When I first joined the church, everyone seemed so perfect. People seemed very nice to each other, and everyone appeared to live the gospel perfectly. The missionaries, knowing this illusion couldn’t last, told me something that seemed upsetting at the time, but that has gotten me through many hard times: The church is perfect…the people are not.
As you get to know people in the church better, you may find yourself occasionally disappointed. You’ll catch a leader breaking a small rule. A teacher will be unprepared. Someone will spread gossip. You may be unhappy to find out you haven’t already arrived at the Celestial Kingdom. Because you’re so new, you’re trying especially hard to do everything just right, and you’re overwhelmed by your joy and testimony. You wonder why everyone else isn’t as perfect as you’re trying to be.
To help you understand why people don’t stay at that same level of excitement, remember falling in love with your spouse. At first you were so excited you could hardly contain your joy. You thought of him every moment, and always put him first. You could put up with any imperfection. However, as you got to know each other better, and as your marriage progressed, you got used to being in love. The love wasn’t less, but the excitement and focus wasn’t the same as it once was.
This is how it is with the gospel. The newness wears off, and while your testimony will continue to grow even stronger, you’ll find it a little harder to be perfect all the time. You’ll become a little more like the person you were and have to work harder to call that powerful feeling back. This isn’t bad. No marriage stays on that initial high level forever, and no church member does either. The first excitement grows into a comfortable level of happiness and security that is easier to live with and just right for steady growth.
This means, though, that you are surrounded by members who are no longer leaping with joy over having a testimony. It’s hard to comprehend when you’re in the middle of it, but one day you’ll be there, too. So be patient with the faults of those around you. Everyone is trying the best he can, and each person is at a different place in his or her progress toward perfection. It may seem to you that these people, having had so much longer to reach perfection than you have, should be further along, but the Celestial Kingdom isn’t a race. It’s a personal journey.
. The church is perfect, but the people are not. They’re just ordinary people, living life the best they know how, and working for the same eventual goal you are. Only the Savior was perfect during mortality. Don’t let that imperfection found in the rest of the church shake your faith.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.