A member of the church who wishes to remain anonymous sent me the following:
I used to think I was normal. I am almost certain I started out as a normal
little girl. I wanted to please my parents. I wanted to do what is right. I
had the personality that was assertive and very aggressive, goal oriented. I
craved making goals and then completing them. It gave me a tremendous
feeling of satisfaction, even when I was very young. Even in early school
years, I recall being a devoted list maker.
I was raised by loving parents in a devoted Mormon family. As the seventh
child, the highly organized routine of faithful living was already well
established when I entered the scene. Every day of my life started out with
individual prayer, scripture reading and family prayer. Every week was
filled with Family Home Evenings, church meetings, and almost always a
dinner with the local missionaries. My mother was also a list maker, and she
religiously applied this habit to the belief system. It made perfect sense
to do so. For in Mormonism, one is judged according to their works, and the
line-upon-line, precept upon precept principle applied in ones progression
I loved it. I, being the goal maker that I was, had stumbled upon the
ultimate goal: perfection. And it was possible! According to our scriptures
and our doctrine, perfection, becoming as a god, was an attainable goal. And
not only attainable, but the most worthy and lofty goal of all. I mapped out
a plan. I charted a course. And I set out on the great and awesome adventure
of becoming perfect.
I started with the basics. After all, these were easy enough to do given
the family environment I was living in. Pray daily. Read scriptures. Follow
the Word of Wisdom. Attend church. The daily lists were formed and marked
off as each goal was accomplished. As I grew older the lists grew longer and
success remained attainable if I maintained the proper discipline. And
discipline was a necessity if I wanted to become perfect. Magnify my
calling. Love my neighbor. Attend BYU where I would be surrounded by others
who could help me achieve my goals. Serve others. Date worthy young men.
Marry in the temple.
I got married in the temple. To a worthy young man capable and prepared
to assist me on my way up the rungs of perfection. My lists were always
being built upon, as each goal was a task that needed to be repeated on a
daily basis. Perfection was, after all, a compilation of perfectly completed
little goals. Among the goals I set and achieved was having children. I soon
discovered that these precious little goals made my job of perfection
inherently more difficult by compounding my daily tasks.
But I maintained my list. I WAS going to be the most perfect person I
Because of my goal and detail oriented personality, I was given prominent
leadership responsibilities in the church at a very young age.
I found myself changing as my responsibilities increased. My eye for
perfection was causing a critical outlook difference. I had learned to be a
weakness exterminator. In every venue, in every aspect, I was the great
finder of all that was flawed so that it could be eradicated. The flaw had,
out of necessity, become the focal point. And the positive aspects were
diminished. It was harder and harder for me to stay focused on the positive
which was needed for my emotional and spiritual health and still have the
capacity and strength to pluck out the obvious imperfections I was finding
I didn’t like what I was becoming.
I felt overwhelmed. I felt tired. Very tired. I maintained my task lists.
I wondered if it would kill me. I vowed to persevere. I was, after all, on a
quest for perfection and this was not a quest for the faint of weak of
Until I had a breakthrough. I remember it as clearly as if it were
yesterday. I was 24 years old. I had three young children. Ages 3,2, and 1.
My husband was out of town on business as he frequently was during this time
of our lives. I had put the children to bed. My perfect children were
sleeping in their perfect beds. In their perfect rooms where everything was
in order. I sat in my living room reading my scriptures for the day and
planning the Sunday school lesson for my young women as I was the Young
Women’s president at the time. I was in a state of total exhaustion. I
looked around at my perfect life and I felt nothing but drained. Perfection
was affording me no sense of satisfaction. The lists were the same, every
day, and they had to be redone every day. There was no sense of completion.
I gave in to my fatigue. I stared in horror at my own flaws. It didn’t
matter how much I was doing, or how well intentioned I was. I was still
imperfect. I observed that the closer I got to perfection, the less happy I
was. I was not happy. I wondered what I was doing wrong (of course that was
my first response, I was trained to pluck out the error). Wasn’t perfection
supposed to bring happiness? Wasn’t God perfect? Was he this unhappy as
well? Why did I feel tired? And alone? Had I missed the dance class where
the two step line/precept was taught? How could I maintain a grasp on the
positive as I rooted out imperfection? And why had this penchant for
imperfection extermination become so prominent?
I took a good long look at where I was, and what kind of person I had
become. My accomplishments were tremendous. Everything I had touched in my
life had been done to the very best of my abilities. I had been the perfect
student. I was the perfect wife and mother. I had followed my belief system
without failing. And I realized that being a perfectionist oriented person
in a perfection oriented belief system had created an absolutely unbalanced
But there it sat. That realization that it didn’t matter how much I did,
I was not ever going to be perfect. Despite all of my efforts towards that
goal, I was still going to be a flawed individual. And so was everyone else.
That inadequacy was humbling, and excruciatingly painful for me, as my hopes
and aspirations were pinned on my abilities to overcome.
I thought that because of my driven nature, I was the one who had
unbalanced the concept of what was required. I went through my scriptures to
see if my interpretation of them was incorrect. But there it was. Over and
over again. Hundreds of times, the word perfection made itself known. With
the stark directive, “Be ye therefore perfect” that had begun to have a
haunting echoing effect in my head.
I was suddenly angry as I consumed scripture after scripture, book after
book. Why would someone want me in a state of constant angst by holding an
unreachable goal over my head? While goals were lofty things, they must be
done in the right way. No matter how I tried, there was no way I could
feasibly plan perfection into a workable system.
For my own health, I removed myself from my goal of perfection. I decided
that the perfection standard of measurement was doing more harm than good,
and I would simply work on doing my best for me. Perfection was simply not
worth it, and I did not want to be perfect if it was making me be critical
and not happy. If God was perfect, then I did not want to be a god in any
way, shape or form.
That was ten years ago. A year ago, while having a discussion about
perfection with a fellow Mormon, he informed me that in the hebraic
language, the word “perfect” did not mean without flaw, but it meant “to be
It isn’t without a huge sense of irony that I realized that in order for
me to feel complete, I had to completely eradicate myself from the belief
system that taught me that I could be perfect.