The attributes of Christ. Admirable? Motivating? Depressing? Some years ago, I was a bit startled to learn that women sit in church meetings on Mother’s Day Sundays hearing about how wonderful people’s mothers are or were and about the magnificence of mothers in general and it makes them… depressed? Apparently so—at least some of them. (Men, I now think, react similarly to hearing about great fathers, but not to the same degree.)
Might we react similarly when people talk about the attributes and character traits of the Savior? I hope not. It is true that he has commanded us to be “perfect.” And it is true that we are not. I suppose we could get depressed about our shortcomings (though that wouldn’t be very productive). As I understand it, though, “perfect,” in the sense he used it, means “complete” or “finished.” And, as I understand it, after much striving to become like Him—striving which will be good for me but ultimately insufficient—He will be the one to actually make me complete and finished and… Tough to bring myself to add, here, “perfect,” but it seems that we should. There is no good reason to beat myself up over my inadequacies vis-à-vis the Savior—or any person for that matter.
Jesus said, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” It is interesting to equate (or at least associate strongly) eternal life with knowing God. It is even more interesting when considering Joseph Smith’s teaching that, in order to exercise faith, which is clearly essential, we must have “a correct idea of [God’s] character, perfections, and attributes.” I cannot actually exercise faith in the Savior or in my Father in Heaven if I do not have a reasonably accurate understanding of their attributes.
“He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,” Jesus taught. So becoming familiar with the Son makes us familiar with the Father—one of the great blessings for us of his condescension.
The Savior also said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.” Of course, salvation is from Christ, himself, not from the Jews, so the meaning of “of the Jews” needs to be considered. But today, Mormons could say a similar thing to many: “You don’t know God to the extent that we do. We know what we worship and we can help you know, too, and find Him. For salvation is from Christ and in His Church you will find legitimate authority through which you can bind yourself to Him in covenants He recognizes.”
Of course, we don’t know everything there is to know about God by a long shot. Much remains to be revealed. As a Church and as individuals, we learn about Him incrementally. The Old Testament taught us much. The New Testament much more. The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants… more yet.
I was interested to read from Robert L. Millet that Joseph Smith’s own understanding of God the Father having a body of flesh and bones took time to develop and was not had at the conclusion of the First Vision as I had believed (and been taught)—or at least that’s what the preponderance of evidence strongly suggests. (To find that reference, click here and search the text for the word “corporeal.”) So we, too, come to know of His nature and “character, perfections, and attributes” “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.”
But there is much that we do know, including that God is a perfect man with a physical body, that God the Father is a separate person from God the Son, that we are literally His children (we have a Mother also), and that He not only wants us to be like Him, He facilitates exactly that for those who will receive His offerings.
God the Father possesses every good attribute in its perfection. So does the Savior. If we come to know the Son, we will come to know the Father and we will understand better what we should become, ourselves. The Son showed us that he is kind, merciful, compassionate, loving, and sensitive. He is also humble, obedient, and submissive. And He is strong, resilient, courageous, and steadfast. And He is all other good things. (One blogger has posted a list of 60 character traits of Christ, complete with biblical scripture references. It’s a neat list.)
In next Thursday’s class, we will talk more about “the character of Christ.” In the meantime, let us strive to acquire the attributes He has acquired. And let us be filled with gratitude, reverence, joy, and confidence knowing that He, in all His perfection, will yet be both our judge and our advocate—and will make us complete if we let Him.