I want to highly recommend an article in the July ensign by Elder Gerrit W. Gong entitled Becoming Perfect in Christ. It is a really powerful article which testifies of the Atonement and the fact that each of us can become perfect in Christ.
One of my mission president’s favorite scriptures was/is Moroni 10: 32-33. He would often close conferences by discussing Moroni’s beautiful penultimate words
32 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.
33 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.
My mission president emphasized that in in this verse perfection is never referenced without being followed by the words “in Christ.” Our perfection is not measured by never making a mistake in life. We are not expected to be absolutely flawless. Instead, perfection implies a process whereby through the grace of Christ and the power of his Atonement we are cleansed.
I also love the sense of progression in these verses. First, we may be perfected in him, which seems like a distant goal. Next, after we have denied ourselves of ungodly things and loved God, we may be perfect in him which is to me seems a more immediate and attainable goal. Next, through the power of God ye are perfect in Christ. I love that it is not our own efforts that move us from being potentially perfect to actually being perfect, but the power of God. As we continue to be perfect in Christ by his grace, we are sanctified in Christ due to our covenant relationship and his atonement. It is only ultimately after that process of perfection that the scripture says that ye become holy, without spot. For the first time, this last reference is without the words in christ implying that it is only after the process of refinement through the atonement that we can become holy and pure independent of the grace of the savior. Even still, while Holy, without Spot is wonderful, it is not quite the same thing as fully perfect, and to me that implies a continuing reliance on the Savior and his atonement that will continue beyond this life.
Elder Gong beautifully captures this process in his article
Understanding the Savior’s freely given atoning love can free us from self-imposed, incorrect, and unrealistic expectations of what perfection is. Such understanding allows us to let go of fears that we are imperfect—fears that we make mistakes, fears that we are not good enough, fears that we are a failure compared to others, fears that we are not doing enough to merit His love.
The Savior’s freely given atoning love helps us become more forgiving and less judgmental of others and of ourselves. This love heals our relationships and gives us opportunities to love, understand, and serve as our Savior would.
His atoning love changes our concept of perfection. We can put our trust in Him, diligently keep His commandments, and continue in the faith (see Mosiah 4:6)—even as we also feel greater humility, gratitude, and dependence on His merits, mercy, and grace (see 2 Nephi 2:8).
In a broader sense, coming unto Christ and being perfected in Him places perfection within the eternal journey of our spirit and body—in essence, the eternal journey of our soul (see D&C 88:15). Becoming perfect results from our journey through physical life, death, and resurrection, when all things are restored “to their proper and perfect frame” (Alma 40:23). It includes the process of spiritual birth, which brings “a mighty change” to our hearts and dispositions (Mosiah 5:2). It reflects our lifelong refinement through Christlike service and obedience to the Savior’s commandments and our covenants. And it recognizes the perfecting relationship between the living and the dead (see D&C 128:18).
Elder Gong explains that knowing this truth is essential to allow us to continue to develop and become more Christlike while avoiding the pressures of perfectionism and the accompanying feelings of guilty and inadequacy. I also bear witness that it is through Christ and his atonement that we are able to be made whole. While sanctification is a gradual process, it really does work. If we continue to have faith and press forward, we will be perfect in Christ and made whole, pure, and holy.