When we were small children, we had everything we needed to enter the Celestial Kingdom. The Savior had provided the resurrection through his atonement, and he had cleansed us from mistakes we made while not being accountable for our actions. As small children, we were complete or perfect.
Adults are Perfect
As we became accountable for our actions, we sinned and became separated from God. However, even then, and even now, we are complete, meaning we have everything we need to reach the Celestial Kingdom. The Savior provided the resurrection, and he provided the way for our sins to be removed. He is giving us the unique opportunities for growth that we each need. We have been given agency to allow us to make the choices that will allow the Savior’s atonement to enter our lives and bring us back to the Celestial Kingdom. Yes, we have everything we need to return to our Father in Heaven. Whether we use those things in ways that will bring us back to our Father is up to us. Because we have everything we need, we are complete or perfect.
Effect of Our Being Perfect
If I consider you as being a perfect person, not a person without sin but a person who has everything you need to return to your Father in Heaven, I will not be judgmental or critical of you. I will not speak unkindly to you. For, how could I do those things to a perfect person. Instead, I will consider you and treat you as a child of God. I will love you as Christ loves you, and I will trust you. If I really accept you as the complete person that you are, my relationship with you will change and will become the “Zion” relationship that Jesus wants us to have. If I consider you as being a perfect person, then I will be motivated by love, and I will begin to fully live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In fact, I believe that until I consider you as being a complete person, I can not fully live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Until non-judgmental love becomes the basis of my relationship with you, I will be using obedience as the basis of that relationship, and obedience by itself will never, in my opinion, bring me to the point where I will become cleansed by the Savior’s Atonement. This is because obedience without love is always accompanied by guilt, and guilt is negative and destructive. Obedience is, of course, important and necessary in our lives, but it is a stepping stone to love as the source of our motivation, rather than being an end-goal.