5 Highlights for “Be Perfected in Him” by Paul V. Johnson

by | Dec 8, 2022

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5 Quotes Plus Discussion-Promoting Questions

See also Teaching Helps

Elder Paul V. Johnson’s talk makes an excellent discussion. He covers some fundamental truths about our gospel journey. This talk helps us understand the process of redemption and sanctification.

You can find Elder Johnson’s full talk here. Unless you opt to spend a lot of time on a particular quote, try to pick around 2 questions per quote. Choose the questions that resonate the most with you and make a meaningful discussion for your group of personalities. These highlights and questions fit right in with Lesson Template 1 or Template 2. You can also check out several other General Conference Talks with 5 Highlights.

All blue quotes by Paul V. Johnson (unless otherwise noted).

Teaching tips

  • This lesson plan is designed to be taught with or without the story about Aaron’s bone marrow transplant. Skip quote #2 if you decide to skip the story.
  • The story includes many details – for the sake of time – summarize the story in a paragraph or less.
  • I would do 3, 4, 5, 2, 1 – in that order.

Quote #1 (miracles)

I would like to focus today on the permanent, life-giving change that occurs as we allow the Lord to work miracles in us.

No matter how capable, educated, brilliant, or strong we are, we cannot cleanse ourselves from our sins, change our bodies to an immortal state, or exalt ourselves. It is only possible through the Savior Jesus Christ and His infinite Atonement. “There is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God.” It is His atoning blood that cleanses us and sanctifies us.

I love this point! “No matter how capable, educated, brilliant, or strong we are, we cannot cleanse ourselves from our sins, change our bodies to an immortal state, or exalt ourselves.”

The world pushes these spiritual treasures to the back burner. There are quite a few people who will realize this was an enormous error – too late.

Possible discussion questions: Have you ever felt like the Lord worked a miracle with you? Would anyone like to share? Why is it important to be cleansed from sins? What does it mean to be sanctified? What makes Jesus Christ especially important to you?

sanctification: “Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity, of being made or becoming holy.”

Ours is a life of becoming. We’re a work in progress—step by step, part by part.

Quote #2 (redemption)

Use this quote if you share Aaron’s story.

Although Aaron could not heal himself, in order for the transplant to work he needed to be willing to do what the doctors asked—even very difficult, challenging things. Although we can’t save ourselves, when we submit to the Lord’s will and keep our covenants, the way is open for our redemption. Like the remarkable process of the very DNA of Aaron’s blood cells changing, we can have our hearts changed, have His image in our countenances, and become new creatures in Christ.

redemption: an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed. also deliverance; rescue.

We change gradually – line upon line, precept upon precept. Let me share a quick thought that helps me understand the last sentence, “become new creatures in Christ.”

Deepen the understanding: “Be thou perfect” is better translated as “Be thou complete.”  In other words, becoming perfect was adding parts until we became the whole. It was initially put forth in the scriptures as a goal, not as a prerequisite to being esteemed and loved by God today.

Wonderful President Nelson taught this idea at General Conference almost 30 years ago:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matt 5:48)

“In Matt. 5:48, the term perfect was translated from the Greek teleios, which means “complete.” Teleios is an adjective derived from the noun telos, which means “end.”  The infinitive form of the verb is teleiono, which means “to reach a distant end, to be fully developed, to consummate, or to finish.”  Please note that the word does not imply “freedom from error”; it implies “achieving a distant objective.” (Pending Perfection, Oct 1995)

Try thinking of this process of sanctification and perfection as adding parts to complete the whole. It helps me see this idea is not so far-fetched and not entirely out of my reach.

adjective: An adjective is a word that describes the traits, qualities, or a number of a noun. Descriptive words like “beautiful,” “smooth,” or “heavy” are all adjectives, as are numbers ( “twelve eggs”).

infinitive form of a verb: Any verb preceded by the word ‘to’ is an infinitive. Here are some examples: ‘to love, to eat, to run, to believe, to follow, to laugh, to stare, to wonder.’

Possible discussion questions: What are some difficult, challenging things the gospel asks you to do? (If needed, remind your group that what is hard for one person is not for another – and vice versa. We all have parts of the gospel that come easy for us and others we struggle with. And they are different for each person.) By a show of hands, have you ever submitted to the Lord’s will and not your own? Does anyone mind sharing the outcome? What does it mean to have our hearts changed? What does it mean to become a new creature in Christ?

Quote #3 (mighty change)

Speaking of his father, Alma [the younger] explained that “according to his faith there was a mighty change wrought in his heart.” He then asked, “Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?” It wasn’t the people who changed their own hearts. The Lord performed the actual change. Alma was very clear about this. He said, “Behold, he changed their hearts.” They “humbled themselves and put their trust in the true and living God … [and] were faithful until the end … [and] were saved.” The people were willing to open their hearts and exercise faith, and then the Lord changed their hearts. And what a mighty change it was! Think of the difference in the lives of these two men named Alma before and after their hearts were changed.

Possible discussion questions: How was Alma the younger and his father similar? (Accept all reasonable viewpoints and observations – my answer – they were both once wicked and rebellious and led others astray – and both had a dramatic conversion and did a complete about-face. Both of them became hard-working, valiant spiritual leaders who saved many.) Have you ever experienced a mighty change in your heart? What did it feel like? Who can we ask for help to change our hearts? How do humility and trust help us to be more obedient?

Quote #4 (power)

This may be one of my favorite quotes of the whole talk – especially the last two sentences.

We are children of God with a majestic destiny. We can be changed to become like Him and have “a fulness of joy.” Satan, on the other hand, would have us be miserable like he is. We have the ability to choose whom we follow. When we follow Satan, we give him power. When we follow God, He gives us power.

Possible activity: Have one person stand and read President Johnson’s statement. Then have a second person stand and read the corresponding verse. For each set, ask a) how do they reflect upon each other? (accept all reasonable answers) and/or b) what is the central message? (accept all reasonable answers)

Johnson – “We are children of God with a majestic destiny. We can be changed to become like Him and have “a fulness of joy.”

D&C 93:33 – For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;

Our majestic destiny is a fullness of joy. Another way of saying fullness of joy is: saturation of bliss, completeness of delight, vastness of wonder, wholeness of cheer. If we choose God, our eternal destiny is full of delight, power, well-being, confidence, wonder, and triumph.

Johnson – “Satan, on the other hand, would have us be miserable like he is.”

2 Nephi 2:18 – “And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind.”

Johnson – We have the ability to choose whom we follow.

2 Nephi 2:27  Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

Johnson – When we follow Satan, we give him power. When we follow God, He gives us power.

Alma 34:39 – Yea, and I also exhort you, my brethren, that ye be watchful unto prayer continually, that ye may not be led away by the temptations of the devil, that he may not overpower you, that ye may not become his subjects at the last day; for behold, he rewardeth you no good thing. (Alma 34:39)

Possible discussion questions (if you don’t do the activity): What majestic destiny does Elder Johnson refer to? How would you explain “fullness of joy” to a friend? How do we know Satan wants us to be miserable like him? (misery loves company). Why is it essential for us to have agency, to choose well or to choose poorly? Why is it significant to notice Satan takes power away and God adds power?

Quote #5 (grace)

Can you imagine how overwhelming it would have been for our young grandson Aaron to assume he had to understand and perform all the medical procedures associated with his transplant himself? We should not assume we need to do what only the Savior can do in the miraculous process of our perfection.

As Moroni concluded his record, he taught, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, … 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.” What a comforting and powerful truth! His grace is sufficient for me. His grace is sufficient for you. His grace is sufficient for all who “labour and are heavy laden.”

Possible discussion questions: Do we sometimes try and save ourselves without Christ’s help? How can we bring the Savior into our lives? What does it mean to deny ungodliness? (accept all reasonable answers)

deny ungodliness: deny the validity, power, and appropriateness of ungodliness [ or don’t glorify, make popular or adopt any lifestyle which is not in keeping with God’s will.]

More discussion questions: How would you describe sufficient grace?

sufficient: enough, adequate

grace: gifts of capacity and salvation, compassion, generosity, goodness, kindness, love, tenderness


Summarize class discussion highlights and/or share your testimony and feelings about Elder Johnson’s talk. Thank your class for their excellent contributions and insights.

Final Comment

Sanctification and grace are pretty deep topics. Thank you for teaching others and encouraging others to contemplate these truths. Have faith in what you feel drawn to emphasize. You were asked to cover this lesson because you offer unique insights and wisdom.

Try talking less and listening to your people more. Discussion is invaluable for deepening people’s understanding.

Put the quotes in any order that makes sense to you. If you would like tips on how to feel more confident while teaching – try “9 Tips for More Class Participation.

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