The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “We consider God has created man with a mind capable of instruction, and faculty which may be enlarged in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect; and that the nearer man approaches perfection, the clearer are his views, and the greater his enjoyments, till he has over come the evils of his life and lost every desire for sin; and like the ancients, arrives at that point of faith where he is wrapped in the power and glory of his Maker and is caught up to dwell with Him. But we consider that this is a station to which no man ever arrived in a moment” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 51).
The Prophet also taught that “this rest [in the next life] is of such perfection and glory, that man has need of a preparation before he can, according to the laws of that kingdom, enter it and enjoy its blessings. This being the fact, God has given certain laws to the human family, which, if observed, are sufficient to prepare them to inherit this rest” (Teachings, p. 54). In the Book of Mormon we have the words of Amulek testifying to the Zoramites. He declared, “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors” (Alma 34:32).
The laws and principles of the gospel have been given to us to help us in our faith so that the time might come when we, through living and learning the gospel, can “arrive at that point of faith” where we are “wrapped” up in His glory and “caught up to dwell with Him.” This state of perfection is only attained through Him who was perfect before us. Paul teaches that “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).
As he continues his writing, Paul even gives us the steps to perfection. We read, “Therefore [not] leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And [we will go on unto perfection] if God permit” (Hebrews 6:1-3; JST). Paul simply states the basic principles of the gospel: Faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the understanding that all with be resurrected from the dead and experience an eternal judgment of our lives. As we accept the gospel of Christ, we must lay aside the dead works, understand the role of Christ in our salvation and exaltation, and do “living works” in Christ.
After discussing those who “fall away,” return to paths of unrighteousness, and are “rejected” by the Lord, Paul adds, “But, beloved, we are persuaded of better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous, [therefore he will not] forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:9-10; JST). The key to “living works” appears to be the reason for doing them. If we work and labor because we have to, it is required, or for evil purposes, they are dead works. If our purpose is to minister and serve others in faith and charity, and to serve Christ by serving others, our works become blessed by the Spirit of the Lord and become “living works.” The Spirit enhances our efforts, we know better how to serve, and our own lives are blessed along the path to perfection.
In another epistle, Paul again defines “living works” when he writes, “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). (For a beautiful explanation of this principle, See Alma 5, especially verses13-16, 26-35.) As we live the laws and principles of the gospel with living works, we move step by step towards perfection. As we do so, our understanding increases, our desire for sin is reduced and our joy in the Lord is enlarged. Our faith in Jesus grows until we become like Him and are caught up to dwell with Him. However, “no man ever arrived in a moment.”
Paul urged, “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:11-12). Therefore, “ . . . let us go on unto perfection” (Hebrews 6:1).