"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
April 4, 2013
Perfection Optional
by Hannah Bird

When my eldest daughter was ten she came stomping home from church with a face like stone. She informed me that she had gotten into a fight at church. I have never been lucky enough to have the kinds of kids who are satisfied to just get into fights with other kids at church. I made myself comfortable as the story began.

Her teacher was giving a lesson about Joseph in the Old Testament. They went over his fancy coat and his brothers selling him into slavery. The teacher asked why the brothers might have done this. I think that the teacher wanted to discuss envy or temptation. Whatever it was she wanted, it is not what she got.

"Because," my girl said, "Joseph was a little jerk."

The teacher expressed her alarm that my daughter would say something negative about a prophet. My daughter, the oldest of six, restated her thesis. If there is one thing that she was an expert on, it was problematic siblings. The teacher became flat out furious that my daughter continued to besmirch a prophet. My daughter was flat out furious that she could not call a little jerk a little jerk. When the referee finally rang the bell they marched back to their corners and glared at each other. Detente was never reached.

But this is the dirty little secret about the gospel. It is a secret that weakens us. It is a secret that causes despair, destroys faith, invites doubt and breaks hearts if we keep it to ourselves. The secret is that the Lord uses little jerks in his kingdom. Itís worse than that. He uses people who have made bad decisions, the formerly unchaste, people who do not conjugate properly, people who wear the wrong things, people we do not like, and the occasional killer and accomplice to murder. Moses and Paul arrived at conversion with the most unclean of hands and were still of use to the Kingdom.

My favorite example is my brother, the apostle Peter. He believed and then he sunk in the waves. He tried to be faithful and failed. He promised not to deny Christ and then denied like the wind to whomever had a minute to hear a denial.

In the hour of his friendís greatest need he failed at the easiest job in the world Ė waiting. He slept instead, earning the stinging rebuke from Christ: "Could you not watch with me one hour?" One hour. When Christ was betrayed Peterís temper got the better of him and he lobed a guy's ear off.

Christ knew and understood all these failings when he said, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Peter was flawed through and through. He was also loved and needed by the Savior. This is Peterís gift to you and me. We get to know that our failings do not disqualify us from participating in the gospel. We get to know that we may fall in the water this time but we can try again. We get to know that it does not make us unloved, unneeded, or unwanted.

It is so important to teach this little secret to our children. We swim in a sea of information. Some people drown in it. But understanding that the Lord uses little jerks and crabby people buoys us up. When our children hear a less than flattering story about a historical church figure, they are not in danger of having their illusions shattered when there were none. They are not susceptible to the re-framing of normal human failures as indications of total moral failure.

It makes our children more resilient when they find out that we are flawed. They grow up and they find out that other kids were able to have colored socks and their mom didnít just buy mega sacks of white socks so that they all matched. They find out that our cooking isnít that great. Or that we were crabbier than we were supposed to be. Or that we made mistakes, maybe even heartbreaking ones. They can still love us. They can still look up to us. But finding out that we are not perfect will not shatter them. They will not have to be perfect.

When we extend mercy to others we reap it for ourselves. When we believe that people can be annoying and still good we take the sting out of our own shortcomings. When our children know that, they are less likely to be sideline by small failings or to lose faith the first time they sink in the waves. They will know to keep trying.

I donít know if Joseph and his fancy coat were flawed. But it doesnít matter. The lesson remains the same, the Lord loves and needs us. Even if we are crabby and flawed. I promise not to buy a sword. But I know that I will keep slipping into the depths. So I also promise to keep trying. And I promise to let you try, too. Even if you are a little jerk.


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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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