Some of my favorite verses of scripture are found at the very end of the Book of Mormon. At the conclusion of his record, the prophet Moroni, writes:
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moroni 10:32-33)
In particular, I find strength and courage in the phrase “perfect in Christ” for the way that it teaches me about my Savior’s role, about my responsibilities, and about my relationship to Him.
Jesus Christ, as the poet Richard Alldridge put it, “seized the keys of death and hell” by suffering for our sins and sorrows and subsequently dying and then returning as a resurrected being. Because He holds those keys, Jesus Christ has the legal right to set the conditions redemption. He satisfied the law (Matthew 5:17-18) and, therefore, became a new Lawgiver, giving us a law that finds its expression in His gospel and which includes faith, repentance, baptism, and the laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
Because we are all fated to die and because we all have or will commit sin at some point in our brief lives, we are all disqualified from inheriting a place in the kingdom of our Father in Heaven (Alma 11:37). No amount of effort on our part can secure our salvation. However, Jesus Christ paid the price and has set the terms for receiving His saving grace.
My efforts, then, are not valuable because they perfect me and lead me to salvation—they are valuable because they bring me into a covenant relationship with Christ. That covenant relationship is at the heart of these two verses from the Book of Mormon. Their basic claim is that if we eschew evil and live with love for God, Christ will forgive our sins, sanctify us, and qualify us for salvation in the Kingdom of God. Conversely, no matter how much good we manage do on our own, our efforts are insufficient if we are not bound to Christ in that covenant relationship—for “we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).
The law that Jesus satisfied is a law of strict justice, a law that would have condemned each of us to an eternity far from the presence of our Father in Heaven. But, because Jesus satisfied that law of justice, we have access to mercy and to the hope that, as we follow Christ’s guiding counsel, He will qualify us for salvation on the strength of His merits. He has paid the price, and because of that, we all can have the hope that Elder J. Devn Cornish expressed when he said:
I witness to you that if you will really try and will not rationalize or rebel—repenting often and pleading for the grace, or help, of Christ—you positively are going to be “good enough,” that is, acceptable before the Lord; you are going to make it to the celestial kingdom, being perfect in Christ; and you are going to receive the blessings and glory and joy that God desires for each of His precious children—including specifically you and me.