Selected Teachings on
You Don't Have to Be Perfect in this Life

Joseph Smith (President)

When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave. (History of the Church, 6:306–7)

Neal A. Maxwell (Quorum of the Twelve)

Our perfect Father does not expect us to be perfect children yet. He had only one such Child. Meanwhile, therefore, sometimes with smudges on our cheeks, dirt on our hands, and shoes, untied, stammeringly but smilingly we present God with a dandelion—as if it were an orchid or a rose!  If for now the dandelion is the best we have to offer, he receives it, knowing what we may later place on the altar.  It is good to remember how young we are spiritually. (Believe, p. 100)

Bruce R. McConkie (Quorum of the Twelve)

Everyone in the Church who is on the straight and narrow path, who is striving and struggling and desiring to do what is right, though is far from perfect in this life; if he passes out of this life while he's on the straight and narrow, he's going to go on to eternal reward in his Father's kingdom.  We don't need to get a complex or get a feeling that you have to be perfect to be saved. You don't. There's only been one perfect person, and that's the Lord Jesus, but in order to be saved in the Kingdom of God and in order to pass the test of mortality, what you have to do is get on the straight and narrow path—thus charting a course leading to eternal life—and then, being on that path, pass out of this life in full fellowship. I'm not saying that you don't have to keep the commandments. I'm saying you don't have to be perfect to be saved. If you did, no one would be saved. The way it operates is this: You get on that path that's named the "straight and narrow." You do it by entering at the gate of repentance and baptism. The straight and narrow path leads from the gate of repentance and baptism, a very great distance, to a reward that is called eternal life.

If you're on that path and pressing forward, and you die, you'll never get off the path. There is no such thing as falling off the straight and narrow path in the life to come, and the reason is that this life is the time that is given to men to prepare for eternity. Now is the time and the day of your salvation, so if you're working zealously in this life—though you haven't fully overcome the world and you haven't done all you hoped you might do—you're still going to be saved.… You don't have to live a life that's truer than true.… What you have to do is stay in the mainstream of the Church and live as upright and decent people live in the Church—keeping the commandments, paying your tithing, serving in the organizations of the Church, loving the Lord, staying on the straight and narrow path.  If you’re on that path when death comes—because this is the time and the day appointed, this the probationary estate—you'll never fall from it. (“The Probationary Test of Mortality,” address delivered at Institute of Religion, SLC, Utah, 10 Jan. 1982)