Cover image via Gospel Media Library.
When the rich young man went to the Savior, he asked “what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” He said that he had kept all the commandments from his youth, then asked: “What lack I yet?” Jesus said unto him, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” (Matthew 19:16, 20-21).
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we have covenanted to consecrate our time, talents, and resources to serve the Lord. Our sacrifices are recorded here and in heaven. What more can we do?
Asking this question to someone who is a perfectionist may cause a problem. There are so many things we can do to be “perfectly obedient.” However, when the quest for perfection becomes an effort to perfectly follow the letter of the law, are we neglecting the spirit of the law? Isn’t that how the Pharisees in Jesus’ time “missed the mark?” What can we do?
Elder Larry R. Lawrence of the Seventy quoted our former prophet, President Harold B. Lee (1899-1973), “Every one of us, if we would reach perfection, must [at] one time ask ourselves this question, ‘What lack I yet?’” (General Conference, Oct. 2015).
Elder Lawrence shared several experiences of men and women who received their answer to “What lack I yet?”
Answer to a faithful mother: “stop complaining.” To a humble young man: “clean up your language.” To a young college student: “clean up your room.” To a single sister: “don’t interrupt people when they are talking.” To a returned missionary: “observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Elder Lawrence shared answers he has received including: “don’t raise your voice. Organize yourself; create a daily list of things to do. Take better care of your body by eating more fruits and vegetables. Take time to ponder before you pray. Ask your wife for her counsel. Be patient when driving.”
Elder Lawrence continued: “The Spirit can show us our weaknesses, but He is also able to show us our strengths. Sometimes we need to ask what we are doing right so that the Lord can lift and encourage us. When we read our patriarchal blessings, we are reminded that our Heavenly Father knows our divine potential. He rejoices every time we take a step forward. To Him, our direction is ever more important than our speed.”
“Be persistent, brothers and sisters, but never be discouraged. We will have to go beyond the grave before we actually reach perfection, but here in mortality we can lay the foundation. “It is our duty to be better today than we were yesterday, and better tomorrow than we are today.”
Ether 12:27 teaches that “if men come unto me, I will show them their weaknesses. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
May we have the faith, courage, and humility to ask “What lack I yet?” We can ask the Lord, we can ask our mission leaders, we can ask our priesthood leaders. If we are really brave, sincere, and humble, we can ask our wife or our husband or our parents or our children. As we diligently apply the counsel we receive, we can have the blessings of having weak things become strong unto us.
May the Lord continue to bless to do better and to be better as we follow Him and strive to become like Him.
[Note: The ideas and suggestions contained in these articles are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health professional. In addition, if you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek medical or mental health assistance immediately. In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or use the Lifeline Chat at 988lifeline.org/chat/. Services are free and confidential.]