1 In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple….
5 Then said I: Wo is unto me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips; and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.
(2 Nephi 16:1, 5, Isaiah 6:1, 5)
Moroni taught that we “would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of [our] filthiness before him, than [we] would to dwell with the damned souls in hell” (Mormon 9:4). Alma taught that, if we return to God without being purified, “we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence” (Alma 12:14).
Isaiah experienced something of that feeling when he received his calling as a prophet. As he describes in the passage above, his first feeling upon seeing the Lord was unworthiness. “Wo is unto me!” he cried, “for I am undone.” Why? “Because I am a man of unclean lips; and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” He knew he was in the presence of the Creator of the Universe, the holiest and purest of all beings, and he felt unworthy to be there, both because of his own shortcomings and also because of the shortcomings of his people. He seems to have been particularly attuned on this occasion to inappropriate speech: things he had said and things he had heard.
We all have experiences in our lives which fill us with a deep desire to be as perfect as we can and which throw into sharp relief the ways we fall short. Recognizing our sins and our weaknesses is an important first step to seeking the help we need to overcome them. In Isaiah’s case, as soon as he verbally acknowledged his inadequacy, a heavenly being touched his mouth with a hot coal, symbolically purifying his “unclean lips.” (See 2 Nephi 16:6-7).
In any area where we seek for excellence, whether it be academic, professional, athletic, or some other form of success, we do ourselves no favors when we artificially lower our standards. A true friend and a helpful coach will be honest with us about standards of excellence and about where we are falling short. But they will also provide encouragement and assistance to help us improve our performance so we can meet the high standards. It is the same with spiritual things.
Last night, in the Women’s Session of General Conference, Sister Michelle D. Craig reminded us that feelings of personal inadequacy can be productive, but only if they are coupled with faith in the Lord:
Divine discontent comes when we compare what we are to what we have the power to become. Each of us, if we are honest, feels a gap between where and who we are, and where and who we want to become….
I have learned that when I wallow in thoughts of everything I am not, I do not progress, and I find it much more difficult to feel and follow the Spirit….
We can choose to walk the higher path that leads us to seek for God and His peace and grace, or we can listen to Satan, who bombards us with messages that we will never be enough…. Our discontent can become divine—or destructive.
(“Divine Discontent,” General Conference, October 2018)
Today, I will be grateful for a God of high expectations. I will remember that He is pure and holy and that I will not feel comfortable in His presence unless I have also become pure and holy. I will be grateful that He is not only honest about the standards required of His children but is also willing to help them change, to cleanse and purify them, so that they can meet the standards required to be comfortable in His presence.